How to Wash Produce

How to Wash Produce #ygbt #oams #cleanfood Don’t you just love a tip that saves you time and money… and is good for you in the process? You can’t beat that, right?! Well, that’s the sort of tip I’ve got for you today.

  • I’ll save you TIME by showing you how to wash your produce all at once (and if you only go grocery shopping once a month, it saves you even more time).
  • I’ll save you MONEY by showing you how washing your produce all at once will make it last longer and stay fresher.
  • It’s GOOD FOR YOU because washing your produce and having fresher produce means fewer pesticides entering your body and more nutrition.

It’s a win-win all around, my friend! Here’s how to wash produce in big batches to save you time and money.

How to Wash Your Produce (and save time and money in the process)

First of all, I want to highly recommend that you go grocery shopping once a month if you’re really interested in saving yourself significant time and money. It might sound crazy, but trust me, it’s totally doable and it works. You’ll find all the info you need to get started in my eBook, Your Grocery Budget Toolbox.

Once you’ve gone on your monthly shopping trip, you’ll have a mountain of produce that you want to last as long as possible. There are a lot of ways to do that, and many of them are discussed in the book, but one of the best ways is simply to wash all the produce before you put it away. So pile up all the produce on the counter next to the sink, and then get started!

1. Fill the sink with water and some vinegar.

You can also add a couple drops of Thieves oil for added cleaning power! You don’t need a huge amount of vinegar; I just add a few generous splashes and call it good.

Place your produce gently in the water. Be sure not to put things like apples and blackberries in at the same time, because that could be seriously bad news for the blackberries. Depending on how much produce you have, you may need to do several batches.

Let the produce sit in the water for a minute or two.

2. Rinse the produce in a colander.

Remove the produce from the sink and place in a colander. If you have a double sink, you can rinse it right away; otherwise, you might need to wait to rinse until you’ve run all the produce through the vinegar bath.

Be sure to rinse the produce very thoroughly to get off all the remaining pesticides and bacteria, as well as all the vinegar.

3. Place the produce on a towel to dry.

Set out some towels on your countertops and put the produce on the towels in a single layer to dry. I sometimes leave it on the countertops overnight, depending on the time I get started with it, but generally it will take only a couple hours.

Carefully store the produce in the appropriate spot in the fridge or pantry.

This whole process takes 10-15 minutes plus drying time and saves you a lot of money in the long run! You’ll find that your produce lasts significantly longer when you wash it this way before storing it, which means less produce dumped in the trash. And, of course, your produce will be cleaner and fresher for you when you go to eat it, which is good for your health as well.

Helping you save money on your groceries is one of my favorite things to do ever, so I’m super excited about my latest project. I’m working on updating and slightly revising the ebook I mentioned earlier, Your Grocery Budget Toolbox. It’s going to be an even better resource to help you keep your money in your pocket while purchasing the highest quality  of food possible for your family. Once the second edition of YGBT is released, I’ll be working on a spiral-bound print copy as well! And on top of all that, pretty soon after that I’ll be releasing an eCourse that personally walks you through the process of saving money on your groceries. I’m not a squee-in’ kinda girl normally, but I’m so excited about what I’ve got in store for you that I’m about to do just that! So make sure you sign up for email updates so you know when all of this brand new awesomeness is released. Here’s to healthy food… and more money in your pocket!


DIY Furniture Polish – 3 Ingredients!

DIY furniture polish #yleo #essentialoils #nontoxic #naturalcleaningFirst off, let me start by being completely authentic with you. The absolute and total truth of the matter is that my natural tendency in life is NOT to polish the furniture. Meh. Polish shmolish. If it were up to me, dusting would be the extent of my furniture care (that and attempting to avoid liquid spillage on its surface).

But then I had two little boys (wonderful, darling boys), and I discovered that two little boys – no matter how small they are – can do quite a number on dining room furniture. Ya know, the wooden kind. Those little hands somehow always get sticky at every meal – or snack –  and those sticky little hands somehow find their way all over the chairs. And all over the table. And the table legs. And the chair legs.

You get my drift.

And suddenly, my polish-hating-self (please note that is “polish” with a lower case “p”) was forced to realize the unwelcome truth that nothing would remove the sticky, gummy residue but… furniture polish. *Sigh*. Believe me, I tried other, simpler methods, but nothing quite did the trick until I actually broke down and polished the dad-blasted thing.

