Fall & Winter Stock Up

Pantry Essentials – by Kim VanderWerf

Also:

  • remember the books you’ve set aside & magazines
  • last years seed catalogs until the new ones arrive
  • fall & winter prep lists
  • cozy socks
  • soft warm sweaters
  • good quality tea
  • soup and casserole recipes

This year we’ve decided to do Christmas differently as far as gifts go. I believe we are going to go with more intentional, possibly handmade, custom made/designed or sentimental gifts that may be bought or made or have someone make. But as far as gift lists, or wants, or commercialism–nope that’s out for our household this year. I’m still working all the details out but I will share them here as I come up with them.

Update on our move–that’s complicated as is everything this year. Normally, the person with citizenship would return to their country and start the residency process and then the rest of the family would follow. That is not how things are working right now with our move. The residency requirement vs. how long, because of covid-19 restrictions, aren’t meshing. At this time I cannot stay long enough to meet the requirements so I will be traveling for a few days to meet with our house-sitters/renters who are caring for the home we have purchased. We will be working on winterizing everything and working out winter/spring 2021 details. Hopefully come March 2021 we can begin again–we are thankful to have friends that are helping us to take care of our property. We couldn’t and wouldn’t be able to do it all without them.

Fall Prep–   from This Old Home

 

Stock up Fall 2020 -video on how to stock up for an emergency

Until next time–be safe and be well!!

 

You haven’t been sick in how many years?

Since 2006 when I started college and caught a cold/flu virus. Since that time I have made it safely through thirteen years of no colds, flu, sniffles, coughs, throwing up, or fevers. Amen!  I have had food poisoning once in the past 15 years that lasted 3 days–thanks to a not fully cooked quarter pounder about 12 years ago. My allergies–I’m allergic to mold, animal dander and ragweed, have been pretty good since I quit smoking several years ago. I sneeze maybe a dozen times a year now and take absolutely nothing for allergies in the way of meds anymore. All that to say I have had an issue to deal with since June that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

For personal reasons my recent issue isn’t the point of my post–in all honesty you will thank me for this—lol. The real reason I am posting about it at all is because what I’ve discovered may convince others to make a change to their diet and lifestyle.
First of all what I’ve been dealing with is serious, but it isn’t contagious (I didn’t catch it), it isn’t life threatening, and it isn’t a disease. It’s an issue that has popped up in my body that is uncomfortable to deal with, hard to care for, and extremely painful. I have dealt with issues similar to this for several years, and it has finally gotten to the point of being a problem. One that is slow to heal and that even doctors struggle with knowing how to help other than to perform surgery which really isn’t recommended. I’m not trying to lead you on with mystery, but I’m just not willing to share the details on the internet. Suffice it to say it could be almost anything–and whether it heals or not seems to rely solely and totally on my health, diet, and lifestyle. Which of course is the story here and the real purpose of my post.

I’m in both the enviable and unenviable position of being able to reap the benefits of years of healthier living and dealing with an issue that almost solely relies on good health, healing, and lifestyle changes in order to heal and be healed entirely from this awful issue.

For three months I have not been myself. I have been unable to travel much, I’ve missed attending Farmer’s markets every week as I intended to do, we shortened our vacation, limited our weekend getaways, and had to forfeit a couple of friend get-togethers. The good news is my different projects in and around the apartment have been completed, I have done quite a bit of volunteering, and I have fortunately not missed any work. I really had to prioritize everything– summer fun kind of went by the  wayside. Free time was spent resting and when I was rested on the weekends I spent time in my garden or talking with my husband or catching part of a movie with him. My issue has caused me to be uncomfortable, feel helpless, unmotivated, scared, and out of sorts. I have seen my doctor, I have had him tell me what my issue is–I already knew, and I have followed his instructions on how to heal my issue. Again, I hate to be cryptic, but suffice it to say it is an issue associated with my digestive tract. I’ve been working on a healthier lifestyle for almost fifteen years now–this blog was actually created to act as kind of a journal for my journey. I started by trying to remove all of the chemicals in my diet because at the time I had just quit drinking and smoking. After I did that I started incorporating organic food and dairy in our diets. Soon after that I began changing out chemical cleaners/household stuff for non chemical cleaners. I stopped using all sprays, perfumes, dyes, candles, and began eliminating snacks, processed food, and fast food from our lifestyle. This has taken years–in no way can any of this be done overnight. There are a lot of sad moments when you realize how many things you may have to give up to live a clean, chemical free–as much as possible, life. We were never big consumers of this kind of stuff anyways, but we consumed enough. I spent years researching alternatives for everything. Nowadays all of that information is readily available online via good ole Google–thank goodness. It is more acceptable, daresay almost trendy, to do the kind of things I did fifteen years ago. Back then we got a lot of strange looks as well as some pretty negative comments about all the changes we were making. I never doubted once that what I was doing was the best thing for my husband and I to do–so we got over the negative comments and looks fairly fast. lol.

