Getting back on track

Cherries in bowl
For those who have read of my struggle with eating well these days, you may also remember that I mentioned doing a bit of a cleanse/sugar fast with my family when our students leave. Well, they're leaving next Monday, so it's time to start gearing up to do just that!

Why are we doing this?

For the past 6 weeks we've  had ESL homestay students with us. Though we enjoy having our students for the most part, these particular two sets of students we've taken have been the most challenging we've ever had, food-wise. They particularly have not liked Canadian food, and have made somewhat of a fuss about it.

Actually, to say they don't like Canadian food isn't entirely accurate. They don't like my bean soups or salmon skewer's or green salads, etc. They dislike all that I make that is good and nourishing, and the only Western food they want to eat is packaged, sugary and chemical-laden. With the first set of students, I tried to fight through it a bit, doing mostly my regular fare, just toned down a bit, and buying a few junkier things for their lunches to make them happy.

With this current set of younger girls, every dinner became a nightmare, and so I have resorted to having an unhappy amount of junk in my home, serving Korean or Asian styled foods more often (sometimes this is fine, other times it is not), and just overall compromising quite a bit. Yes, I suppose I could have put up more of a fight, encouraged them to try more Canadian food, etc. but I am weary from fighting about food all summer long and quite frankly, I just wanted everyone to eat and leave the issue alone.

Needless to say, my family has been consuming much food that I would not normally allow anywhere near us, including far too much sugar, and we have not been able to properly eat our usual diet full of vegetables and alternative grains and many varied nutrients. I feel that a strict diet will help to combat any rising Candida (as we've been feeding it through our unfortunate choices), and just to help repair and strengthen our bodies again (I've been feeling on the verge of sickness this last week, my daughter has complained of an owie tummy, etc.).

The Plan

We will do a 3 week special diet, due to the fact that we only have a 3 1/2 week window between our students and our trip to Arizona. Though we will be buying and cooking as much of our own food as possible on that trip, I know that we will naturally eat out a fair bit as well. Continuing on with the diet during that time won't be feasible or pleasant to attempt, so we will probably go back on this diet again briefly when we return.

Week 1

The Maker's Diet- Phase 1, but with one moderation. We will continue to use cow's dairy (rather than only goat's and sheep's dairy, as is recommended). I can't just turn off my cow share for a week, and my husband really dislikes anything else.

Basically, this week will include: free range poultry, grass fed meats, free range eggs (except for me), most fish (we don't eat shellfish ever), raw dairy products, most vegetables (minus potatoes and corn), lentils, almonds and seeds, simple and natural spices and seasonings (sea salt, apple cider vinegar, etc.), berries and citrus (minus oranges), and either water, herbal tea, or fermented beverages (kefir, kombucha, etc.).

Week 2

Maker's Diet- Phase 2. We're going through the diet twice as fast as you normally would. Week 2 allows us to add back in sweet potatoes, yams and corn, a few types of beans and nuts (all soaked), most fruits, some raw honey.

Week 3

Maker's Diet- Phase 3. Lastly, we will return to eating the rest of the beans and legumes, nut butters, dried fruit and the last of the very sweet tropical fruits, and whole grains (if properly soaked or sprouted). As well, we will continue to stay off of wheat for this extra week, as we are all sensitive to it, and will also try our hardest to avoid it even in Arizona.

Although my husband and I will be following this strictly, our children will not be. They will not be allowed to eat anything with sugar or preservatives, coloring, etc. (as unfortunately our daughter has been fed some of these things by our students). They will mostly go along with what we are eating, but will stay on properly prepared grains the entire time, as well as fruits.

As well, because I'm still nursing a few times a day, I cannot be too hard core about this. I will not be taking any supplements to help detox (though my husband will be). If I am getting too hungry or my milk is running low, I will have to beef up what I am eating (hee, hee, no pun intended), and possibly add back in a small amount of sprouted and soaked grains or some nuts, etc. Fortunately, though, it is completely possible to get all of the nutrients and calories I need on this diet, I just need to plan carefully for meals and snacks to do it.

For more info on doing the Maker's Diet, which we have done many times over the past few years, see this post I wrote back in the spring.

What do you do when you've been eating poorly for a season? Do you do something like this, or do you just jump right back into a more regular, healthy diet? Has anyone else used the Maker's Diet, and what did you think of it?

