Tips for Shopping at the Farmers’ Market

Tips for Shopping at the Farmers' MarketOne of my favorite places is the farmer’s market, especially now that I live right down the street from the biggest farmers’ market I’ve ever seen. Now this might not fit into a frugal mindset, considering that farmer’s markets aren’t necessarily known to have low prices. But I love the farmer’s markets despite the higher prices for the following reasons:

1. The produce is local. Local produce is the freshest possible produce meaning it has the most possible nutrients. The longer produce sits around and the more that is done to preserve its life, the fewer nutrients it contains.

2. I’m helping out local farmers. I am not politically involved in this issue at all, but I do feel sad sometimes to see small family farms giving way to new construction. I also feel that over all, if our food supply was more local, it would be healthier. Quality control is easier on a small farm than on a huge corporation-type farm.

Besides, it is possible to find good deals at the farmer’s market, or at least comparable pricing. Here are some tricks to combine health and frugality at the farmer’s market:

1. Go later in the day. Farmers will begin to mark down produce that hasn’t sold – they don’t want to bring anything home. Of course, selection will not be as good.

2. Be willing to buy seconds. Some farmers offer produce that’s not quite perfect at a discounted price.

3. Shop around. Before I purchase anything, I walk through the entire market and scope it out. Usually, the farmers are offering essentially the same things so I find out who has the best price. I’ll buy cantaloupe from one farmer, apples from another, zucchini from another… you get the idea.

4. Compare apples to apples. Funny, huh? But seriously. Don’t compare the farmers’ market price to the sales price at your local grocery store, because those aren’t the same kind of apples. Compare farmers’ market prices to organic prices because they’re a lot closer to each other in terms of comparable quality. You’ll probably find that you come out better in the end when shopping at the farmers’ market.

5. Stick with cheaper produce items. If you’re tight on money, focus on what gives you the biggest bang for your buck: compare serving sizes to prices. A watermelon and a pint of berries might be the same price, but which gives you more servings? I also prefer to buy lettuce and squash (when they are in season, usually not simultaneously!)  to other types of produce that don’t go quite as far.

What are your tips for getting the most out of your farmers’ market? 

Where to Buy Books {For Cheap!}

Where to Buy Books for a great price. #chc #summerbookclub I’m so glad I don’t live back in the day (really, not so long ago, only a couple generations removed from our time) when books were a luxury, only affordable for the well-to-do. I’m grateful when I realize that I can read a new book every day if I wanted to, unlike women of the past who read and re-read the same book because it was the only one they could access.

In fact, such a situation seems so far removed from me that it’s hard to fathom, and yet I know such a time existed in reality (and still does in many parts of the world). There is no reason the average American cannot educate themselves today, given the ready – and cheap – access we have to books of all kinds.

Even so, the price of books can be daunting, especially if your budget is tight and you’re looking at hot-off-the-press options. If you, like me, can’t afford to shell out $15-20 for each new book that hits the market, read on to find my tips for affording your reading habit.

1. Adjust your expectations.

Ultimately, you won’t be able to read every bestseller that comes on the market if you’re on a tight budget. If your budget looks like mine, you won’t even be able to read the latest books from your favorite authors as soon as they come on the scene.

But you can still read… and read a lot! While there’s certainly a plethora of junk books that aren’t worth your time, you can find plenty of worthy reads that don’t demand top dollar. Just adjust your expectations and maybe your tastes; be willing to read offerings like last year’s bestseller, classic novels from 100 years ago or more, great reads from more obscure authors, and other less expensive options. 

If you really want to read the latest novel, get hooked into your local public library system. More than likely, there will be waiting lists for the most popular books, but libraries generally order many copies so you can get your hands on the book pretty quickly, all things considered.

2. Go digital.

Yes, I know, there’s nothing like holding a book in your hands, and honestly, there are some types of books I really hate reading on a device (cookbooks, for example, or reference books of any kind). But because of the lower overhead costs, digital books are considerably cheaper than their hard-copy alternatives, so I almost always choose the digital option, especially when it comes to fiction and classics.

And you don’t have to buy a fancy Kindle to read eBooks, either. The Amazon Kindle app is free and works on almost every device, including smart phones and computers. Christianbook.com also has a free reader app.

3. Follow digital deal listings.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the Free & Cheap listings on Amazon Kindle, so I prefer to follow a few different services that notify me of book deals that might interest me. Here are a few services you might consider:

  • BookBub sends you daily emails with the top one or two book deals in categories you select. This has been my favorite service because it really does send me only eBooks that are likely to interest me. I’ve read some really great books for $2 or less using this service.
  • EReaderGirl.com highlights book deals specifically for women, many of them Christian. You can sign up to receive regular email updates so you don’t ever miss a great deal.
  • Spirit-Filled Kindle features Christian books. What I like about this site is that they don’t just post any and all Christian books available; they only post ones they have read or their readers recommend.
  • If you’re on Goodreads or Facebook, search for groups that discuss and share genres you like to read. If the group is active, chances are they frequently share deals they come across that other group members might like. There are even groups that exist solely for the purpose of sharing great book deals.