Thankfully, this polishing chore is only necessary once every couple months or so – we get by in the meantime by wiping down every single chair and every inch of the table top with a wet washrag on a daily basis. And thankfully, I’ve come across a super-simple, inexpensive DIY, all-natural (and any other adjectives that apply) furniture polish that literally takes seconds to mix up. And what’s more, it actually works. Woot!

This particular recipe makes a little batch that is just the right amount for our dining room furniture (a table, chairs, and a buffet, which, sadly, is no stranger to sticky fingers either). I don’t make anymore than this at a time because I don’t want to bother with storing it… and I certainly don’t need any reminders hanging around that there is polishing to be done!

DIY Furniture Polish



  1. Pour the ingredients into a small jar. Seal the lid and shake well until combined.
  2. Dip a rag into the mixture, dab it on the furniture, and polish it into the surface.

*You can also use lemon or any other citrus essential oil.

The vinegar is optional, but it does help cut through any sticky stubborn particles of food left behind on the furniture. It also helps the mixture go further and absorb more easily.

Happy polishing!

Well, as happy as it can be. 

I’m happy to recommend Young Living essential oils as the highest quality oil readily available today. So much goes into Young Living’s quality control that sets it head and shoulders above almost any other oil on the market.  Anyone is eligible to open a wholesale membership with Young Living, simply by purchasing a starter kit (these range in price from $40-$150). After that, the only requirement is to purchase $50 within the first year; otherwise there is  no commitment to maintain your wholesale membership status. Check out my Young Living page for more information. 

Uh, and in case it’s not obvious, I’m an independent distributor of Young Living Essential Oils.

Groceries for a Month for a Family of Four

OAMS Monthly Shopping List I realized recently that it’s been a long time – a really long time – since I’ve updated you all on our OAMS (Once-A-Month-Shopping) experience. It’s been almost 3 years since I last shared a sample monthly shopping trip with you, which is a bit too long, don’t you agree? A lot has changed since then – our location, our shopping habits, and even our diet to a certain extent.

For those of you new to the concept (you can read about it more at length in my eBook, Your Grocery Budget Toolbox, or by browsing through the OAMS archives), OAMS is a method of grocery shopping that saves time and money because you’re only shopping once a month, as the name suggests. Technically, though, I shop twice a month, because I usually include a mini-trip mid-cycle to re-stock produce and milk. However, the bulk of my grocery shopping is done in one weekend every month, and that’s what we eat on until the next monthly shopping trip.

This past weekend was my OAMS trip for March/April (I do my shopping in the middle of the month because that’s when we worked it into our budget), and it involved 6 stores over a span of about 4 or 5 hours (including a pit stop for lunch and a quick trip to the dollar store). Also included in this list is the meat and eggs delivered to me from a local farm. Here’s what I hauled home:

Meat #oams #frugal #wholefoods MEAT & SEAFOOD

1.6 lbs Wild Alaskan Pollock $6.42

1.3 lbs Ground Lamb $4.58

2 6oz cans Skipjack Tuna (pole-caught) $2.98

8 oz Black Forest Ham $3.49

2 lbs Grass-Fed Ground Beef $11.21

2 Pastured Roasting Chickens $23.81

Produce #oams #frugal #wholefoods PRODUCE

5 lbs. Grapefruit $1.99

2 lbs. Strawberries $3.99

3 lbs. Organic Apples $4.49

2 pkgs Blueberries $3.18

2 pkgs Blackberries $2.78

1 Mango $0.99

3 lbs Bananas $1.31

5 lbs. Pears $4.49

2 lbs. Organic Carrots $1.78

1 Onion $0.89

4 Organic Avocados $3.99

1 Pineapple $1.99

2.3 lbs Green Beans $2.98

1 bunch Cilantro $0.50

.5 lb Ginger Root $1.24

2.3 lbs Broccoli $2.26

1 Cantaloupe $2.49

.6 lbs Persian Cucumbers $0.63

1 Cauliflower $1.99

1 lb Sweet Potatoes $1.47

2 lbs Grapes $4.24

5 lbs Potatoes $1.99

1 Napa Cabbage $1.12

Dairy #oams #frugal #wholefoods DAIRY & NON-DAIRY

2 cans Coconut Milk $2.58

2 cans Coconut Milk Cream $4.58

1 pt. Organic Heavy Cream $2.99

2 lbs Organic Yogurt $2.99

2 6oz cups Coconut Milk Yogurt $2.98

<1 lb Goat Cheddar Cheese $4.80

1 pt Open Nature Coffee Cream $1.79

1 gal. Low-Temp Pasteurized Pastured Milk $5.69

1 box Coconut Cream $2.49

Dried Fruit #oams #frugal #wholefoods DRIED, FROZEN & CANNED FRUITS/VEGGIES

1 lb. Raisins $1.89

1 can Pumpkin $0.89

Organic Banana Chips $2.99

1 bag Frozen Spinach $1.49

1 bag Frozen Organic Corn $1.79

1 bag Frozen Organic Peas $1.99

8 oz Dried Cranberries $1.99

1 lb Prunes $3.29

Flour & Baking Supplies #oams #frugal #wholefoods BAKING, ETC.