Free companion planting guide!

I just ran across a link to this free downloadable guide to companion planting (which is using different plants in your garden to support or benefit each other, or to repel particular pests, etc.), and thought some of you would find it useful!

It's a little late in the season to use it much, but it looks like it will be helpful next year. It talks a bit about the concept of companion planting in general, and then goes through plant-by-plant to teach you how to do it. I'm excited to read through it more thoroughly when I have a chance!

Hat tip to Money Saving Mom for the link!

Q&A- My thoughts on birth control

DSC01771Would you be willing to share your thoughts on birth control?

Thanks, Carrie

When this question arrived in my inbox, I was both excited and nervous.

Excited because I love to share with others our passion for having children, our belief that they are a blessing, and our desire to have as many as we can (Ryan loves to tell people that Caden is #2 of 12!). Nervous because this is a controversial issue, and I fear that I lack the wisdom and grace to carefully share of my opinion in the best manner.

I approach this topic with just a bit of fear and trembling, because my sincere desire is to speak what God has put on my heart regarding children, as well as the use of birth control, and yet to not speak judgment nor condemnation on anyone who holds a view or practice different from my own (by that, I don't mean to say that I think it's relativistic and that there is no truth in the matter- only that I am not the authority on the matter, and my place ought not to be one of judgment).

(above- My sweet Abigail, at 1 month old)

Now that that's out of the way, may I share a story with you?

So we'd been married a few months, and were just starting to become adjusted to life in Japan. We were there working as English conversation teachers, and were living frugally in an effort to pay off our (read: my) debt. The plan? To spend two years working, the first to pay off the bulk of the loan, and the second to finish it off and begin saving so my husband could go back to university to finish his degree.

Though I had begun our marriage briefly on the pill (it had been recommended by my doctor for my PCOS- that is an issue for a whole other post!), I had quickly gotten off of it as it really threw my hormones off and made me just a little less than sane, shall we say. We had also learned of some other side effects of the pill, which I will talk more about later. Anyways, I'd been off it for just a couple of months, and then something crazy happened.

We both began to feel this need to really delve into the Word and discover what the Bible said about children and birth control. Neither of us could quite explain why, but we both felt it strongly, and so we began to study and pray.

Although we never discovered anything that we felt answered our questions definitively (as in, a moral, Biblical objection to the use of birth control), what we did find was that throughout the Bible, children were viewed as blessings, gifts, treasures, assets, joys. Not once did we find a scenario where a child was unwanted or deemed a burden. Those who were barren and childless were devastated, and grieved a very great loss. Those who had many children were viewed as blessed indeed, and the blessing of the womb was often mentioned in conjunction with all of the other blessings of obedience (crops, livestock, land, prosperity). Jesus himself was full of evident love for children, and despite his disciples urgings, he entreated the children to come to him.

Accompanying this, we were reminded of the threads that run throughout the Scriptures of placing our ultimate trust and plans in our Lord's hands, and not ours. "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps" (Prov 16:9). We are told not to boast in our own plans (James 4:13-16). We also saw that it was the Lord who opened and closed the womb (Gen 20:18, 29:31, 1 Sam 1:5, Deut 7:13).

We felt this struggle in our hearts, to want to trust in our own plans, and not His. I remember thinking that I didn't want to give up birth control that very month, but maybe the next month would be okay, because I calculated that by then we could make enough money to pay off our debts by the time I stopped work. I distinctly remember sensing that the Lord was telling me that it wouldn't be trusting Him to wait another month- I had to trust Him and His provision for us right then, and not just when it felt easier.

I clearly remember the evening that we spent with another young, English couple in a nearby city during that time of seeking. We had a delightful time over dinner, enjoying their fellowship (a rare thing for us in Japan!), and their sweet 5 month old baby girl. We discussed with them the issue that was weighing on our hearts. They shared with us that they had been married several years before becoming pregnant, and even then it was an accident. But, they said, if they had only known what a joy and a blessing children were, they would have started having them right away.

As we drove home along the darkened road, we realized that God had confirmed it in both of our hearts. We could do nothing else. We gave up our plans, and opened our hearts to whatever God would have for us. How could we say no to such a blessing? How could we tell him that His timing in opening my womb was wrong? Who were we to say no to His gifts?