4. Buy used books.

Books, like cars, lose their value quickly. (Unless, like cars, they’re antique. Then they start getting expensive again.) And, like cars, the sage advice remains: Always buy used. I don’t even know the last time I actually bought a brand-new book. In fact, I’m pretty sure the only brand-new books I own are ones that were given to me for birthdays and Christmas. Other than that, I only buy used.

My favorite places to buy used books are:

  • Thrift Stores: Talk about ridiculously low prices! Thrift stores receive TONS of books and so are typically quite desirous of keeping a steady rate of turnover going, henceforth they often price their paperbacks at $0.25-0.50 (or less) and hardbacks at around $1. You’ll have to dig for a good book, but trust me. You’ll be happy you did.
  • Library Sales: Most libraries have an ongoing sale of used books, even if it’s only a shelf in the corner of the library entrance. They are also typically quite inexpensive, usually around $2 for most books (more for specialty books). Most libraries also typically offer an annual book sale where they have boxes and boxes and boxes of books available for pretty cheap (depending on the library system and the organization that puts on the sale). These sales are particularly a good place to find children’s books.
  • Garage/Yard Sales: Sometimes people try to charge too much for their used books ($5 for a hardcover cookbook? Really?), but you can also find some really good deals. Depending on your tastes in books, it might be difficult to find someone with books you actually want to read, but once you do… it will make you very happy.
  • Used Book Stores: Used book stores are often pricier than the other options I’ve listed, but they also often have a store credit program, which makes them more affordable. Typically, it works this way: you bring in used books (perhaps ones you’ve bought for $0.50 at the thrift store) that they purchase from you by giving you store credit and you use that store credit to buy books that you really want to read. The trick is to bring them books that they know they will sell: best-selling novels from 10 years ago probably aren’t going to interest them much.
  • Once again, there are Facebook groups in various genres where members can post books they want to sell. You can post your own books that you no longer want, or buy them from other readers at a discounted price.
  • ThriftBooks.com: I recently discovered this site and it has become my number one favorite place to buy used books. If you buy $10 or more in books (most books are priced around $3.59, so that’s approximately 3 books), shipping is free. Plus, any book with a “Deal” tag on it qualifies for their package deals: 2 books for $7, 3 books for $10, 4 books for $12, additional books $3 each. I always try ThriftBooks first if the book I want is not available in a digital copy, or is one that I’d prefer to have in hard copy. I also always compare the price of a digital book to the price at ThriftBooks; and if it’s just as good a deal, I’ll go ahead and get the actual hard-copy one. All the books I’ve purchased here have been in excellent condition and I’ve been very pleased with the speed of shipping (not as fast as Amazon, but hey, who is?!).

 5. Borrow from friends and family.

So my oldest sister has a reading habit that she can afford to indulge. And since we have some overlapping tastes in reading, I’m pretty much guaranteed to find something of interest when I browse through her stacks (and yes, she has stacks upon stacks) of books. I’ve also borrowed and traded books (even on Kindle) with other friends and family – it’s a great way to read a book that interests you but you’re not necessarily planning on adding to your library. And hey, if you decide you do want to add it to your library, you can certainly purchase it for yourself later on.

Want to see what I’m reading? I’d love to see what YOU’RE reading! Join me at Goodreads, where I keep track of books I enjoy (and even books I don’t)! I’d love a sneak peek onto your bookshelf, too.

Summer Book Club #christianhomemakingcommunityJoin Our Summer Book Club!

Some blogging friends and I are going to spend the next six weeks talking all about reading… and sharing our favorite books with you! Follow our blogs to join in the discussion and find some new favorite books to love. We’ll also be chatting about our blog posts – and the books we love – in our Facebook community for women, Christian  Homemaking Community. 

Click on the links below to read what other bloggers have to say about reading:

How to Save on Grass-Fed Meat

how you can afford grass fed meatYou know that the mass manufactured meat available here in America is horrible, what with its hormones, GMO’s, antibiotics, occasionally horrifying additives (pink slime, anyone?), and other hair-raising issues. But what’s a girl to do when that’s exactly what’s available at the local grocery store… and for half the price (or less) of the good stuff?!

I hear you. That’s exactly why my family has only been enjoying grass-fed meat and dairy products for the past year or two instead of all our lives. The good stuff – pastured, grass-fed, local beef, chicken, pork and other meat & dairy – is pricey to say the least, often twice the cost of its conventional counterparts. Daunting, to be sure!

But it IS possible to work grass-fed meats into your budget, I promise. Here are a few tips that helped me work the healthiest meat possible into my family’s budget. (Keep in mind, by the point I started to add grass-fed pastured meat & dairy into the picture, I’d already gotten to the point where just about everything else we buy is traditional/clean/whole foods and totally from scratch. Removing processed packaged foods from the diet significantly reduces your grocery budget in the first place.)