I wouldn’t say good health runs in my family. Based on information I’ve been able to find out about grandparents three generations back on both sides–the average age of death has been 80. Heart disease seems to play a major part on my Dad’s side and respiratory issues and arthritis and chronic pain issues (perhaps related to fibro and also the arthritis) on my Mom’s side. I didn’t know any of this information in 2004, but once I learned of it, I was motivated more than ever to make changes and stick to them. Somewhere around 2009 I began having GI issues related to intolerances. There were a lot of fruits, veggies, and foods I’d been eating for years that started causing me health issues. Though today there is a lot of disbelievers of gluten intolerance–it is a very real thing. I don’t necessarily think that it is 100% just the wheat or the lack of tolerance of chemicals, but more a person’s body/systems/ gut and it’s reaction to modern hybridized wheat combine with all the chemicals in today’s food system and its affect on certain people/immune systems. On top of having to eliminate wheat products, I had to eliminate all the gums–guar, zantham, locust, cellulose and all other food additive gums. Not much left for me to eat after removing everything containing preservatives, thickeners, and wheat. It was quite a shock to my system and I did feel defeated and angry for quite some time. Turns out for some reason my body is also missing the ability to break down short chain carbohydrates (fermentable carbs). So to stay healthy and symptom-free I follow a FODMAP diet. I also take a probiotic called Accuflora and in the last couple of years started taking some supplements after an intense amount of research coupled with consulting with my physician and a nutritionist.

I’ve been taking NOW supplements for four months and can honestly state I don’t know where I would be without them. I’m scared to think how much farther behind I would be in my healing without having something that was keeping my arthritis pain at bay. I’ve been taking glucosamine twice a day for four months and my pain has been cut in half. Now doctors and scientists and researchers say this is unlikely, but for me it has given me a reduction in pain–inflammation, and better mobility. I was low in vitamin b6 but unable to take it due to having IC –thanks to the Now P5P I’ve taken for almost three months my levels are improving! Last but never least I haven’t had an IC flare since I started taking D-Mannose for one week once a month almost eighteen months ago. If you are diabetic you have to be careful with this one. I am not so I’ve been taking it with great success.  I began having symptoms of IC in 2004 and really I believe I may have always had some form of it. To this day I firmly believe it is a low-grade undetected by labs UTI. That’s just my own opinion, but it fits with a lot of issues bladder related that I’ve dealt with in my life. I experienced flares that were pretty painful and at times life altering from 2004-2017. The physicians I had at the time both told me it would go away on its own. My current physician wanted to try a few procedures that had been effective in a small percentage of women. I declined. Eventually several things helped me to become flare free for the last 18 months–it took years, patience, and perseverance to get me to where I am now with this issue.

My supplements cost a total of $210.00 a year and I feel pretty grateful that they are the only thing in pill form  that I take. My diet for quite some time now has been low fat, low carb, low salt, no red meat, high in fiber, fruit, and veg. I enjoy very little caffeine, eat hardly any sweets, and I don’t drink or smoke. I sleep 8 hours a night and if it ends up being less, I take a nap when I can.  I walk year round–usually a brisk walk at least 3x a week. All that to say, I’m happy because the one thing  I’ve worried about since I quit drinking and smoking is my health and what affect both of those things had on it. Maybe I’ll never truly know but for now I’m good! Eating better, taking care of myself, and getting proper rest really works. My doctor is always blown away by my level of healthiness, both physical and mental health, and the fact I am not taking any kind of medication at all at my age (mid-fifties). He’s happy supplements are working for me–disclaimer: I would advise everyone to talk with your doctor before you start any new supplement or reduce or restrict things in your diet. I’m blown away all the time that I am as healthy as I am because most of my life I did not live very healthy, ate junk, and rest? who needs rest?

When I made the changes in my lifestyle they were pretty harsh, but they kind of had to be because I started seeing the light so late. So for anyone out there wondering if eating healthy, eating natural or organic, studying labels, restricting things that are bad for you, and getting good rest really helps– a resounding  Yes all of the above.

This isn’t a sponsored ad at all. I researched this company, its supplements, its reviews, and talked personally with people taking them and then made my decision. As I stated, I also talked with my physician and a nutritionist. I had labs drawn and because of my good health I am able to take supplements as needed. Taking supplements is a serious thing and many can interfere and even cause toxicity. Never take a supplement without consulting with your physician first. Always always remember to do all your homework and be prepared anytime you have an issue and visit with a doctor and be your own health advocate. No one thing is a magic pill-good health takes hard work and constant attention to changes, levels of stress, rest, weather, and your immune system.