We anticipated that it would take us quite some time to conceive, as I have a hormonal disorder that affects my fertility. We were beyond surprised and so completely thrilled to find out we had conceived our daughter that very month, only 5 months into our marriage. I truly believe that her conception was nothing short of miraculous (considering my health issues), and that the timing was to test our faith and trust in the God who provides for all our needs.

There is so much more to say, but I think that this is enough for now. I will continue on with my thoughts shortly…

Although they may be different than my own, I welcome your thoughts. Please keep them polite and respectful, but feel free to express your own opinions (though I will delete comments if I find them inappropriate). Thank you!

Why the HPV vaccine is just a bad idea

Though I haven't talked about it a whole lot (yet), I'm not really a fan of vaccinations. Tonight I read something that I just felt I needed to pass on. Sometimes I try to be all nicey-nice and not just say what I really think, but here's what I was thinking tonight as I was reading this article:

The HPV vaccine (intended to prevent cervical cancer and aimed at teens and young women) is not only worthless, but it is extremely dangerous! Avoid it like the plague!

Phew… that felt good. I'm so glad I got it out. I've been thinking it for quite some time.

Although this article comes from a source that I'm not particularly thrilled with these days (oh, don't get me started on why… negativity, extremism, constantly trying to sell me his extremely expensive products, frou-frou emotional healing techniques that ignore our need for Christ… as I said, don't get me started), I felt it had enough worthwhile information to want to link to it. Please, spare yourself and avoid the comments below the article (if you start reading them, you'll see why).

A frugal family vacation

If you're a frugally minded mama like myself, and you and your family have thought of vacationing beyond the local campground, you may be wondering how to go about planning an affordable yet still fantastic family vacation.

Here are a few things that I have learned in my experience of planning both domestic and international trips:

General Tips

1) Research, research, research!

This cannot be stressed enough! Do not settle on any tickets or reservations until you've researched at least 4 or 5 options.

Initial research should give you an idea of general flight, hotel, and car prices, as well as the attractions that you are interested in and a skeleton itinerary. Start by using online travel services such as Travelocity, Expedia, Hotwire and Priceline to begin to gauge prices. Use travel sites such as Lonely Planet or Fodor's to start to get some ideas about the place you will be traveling to, as well as simply googling things like "travel arizona children" or "attractions grand canyon".

From here, put together an estimate of what the cost of your trip will be. If it's coming up too high, consider what areas you can skimp in. For us, we don't care about fancy accommodations. We would prefer to have more money to allow us the freedom to eat without stress, and do all of the activities that interest us. You may feel differently. What are the priorities for your family?

Once you've worked through these steps, you can get down to business and really dig in to find the absolute best deal on each part of your trip.

2) Booking together isn't always cheaper

Through the travel companies would love to be your one-stop shop by having you book your flight, hotel and car all in a neat and tidy package, you will most likely be missing out on some deals by going that route. If you do some careful comparisons of these "deals" (compared to finding each component of the trip individually), you will see that they really aren't the deals they're cracked up to be.

3) Bidding for a deal

It's now become one of the more popular ways to try to find rock bottom deals for traveling. Sites like Priceline and Sky Auction encourage you to either bid against other would-be travelers or to "name your own price". These sites have the potential to be very valuable to you if:

  • You've already done the research and know exactly what a good deal would look like
  • You've determined your bottom line. For example, when using Priceline you don't get to choose your flight time, specific hotel, etc. You set your price, win it, and then find out what you've already bought. It's important to consider these unknown factors, compared to the available deals that you already know are out there, and then you will have the ability to pick and choose whether bidding is worthwhile. If an extra $10 a night is worth it to you in order to know exactly which hotel you will be staying in, set your Priceline limit at $10 below what you'd like to be paying, and resolve to walk away if that bid isn't accepted.
  • You are very aware of the fees and taxes that will be added on. Always, always check and know exactly what your total costs will be before making any decisions.

