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

Ingredients

Instructions

  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.

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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.

 

 

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Einkorn, the Ancient Grain {Giveaway, Too!}

Win Einkorn Berries from Tropical Traditions #giveaway #ancientgrains #traditionalfoodAre you concerned about the effects of modern wheat on your health? There is certainly reason to be! Modern wheat has been blamed on a large number of health issues, and the rising numbers of people who simply cannot tolerate it seem to provide evidence that there is truth to the accusations. 

The Trouble With Wheat

My opinion, though, is that the issue is not with wheat in and of itself, because mankind has been enjoying wheat since the beginning of time (by which I mean Adam and Eve), and all of these health issues have only cropped up since the beginning of the Industrial Age. I’m thinking that the problem lies with all the changes modern science has forced on the ancient grain, turning it into a mere shadow of its former wholesome self. It’s now easy to grow and easy to harvest, and therefore very inexpensive… but at what cost? The cost of our health, it seems.

Now I haven’t turned my back on wheat entirely, but I have switched the bulk of my cooking and baking over to two ancient grains that are cousins (or forerunners) of modern wheat. These two grains - spelt and einkorn – have remain unchanged over history, unlike wheat, which has been tinkered with since the ’40s. As such, they retain a nutritional integrity missing from modern wheat.

wheatTry Einkorn Instead

Note: If you order by clicking on any of my links and have never ordered from Tropical Traditions in the past, you will receive a free book on Virgin Coconut Oil, and I will receive a discount coupon for referring you.

Today, Tropical Traditions: The Best Place to Get Virgin Coconut Oil, is generously offering one of my readers the chance to win a 5lb. bag of whole Einkorn berries that you can grind to make your own ancient flour! 

I had a chance to use these Einkorn berries myself, and I was very impressed! The flour I made with them worked much like regular ol’ wheat flour, and I didn’t have to make any adjustments to my recipes. The taste and texture were just as good – if not better – than those I made with wheat flour, as well.

The only thing that was different about the einkorn is the texture of the raw dough: for lack of a better word, it was significantly “stretchier” than the dough or batter made with wheat. I’m guessing it has something to do with the quantity or quality of gluten in einkorn, but it doesn’t affect the final product. Once baked, the texture was just like something made with wheat.

If you’re not sure where to start with Einkorn berries, here’s a great recipe from Tropical Traditions’ recipe site.

The main drawback to einkorn is the price. Gulp! It’s almost twice the cost of either wheat or spelt! If you can afford it, I say go for it! But if not… enter the giveaway below. 

Win Einkorn Berries to Try For Yourself

This giveaway is only for residents of the United States aged 18 and older. It will end on Tuesday, March 11, at midnight. Winner will be notified by email and has 48 hours to respond or will forfeit the prize.

Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.

Curious about coconut oil? Click here for more information on its many uses!
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5 Things I Buy at Whole Foods

As I mention in my book, Whole Foods can be a difficult place to shop if you’re on a really tight budget… BUT if you know what you’re looking for, and if you go armed with adequate resources, you can score some great real foods deals there.

First of all, let me say that not everything you can buy at Whole Foods is healthy! They carry a lot of processed stuff that might be organic and GMO-free, but it’s still processed and it’s still not that great for you. Furthermore, Whole Foods is definitely in it for the money, so profit will trump principle on occasion. Bear that in mind, and shop wisely.

Frankly, for all those reasons, I don’t really buy a whole lot at Whole Foods, but I do make a regular stop there during my monthly grocery shopping trip and pick up a few items. Which items, you ask?

These items:

1. The Friday Deal

Each Friday, Whole Foods holds a one-day sales event with one item at a great rock-bottom price. I don’t religiously stop there every Friday for their one-day deal, but I do try to pay attention so I know what exactly is on sale and if it’s worth stopping by or not. During blueberry season, they had organic blueberries for $1.99/lb, which around here is a fantastic price for conventional, let alone organic! I stocked up on the blueberries, and also on strawberries when they had a similar sale. The Friday deal in my area this week happens to be grass-fed ground beef for $4.99/lb, which is the lowest I ever see it, so again, I’m stocking up.