So for now I’m getting better slowly but I believe surely. Had my health not been as good as it is I may have needed to take personal leave or just let everything in my life be put on hold until things progressed. The time period for healing what I have can be a year, but I hope to be healed by the end of month 3. If I’ve learned anything in my life it is to never ever take my health and well-being for granted.

One last thing I personally do not use Google persay to find answers to my health questions. I instead rely on https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/  for most of my research and information.

That’ s it for now–be well, take care of yourselves, and eat healthy, good for you, clean whole food and local if at all possible food!

Patio Gardening Summer 2019 Week 13-15

My patio garden is winding down–my tomatoes are all hanging from the vine, waiting for the right temperature to ripen, and then as they do I’ll come along and gladly pick them to eat for b’fast, lunch, and dinner. Forty in all which isn’t bad for five plants that are producing. Both of the pepper plants died from being battered around in the wind–so they’ll be none of them. But the wonderful herbs, esp. my rosemary right now, more than make up for it. Our butterfly bush is full of beautiful blooms and we’ve seen many butterflies on it these past few days. Another year of gardening and feeding the birds has almost come to an end. We still have a few orioles and also their young, as well as all colors of finches and their young. We’ve gone through two cases of food feeding them and oh the hummingbirds–they’ve really loved the homemade syrup I’ve made for them all spring/summer. Each year around this time it is almost as if the hummingbirds take a mental picture of our deck, saving it somewhere in their senses, so that they remember who will feed them again all next year. They will have such a long, long journey to travel to get away from here for winter and then such a long, tiresome journey to get back to us. This spring when they first arrived all the birds looked so haggard, but now they look happy, healthy, and restored. It makes my heart very happy to see this year after year.



Our first tomato!

Our butterfly bush–

Farmers Market Hauls–

That’s all for now–Happy August!!

Eat like your grandparents did!

ourgrandparents

I was inspired to write this blog post mainly because this week I’ve witnessed dozens of epiphanies from people who’ve been dieting since January. Obviously, we all know several people who jump on the dieting bandwagon the first month of the new year. What some of us may not have known — is that it would seem come the new school year many of these same people begin questioning their diets. If I saw one, I must have seen a dozen people come to the following revelation >>> They’ve decided to try eating in moderation because some book told them to. So add moderation as a trend to the trendy diets for the people we know who are on diets 11 months out of the year.

I’m really not trying to be snarky about any of this. Dieting is serious stuff. Dieting, constant dieting and changes in your body, can and will do serious damage. Dieting is always temporary. Temporary until the dieter falls off the wagon temporarily, temporary until the next trend comes along, or temporary until the dieter quits for good. Quick weight loss plans are quick temporary diets. Unfortunately, the damage dieting can do may not be as temporary as the diet itself.

The plain fact of the matter is dieting leads to disaster–every single time. This is a fact that is backed up by doctors, therapists, dieters, and healthcare practitioners. Nowadays there are diets that eliminate food, bread, dairy, meat, grain, plants, supplements, air, etc. You get my drift. I know at least one person on each one of these “diets” and some that are on a different diet train month after month after month. Hey, do what’s best for you but know this– it’s been proven that trendy diets do more harm than good. It’s clear to see that naming which diet, diet plan, or supplemental drink you’re on via social media is trendy, but in the long-term none of it will do your body good.

Slowly but surely most people come around to the idea that if they eat in moderation, eat whole foods, and exercise they will lose weight and improve their health. Diet gurus, MLM’s, influencers, and bloggers have really done a number on people. I see people all the time throwing out big boxes of meal plans, diet books, shakes, supplements, kits, and so on. Hundreds and hundreds of dollars of stuff. Yes, they lost a couple of pounds, maybe even 20 or 30 pounds, but they starved something somewhere in their body to do it. It’s a fact that once they stop whatever they are doing they will put the pounds back on and probably continue to keep putting them on. Which will reaffirm to them they should be dieting or that said diet was working.

It’s your mind that you have to put on a diet, not your body. You need to learn about nutrition, food, and what each thing that you put into your mouth does or doesn’t do for you. You need to learn about portion size, about eating whole foods and what whole foods are, and how to buy, store, and prepare nutritious foods.

Fifty years ago common sense informed people that eating in moderation was the only way to diet. In the last thirty or so years people have written most common sense off as old wives tales(apparently) and instead have spent millions of dollars trying the latest fad. And now? The latest fad is to eat in moderation. Go figure.

It’s also sad that people have to buy dozens and dozens of books to teach or reteach themselves how to feed their bodies. Has society really and truly strayed that far away from the obvious answers?

If you need to buy books then at least buy books by licensed nutritionists and registered dieticians. Your family doctor is great for everything health related to your specific health needs, but if he’s like mine will be the first to tell you he didn’t study nutrition in med school. Again–I repeat, when it comes to nutrition seek out licensed nutritionists and registered dieticians. That means you don’t look for or take advice online from— commission based sales representatives, MLM distributors, motivational speakers, or doctors, med school students, or armchair doctors before consulting your physician.