Tips for flights

  • Children under 2 fly free, on a parent's lap, so plan your dates accordingly if you have little ones nearing their birthday
  • If you can, keep your dates flexible. Often it is cheaper to fly on a Saturday, while the Friday may cost $15 more a ticket. It doesn't sound like much, but it can add up fast if you're buying children's flights as well. Some travel sites have search options designed to let you search using flexible dates. A great option to use is Expedia (be sure to check the box that says "my dates are flexible"). I just did a sample search on flights from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale in August, and came up with a price range of $191 to $309, within an 11 day span- that's a big difference!
  • Look at smaller, independent airlines as well (which are usually not included on the major travel site searches). A few examples are:
  • When you find a great deal, snag it! Good deals don't last for long, and if you wait, you may just miss out (I know this from experience!)

Tips for Accommodations

  • First, consider the many varied options out there: Hotels, motels, camping, yurts, hostels, house swaps, B&Bs, etc. There is so much beyond the traditional hotel, and many of the other options are much cheaper, and can even be more enjoyable! Personally, we will be staying in a private room at a hostel in Flagstaff for our upcoming Grand Canyon trip, where we will have kitchen privileges, hot breakfast included, laundry machines and more, for a mere $45 a night!
  • Do consider bidding for hotels on sites like Priceline. I just scored two nights at the Crowne Plaza in Phoenix for $50 a night! Just remember- do your research first!
  • Change it up! When we went to Europe 2 years ago, I found that different types of accommodations were cheaper in different cities. In Rome, we stayed in a very small but lovely private hotel. In Florence, we opted for a camping hostel, where the tents are permanently set up on raised concrete, and include cots and basic bedding. In Edinburgh, we stayed in a quaint Bed & Breakfast, where we had a gorgeous, clean and very large room, delicious hot breakfast (could have done without the blood pudding, though!), for the same price as a private hostel room, and half the price of the cheapest hotels. While living in Japan, we went even cheaper than a hostel and chose to take the train out to the country each night to camp (we carried our tent on the bus we took up to Kyoto).

Tips for Rental Cars

  • Go with the smallest car that suits your needs. You'll save on rental costs, as well as gas most likely!
  • Avoid most of the bigger name companies. They tend to be significantly more expensive, unless you come across an amazing deal.
  • Again, try your hand at bidding to "name your own price"
  • Compare many sites. In my recent search for the cheapest rental car, my favorite comparison sites were Hotwire, Travelocity, Expedia, Priceline and CarRentals. I looked at the individual rental company sites, and generally they weren't cheaper than the travel sites, with the exception of a few smaller companies that were not always included in the searches. Try Fox, Advantage and Dollar.
  • If you have AAA or BCAA, or even an Entertainment book, check the types of deals and discounts that are offered for members. You may find a free upgrade on a weekly rental, or perhaps a 20% discount, etc. Just make sure you compare it to the other deals out there, as these discounts are usually for the bigger, more expensive companies.
  • Consider whether you need a car at all! Some cities have
    excellent public transit, and if you choose the location of your
    accommodations carefully, you may find that the need for a car just

Tips for Attractions

  • Get an Entertainment book or online membership! You will find many 2 for 1 entrances to attractions, as well as 2 for 1 entrees at the local restaurants.
  • Look for a city pass. These passes are your entrance ticket to the most popular attractions in a city or area, for a discounted rate. By buying the one pass, you can go to any attraction included over the course of one week (for example- it varies from pass to pass). Some examples are the Seattle CityPass, ShowUp Now for the Phoenix area, and the Go Los Angeles Card. Visit CityPass for several other major North American cities available.

Tips for Eating Cheaply

  • As mentioned above, the Entertainment book can help you make the best of having to eating out (or depending on your perspective, getting to eat out!) by offering 2 for 1 entrees.
  • Try finding an accommodation that includes a breakfast, or even one that allows kitchen privileges (such as a hostel, or some B&Bs) or a motel with a kitchenette.
  • If your hotel has a mini fridge, find a local grocery store (which just adds to the experience of visiting a new place), and stock up on breakfast foods (unless included), and lunch and snack foods so that you can brown bag it as much as possible.
  • Bring a stash of easy to carry snacks that your family enjoys. To Arizona, we will be bringing fruit leather or bars, rice cakes, granola bars that are wheat free (as we are all sensitive to wheat), and a box of mineral drinks mixes to add to our water bottles.
  • Bring a water bottle for each family member, and fill them up each time you're able to. Buy large bottles of purified water from a local grocery store to keep in your hotel room, or the trunk of your vehicle, to do refills.