5 lbs White Whole Wheat Flour $2.99

1 lb Quinoa-Brown Rice Pasta $2.99

12oz Spelt Pasta $2.49

1 lb Organic Coconut Sugar $3.99

1 lb Cashew Meal $4.99

1 bottle Organic Ketchup $1.99

12oz Fair Trade Coffee $3.99

2 lbs. Local Maple Syrup $15.99

2 lbs Coconut Oil $15.99

1 large bottle Cinnamon $2.59

4 bottles Organic Grape Juice $10.00

TOTAL COST: $236.41

A few notes about this month’s shopping trip:

I was unusually under my $250 budget – typically I go over by a few dollars!

Yes, this is really all the food we will eat for the next month, EXCEPT that I will go buy some more produce (apples, bananas, pears, etc.) in about two weeks and I will also probably buy another gallon of milk. Do keep in mind that I’m also working off of food I already have here at home -there’s more meat in my freezer left over from previous month’s shopping, as well as potatoes, pasta, rice, beans, and other staples.

Also note that I purchase grains in bulk about twice a year, and that is not included in the regular grocery budget. One of these days I’m going to start buying meat in bulk as well, and that also will come out of a separate budget.

I didn’t think to take pictures of my shopping trip, so the pictures here are just randomness.



Real Food on a Tight Schedule

5 ways to save time in the real food kitchen Usually, I’m talking about real food on a tight budget, but today we’re talking about being tight on a different sort of commodity: namely, time. We are all short on time, yes?

I’ve been transitioning from a work AT home mom to a working AWAY from home mom for the past few months, and it’s not been without its challenges on many levels. Sticking to a real foods diet has been a little more stressful in terms of preparation, and I’m finding that too much of my at-home time has been spent slaving away in the kitchen when I could be spending time with my family. 

I’ve slowly been figuring all this out, though, and I’ve come up with a few strategies that have cut down my kitchen time without sacrificing the quality of the food I serve.

1. Keep it Simple, Sister

This has always been my mantra, and even more so now. I’ve had to pull myself out of the mental box that says, “all meals must include a main dish and several prepared sides”. That’s simply not true! Here are some ways to simplify your menu (particularly your dinner menu):

  • Try one-dish meals or casseroles (I’m partial to stir-fry’s myself!). If they are well balanced with the appropriate amounts of proteins, carbs, and fruits or veggies, then you don’t need to have any additional accompaniments to the meal. Just make sure you have enough of it to satisfy everybody’s hungry tummy!
  • Forget prepped and cooked side dishes. There’s nothing wrong with a simple sliced apple or a pile of freshly chopped veggies (although I do like to experiment with different kinds of yummy apple side dishes!). Clearly, I still prepare more involved side dishes, but I’m learning that the fact my family eats fruits and vegetables is more important than the way they are served.
  • Think outside the box when planning meals: try an assortment of finger foods or a cold plate instead of an actual “dinner”.

2. Process Your Groceries

When you get home from grocery shopping (or from the farmers’ market), immediately prep all the food that you can. Obviously, some things cannot be sliced or chopped or otherwise prepped ahead of time, but do process whatever you possibly can. This will save enormous amounts of time when you’re getting ready to put dinner on the table.