I have to say I’ve always been impressed by how well stocked they are with their one-day deals! I’ve gone late in the afternoon before, and they’ve still had plenty of the sale items left, which I really appreciate.

tuna pasta salad

2. Pole-Caught Tuna

I recently read that the best tuna in terms of sustainability and healthfulness is “pole-caught tuna” (more info in my post here), and was kind of bummed that 1.) I had no clue what that was and 2.) I had no clue where in the world to find it. After a bit of research, I discovered that Whole Foods carries pole-caught tuna… for only $1.49! Considering you pay at least that much for regular old junky tuna, that price is pretty awesome. Read more about Whole Foods’ seafood sustainability policies here.

3. Meat

While not all their meat is the ultimate in healthfulness (grass-fed, etc.), Whole Foods uses a “5-Step Animal Welfare” rating system on all their meat packaging that indicates how the animal was raised and treated throughout their life. Since that in turn can affect the healthfulness of the meat, it’s important information to know. And while their “Step 1″ rating is probably only a step above the meat you can find in any other grocery store, it is at least an improvement… and sometimes it’s all I can afford! It’s just as affordable as meat sold anywhere else, and Whole Foods states that farms have to meet close to 100 standards to achieve even the Step 1 rating, so that is at least a small comfort to me. And when I can manage it or when it’s on sale, I like to buy their higher-rated meats as well.

4. Kerrygold Cheese

Whole Foods charges less than $3 for a 7oz package of Kerrygold grass-fed cheese, which is a really good price. Costco might have a better price, but you have to buy it in a significantly larger package, and if that package goes bad before you can use it… then it’s not such a great deal.

5. A Sweet Treat

OK, so I haven’t actually bought this yet, but my sister has, and I’ve enjoyed her generosity as she has shared it with me. She loves the bakery grab bags – a paper bag with several day old pastries for only $1.50! I’m not dumb enough to think that Whole Foods baked goods are significantly better than any other baked goods… but boy are they yummy!

What do you like to buy at Whole Foods?

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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.).

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Take a Staycation… One Day at a Time!

Except for the occasions when we’ve joined one or the other of our families for a “real” vacation, my DH and I have mostly enjoyed “staycations” throughout our married life. This year is no different, except that instead of taking one whole week to enjoy our staycation, we’re spreading it out through the summer. My DH’s work schedule is kind of erratic, so we take our little mini staycations whenever he has a day off during the week. Our goal is to go somewhere one day a week throughout the summer, but in reality, it will probably be slightly less than that. Still, we plan to pack our summer full of fun and exciting memories despite the fact that we’re not truly “going on vacation”. 

Just in case you are in a similar boat (no time off, no money, no inclination for a real vacation), here are some ideas to help you enjoy your summer anyway! And on the cheap, too, of course, because that’s how I roll.

Family Self Portrait taken at Maymont Estate in Richmond, VA

1. Scout Out NearBy Tourist Spots

We are lucky to live in an area where we are approximately 2 hours away from a whole host of hot tourist spots: Washington DC, Baltimore, Annapolis, Richmond, Gettysburg, the Shenandoah Valley, and more. Day trips to places like Williamsburg or the Eastern shore are not out of the question. Not to mention the whole host of local, lesser-known historic towns and spots that boast all sorts of free or nearly-free touristy fun, like historic home tours, botanical gardens, zoos and the like. So we can literally spend the whole summer being tourists in our own town without visiting the same place twice.

You may or may not be so blessed, but I bet if you take the time to look at your area through the eyes of a tourist, you’ll find more options than you thought possible for stay-at-home fun, entertainment, and even learning. Chances are, the city (or big town) nearest to you has a website (or possibly even an app) with all sorts of tips on the best sites for tourists to see. Find favorite local spots like restaurants, historic homes, parks, recreation, museums, and more.

Don’t forget to think outside the immediate area as well. Decide how far you’re willing to drive for a day trip (maybe an hour? Two? Three, perhaps?) and widen your scope to check out what’s available in that radius.

Depending on what sort of things your family likes to do, you might enjoy any of the following types of tourist spots:

  • national/state parks
  • museums
  • historic homes
  • gardens
  • nature preserves
  • zoos
  • amusement parks or entertainment parks
  • historic old town centers
  • scenic drives
  • natural sites (like caverns, waterfalls, and the like)

He found a car just his size at the local coffee shop car show.