Lastly, once you are there and you have done everything you can do to make your trip as affordable as possible, just relax! Enjoy your vacation, knowing that some extra expenses will pop up unexpectedly (as they always do), and choose to cherish every minute of the trip that you have worked so hard to plan and save for!

Though it may appear to the contrary, Stephanie does not spend most of her time planning vacations! She is delighted to be a follower of Christ, a wife, mother to two children, homemaker, and homeschooler. In her "spare time" she maintains the blog Keeper of the Home, gardens organically, studies nutrition and natural living, and enjoys cooking up nourishing foods for her family.

The Secrets of Where Real Foodies Buy Their Ingredients

Tackling the issue of where to buy ingredients to stock a nourishing kitchen, and even which items to buy, is a challenging one. It will look so different depending on the types of foods your family prefers, the stores available to you in your community, your season of life, and your budget.

Just as I did last week in revealing the contents of my pantry, I share what I purchase to give some ideas as to what it might look like to purchase a whole foods diet, where it might come from, how it fits into the budget, etc. I still have elements of my shopping and food choices that I want to improve, and some that I am currently happy with. I continue to tweak my methods (and madness) all the time, as I try to get the most nutrition for my dollar, and do the best with what I have.

So let’s jump in, and I’ll explain as I go along…

Raw Milk:  $50 a month

This is a major portion of my budget, unfortunately. Though I am thrilled beyond belief to have this milk available to me, it is eating up far more money than I wish it did. As food prices rise, I may have to reconsider and purchase a little bit less milk for the family (or we may have to bite the bullet and just up our budget more). This amount purchases me 3 litres of raw milk per week, giving us a total of 3 gallons per month (yep, do the math- that’s over $16 a gallon!!!).

I purchase it through a cow share at a farm in a nearby community, which we had to purchase shares in (giving us partial ownership of a cow). Each week it is delivered to a drop point, where one of us goes to pick it up.

Meat and poultry:
Approximately $50 per month

I purchase most of my meat and poultry from a small, local meat shop out in the country. I try to go there about once every month or two. This spring I made my first big purchase of 1/4 of a cow. I also buy boxes of frozen chicken breasts, sandwich meat and occasionally pepperoni or jerky, and sometimes sausages or beef bacon (we don’t eat pork). Most of their products are nitrate/nitrite free (and I only buy the ones that are).

The rest of my meat comes from two places. Several times a year, I purchase a box of 3 whole chickens from Azure (Shelton brand), and I’ve also bought chicken legs as well. When I go down to Seattle to visit my MIL, I also often buy the natural chicken sausages that the Costco there carries (hormone/antibiotic free, no nitrates, no msg). Those costs are taken into account below, with Azure and Costco, rather than in this category.

Produce: Approximately $80 per month (we spend extra in the summer to stock up on summer fruit)

I love my produce market! I’ve been going there for over 3 years, and would not consider going anywhere else! They are an independent, locally owned family business. They grow much of their own food, some certified organic, the rest unsprayed and naturally grown. What they don’t grow, they bring in, getting organic when it’s available for a good price. The quality is amazing, the selection is great, but really the prices are one of the things that keeps me so loyal. I like to memorize food prices (I know, I’m strange), so I know that I am getting the best deal there, and with so much of it natural, nowhere else compares.

Costco: I’m not really sure how much I spend, as it really varies, but it’s probably not more than $50 or so.

Though I used to buy more items from Costco, my shopping habits have changed and they are no longer one of my favorites. When I go to Washington, I still shop there as they carry organic butter, natural sausages, cheap cheese (when I can’t get my raw cheese from Azure), a massive bag of baking soda and the odd other thing. At home in Canada, I buy my large bags of non-GMO brown rice, organic corn tortilla chips, cases of tomato paste and diced organic tomatoes, maple suryp, organic peanut butter, almond butter, 100% fruit jam (though this year I’m making my own), and pure vanilla.

Azure Standard:
Between $80-120 on average

I am continually grateful that I have access to this incredible whole foods co-op! Through them, I purchase so many great things- all of my bulk, organic grains and dry beans, dried fruits, Bragg’s (like soy sauce), organic apple cider vinegar, sea salt, natural cleaning supplies, stevia, raw cheese, sometimes free-range eggs and organic dairy, some toiletries (toothpaste, lotion), teething tablets, baking supplies (carob powder, coconut), frozen natural berries, seeds, supplements, etc.