Take what you can from any information you find whether online or at the doctor’s office–whatever directly and safely pertains to you. In every “fad” or “trendy” diet there is some good. For instance you will learn about portion size, or exercise, or how to cut out bad carbs, or to drink more water, and eat a variety of different fruits, veggies, and foods. All this is good information until the fad or trend tells you to stop doing this or stop doing that (which has nothing to do with moderation). Moderation works! Consult your physician so that he or she can give you the full picture on your health and then ask to speak with a licensed nutritionist or registered dietician before trying any of the popular diet fads or trends discussed online 24/7.

Though I may not have ever gone on a “diet” I have spent the last twenty years on a 1600 calorie a day meal plan.  This isn’t a fad or trend diet meal plan, but one that is set up for my age, weight, and health concerns. I limit sugar, I don’t drink anything with caffeine, and I keep my carbs at 800 calories of carbs a day. I walk briskly 3 x a week, and stretch and do yoga 3x a week. Every day I eat 3 fruits and try to eat 3-4 veggies. I don’t eat processed food. I do eat bread. I do eat meat approx. 3-4 times a month. I drink half my body weight in water every day. I’m by no means perfect and I haven’t always eaten this way.

Full disclosure– thanks to genetics I have the potential to balloon up to 250-300#– maybe more. I have many things in common with my paternal grandmother; including her body shape (pear) and ability to pack on the pounds.  I have never ever been on a diet. I am not skinny. I weigh 35# more than I should, but it’s not due to eating unhealthy. In fact, 99% of it is due to not being able to be as active as I need to be due to a back issue. I’ve been eating whole foods in moderation for over a decade and have never weighed more than 168#. I deal with arthritis in my feet and Fibromyalgia issues daily which also limit my ability to walk, hike, and ride a bike as much as I’d like to. I get a lot of advice on what foods and drinks to avoid based on my issues. Time and again I hear–don’t eat dairy. First, I am not allergic to dairy nor am I lactose intolerant. It is my strongest desire with the issues I deal with to have good strong bones. I drink 12 oz of organic milk every day. I also eat 2-3 slices of organic cheese a week, and during the summer months enjoy the heck out of a good ice cream cone 1-2 times a month. I experience zero inflammation from dairy. There is a link between lactose intolerance/milk allergy and inflammation–I found a great article on this which is below:

Inflammation and  dairy

Metabolism Basics

Why Dieting is Harmful by a Fitness Expert

Five Reasons Not to Diet in 2018

Diets Don’t Work–so why do we keep trying them?

If you take anything away from what I’ve just written I hope it is that I am very concerned about all this trendy dieting. I totally understand people want and need to lose weight. I totally understand all the emotions connected with people and their weight/body image, and health. I worked in healthcare for twenty years starting as a certified nursing assistant and retiring in healthcare management. I worked with certified nutritionists and registered dieticians all the time developing meal plans for clients throughout the twenty years I worked in healthcare. These are the people to go to, consult with, and work with for weight loss and better health.

I think there are a lot of well-intentioned people on the internet that try something and enjoy good results and then want to pass that information along to others. Whether by selling others shakes or powders or supplements. I certainly don’t begrudge them trying to help people, while also trying to support their family with extra income.

That said– it is wise to consult your physician, naturopath,  or nurse practitioner before trying any new diet or supplement being sold or shared online. As I stated before your doctor may not be able to advise you on nutrition based on what he/she learned in med school, but they will be able to tell you whether a new diet or supplement is a good idea based on your health, current meds, and any information they can glean about said new diet or supplement.

Until next time–give whole foods and some of these nutrition books a try–(Amazon links, but not affiliate links)

Basic Nutrition

Good Calories Bad Controversial Science

The Rodale Whole Foods Cookbook-1000 recipes for choosing, cooking, and preserving whole foods.

Building a strong immune system–what’s in my medicine cabinet

Headache/Sinus Headache/Facial Migraines –Peppermint Essential Oil.

Colds- 1 tsp elderberry syrup every 1-2 hours for 12 hours.

Menopause issues- I eat yams–roasted, pureed, anyway they taste good. Sometimes mixed with mashed potato and sometimes with applesauce. They help a lot with hot flashes.

Sleep- Lavender Essential Oils on the bottom of my feet, and I take 320 mg of magnesium a day. Magnesium works great for constipation as well. I found a great article on using Magnesium supplements here.

Stress- Frankincense Essential Oils on the bottom of feet.

Sore achy muscles- we take Epsom salt baths several times a week. Epsom salt is great for relieving muscle aches and pain and also detoxifies your body.

For over 20 years I have incorporated healthy living and a healthy diet into our lives. It’s been many years since I’ve been sick and when my husband gets sick his recovery time has improved. I don’t say this lightly–it takes work and considerable money.

