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!


Something From Nothing: Bread Crumbs from Stale Bread

Something from Nothing: bread crumbs from stale breadWait! Before you throw it away, think for a second. Can you use it for something else? Frugality is not only saving your money when purchasing, it is saving your money by getting everything out of what you have already purchased. I read somewhere that the frugal person’s motto was the same as the environmentalist’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. If we all followed that motto, we’d save a lot of resources, in our homes and around the world.

For starters, what about that stale bread? Or those end slices no one wants to eat? Whatever you do, don’t throw them away!

Here are just a few ideas of what you can do with stale bread:

  • -bread pudding
  • -croutons
  • -stuffing
  • -french toast
  • -grilled/toasted sandwiches
  • -and my personal favorite, bread crumbs

How to Make Bread Crumbs

Whenever I have stale bread, or leftover chunks or pieces, I never throw them away. Instead, I use it to make bread crumbs. If I don’t have time at the moment, I bag them and put them in the freezer until I do. Some people keep a bag in their freezer for just such a purpose; every time they have some extra bread, they throw it in there and make a big batch of bread crumbs when they’ve collected enough.

Bread crumbs can be used for a variety of purposes, the main one being to bread meat such as chicken or fish before baking it. This adds flavor and texture. Bread crumbs are also used in meat loaf, or as a topping for a casserole or cooked vegetables. They also add nice crunch and a pretty touch sprinkled on thick soups, such as potato or chowders.

There are about as many different ways and methods of making bread crumbs as there are uses for them, but this is what I do:

Easy Bread Crumbs
Rip the bread into chunks and place in a food processor. Process until fine. Add spices to your liking (I like to use Italian spices such as oregano, basil, parsley, etc.), even grated parmesan cheese or garlic or onion powder, and pulse once or twice in the processor to blend it together. Spread in a fine layer on a cookie sheet and leave in a warm oven until very dry. I like to leave it in there for quite some time – half an hour or so – just to be sure all the moisture is gone so I can store it longer. Cool the bread crumbs and store in a tightly covered container (I reuse an applesauce jar for this purpose) in the cupboard. Alternatively, you can store it in a plastic bag in the freezer.

For meat loaf and some other uses, you may want soft bread crumbs. In this case, all you need to do is pulse the bread chunks in the food processor a couple times until you have coarse crumbs. Keep those crumbs in the freezer until your next meat loaf!

French Toast Casserole with Streusel Topping

French Toast Casserole with Streusel Topping #breakfast #wholefoods #nutfree

Delicious Breakfast – French Toast Casserole with Streusel Topping

On holidays and weekends, one of my favorite things to do is fix my family a slightly more involved breakfast than usual (read: something besides toast and a smoothie). It’s a plus if said breakfast is deliciously decadent without really being decadent. And it’s a total plus if said deliciously decadent breakfast is made with the leftover bread that accumulates over time in my freezer.

This breakfast is all of these and more. My DH even called it “epic” and he’s not one to effuse over his food. I’m thinking the cinnamon syrup is what pushed him over the edge this time.

French Toast Casserole with Oatmeal Streusel #breakfast #nutfree #wholefoods

Delicious French Toast Casserole with Oatmeal Streusel Topping and Cinnamon Syrup

If you don’t keep your bread ends in your freezer… well, you should! You can make a lot of things with leftover bits and pieces of bread, and this recipe is one of them. Other recipes include:

Chocolate Bread Pudding

Bread Crumbs

Easy Peasy Cheese Ball

Chicken Zucchini Stuffing Casserole
French Toast Casserole with Oatmeal Streusel #breakfast #wholefoods #nutfree

5 Creative Ideas for Leftover Meat

5 ideas for leftover meat Got some leftover meat and no idea what to do with it? I’ve got an idea for you! No more boring casseroles or lame pasta dishes: Here’s some creative fun you can have that will turn your hunk of “meh” into “YUM!”.

5 Creative Ideas for Leftover Meat

1. Spring Rolls

This is probably one of my favorite leftover options. Literally any kind of meat – and it doesn’t have to be Asian-flavored – can be rolled up in a rice paper wrapper, fried or baked, and served with a dip. Certainly you can make them Asian flavors if you want, but why not go with Mexican or BBQ, if that’s what you’ve got? Mexican spring rolls can be served with salsa, and BBQ spring rolls with (what else?) barbecue sauce.