Conventional Grocery Store (for me, this is Superstore, as it is close to my house, has a natural foods aisle, and is the cheapest in my opinion): The remainder of my budget, probably around $50-100 is spent here.

I use this store to help me fill in the gaps. It’s close, it’s cheap, and I’ve learned what I can and can’t buy here (or rather should and shouldn’t). I never, ever use it for meat, buy very little of my produce here (though they have a few things they carry organic that I buy if they’re nice quality, which they often aren’t), and a few other more random items. Sometimes the one brand of bread that we like/approve of. Sometimes spices. Some nuts. Often fish. Free-range eggs. 3 L tins of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Discounted organic (though pasteurized) milk for making yogurt and kefir. Cheese when I run out of raw cheese. Natural food items that I run out of in between co-op orders.

Putting it all together

It’s taken me several years to sort out this careful balance of where I buy my food from. You may be thinking that I spend all month shopping, but it’s really not true. Despite the number of different places I acquire my groceries from, I usually only go shopping ever two weeks (I try to stick to 2 stores max), aside from picking up our milk once a week and seeing my MIL to get my Azure order.

It takes a bit of research to find the right places that will work for you,a bit of work to learn which grocery store truly is cheapest and which carries the best whole foods options and some careful thought and planning to organize how you will buy what you need from a range of different places, and how you will make the budget work (and some months, I still hit the second to last week and realize that I haven’t planned carefully enough and money is running low). It’s well worth it, though, to know that you are buying the highest quality of foods possible, and getting the best deals that are out there!

I think it’s worthwhile to take a close look at the regular grocery store and discuss exactly how to use it to our advantage (or if it’s the only option available to you), and how to avoid the foods that really should stay on the shelves where they belong. I’m going to tackle that next, as well as show you an example of a shopping trip that I might do at one of these stores, just to give you an idea of which items they are useful for.

As well, I want to look at ways to research sources for raw milk, good meat and poultry, fresh/local/organic produce, bulk dry grains and beans, etc. and I will create a post with as many great links and places to start your search as a I possibly can (if you know of any, please email me with them!).

Do you shop from more than one place? What type of places do you get your food from? How did you find those stores/companies/markets, etc?

My makeup arrived!

Makeup-in-clusterLook! My free mineral makeup samples!

Although it took me a while to choose my colors, I am so happy with what I've received! The makeup goes on quite nicely, although it will take a little while to adapt to using loose powder as opposed to pressed powders and liquids. I need to take a read through their forums to get some tips on how to use the makeup, and how best to apply.

But, it feels so nice and light, blends in well, and has a really nice sort of glow or shimmer to it. I'm a very minimal makeup kind of gal, and this really suits me. I'm using the foundations and concealer, and then I chose my free blush in a color that I thought would work on my eyes, and then also purchased (for $2.50) a sample of a complimentary eye color to wear with it.

If you haven't checked out the site and received your free sample yet, I highly recommend that you do! It's wonderful to find an alternative to conventional makeup, with a great selection and reasonable prices. Huge hat tip to Lindsay for turning me on to this stuff in the first place!

Old habits die hard

Cookie minus bite
There's a lot of food in my house right now that is normally vetoed. Food like sugar cereals, ice tea powder, regular sandwich meats, white flour and sugar, cookies made of the white flour and sugar, and on and on it goes…

Having guests who eat these foods, such as our current homestay students, brings with it an intense struggle for me. I would have thought that struggle would be gone by now, but continue to be surprised by how often it comes right back.

I'm eating this junk simply because it's there.

Are you surprised? The one who teaches about health food and avoiding processed and sugary convenience foods is eating them just because they're in her house?

Yes, and I'll tell you why. It brings me back to the food that I ate as a child, teenager and young adult. I find it familiar, habitual and strangely comforting.

Even though I certainly do not desire to eat that way anymore and actually haven't (overall) for more than 5 years, it still shocks me how easily I fall prey to it once again.

It feels as though there's a level of addiction that still lingers in me. These foods only seem to create constant craving in me, yet never satisfy me (isn't that the truth?). They lure me back in. Perhaps they create more addiction than I ever realized before.