2. Visit Favorite Local Haunts

Let’s switch gears a little bit and get hyper-local here. Whether or not you’re already plugged into the local scene, make it a priority to visit all of your town’s hot spots this summer. I’m talking about the ice cream parlor that has lines out the door every day through the season, or the pizza joint that everybody knows about and has been to at least once. What’s the favorite playground or park that all the mommies know about? The coffee shop that’s crowded on Saturday mornings because of the uh-may-zing donuts and fresh lattes they carry? (Or maybe, as in my case, the local coffee shop that hosts a car show every Saturday morning? Now that’s a fun – and free – summer activity!)

If you don’t know where these local favorites are, you can find  them simply by giving  a little shout-out on Facebook. Your friends should be able to point you in the right direction.  Or if your town newspaper/magazine hosts a “Best of” contest every year, check those out.

Cheap Fun: Train Rides at the Mall

3. Plan a Day of Fun

You don’t even need to “get away” for your day-by-day staycation! Really, all you need to do is plan a day around activities that are enjoyable to everyone in your family, and just a little different from your usual routine. Think about what your perfect relaxing day would look like, and make it happen!

Here’s an idea for a “Staycation Schedule”:

  • Sleep in.
  • Enjoy brunch at a leisurely hour.
  • Go to a local pool for the afternoon (or play water games in your back yard). AND/OR go to the mall and get cheap carousel rides or train rides, or play in the mall’s playground.
  • Make everybody’s favorite food for dinner as a family.
  • Go to the town’s free outdoor concert or movie (many towns host these on a weekly basis through the summer).
  • Finish the day by “camping” in your own backyard. Borrow a tent if you don’t have one, or put sleeping bags in the living room!

A day trip to a lavender farm, sponsored in part by a daily deal my sister bought.

4. Check Daily Deal Sites

Sites like Groupon, Eversave, Living Social (and/or the local version in your area – around here, we have Specialicious) are a great source of good deals on local entertainment. You’ll get vouchers for at least half off to such local places as:

  • restaurants
  • bowling
  • mini golf
  • local events
  • concerts
  • sporting events
  • classes
  • pool/water parks
  • and lots more!

Using deal sites like this might make summer fun activities affordable for your family when they wouldn’t be otherwise. We’ve used these deal sites to get half priced entry to the local water park, which The Boys absolutely loved! It’s not something we’d pay full price for, but half price was totally do-able, and definitely worth it.

Playing in the sandbox at the local botanical gardens.

5. Attend Local Festivals & Events

It seems like there’s always a festival nearby around here. Some of them cost, some of them don’t. Some of them are worth it, some of them are not! The county fair is always free, and is always fun for the kids – animals to pet, shows to watch, and exhibits to enjoy. Other festivals celebrate local crops or industries, or even just townships. Do a quick Google search by combining your town or county’s name with the word “festival” and you’re sure to find some fun events to attend this summer.

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Purchase Gift Cards at a Discount with Gift Card Rescue

*Sponsored Post brought to you by Gift Card Rescue So, have you followed my advice and started saving up gift cards to spend at Christmas? I’ll be honest – I haven’t yet. Life has been kind of crazy and in upheaval from the beginning of this year, but now that things are starting to settle down – and I actually have a working budget written out to start in April – I’m definitely going to get started on this year’s Christmas stash of gift cards.

Whether or not you choose to save money for Christmas in this way (although I honestly think it’s a great way for anybody and everybody to pay for Christmas!), you will still like what I have to share with you today. Because whether or not you use gift cards to buy Christmas gifts, you’re likely going to want to give away a gift card or two for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Teacher Appreciation Day, Admin Professionals Day,  birthdays, anniversaries, and just-because-I-love-you days.

And when you go to buy those gift cards, make Gift Card Rescue your first stop. Gift Card Rescue is a trade-in service for gift cards – if you have one you don’t want, you trade it in for cash. They, in turn, sell it at a discount to someone who does want it. You don’t have to trade in gift cards to get access to their collection of cards for sale, most of which are at least 5% off, some up to 30% off the cash value!

You know I’m always interested in saving money wherever I can, and this is a fabulous and simple way to do that: purchase a gift card at a discount, and you’re automatically getting a sale price on whatever you buy with that card! 

And you can rest assured that the gift cards are legitimate and will work. I had the privilege of using a gift card to Payless from Gift Card Rescue, and bought myself some super cute black flats and a whole set of bangle bracelets. The magnetic strip on the card was worn, but the cashier just typed in the card’s account number and it worked just as well. If for some reason your card does not work as advertised, Gift Card Rescue backs up their cards with a 90-day guarantee, and you can get a refund or be issued a new card to replace the defective one.