If you’ve never played with spring roll wrappers before, here’s my super brief tutorial: 

  • They come fresh or dried. Many regular grocery stores carry both types, but I usually buy mine at the Asian store. The fresh ones are more expensive and can be found in the produce or freezer section, while the dried ones are usually somewhere near the rice noodles and that kind of thing.
  • The fresh ones (which I’ve never actually used) are pliable and ready to be used. Just place a couple tablespoons of the filling (whatever you want!) on to one side of the wrapper, and fold up the closest edge to cover the filling. Fold the sides up, then roll the whole thing all the way to the other edge. Dip your fingers in water to seal the edge.
  • Dried wrappers need to be briefly soaked in water before using. Once they’re pliable (but not too much so, or they’ll rip) fill them in the same way I described above. No need to seal with water, though.
  • Fry them up on the stove top (make sure your oil is hot enough or the seal won’t stick).
  • OR bake them in the oven following these directions.

I’m totally serious, by the way, that just about any thing can be wrapped up in a spring roll! Don’t feel like you need a special recipe or anything: if you’ve got shredded BBQ meat, for example, just plop some of it on the wrapper, top it with a sprinkle of cheese (or maybe some cole slaw?), wrap it up and cook it!

2. Stir Fry

Again with the Asian influence, but seriously. Stir fry is the way to go! Especially if you also have leftover veggies – even better!

Once again, you don’t have to worry about sticking to an Asian flavor of some kind, although practically any cooked meat can morph into Asian cuisine via stir fry. Just follow this great tutorial from , keeping in mind that pre-cooked meats and veggies will not need nearly as much time as is prescribed in the article.

A stir fry is also great because it can also utilize any leftover starch (noodles or rice, for example) that you may have. Get rid of those leftovers in one fell swoop!

flatbread sandwich thins3. Sandwiches

Now, I’m not talking about a boring ol’ meatloaf sandwich with a hunk of nasty cold meatloaf shoved between two slices of plain ol’ bread. No way. Not how I roll. 

What I’m talking about is creativity, and it starts with the bread. If you want your leftover sandwich to appeal to the masses (i.e.  your starving leftover-hating family), it’s going to have to have some charm to it. Thankfully, the possibilities are practically endless:

  • biscuits
  • English muffins
  • flatbread
  • muffins (why not?)
  • waffles (Yes! Truthfully my favorite sandwich bread.)
  • pita bread
  • croissant
  • bagel
  • etc.

You get the idea. Now top it with some fancy (or not so fancy) cheese, a little bit of sauce and maybe some crunchy shredded veggies for good measure, and you’ve got some gourmet leftovers goin’ on!

sausage zucchini pizza4. Pizza

Everybody knows that everybody hates leftovers, right? BUT! Everybody loves pizza, right? So there ya go. Turn the leftovers into pizza and everybody’s happy. 

And it’s so easy, too! Pizza crust is a yeast bread, but it doesn’t require all that bothersome kneading and rising stuff, so even a novice can manage it. I usually make either my Spelt Pizza Crust or my Honey Whole Wheat Pizza Crust, but you can make any kind of pizza crust you desire.

Then top it with a sauce of some kind, and it most certainly does not have to be pizza sauce. (I guess technically it doesn’t even need sauce… but it’s nice if you have it.) If you have a sauce that went with the meat when you first ate it, then that’s perfect! Whatever it is, it will work. If not, try Ranch dressing, or BBQ sauce, or a basic white sauce or cheese sauce.

Next, slice or shred the meat and sprinkle it over the sauce. Top with veggies and cheese like you would any pizza, and bake as usual. No complaints on leftover night!

ham fruit pasta salad5. Salad

Here you have two options. You can go with a green salad or a starch salad, and you can get as creative as you want with either one. 

Personally, a green salad seems kind of like a boring option, so since we’re looking at creative ideas here, let’s talk about the “starch salad”. I say “starch salad” because you can use just about any kind of starch as the main component: 

  • potato (and voila! you have potato salad!)
  • bread (panzanella anybody?)
  • pasta
  • whole grains such as rice, barley, and the like
  • quinoa

Cook the starch as you normally wood, then add your meat and whatever vegetables you like. To finish off your leftover magic, whip up a simple vinaigrette  to bring it all together. My “Not Your Grandma’s” Ham & Pasta Salad is a great example that can get you started.