The head knowledge is primarily what keeps me away from it, as I know why it's not good for me and why I ought to eat better. BUT, when it's right there in front of me, even head knowledge and good intentions are not necessarily enough. And so I grab another handful of Honey Nut Cheerios and finish off the day with one (or two) of those chocolate chip cookies.

The moral of my story is this: If I put myself in temptation's way, I am bound to be struggle.

For me, this means I don't bring it in my house. Usually, I don't have a problem with this, and that is how I actually hold fast to the style of eating that I believe in. It's not because I am nutrition wonder-woman, or because I am highly self-disciplined. It's not because I have incredible self-control or because I don't think that stuff tastes good anymore (trust me, I grew up eating it- I know darn well that it tastes good, although I am so blessed to see how my taste buds have changed over the years to the point where most nourishing foods now taste far better than all of the other garbage).

Quite simply, if I don't want to eat it, I shouldn't allow it to be around in the first place. Maybe many of you would find the same to be true for yourselves. If you just stopped buying the chocolate milk powder and the potato chips and the Oreos and the case of pop (and all of the other things that may end up in our carts, just for an "occasional treat"), maybe you would find that you wouldn't eat them. You'd make do without. And you would feel satisfied doing it. I'm just saying…

I eagerly (eagerly!) anticipate clearing out the shelves of my pantry and fridge in two weeks when our guests return home, to return to our simple, whole foods diet. I also eagerly anticipate the 3 week sugar fast and nutrient-dense diet that I will be putting our entire family on. All is not lost. If I slip up today, I can pick up where I left off tomorrow.

For now, I'm considering walking around wearing horse blinders, and am praying for a mighty big helping of self control! No, I will not have a glass of iced tea… no, I will not have (another) handful of chocolate chips… no, I will not eat a spoonful of Jiffy peanut butter… sigh.

Do others out there struggle with reverting back to old habits of eating? What triggers it for you (stress, grief, depression, or simply being near it like me)? How do you deal with those old cravings? Am I the only one that needs to strictly ban things from entering the house?

“Greening” your kitchen (the frugal way!)

Green kitche
I’ve been anticipating this post from fellow blogger Michele, of Frugal Granola, on ways to eliminate disposables with simple and homemade options. I appreciate her perspective on simple living (check out her series), and I think that her resourcefulness is a wonderful example. Read on for some of her great ideas (I love the sandwich wrap!)…

During our first years of marriage, we always assumed that we were “environmentally-responsible” people. After all, we sent out plenty of recycling each week! However, as we began discovering more healthy ways of eating, the truth set in: We had a lot of unnecessary waste!

In creating new grocery lists full of whole grains, fresh produce, and healthy oils, we automatically eliminated much of the “budget-busting” packaged foods (like crackers, pastas, and bottled sauces). Our recycling bin was no longer full of these boxes and bottles! Easy fix.

As I added more organic foods, whole grains, raw milk, and free-range meats to our diet, I looked for a way to make our new grocery budget goals a reality. Something had to go!

I realized the wastefulness of many items in my home, which I had previously considered “necessities.” These products were not only filling my garbage can, but were also cutting into my grocery expenditures!

 We used handfuls of paper towels regularly for cleaning, and paper napkins accompanied every meal. Plastic baggies and wrap also seemed to disappear quickly. And what about those disposable water bottles and baby food containers, sold by the case?

I knew it was vital to eliminate these items from my home (and my grocery list!) But, I refused to run out and buy the latest “green” gadgets to replace my disposable products. I looked at what was already in my home, and determined to find homemade solutions.

I easily replaced the paper towels first. My husband had some old T-shirts, which I cut into “rag-sized” pieces. I folded these up, and stacked them in a drawer by the sink. Now, instead of reaching for a paper towel to wipe up the high chair, I pull a rag out of the drawer. I keep a lidded bucket under the sink for the dirty ones to wait for laundry day. (An old yogurt container works great.)

I also found another option close at hand: the stack of Gerber prefold “burp rag” cloth diapers! (They were no longer being used for our daughter’s feeding times.) I grabbed a handful for all my bathroom and kitchen cleaning needs. (I purchased these from our co-op, Azure Standard, but I have seen them in most department store baby sections.)