Here are some foods I try to prep ahead of time whenever I can:

  • pineapples (won’t keep for long, but they don’t last for long around here anyway, so that’s not a problem)
  • kefir or yogurt (when you bring milk home, set a batch going right away)
  • rice, pasta, or other grains (cook them up and store in the freezer)
  • beans (soak and then cook in the crock pot)
  • winter squash (cook it in the crock pot, puree, and refrigerate or freeze)
  • onions (chop and freeze – thawed onions aren’t great in raw dishes but work perfectly for anything cooked)
  • meat (separate it into portions that will work for your recipes/meal plan; you can also brown ground meat for use in recipes like spaghetti and the like, or fry up bacon)

3. Take Ten

Build ten minutes into your night or morning routine to take care of various kitchen chores like:

  • culturing kefir, yogurt, sour cream, and anything you like to ferment
  • feeding your sourdough starter
  • defrosting meat (or whatever you need for the next day that is in the freezer)
  • soaking beans
  • cooking broth (or anything, really) in the crock pot

4. Utilize Your Tools

Make friends with your crock pot, your food processor, and your Vitamix (if you have one) because those babies will make your life a lot easier and will save you so much time! I actually don’t have a food processor, although I want to get one eventually, but I use my crock pot and my Vitamix all the stinkin’ time. I don’t know what I would do without either one!

  • The crock pot might take longer to cook something, but it’s completely hands off for the most part so it saves time in that regard. If you cook soup on the stove top, it might take less time, but you have to be present and constantly checking on it to make sure the pot doesn’t boil over or the liquid evaporate too much. A slow cooker cooks slowly (funny, huh?) and safely so that you can let it do its thing while you do yours. You can let it go overnight, or you can let it go all day, whichever is more convenient for you.
  • Crock pots are not just for roasts! As I mentioned before, I cook my pumpkins and other winter squash in it all the time. I also use it to make broth on a regular basis. I have used it to make granola, and steel cut oats, too. I’ve even baked bread in it!
  • And a Vitamix is not just for smoothies. Sure, it makes a mean smoothie, but it does a lot of other stuff, too. It will puree anything you need pureed, which seems to happen an awful lot in real-food-cooking for some reason. It’s also great at making your own sauces – savory sauces, sweet sauces, fruit sauces, any kind of sauce! It will even cook the sauce for you! I also occasionally use my Vitamix like a food processor, especially for grating carrots or potatoes. It works so fast and is so effective!

5. Have a Meal Plan

This is the oldest trick in the books, and for good reason: it works! I have to admit I struggle with consistency with this one, but there is no denying that food prep goes a lot more smoothly – and quickly – when I’m working from a menu. My favorite menu planning tool is Plan to Eat, an online program I highly recommend, and consider to be totally worth it in terms of how much time and money you save when using it. (By the way, that’s my referral link, and you can try it for free for 30 days.)

Above all, keep in mind that some things in life are more important than real food. I’ve learned to make concessions along the way; for example, I keep a bag of flour in the cupboard for those occasions (that occur on a regular basis) when I simply don’t have time to grind my grain. I also am not ashamed to buy store-bought healthy (ish) treats for my kids when I don’t have time to make cookies from scratch. We eat out at least once a week, and although we try to eat at healthier restaurants and make healthier choices when dining out… it’s still eating out and it’s still not very healthy! But it’s a necessary break for all of us, and one we look forward to, and so we consider it worth it. Your concessions might look different, but don’t be ashamed of them or embarrassed by them.

How do you serve your family real food when time is short?

5 Ways to Remove Labels

This post contains affiliate links and other assorted money-making madness.

Remove labels from jars You know how I love to keep my pantry (which I actually don’t really have right now…) organized with glass jars, right? I waxed eloquent about it in this post: How I Organized My Pantry for Free with Empty Glass Jars. If you open up my fridge or any of my cupboards, you’ll see dozens of glass jars hard at work containing all our food.

But those pesky labels can really drive me crazy! Some come off quite easily… others not so much. I’ve had more than my fair share of label scrubbing, and I’ve learned a few tried-and-true methods for removing them with minimal fuss.

1. Soak in Warm Water

This should be the first step in any case. Sometimes (Ok, most of the time), I skip the “soak” part and just hold the jar under running water. Sometimes (Ok, quite frequently), I run the jar – with the label- through the dishwasher. In any case, the whole point is that I get the label on the jar thoroughly wet with warm or hot water, and that is the first step in the label-removal process. If you’re lucky, this will be all you have to do! Some labels just slip right off after a good washing. Usually, you won’t be that lucky, though, so on to the next step.

2. Scrape the Label

Sometimes the label just needs a little help coming off the jar, in which case you’ll want to employ some kind of scraping tool. I’ve used all sorts of things: plastic knives, fake credit cards (the kind they send you in the mail hoping to lure you to sign up), and who knows what else. But my favorite tool is a sturdy pan scraper like these I found on Amazon. They are the ultimate label scrubber-offer, so everybody should have one. (Cuz I said so.)