There you go, friend! Five fun ideas for leftover meat that will please your palate and your hungry family. Here’s to NO WASTE!



Upcycle Your Christmas Cards – Christmas Card Ornaments

upcycled christmas card ornaments text

Now that Christmas is over, I’m sure you have a plethora of Christmas cards you don’t really know what to do with. At least I know that’s what happens to me every year! The photograph ones I keep in a photo album, but the actual Christmas cards are not so easily dealt with: they’re so pretty, you hate to throw them away… but what can you do with them?

This year, I hit upon a creative solution: Every year at Christmas, I like to help my boys make some ornaments they can give as gifts to various family members. One year it was cinnamon ornaments, and another year they were made with salt dough. I feel like the whole process teaches them the joy of giving as well as the joy of creating, and family members (grandparents especially!) love to receive their little handmade treasures – a total win-win!

This past Christmas, I took on an ambitious project for their ornament gifts; and in the end, their role was minimal (probably shoulda waited ’til they were a little older), but I loved the final result anyway! What I particularly love about this project (which I originally found on Pinterest , of course) is that it is made of recycled materials. In particular, it makes use of Christmas cards, which are so beautiful… but so plentiful. You can only use them for gift tags so much, and then even that gets a little old, ya know? I was thrilled to find this unique and creative usage for all the Christmas cards I’d been hoarding in a little box.

Christmas card ornament

This isn’t as simple of a craft as I usually undertake, and I actually did have to buy some items specifically for this project (never happens!), but I love the result. I might make some more next year and give them as gifts myself!

Upcycle Christmas Cards into Christmas Card Ornaments

christmas card ornament 3

Christmas Card Ornaments

Summary: Upcycle your old Christmas cards into these beautiful ornaments.

You will need:

  • Mason Jar Rings
  • Christmas Cards
  • Acetate Sheets (I found a pad of “mock” acetate at Michaels)
  • Hot Glue Gun & Glue
  • White Glue
  • Foam Adhesive Stickers
  • Glue Dots
  • Sharp Scissors
  • Glitter
  • Ribbon


  1. Choose a Christmas card with a picture or motif that will fit within the frame made by a Mason jar ring. Place the jar ring on the card, and trace around the edge of the ring with a pencil. Cut out the circle you traced, and glue the picture to the back of the ring.
  2. Cut out one or two small details from the remainder of the card (or from complementary cards), and attach them to the circle with a foam sticker to create a 3D effect.
  3. Place the ring down on a sheet of acetate paper. With the hot glue gun, glue all around the edge of the ring, adhering it to the acetate. Allow it to cool and dry completely, then trim the paper and the dried glue close to the edge of the ring.
  4. Pour some glitter onto a plate. Drizzle some glue around the outer edge of the acetate, then place the ornament face down in the glitter. Shake off the excess glitter and allow to dry.
  5. Cut out one or two more small details from a Christmas card, and affix them to the front of the acetate sheet with a glue dot.
  6. Tie a ribbon around the ring, creating a loop at the top so it can hang. (You might need to secure the ribbon with just a bit of hot glue.)

christmas card ornament 2

Cute Coffee Cozy – You’ll Never Guess What I Upcycled to Make It!

I love re-usable coffee cozies, mostly because I hate waste. Those disposable ones at the coffee shops always seem so pointless, but then I have this little problem of accidentally throwing away the re-usable kind. Henceforth and therefore, I have no desire to spend any amount of money or time on a re-usable coffee cozy (as cute as some may be, and I’ve seen some awfully cute ones!when it’s just going to end up in the trash one day anyway.

When I was on my organizing spree earlier in January, I cleaned out my sock drawer. (Yes, my sock drawer.) In there was a lonely old slipper sock that had lost is mate a loooonnnngggg time ago and was merely biding time in the dark old drawer, waiting for me to sadly end its life. Only I couldn’t quite bring myself to do that, the poor lil’ slipper sock having been worn only a few times before being reduced to singlehood, and thus in excellent condition still. (I think I have already mentioned that I hate waste.)

As I sat staring at the spinsterly sock, waiting for inspiration to strike… it did! Inspiration, I mean. It struck! This perfectly good slipper sock (that was not dirty in the least, thankyouverymuch!) could have a new lease on life with a new purpose and a new design! All it would take was a snip of my scissors and what was old would be new again.