Our diet– I’ll start by saying 60% of our diet is organic. I know some people are going to say to themselves I’m a food snob or? But I’m really not. I’ve had Fibromyalgia most of my adult life–probably close to thirty years now. I spent four years researching diets, food, and food safety and discovered that it was possible to feel better and live the life I wanted to if I changed my diet. So I did. It hasn’t happened overnight. We are still working on several changes in our diet. All total we’ve been working on a complete 360 almost fourteen years.

We aren’t big meat eaters. Before I got married I had been a vegetarian for over ten years. Since being married I’ve been a vegetarian for another ten years. We eat red meat once a week. We eat poultry or fish twice a week, and the rest of the week is meatless. We don’t eat out more than 12 times a year. When we eat out we usually choose homemade food restaurants or a local pizza place. I can’t think of anything we eat that we overeat. I don’t use any cheese in my cooking, processed foods are out, and most of what we eat is fresh and usually locally grown. When we grocery shop we shop in the outside aisles for the most part. I don’t buy anything in cans, boxes, or the freezer section except ice-cream.

We don’t drink alcohol and neither of us smokes. We also don’t use any OTC medications except Tylenol and hubby uses Nyquil if he gets a cold.

We weren’t always this healthy I assure you. Twenty-some years ago we had a cold every year, sometimes twice a year, just like everyone else. We also had the stomach flu a time or two. But overall I think we’ve been fairly lucky, considering I worked for almost twenty years in healthcare.

Having fibromyalgia has been the hardest thing for me because so many other things have come with it. I’ve dealt with IBS off and on since I was a teenager, but since changing our diet most of my IBS symptoms are gone. I’ve also had IC for about twenty years and that can be a very frustrating thing to have. But again diet plays a major part in controlling the symptoms of IC.

Before I quit smoking I had a lot of allergies. I probably had a severe allergy, that caused me to miss work, or be in bed all weekend, 3x a week. Now, I maybe have a couple of bad allergy episodes a year. Though in the last few years I have been getting facial migraines from sinus issues. I probably get two or three facial migraines a year. I also deal with jaw pain at times which is also something found in people who suffer from fibromyalgia.

Another important thing for me to add in about my health is that I suffered from malnutrition most of my young life. I was diagnosed at eight years old. Growing up not only was I a picky eater, but I also had major issues regarding food. From a baby until eight or nine my diet was extremely limited. This aversion to food caused by malnutrition remained an issue until I was in my late thirties. To give you an example of the degree of malnutrition I had.  I weighed 60 lbs in 5th grade. When I graduated high school I weighed 92 lbs. I tried twice in the eighties to join the military and twice weight issues prohibited me from being able to join.

To say my health was extremely fragile when I was 30 and met and married my husband would be an understatement. I shouldn’t really be as healthy as I am now. I owe most of my good health to eating right and using a homeopathic approach to all of my health issues.

In addition to my homeopathic approach, I am also careful about getting the flu shot. I have never had a flu shot–I’m certain this statement will cause some readers to become very unhappy with me. But it’s true– no flu shot ever. I’m allergic to eggs and penicillin–and in the old days you couldn’t get a flu shot if allergic to eggs (and I’m sticking with that recommendation, even though the CDC has now relaxed it). I still have issues with eggs if they’re not organic eggs from Organic Valley. In my whole life, I have had to use an antibiotic 3 times. Once in my childhood, once with strep throat, and once when I had foot surgery. That’s it. My husband has used an antibiotic just twice in his life– he too is allergic to penicillin.

Sometimes I am convinced that being allergic to penicillin has been a good thing for both my husband and I. I once sat in a room with 15 students and our instructor and was the only student not to get the swine flu. My husband is 1 of 2 people out of 100 people not to get the flu this year. It’s on its third time around in his workplace.

Three Secrets to a Strong Immune System

  • Probiotics- I eat Activia yogurts 3 x a week. I stop using them if I start to get too much gas or bathroom activity. That tells me I have enough active strains in my system and need no more at this time.
  • Sleep- 8 hours every night.
  • Drink 1/2 your body weight in clean filtered water every day.

I’d like to say we drink kombucha a lot or eat kimchi on a regular basis but we do not. We’ve tried both but unfortunately did not like them. Probiotics were difficult for both of us at first. I tried several brands of probiotic supplements and had varied results. If you’ve been reading my blog awhile you’ll remember I thanked Accuflora–a probiotic tablet, for helping me to recover from a serious intolerance to gluten. I took Accuflora off and on for about two years with great success and then switched to Activia.