At the very least, the scraper will help you get rid of the paper label itself, so that all you will have left is sticky gunk. Sticky gunk is no good, so hang on to that scraper (cuz you’re gonna need it) and try one (or more!) of the following options:

3. Use Coconut Oil & Baking Soda

Combine equal parts coconut oil and baking soda (say, 1 TBSP of each) in a small container until you have a paste. Smear the paste all over the sticky residue and let it sit for 15-20 minutes or so. Scrub it off, and hopefully the label and sticky residue will come off, too. If not, repeat the process until it does. And don’t forget to use the scraper!

4. Use Peanut Butter

Smear it all over the sticky stuff and let it sit for a while. Scrub it off and repeat if necessary. You can  use the scraper again to help get off some of the more stubborn sticky yuckiness.

You can also use any other heavy fat (like shortening, or other nut butters) with similar success.

5. Use Lemon Essential Oil

Nowadays I usually skip options #3 and #4 and go straight for the big guns. Lemon Essential Oil* is the bomb-diggety when it comes to removing that sticky gunk left behind by all those labels. All you have to do is drip one little drop right onto the jar. Rub the drop into all the sticky gunk, then scrub it off under hot running water. Magic! You might have to repeat this process once or twice with really stubborn stickiness, but it is far more effective than either of the other 2 options. Oh, and don’t forget the scraper! It can come in handy here, too.

*Lemon Essential oil comes in a 15ml bottle for less than $15 (just over $11 if you are a distributor), and that bottle can have as many as 400 drops in it. You can use Lemon Essential Oil all over the house in all kinds of cleaning applications, so you definitely get your money’s worth out of it. 

De-Odorize Stinky Carpets Easily and Naturally

I had never experienced stinky carpets in my life until recently… and whew! Not an experience I cared to repeat! And then… repeat it again I did. For some reason, our carpets (I don’t know if it’s because we’re in a basement apartment or what) seem to be particularly prone to collecting odors. What seems to happen is that moisture seeps into the carpet and never properly dries, thus creating a mildew-y nasty smell that can be tricky to eliminate.

Thank goodness for Google! I knew vaguely that baking powder was supposed to help with this problem, but wasn’t exactly sure how to go about it. Of course, every article I read had a slightly different approach to it, and some were more detailed than others, so in the end I kind of pulled my own method together based on what I read.

The first stinky carpet episode required several treatments (yes, it was that bad! The problem was that a drink had spilled underneath the couch, so we couldn’t find from whence the smell was emanating until it was really bad.). The second stinky carpet episode was significantly improved after just one treatment, and although it could probably use one more, I haven’t had the time to actually do that yet (on my lengthy to-do list…). So instead of actually doing it, I’m writing a blog post about how to do it. (Ha!)

The magic ingredient is baking soda. Yep, that’s it! I buy it in a big bag at Costco because I use it for all kinds of cleaning purposes. You’re gonna need a big bag for this particular project, too, because it uses up a LOT of baking soda.

I also added some Purification essential oil, which really helped a lot as well. You can add Purification or any essential oil, or you can just use the baking soda straight up.

How to DeOdorize Stinky Carpet

Here’s the process for de-stinkifying (that’s a word right?) your carpet:

  1. If moisture is involved (in my case, the first time it was), soak up as much of it as you can with rags.
  2. If you want to use essential oils (I recommend Purification), add a few drops to your baking soda (depending on the amount of carpet you want to cover, you’ll probably be using several cups of baking soda).
  3. Liberally (I mean liberally!) sprinkle pour baking soda over the affected area. Spread the baking soda around with your hands or a spoon (or a spatula, whatever gets the job done!) until all the stinky carpet is covered. Don’t be afraid to push the baking soda down into the carpet a bit; that will help it be more effective.
  4. Let it sit overnight. 
  5. When you’re ready to clean it up, first use a broom and a dustpan to brush up as much of the baking soda as possible. Don’t try to vacuum it all up or you’ll run the risk of ruining your vacuum cleaner.
  6. When you have only a thin layer of baking soda left, vacuum it up. 
  7. Once all the baking soda is removed, do a “sniff test”. Get your nose right up to the smelly spot on the carpet and take a whiff. Is it still stinky? Then repeat the process.
  8. Repeat as necessary until all odor is gone.

And there you have it folks: Better than Febreze or any other chemical-laden toxic carpet cleaner. Plus also, cheaper! Yeah, baby, that’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout. 