Almost gleefully, I grabbed a pair of scissors and made two short cuts (don’t worry, it didn’t hurt a bit). Reluctantly disposing of the heel portion – but only because no inspiration struck as to what I could do with that ridiculously shaped tube – I ran into the kitchen and tried first the toe and then the band. And woohoo! It worked! Perfectly, I might add. 

Why, yes, indeed. I turned that lonely – but adorable – slipper sock into not one, but TWO adorable coffee cozies that, being free, will not cause me one moment’s grief if they happen to be accidentally disposed of. (OK, well, maybe a tiny moment, because they are awfully cute!)

So. Happen to have any spinsterly spare socks lying around your house in lonely dark drawers? (Of course you do, who am I kidding?!) Give them a new lease on life and release them from their loneliness with a fresh purpose as your own adorable little coffee cozy.

The best part? Everyone will think you knit it yourself by hand. (*snicker*)

Frugal and Easy Essential Oil Storage {From an Upcycled Spice Rack}

Since joining Young Living Essential Oil’s distributor program in order to get a great discount on their oils, I have been slowly amassing my essential oil stockpile. It’s exciting, but it presented a new problem: where to put them. 

Enter the spice rack I purchased at a yard sale a while back for the measly little price of $2.00! I’d been hanging on to it for a while, intending to freshen it up a bit for a new purpose (not being useful for containing spices, in my opinion), but hadn’t gotten around to that little task yet.

As soon as I started pondering how I should handle my essential oil storage situation, I immediately thought of that old spice rack! It was perfect for the task on multiple levels:

  • It was just the right size to hold the bottles.
  • The open shelves make accessing the bottles easy!
  • I had a spot on my bathroom wall where it would fit perfectly.

However, it was quite ugly. That dark brown stain is not exactly my thing.

So I set out to beautify it with an “almond” colored spray paint. Easy task, yes? Well, unfortunately, either me or my can of paint was struggling because the paint came out all drippy and splotchy instead of in a smooth, even coat. I followed the instructions on the can exactly so I would like to say it wasn’t me… but it had been a long while since I’d spray painted anything.

Whatever the case, my final coat of paint resulted in a strange crackled texture that I found to be appalling initially. But the longer I looked at it, the more I liked it! It kind of gave an antiqued textured look to the spice rack, which was rather serendipitous in my opinion. I had originally planned to apply some sort of filigreed rub-on transfer to the shelves as a decoration, but I think I actually like this sort of shabby chic look better.

I have no idea how you can replicate this look yourself (ha!), but at any rate, I do think a coat of spray paint in the color of your choice will dress up an old spice rack (you can find them at thrift stores and yard sales all the time) to store your own essential oils (or any other small bottle that needs storage, like nail polish… or spices).

Think essential oils are out of your price range? Think again! Read how I afford essential oils here

Save Money on Groceries {By Keeping Your Freezer Clean}

It is no secret that I am passionate about reducing waste and saving money on groceries. I even wrote the book about it. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that saving money on food (and other things) is a lot more involved than merely clipping coupons or finding the cheapest price.

In fact, I would say that a bigger impact on your grocery budget (and other parts of your budget, too, I daresay) is a little thing I like to call “Inventory Control”. Yes, I gave it a fancy little title and everything, but really, the concept is quite simple: keep track of how much food you have in your house. 

Before you assume that you have all of this under control already and go clicking off to other great world wide web destinations, let’s chat for a minute. I have a few questions for you:

  • Have you ever unearthed a package of food that’s way past its expiration date?
  • Is your freezer (pantry/fridge/cupboard) ever so full that you don’t know what’s beyond the obvious front row?
  • Have you ever gone grocery shopping without a list, only to return home and find that half of what you bought you already have, and you forgot to buy half the things you really need? (Maybe that’s just a slight exaggeration?)
  • So tell me. How often do you clean out your fridge/freezer/pantry/cupboards?
  • Can you tell me right now off the top of your head how many cuts of meat you have on hand? How many packages of frozen vegetables? How many eggs? Or pounds of beans?

If you passed my little pop quiz with flying colors, then good for you. I mean it! You are on top of your Inventory Control, and you are well on your way to grocery budget success. But if you failed any of those questions, I have a suggestion for you.