Other things that can be done to assure strong immunity and healthy living–

  • Wash bed pillow often or change it out.
  • Keep all toothbrushes separate from other toothbrushes and not out in the open in your bathroom. I keep mine on a piece of paper towel in my medicine cabinet. Change out toothbrushes every 2 months and more if you’ve been sick. Change out the piece of paper towel or cup it is kept in every 2-3 days for the cup, once a week for paper towels.
  • Wipe down doorknobs if there is someone that has been sick in the home.
  • Wipe down toilet flusher on toilet daily with a baby wipe or antibacterial soap.
  • Clean toilets twice a week or more.
  • A banana or apple a day really does keep the doctor away.
  • Wash hands often. Don’t touch your hands to your mouth when out shopping in stores. Try not to touch bunker railings (where the meat etc. are kept in the meat and dairy department). Every time I’m at Walmart I see someone sneeze and wipe their hands all along the bunkers in the meat and dairy department.  My husband and I do use hand sanitizer all the time. We have heard that is really doesn’t work, but for us, it works even if it is semi somewhat psychologically. Maybe it’s because that is what is on our hands vs. germs from the meat bunkers in Walmart? No clue.

I understand that not everyone can follow a homeopathic approach to their health. Many people have very serious issues that do indeed require regular doctor visits and prescribed medication. Other than my having Fibromyalgia and back issues my husband and I do not have health conditions that warrant being under a doctor’s care. Believe me when I tell you we do not take our good health for granted. At any time, for many reasons, our story could change. I hope this post is helpful to some of you. I wish everyone good health in 2018!

 

Summer Meal Planning–7 day meal plan

Tired of having to pay subscription prices for a meal plan? or sign up for tips and tricks and end up inundated with spam emails? Here’s a 7-day meal plan without a catch–no hassles, no subs, and definitely no hidden costs. Summer time is a time where meal planning can get a little hectic. School’s out, and there’s vacation time to plan for and meals tend to be quick meals with little cleanup. Nowadays with all the meal plans available, some right to your front door, why choose to make meals yourself? In my case, for my family’s needs, it came down to saving money and eating local homegrown whole foods. Maybe you don’t have that option available to you, or you don’t have the time to make meals from prep to finish? If you cannot source local homegrown then use what you have–supermarket produce works fine. I’m a big fan of T & A produce and it’s sold in most grocery stores. We eat T & A’s romaine hearts, broccoli, and hydroponic butter lettuce.

Most of the meals in my 7-day meal plan can be prepped the night before. So when you have a little bit of free time, prep the next meal. Also when you cook up ground beef make extra and freeze the extra portion for another meal. I double most recipes and freeze the rest. We have at least 3 meals frozen on hand at any given time that we can grab if time is tight.

Monday-Grilled Hamburgers with Napa cabbage slaw and slowly roasted potato wedges. Prep time-20 minutes. Total cooking time 35-45 minutes depending on how done you want your burgers.

Tuesday– Sausage, red cabbage and roasted sweet potato. Prep time 25 minutes–total time is 1 hour (includes bake time).

Wednesday-Everything but the kitchen sink salad-lettuce, cucumbers, green onions, sliced beets (I use Nellie’s sliced pickled beets vs. fresh beets), avocado, leftover red cabbage slaw and sliced boiled egg with homemade salad dressing. Prep time is 10-15 minutes- chop everything up, boil egg (5 minutes) wash and rinse lettuce & green onions.  You can add cooked chicken, steak or even tuna from tuna packs to make this a heartier salad.

Thursday-Roasted veggie taco with creamy cilantro dressing–recipe here. Total time- 45 minutes.

Friday– Pork Roast in the slow cooker, carrots, and new red potatoes. Prep 10-15 minutes. Total cooking time depends on the size of roast (minimum 4 hours on a low setting) add new red potatoes which are smaller than reg. potatoes during the last 2 hours of slow cooking so that they won’t get mushy before the roast is done.

Saturday-Pulled pork over baked sweet potatoes.  Prep time 5-10 minutes, total cooking time 1 -1/2 hours at 350 degrees for medium-large sweet potatoes.

SundayTeriyaki Chicken and vegetable foil pack for the grill- prep time- 30 minutes..cook time is 1 hour or until chicken is done. **I love this site and you will find several more easy foil pack meals to make plus so many more delicious things to try.**

Recipes-

Homemade Salad Dressing– your best salad dressing ( I use Vegan dressing by Hellman’s), mix 1/4 cup dressing( per 2 people )with a 1/4 teaspoon of salt (or less or not at all) & a tablespoon of granulated sugar and a half cup of milk. Add more milk if you want your dressing thin instead of creamy.  The healthier the salad dressing is that you buy, the healthier your homemade dressing will be. Total time- 5 minutes

Napa Cabbage Slaw– buy a Napa cabbage in the produce department or farmer’s market or local grower that is light green in color. You will also need 2 carrots and ingredients for the homemade salad dressing. I grate the carrots, chop the slaw and mix together with my homemade salad dressing. Use a bit less milk with the dressing because you want the slaw to be able to top your burger! You can add salt and pepper to taste and for extra flavor toss in chopped scallions. Total time- 15 minutes.