How to Get Rid of Mildew Smell in Laundry

image by raymortim

Please tell me I’m not the only one who (far too often, I might add) leaves laundry – clean laundry – in the washing machine a li-i-i-ttle bit too long (you know, like, never more than 12 hours or so… or a day or two… or… I’ll stop there) in the washing machine so that the once-clean laundry is now a rather smelly mess. In fact (should I even admit this?) I am at this moment washing a load of laundry for the third time. Yes, the third time. And, no, it hasn’t gone through the dryer yet.

Whew! SO happy I’m not the only one! Thanks for ‘fessin’ up. When I first had the idea to write this post, I felt a little bit like that dream everybody always talks about – you know, the one where you’re going about happy-as-a-lark in public with only your you-know-whats on? Or less? (Although I confess I’ve never actually had that dream – thank goodness. My only recurring dream is the one where I lose all my teeth. I really hate that one because I am afraid it’s prophetic. But I digress…)

So anyway… since I’m not the only one who absent-mindedly leaves her laundry in the washing machine for so long that it gets dirty again, I figure somebody out there is going to find this post useful, because here in this post I will reveal my secret for overcoming the nasty smell. And the people rejoice! (Notice I did not say my secret for overcoming the absent-mindedness because I haven’t figured that one out. Not yet.)

photo by Alvimann

The Vinegar Trick

Now I’m thinking you all probably have already heard about the vinegar trick, am I right? The “Vinegar Trick” is really pretty simple. All you do is throw in some vinegar (1/2 a cup-ish) to your load of laundry and run it through the cycle again. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

The Vinegar Trick is all I ever needed when I had a top-loading washing machine, and it worked every single time. Now that I have an HE front-loading washer, though, things are different. For one thing, the musty smell collects a LOT faster. I can’t leave laundry in there for any length of time, it seems, without sniffing that faint but disgusting odor when I go to switch out the clothes into the dryer. For another, the smell is awfully persistent! And stronger! I don’t know what it is about HE machines (I thought they used less water?!) but I’ve read online that my experience is not uncommon.

So I’ve had to up my game a little, and now I have a whole routine going to help me kick that mildew smell where it hurts. 

Side note: Some people say that using vinegar in an HE machine will ruin it, but I’ve heard from countless HE users that they’ve added vinegar to their laundry on a regular basis and haven’t had any trouble whatsoever with their machines. That’s good enough for me, but you may want to consider carefully before you try it yourself.

Get Rid of Mildew Smell in Your Laundry

This is the procedure I follow whenever I’ve let the laundry sit in the washer just a little bit too long.

  1. Set your washer to use Hot water. Most clothes can handle it, at least on occasion.
  2. Pour vinegar into the fabric softener/bleach receptacle. (Mine is on the upper right hand corner.)
  3. Add a few drops of Purification essential oil. (This is what kicks this process up a notch and really knocks out the mildew smell.)
  4. For really bad stink, I also throw in a cap-ful of the Extreme 18X laundry detergent sample that comes with my soap nuts.
  5. Run your washer on the Heavy cycle.
  6. Repeat as necessary. (Hopefully, one time’ll do it!)

Stink be-gone!!

My IKEA Hack: {Almost} Built-Ins

Although we came by our current residence in a rather haphazard manner, we have enjoyed it tremendously. It’s so much bigger than our previous space, plus it has a HUGE back yard that The Boys love to play in. Besides which, it’s right off the main road, so the location is absolutely perfect.

However, it does have one drawback. (Can’t have everything, right?) Being a basement apartment, it is seriously lacking in storage space. Each bedroom has a closet, and there is a small storage unit under the stairs, but that’s about it. There’s no linen closet, no coat closet, and no laundry room (only a laundry closet) and I’m realizing that I relied heavily on those rooms for storing all sorts of things in our previous residence.

I’ve had to get seriously creative with storage here, and I’m going to show you some of the cheap ideas I’ve been able to employ. By far my favorite is this first one: our first-ever IKEA hack that was pretty darn successful if I do say so myself. We used IKEA’s line of “Billy” bookshelves and added some trim from Lowe’s to finish off the look. The result was a beautiful set of shelving that looks beautiful but cost much less than it would have elsewhere… plus it holds all our books! (I have no idea where we put all those things in our previous apartment, to be honest!)

Our IKEA Hack: Billy “Built-Ins”

We used the following Billy bookshelves:

As you can see, the shelves themselves cost around $350, considerably less than similar shelving found elsewhere. In addition to the shelving, the molding and trim (and the spray paint) cost another $60-75, bringing the total cost to a little over$400. Not bad, I think!