I have a small assortment of fabric scraps boxed up in our family’s closet. To replace paper napkins, I decided to make some cloth napkins. I pulled out some larger pieces of pretty fabric, and cut out 12″ squares. I just “eyeballed” it, using a large pair of scissors and a measuring tape. (If you have nice quilting supplies, such as a cutting mat and rotary cutter, you could use these, of course.) I cut in fairly straight lines, and adjusted any unevenness when I hemmed each edge. Remember, they’re just napkins; precision isn’t necessary! :) I made enough for meals at home, as well as stashing in lunch boxes. (Make sure you choose fabrics that don’t have to be ironed; you’ll appreciate it later!)

For water bottles, the stainless steel bottles looked enticing, until I saw their price tags! I started using small canning jars (half-pint or pint) for short outings. For longer trips, we use larger jars (quart or half-gallon), placed in the cooler with our food. The canning lid and ring works perfectly to prevent leaks. (Although, condensation may form on the outside of the jar.)

I have also reused jars from store-bought products, which have “screw-on” lids (which I originally saved years ago for freezer jam). I typically keep the jars cold in a soft-sided “cooler” or lunchbag, with an ice pack. I will often add ice to the jar, also. Even my toddler daughter does well sipping from the jar like a cup, if I help her hold it. My husband already had a stainless steel thermos (from our Costco membership!), so he has continued to use that as a water bottle.

When we used baby foods, I learned to grind up foods in our food mill hand grinder, which I bought from our co-op. I have also used a potato masher or even a fork, to make baby food, if the grinder wasn’t available. I didn’t buy any special “baby food freezer trays.” I just put the food into ice cube trays, and then popped them into freezer containers, once they were frozen. For traveling, the ice cubes easily transferred to small containers or jars.

As our daughter has gotten older, we now pack snacks and lunches in the diaper bag. My homemade reusable sandwich wraps are a perfect replacement for plastic baggies (or pre-packaged snacks). I was able to make them with fabric remnants and old baggies, for very little cost. They are perfect for holding her favorite snacks, such as a leftover blueberry pancake or waffle, sourdough bread with butter, or a homemade tortilla with hummus. Obviously, I can use them to pack sandwiches in my husband’s lunch, as well!

Instead of plastic wrap, a plate or cloth placed over a bowl works well in the refrigerator. (Or, transfer leftovers to glass jars and reusable containers.) I recently took a cheese tray and a loaf of bread to a potluck, and I just wrapped them up in large tea towels. For another potluck, I poured a marinated cucumber salad into a half-gallon canning jar. Then, when I arrived off the bus, I just asked the hostess if I could borrow a serving bowl for the evening.

I continually remind myself that life existed before such “novelties” as plastic wrap and disposable baby food containers. I know that I don’t have to rely upon a manufacturer’s newest creation to live well. Choosing to look around at what I have on hand, along with making wise purchases, allows me to be a faithful steward of what I have been given.

Michele enjoys living an abundant, yet simple life. She is the joyful wife to Calvin and mother to Gen. You can get to know her more at her blog Frugal Granola.

Image credit (from an interesting green kitche/pantry photo slideshow)

A real day off!

I think I just may have the greatest husband in the world.

This amazing man has decided that since tomorrow is a holiday (in Canada, at least), that I should have a real holiday, too. I am talking a genuine, don’t-do-a-thing, kick up my feet and do whatever I want kind of day off (well, mostly, I still have the children around). Have I even had a day like this since my first child was born? I can barely remember!

He completely blitzed the house tonight, leaving it spic and span so I don’t have to worry about it at all. He gave me mad money so that I could buy lunch for the kids and I. After he told me the plans, I chipped in and helped finish up the work, made a baked oatmeal to stick in the oven tomorrow morning, and started washing diapers which I usually wash every Monday.

My plan? Maybe take the kids and my homestay students to the library. Then come back and sit outside in the sunshine, watching the kids play while I read a good book (gosh, I might just read several!). After my students leave at 1pm for a party, I will pack up and take the kids out for lunch, then to a water park to play for the afternoon. In the evening, we’ll come back home to my sweet hubby making us some taco salad.

Ahhh… I seriously cannot wait. This sounds absolutely amazing to me! A fun, relaxing day, enjoying my sweet children and not worrying about a single thing in the house!

Am I spoiled or what? Needless to say, I’m not supposed to be blogging tomorrow. You better believe I’m going to obey. I am taking the whole. entire. blissful. day. off.

See you Tuesday!