Red Cabbage- I use a great recipe from Taste of Home found here.

~~Grocery List~~

Produce department/Farmer’s market/local grower

Napa Cabbage

Red Cabbage

Romaine Hearts Lettuce

Scallions

Green onions

Avocado

Cilantro

Sweet Potatoes

Baking Potatoes

New Red Potatoes

Carrots

Cucumbers

Red Onion

Tomatoes

Yellow & Red Peppers

Zucchini

Lemon

Lime

Meat Department

Pork Roast

Hamburger

Chicken Breast

Sausage

**how much meat you buy will depend on family size**

Dairy

1/2 gallon of milk or 1/2 and 1/2 for salad dressing

Eggs- at least 6 eggs

Butter

Sour Cream

Middle Aisles

Good salad dressing- I’ve used both Just Mayo and Hellman’s Vegan dressing

Hamburger buns

Brown Sugar, soy sauce, cooking rice, sesame oil, chili garlic sauce, 32 oz. chicken broth, ground ginger, olive oil, 15 oz black beans, and Nellie’s sliced pickled beets.

Flour tortillas

I think I’ve remembered to add everything you will need to create these 7 easy meals to the grocery list above. Some meals will work for Paleo diets or even a vegetarian diet. Some can even be made if you are camping. Most take less than 30 minutes prep and there is even a meal that can be made from yesterday’s leftovers.  We eat a lot of meals that are heavy in produce because this is the time of year produce costs the least.  I generally don’t make meals like this in the winter due to not being able to source real fresh produce.  So enjoy these meals now, enjoy the savings, and reap the benefits of these great whole food meals for the next seven days.

My summer preserving and canning

This past couple of weeks has been BUSY for me. To give you a general idea of what I’ve been up to, I’ve been canning, and freezing produce here.  Lots of produce to be exact. In between canning and freezing is housework, going out and buying the produce I’ve been canning and freezing, summer vacation planning, weekend get-a-ways and more to be honest. During breaks from school, and on the weekends, I like to cram as many things into the time as I can. Sometimes this goes well and other times I feel like we rushed things so much, we weren’t able to fully enjoy ourselves. Luckily even though things seem busy, they do not seem rushed.

I’ve canned:

  • 24 of each -32 oz jars of tomatoes, peaches and tomato sauce
  • 6- pint jars of pickles, pickle relish, and salsa
  • 6- pint jars of peach and blueberry preserves
  • 6- 32 oz jars of peach pie filling
  • 8 gallons of green beans
  • 4 gallons of shredded zucchini
  • 4 gallons of cut up zucchini
  • 4 gallons of sliced beets
  • 8-1/2 gallon bags of multi- colored peppers-green, red, orange
  • 5 gallons sliced strawberries

I still have creamed corn to make and also corn on the cob to freeze, and when fall arrives apple pie filling and applesauce and squash. Our freezer that we bought just for just such an endeavor is half full at this time and our shelves are starting to fill up. Feels good. After preserving the peaches a couple of weeks ago, I made my husband and I breakfast for supper.

DSCN3384

Organic egg, spinach and kale omelet with organic white cheddar cheese served with my own grown organic tomatoes, organic grapes, and organic red potatoes. The total cost of meal per person-$3.25, the total time to make- 15 minutes.

After harvest-preserving vegetables

peas-13

Source

Some of the first things harvested in Wisconsin are strawberries and after several types of tender lettuce, green beans.  My husband and I have enjoyed garlic scapes- we grilled those, leaf lettuce-romaine, in so many salads I can’t count them anymore. We’ve been buying tomatoes thus far for eating, but this next weekend I will be canning tomatoes for sauce and chili.  Sweet corn is just starting to be available, and even though I once was a huge sweet corn eater, I now become ill when I eat it. I ‘m not sure what is causing this but often people who suffer from wheat gluten intolerance have reactions with corn. It’s something I have to accept even though I am not happy about it.

Our goal is to fill up our little freezer as we’ve done the last two years. We drive about 20 miles every week to an organic farm and buy a lot of vegetables. Some for eating every day and others for preserving for eating throughout the winter months.  This means not having to buy any vegetables and very few fruits all winter. As of this time, we have a dozen gallon freezer bags of shredded zucchini for zucchini bread and zucchini cakes. I use this recipe for the cakes, by Sandra Lee. We have several bags of cut-up zucchini for stir-fry, I use this recipe for stir fry by Cooks.com. It’s delicious and perfect rewarmed the next day.  I think we’ve got a total of a dozen full gallon bags of strawberries.  I will use these for breakfast smoothies all winter long.  I remove the stems on the berries and lay them on cookie sheets to freeze them then I empty the cookies sheets into gallon freezer bags, lay flat and remove the air and then freeze flat.  When I pull the strawberries out to eat, I wash and drain them.  I used to make a lot of jam but couldn’t eat it fast enough and didn’t really care for all the sugar in the recipes. So instead, I buy Bonne Maman, which is way better than any jam I’ve ever made or tasted.