This is the first shelf in our set-up and contains our non-fiction collection.

We set them up in a sequence like this: short – tall – narrow, with the narrow shelves having doors on the bottom. (I love the doors because we can shove all the kids’ games in there and hide the mess!) We had wanted the shelves to extend all the way to the ceiling, and we thought we had measured enough space to include the shelf extenders. That would have added another $100 to the total cost, but as it turned out, for some reason the extenders were about an inch too short to fit. I’m sure we could have cut them to fit if we had wanted to bother (and they would really have looked like built-ins, then), but we didn’t. We just returned them and saved ourselves some moolah!

This tall shelf holds most of my sheet music and my fiction collection.

To finish off the look, we used the following pieces of molding and trim, cut, painted (with white spray paint), and attached by my DH himself:

  • 4 rosette medallions for the top corners
  • wide ribbed molding for the top shelves
  •  2.5″ wide molding, which we used wherever two shelves adjoined vertically (If it weren’t for the doors, we would have needed more of this.)
  • 1.5″ wide molding, which we placed along the vertical edges of all the shelves
  • baseboard along the bottom (except for where the doors are)

All our photo albums go in the top shelves of the narrow units.

I honestly can’t remember how many lengths of each type we bought from Lowe’s because it’s been a couple months. Besides which, it seems like we underestimated the amount we needed, and my DH ended up going back at least once to pick up more. (Moral of the story? Buy extra, and return what you don’t use!)

My DH worked really hard on this project in his spare time over the course of several evenings- maybe a week or two. Because he had to return to get more molding than he had initially purchased, it dragged on a little longer than it would have otherwise. And then it took me just about forever to sort and organize all our books, which had been packed in approximately a zillion different boxes!

The kids books are easily accessed by the little people, and the games are hidden behind the doors.

We are quite pleased with the finished product, and it’s definitely the focal point of the room where it sits, which we have dubbed “the library”. It’s really not a room, actually: it’s a super-wide hallway (read: rather nebulous waste of space that doesn’t immediately have an obvious purpose) that brings you from the living room into the master bedroom, and I can’t think of any better use for it than this (despite my DH’s campaigns for a ping-pong table!).

This tall shelf holds educational materials and reference books (dictionaries, medical books, college textbooks, etc.).

Simple Hospitality: Host a Kaffeeklatsch

Some times I think we have the idea that hosting guests in our home has to be a big ordeal complete with written invitations (or at least an evite), a set of fine china, a sparkling clean home, and the perfect balance of dinner guests. And sometimes I think that our hours spent browsing on Pinterest have convinced us that no event is complete without handmade decor, cute-si-fied mason jars, and/or an assortment of creative, delicious, and – of course – uber-healthy treats for every dietary need possible.

Simple Hospitality

Forget all that stuff. That is not what hospitality is all about!

Hospitality is about people getting together, plain and simple. The setting doesn’t really matter – you don’t need to spend hours of time impressing your friends with either your millions… or your ability to create what looks like a million bucks out of  nothing.

Sure, we all love good food, and I love a themed party as well as anybody! Cute decorations and creative touches make me smile and say “awww”. But really, when I host (or attend) a get-together of any kind, what I’m really looking for is good conversation and fun with other people. All that other stuff is auxiliary and completely unnecessary.

So if you’re not feeling up to scrubbing the house top-to-bottom, or if you don’t have a crafty bone in your body, or if the thought of cooking up a full-course meal for other folks makes you sick to your stomach… well, then, don’t. Don’t do all that stuff. 

But do have other people over. One of the easiest ways to get some friends over to your house for a good time of conversation and fellowship is to have them over for coffee. The Germans even have a name for it – Kaffeeklatsch – so if you want to make it sound a little more exciting, then that’s what you can call it!

A Kaffeeklatsch is super simple, inexpensive, and enjoyed by just about everybody (even the non-coffee drinkers; I’ll get to that in a minute).