Chances are, though, your discounted gift card will work just fine, enabling you to buy gifts (for others… or for yourself!) for less, and, of course, save up for a debt-free Christmas!!

 

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5 Nutritious Free Foods From Your Backyard! {Guest Post}

backyard foraging

Many thanks to Kristen of Smithspirations for guest-posting for me today as I am busy in the middle of moving! Please visit her site and say “hey” for me!

Gardening is one of my favorite hobbies. I just love going outside, picking a fresh bunch of vegetables and herbs, and walking into my kitchen to cook or prepare them. Right on par with my gardening affections is my fascination with using the many edible weeds that grow in my backyard. Most of us have no idea how many weeds that we consider bothers are actually tasty and nutritious foods! I’m excited to share with you five of my favorites that are well-known, nutritious, tasty, and easy to find.

Before you go picking and eating, keep in mind some foraging basics. Make sure that you only gather edible wild foods where you have the right to do so. Choose places that haven’t been contaminated with pesticides or other harmful chemicals; urban roadsides or sprayed lawns are places to avoid. Lastly, and most importantly, check before you chew. Make sure you know that you have positively identified your plant and haven’t mistaken it for a potentially harmful look-alike.

And now… on to the food!

dandelion flowers and leaves

Dandelion

Everyone is familiar with dandelions. Children love them for making bouquets, and adults tend to hate them for marring their lawns. But how many of us know that dandelions are nutritional powerhouses? Chock full of nutrients like beta-carotene, iron, calcium, B vitamins and other vitamins and minerals, dandelions offer a greater nutritional punch than spinach and other domesticated greens for the great price of free. Dandelions are usually best harvested in the early spring and late fall.

Young dandelion greens can be enjoyed raw in salads, as can the yellow flowers (minus the bitter green sepals, which are the small green leaves that hug the base of the flower). I like the leaves better cooked. Just sautéing them renders them quite bitter, but gently simmering them in a sauce or other liquid for about ten minutes after sautéing removes the bitterness, leaving you with a nutritious, economical, and tasty green side dish! Dandelion roots and leaves also make a very healthful tea that supports the liver. I like to roast freshly dug and washed roots and dry the leaves in the fall to have a detoxifying tea through the winter.

violet flower and leaves

Violets

Violet flowers not only look pretty, they also have a taste very similar to black pepper, and we enjoy them raw. I love sending my children out to gather violets for salads. They are so easy to spot and identify, and they add a wonderfully spiciness to an ordinary salad of garden veggies. My children think that it is so neat to eat wild flowers in their salads, and I think it makes them more willing to eat their greens. Though we usually just eat the flowers, violet leaves are also edible and said to be tasty anywhere other cooked greens would be used. You can find violets in the spring. Please know that African violets, the popular houseplants, are poisonous and not safe to eat.

purslane

Purslane

I’ve recently started seeing purslane seeds in the seed catalogs I get in the winter, but I never have any trouble finding purslane in my yard. These succulent plants with thick red/purple stems and plump oval-shaped green leaves are a common weed found in many gardens. When looking for purslane, be sure that the leaves have no dark spots and that the stems aren’t wiry. That plant might be spotted spurge which somewhat resembles purslane and is poisonous.

Purslane is excellent raw in salads or on sandwiches. It has a nice mild flavor, somewhat sweet and sour, and a juicy crunch that my children especially enjoy. You can also cook it by steaming, sauteing, boiling, or stir-frying for about 10 minutes. When it comes to nutrition, it is hard to beat purslane. It’s bursting with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A and C, and minerals like calcium, potassium, and iron. According to foraging expert Steve Brill, purslane is one of the most nutritious plants on the planet! I’ve heard of it becoming a popular ingredient at fancy posh restaurants now, too. I’ll probably just eat it at home and pretend to be posh.

chickweed

Chickweed

I finally realized what chickweed was this past year while gardening and constantly pulling out mats of a green weed with small leaves, tender stems, and itty bitty white flowers. Once I realized I could eat it, I couldn’t believe all of the food that was dumped into the compost bin! Along with being delicious, another great thing about chickweed is that you can often find it during colder seasons, allowing you to enjoy free greens for a greater part of the year.