So what’s left? Well, let me get back to the topic of this post, green beans. Ah yes, we have a lot of green beans.  So tonight, while trying to watch Noah, I froze 7 -1-gallon freezer bags of green beans.  I wrote a Hub page a few years ago on how to freeze green beans, I’ll have to see if I can find it. Otherwise, I use this recipe here from Better Homes and Gardens.

After the green beans and tomatoes, I’ll be freezing beets and brussels sprouts and then finally green, red and yellow peppers. This fall, which is only a few weeks away, I am going to try canning apples for apple pie. I usually just slice up the apples and freeze them but I want to try something different. The reason I freeze all of our vegetables is because it is easy, I’m not fussing with tight lids and we prefer our veggies not only look fresh but taste fresh- steamed not cooked. Freezing really works well for our tastes and preferences.

I hope everyone is having a great weekend. Even though it sounds like I’ve been stuck in the kitchen the whole time, I actually found time for a long hike in the woods, a delicious fish dinner by the lake (with hubby) and a great documentary on food-The Future of Food as well as Noah w/Russell Crowe, need I say more? Didn’t think so. 🙂 Have a great rest of your weekend.

Invest in yourself-the food you eat

invest in yourself

The real reason behind starting this blog several years ago was to voice my concerns about food safety and to journal about my family’s shift to an organic diet.  The desire to eat more organic food really struck me after reading story after story about all the additives in processed food.

When my husband and I married we had two very different eating styles that came from two entirely different lifestyles. He from a family that ate a lot of sweets and fattening food (and are now paying for it), and I who had been out on my own for many years eating whatever I could afford.  My husband wasn’t about to sit down to a meal of tuna sandwiches or mac and cheese any more than I was going to sit down to bratwurst, mashed potatoes, and gravy.  So, I needed to come up with a compromise. Eventually, I created a menu that included all of the healthiest things from each other’s diets and then as the years went on began to substitute them with the organic versions.

In 2004, after researching organic food, we started purchasing from the Organic Valley (OV) product line. Organic Valley headquarters are located in LaFarge, WI not far from where we live.  We chose OV after reading about their products, their farmers, and their founder.  Some of the first products we tried, and have stayed with for 10 years now, are OV milk, butter, eggs, and cheese.  We stopped buying canned vegetables and fruits at the grocery store and instead purchase fresh or frozen. I also purchase large amounts of green beans, squash, peppers and strawberries to freeze for meals throughout the winter.

In 2005 I noticed, after losing 10#, that I felt better than I had in a long time. I had quit smoking and drinking in 2003, started eating organic food in 2004 and was riding bike and hiking again. The list of foods that we had given up by 2005 was pretty long- some processed foods, sugary cereals, canned goods of any kind, non- organic sauces and gravies and non-organic dairy.

My husband had given up chips, cookies and other sweets for bananas and nuts. For a few years, while the organic food movement was getting started, sourcing food was a major problem. In 2007 we signed up for a CSA outside the area driving a 100 miles round-trip for our veggies. Then the following year we found a local one. But by 2009 the local one decided it was too much work and we were without a CSA again.  Since the spring of 2011, we’ve been buying our fruits and veggies from a local vegetable stand. 

People always ask me, ” how can you afford it?” And I answer “how can we not? it’s a lot safer than eating food that contains chemicals and additives and all those mystery ingredients”.

Sticking to an organic diet can be expensive. My husband and I take a lot of flak for choosing this way of life.  Thankfully we have fairly strong arguments against non-organic diets including the fairly obvious evidence of our health and active lifestyle.  As the years have gone by we’ve dropped other things from our diet- processed cookies, cakes, and non-organic condiments. We don’t eat fast food anymore and just recently I gave up salt.

Ten days after I gave up salt I weighed myself and I had lost 10#. No joke. At the same time, I gave up salt I also gave up red meat. I realized that I used a lot of salt on red meat because I didn’t like the taste of it.

The last seven years have been a struggle, my blog didn’t always report that. It isn’t easy to make changes to one’s diet. Sometimes it is not easy to justify the extra or added expense. I’ve had to do a lot of creative budgeting to afford some of the new food choices we’ve made. It’s easy to afford McDonald’s and easier yet to buy a bunch of processed foods and microwave meals every day. There has never been a time I’ve regretted the changes we’ve made or giving up things we liked because they were bad for us. It’s great to be almost fifty years old and feel like I’m in my 30’s. It’s a dream to see the smile on my husband’s face when he sees the progress he had made and the good health benefits he reaps every day.