How to Host a Kaffeeklatsch

Here’s how I recently hosted a Kaffeeklatsch myself:

  • I invited my guests by text, Facebook message, and cell phone. No fancy-schmancy invitations needed!
  • I ran to Safeway (literally at the last minute) and picked up some coffee (Did you know, by the way, that Gevalia coffee is now available in grocery stores? It used to be mail-order only back in the day, but now it’s available to pick up any time! And it’s yummy stuff, so that’s what I got. Decaf for the sleepy folks who wanted to stay that way, and regular for the rest of us.)
  • While at Safeway, I also picked up some healthy-ish treats. Since this was a total impromptu gathering, I didn’t bother taking the time to make some truly healthy treats at home; I chose instead to compromise health for the sake of hospitality! So we had all-natural ice cream, Newman-O’s ginger creme cookies, dark chocolate with fruit and nuts, and some bake-at-home cookies from the Immaculate Baking Company (also all natural).
  • Once home, I set out the cookies and treats on trays, and got my French press ready to go.
  • I also set out different kinds of sweetener (chocolate-flavored stevia, for one –  yum!), some chocolate syrup (all natural again), real whipped cream, and cinnamon for my guests to dress up their coffee.
  • I also had some organic hot chocolate mix ready for friends who preferred not to drink coffee. And if I had any tea-drinking friends present, I would have set out some options for hot tea as well.
  • And we all sipped our coffee, nibbled our treats, and chit-chatted until it got dark!

That’s it, friend! All there is to it.

What’s your favorite easy hospitality?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

How to Clean Your Crock Pot

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Authentic Simplicity! Years ago, I bought the crock pot you see here (the 5qt programmable one by Rival) at a yard sale for next to nothing. When I bought it, it was a lovely crisp white color and looked as if it had never been used. The lady who sold it to me exclaimed that she was so glad to be rid of it because, and I quote, “I got so tired of scrubbing that thing!”. I smiled and nodded because it seemed like the polite thing to do, but inside my head I was thinking, “What in the world is your problem, lady?! Just wipe it down when you’re done with it; what’s the big deal, anyway?”

Fast forward to the point in time where I actually used the crock pot… and then I understood. For whatever reason, this particular crock pot is hard to clean. Let me rephrase: this particular crock pot is almost impossible to clean. I can soak it for days and nothing happens besides the passing of time. I can scrub at it until I’m blue in the face and nothing happens except my face is blue. I’ve since heard from others that they suffer similar struggles with their crock pots, too, so it is not a  unique situation to this specific one.

There have been times when I honestly just gave up on my crock pot ever being clean. Besides the whole issue of sanitization, the crock pot worked great! I loved that it could be programmed and that it automatically switched to “warm” when it was done cooking. It was the perfect size for my family, and it was quite reliable.

But it was dirty. dirty crock pot

Just between you and me, if it weren’t for the fact that I occasionally blog about food and therefore occasionally have to take pictures of my crock pot… I might never have renewed my interest in trying to get it really and truly clean. Honestly? The only thing that compelled me to search for a solution was the fact that I had to take pictures of the durned thing and show them to the entire world. Just bein’ authentic here. 

So off I went in search of a solution. I tried a few different remedies that worked to one extent or another, like filling it with water and turning it on and letting it sit for a while. That was kind of a pain, though, and not super effective. It wasn’t until I experimented one day with oxygen bleach that I hit upon an actual, effectual method for cleaning my crock pot! 

How to Clean Your Crock Pot

Since I already used oxygen bleach in my dishwasher , the container was handy right there under the sink and accessed easily enough. I just sprinkled some on the bottom of the pot and then filled it with hot water, adding a squirt or two of dish soap while I was at it. I let it sit for a few hours, and when I came back to it, pretty much all I had to do was wipe it down.

clean crock pot Now my crock pot routine is simple, and my crock pot is always clean (the inside of it anyway – I haven’t figured out how to soak the outside of it yet!). Here’s my simple method:

  • As soon as I’ve emptied the crock pot, I put it in the sink.
  • I generously sprinkle oxygen bleach (I like to get mine from Tropical Traditions) in the crock pot.
  • I fill the pot with hot water while squirting in a little bit of dish soap.
  • I let it sit for a while (a few hours, all day, all night, whatever works best for me at the moment).
  • When I come back to it, I wipe it down. Sometimes a little scrubbing is still required, and for the really stubborn stains, I’ll have to repeat the process. But most of the time, it’s just a matter of wiping and rinsing.

You can see why oxygen bleach is rapidly becoming my favorite household cleaning ingredient, right up there with vinegar and baking soda! Not only do I use it to clean my crock pots, I use it in my homemade dishwasher detergent, and I use it to get rid of stains in my carpet! Just today, I used my carpet cleaning mixture to also clean my tile floor in the kitchen, and my DH used it last week to clean the tiles in the bathroom. It’s an all-purpose, super-effective cleaner that is safe and natural. I highly recommend Tropical Traditions oxygen bleach, Oxy-Boost, or BioKleen.