Raw chickweed has a wonderfully sweet green flavor. I like to chop it up fine for salads. You can also quickly saute it, and I’ve found it to be an excellent ingredient for egg frittatas or omelets in place of spinach. If you like sprouts on your sandwiches or wraps, you might just find chickweed to be an excellent addition or substitute! Another highly nutritious plant, it provides ample amounts of vitamins A, C, and D, along with folic acid, calcium, potassium, zinc, iron, and other nutrients.

sheep sorrel

Sheep Sorrel

A neighbor once allowed me to taste some sorrel that was growing near his house years ago, and I had never tasted anything like it. It looks like a baby spinach leaf with rounded points on the sides, but tastes like lemons! I decided to grow a garden variety so that I could enjoy it at our new house, but was delighted last year to find a patch growing in our backyard. Like most other wild greens, sorrel provides a host of various nutrients. The best time to find sorrel is in the early spring and fall.

Its bright, strong, lemony flavor is a nice addition to salads, sandwiches, soups, and casseroles. If you have a recipe that calls for spinach, chard, or kale, throwing in some sorrel leaves just might take the dish to a whole new level! One of the best chicken soups I’ve made had a few handfuls of sorrel in it, and our whole family was amazed at the flavor. The leaves cook quickly, so try adding them during the last 10-20 minutes of cooking time for a soup or other dish.

Want more ideas and information?

There are so many more delicious, nutritious, and free foods available to us in our backyards. I love my Wild Edibles app, available both as a free “lite” version and a paid full version with over 150 plants listed. There are loads of photographs, illustrations, and information relating to harvesting, seasons, nutrition, recipes, and more. If you are interested in wild foods, I highly recommend it! No smart phone? No problem! “Wildman” Steve Brill’s website has a great section all about some of the most common wild plants in the United States area.

My name is Kristen Smith, and I am above all else a Christian, filled with God’s Holy Spirit, and living by every Word of God and that only by the grace of God. I am married to the handsome and admirable Jesse Smith, my high school sweetheart, pastor, and best friend. We have been blessed thus far by four precious children here and one waiting in heaven. I thoroughly enjoy homeschooling our older children in the Charlotte Mason and Classical styles; cooking real, whole foods via traditional, nourishing methods; living a more natural, DIY, and economical style of life; venturing into creative projects when I can somehow make the time.

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Have Christmas Gifts Paid For Before December

Tough decisions
Most of us cannot squeeze the expenses of Christmas – gifts, food, outings, etc. – into a regular month’s budget, which is why the typical family ends up putting hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on credit cards at the end of year and crossing their fingers that they can pay for it before the process starts again the next December.

We are committed to NOT getting in debt for Christmas, so we’ve learned some ways to make it work:

Buy Gift Cards Throughout the Year

There is another great idea I read in a magazine several years ago that we have implemented a few times with some success. The idea is to set aside money every month (or every paycheck, whichever is more convenient) throughout the year to spend at Christmas, but instead of setting up a separate savings account (which is, of course, an excellent option), use that money to buy gift cards at stores you know you will shop during the Christmas season. You can even purchase gift cards to grocery stores and restaurants for the extra food you will buy and eat out during the busy season.

I personally like to buy gift cards to Target, Kohls, Bath & Body Works, and Amazon.com gift cards (from Swagbucks) to use throughout the Christmas season as well.

Save Even More Money

I like to purchase the gift cards at a discount through places like Gift Card Rescue, where people trade in their legitimate unused gift cards or store credit cards, which are then offered for sale at a discount. Since most of the gift cards are at least 5%, and often more like 10%, off the value, I think it’s a better deal than opening a savings account that might earn you a percentage or two of interest during the course of the year. Sign up for their newsletter so you can keep on top of the gift card deals. 

Another option is to earn gift cards through places like Swagbucks and My Points. (I just cashed in a $10 gift card to WalMart!)

To make sure I don’t inadvertently use the gift cards, I keep them in a marked envelope stashed somewhere out-of-the-way in my home (this year, that place was my DH’s sock drawer).

If you are diligent about purchasing (or otherwise procuring) these gift cards throughout the year, then come Christmas season, you will be ready to handle whatever expense is thrown your way!

How do you budget for Christmas spending? 

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A Simple Christmas Tip #22 – Buy Gift Cards Throughout the Year


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.

Search & Win

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