Clean out your freezer.

That is, in fact, what I did today. The organizational bug that hit me at New Year’s still has a death grip on me, but I’m enjoying it, so I don’t mind. And the process of cleaning out my freezer was so gratifying I determined that I’m going to make it a monthly habit as preparation for my regular grocery shopping trip. There were a few things tucked in the back that I had completely forgotten about, and one or two things I realized I didn’t have (that I thought I did!).

Because I cleaned out my freezer I was able to:

  • Make a large batch of chicken broth
  • Make a batch of bread pudding and probably some bread crumbs as well
  • Put navy beans on my grocery list because I found a ham bone
  • Take stock of the cuts of meat remaining
  • Make room for what I will be buying at my big monthly shop next week
  • Organize what was left neatly so I can see at a glance what is available.

All that from about twenty minutes worth of work! In my opinion, the benefits of keeping my freezer (and other food storage areas, like the pantry, fridge and cupboards) neat and organized are such that I plan to work it into my monthly shopping routine. If I do it on a regular basis, it will take me 10 minutes or less to quickly go through the items in the freezer, toss out the yucky stuff, and put to use the leftover bits that need to be made into something. This will save me money because I won’t be buying food unnecessarily, and I can use what’s in the freezer to make something new (like the bread crumbs) from something that would otherwise be trashed.

How do you keep your food inventory under control? 

Need some more help with your Food Inventory Control? Read about how I keep my pantry neat and organized without spending a dime.

  Read many more money-saving tips in my eBook, Your Grocery Budget Toolbox. Each chapter presents a new tool that will help you save money on groceries, with an emphasis on healthy, whole foods. No extreme couponing allowed! These are all common-sense strategies that almost anyone can adapt to their personal needs and family situations. Read Crafty Garden Mama’s review (and get a discount code!) for more information. If you are interested, you can find purchasing information here.

A Simple Christmas Tip #11 – Be Intentional with Your Giving

If you want more information, click here or on the graphic itself to take you to a full-length post on the topic. Click here to see all the posts in this series.

Come back tomorrow for another quick tip to help you simplify your Christmas by focusing less on spending and more on celebrating.

Don’t Waste a Drop!

I have a money-saving tip for you today that is so basic I fear most of you already know it. But just in case someone like me is out there who is a little slow when it comes to this kind of stuff… well. This is for you! (And for those of you who are already all over it, you’re my hero. Really.)

When it comes to food waste and frugality, we don’t really need to get fancy. Honestly, it’s mostly about using it up someway somehow so that it doesn’t end up wasted in the trash.

To that end, there’s nothing fancy here: just a simple tool and a simple trick that will keep you from wasting even a drop of precious food.

Here goes: what you need is a small silicone spatula like this one by OXO. 

A wide spatula will not do the trick, you need a narrow one like this (or an even narrower spatula like this). None of the other utensils in your drawer will do the trick either; it really has to be silicone and it has to be narrow. It definitely can’t be a regular old spoon or knife, because those utensils will still leave precious food behind.

This small investment will save you lots of money in the end, because you are going to use this spatula to scrape up every last bit of batter, dough, sauce, dip, nut butter, and any other scrape-able substance in your kitchen as you go throughout the day.

I guarantee you will be surprised by how much pancake batter is clinging to the sides of your mixing bowl! It’s enough to make at least one more pancake. Ditto with muffin batter and cookie dough. There’s usually enough for at least one more of whatever it is you’re baking.

And I bet there’s enough peanut butter in the jar to make one more sandwich, and enough honey in the bottle to drizzle over your morning oatmeal or stir into your tea. And probably enough sour cream to make your Ranch dressing into a dip.

Enough salsa for a couple more chips. Enough hummus for a few more carrots. Enough yogurt to start a new batch. Enough smoothie out of the blender to fill your cup to the brim. Maybe even enough egg salad for one more sandwich. 

Convinced? Waste not, want not! Go get thee a narrow spatula and waste no more. (Oh, better get two. I guarantee one will always be dirty.)

Sharing at Fellowship Friday, Frugal Friday, Feasting in Fellowship Friday,  Natural Living Monday, Homestead Barn HopBetter Mom MondayWorks for Me WednesdayWomen Living Well WednesdayFrugal Days Sustainable WaysThe Mommy Club, Frugal Thursday Rewind