1. Start small.

Instead of instantly replacing all your conventional meat purchases with the healthier grass-fed variety, start small. Every little bit helps and is a step in the right direction!

Here are a couple ways you could begin incorporating more grass-fed and pastured meats into your grocery budget:

  • Start with whole chickens or ground beef. Those tend to be the cheaper options and also more readily available at regular grocery stores.
  • Start with one kind of meat. For example, if you normally eat beef, chicken, and pork, choose just one of them to begin your grass-fed experiment. (I vote for beef because it’s the most noticeable improvement in taste and texture, in my opinion.)
  • Start with just one package. If all you can afford in a week or a month is one package of grass-fed ground beef, then do just that! Buy everything else conventional for now.

2. Keep your eyes peeled for sales and markdowns.

Before I committed to only purchasing pastured meats, I bought them whenever I could simply by keeping my eyes peeled for deals. They don’t go on sale in the traditional sense very often, but you can frequently find them on markdown in some grocery stores. 

In my personal experience, Safeway and Harris Teeter (and occasionally Wegmans) were the stores in my area that most frequently had marked-down grass-fed meat available. I suggest doing some reconnaissance in your area and noting which stores seem to have that type of meat available; also consider asking the butcher when they mark down the meat.

Whole Foods is one store that will have sales on grass-fed meat because they carry more of it than most other grocery stores. So if you live near one, keep an eye on their sales and take advantage of them when they happen.

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway… when you find a great deal, STOCK UP to the extent that you can. Clean that store out of their grass-fed, baby!

3. Purchase directly from the farm.

When I say directly from the farm, I mean it literally. Most of the meat I purchase comes directly to me from the farms via their internet ordering systems. I haven’t found that any local store, including Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, has as good a price on their pastured meat as what I’m able to get by ordering directly from local farms. Ordering or purchasing directly from the farm is also cheaper than purchasing at a farmers’ market (I’m assuming the price is higher there because of the overhead costs).

I will say that it has taken a significant amount of internet research and local networking to find the best prices in my area. Most farms don’t spend a lot of money on advertising, and not all of them have an internet presence, so you’ll probably have to do a little digging in your area. Some suggestions for your search:

  • Join local email lists and Facebook groups that focus on natural or organic living. With any luck, those folks will already have a directory in the files somewhere with the info you’re seeking. If not, just ask around there.
  • Snap up pamphlets at the local library, coffee shop, health food store, etc. Some farms will have printed advertising material posted in such places.
  • Ask around your friends. The very first farm I ever ordered from was recommended to me by a local friend.
  • Search on localharvest.org. It’s the largest directory for local food that I know of. Also try eatwild.com.
  • Use a search engine and google various terms. Searching different terms (grass-fed meat in __your location___, grass-fed delivery, pastured meat, local farms, etc.) will bring up different results and broaden your choices.

If you live in a reasonably rural area, you might be able to save on delivery costs by driving directly to farms and picking up your orders there. The farms I order from are just enough out of my way that it’s worth it for me to order for delivery, but if I lived a few miles closer (and didn’t work full-time) I’d go pick up my orders in person. Also, many farms arrange local pick-up spots that are also cheaper than direct delivery. Take that into consideration when researching pricing.

4. Purchase roasts.

Not only are roasts cheaper per pound than many other cuts of meat, they go farther than most other cuts also, especially if you shred the meat once it’s cooked. A 3-lb roast can last a good 3 meals in my family, and can be disguised creatively so we don’t get tired of it. Once a roast is cooked, you can take a small portion of it, chop or shred it, and add it to pastas, pizzas, casseroles, salads, and sandwiches.

For more tips on sticking to your grocery budget while eating healthy, nourishing foods, be sure to read Your Grocery Budget Toolbox, chock-full of strategies and practical methods for cutting costs without cutting quality. 

5. Buy in bulk. Split with friends.

By far the cheapest way to buy pastured meat is to buy in bulk, by which I mean purchasing a whole cow or pig at a time. Most farmers also offer the option of purchasing a half or even quarter cow or pig also. The biggest problem most people have is that they don’t have the storage space (i.e. a big enough freezer) for all that meat, so that’s where your friends come in. This is where it’s helpful to be networking amongst like-minded local folks, so you can organize a bulk meat co-op or join in on one that’s already been organized.

In my area, I can save probably a good $2/lb by purchasing meat in this manner instead of buying individual pieces at a time. Do keep in mind that purchasing in bulk means you get a wide variety of cuts, some of which you may or may not be familiar with.

6. Stretch with less popular cuts, organ meats, bones, etc.

I have to admit this is the part I’m still working on. I haven’t been able to work up my nerve to order cow tongue yet, but I have ordered marrow bones and liver! As I advised above, start where you’re comfortable and work from there. Most people can stomach purchasing bones and using them for broth, so start there if nothing else! You’ll get a lot of bang for very little buck.

One little tip about liver: if you don’t like the taste (we don’t) and prefer not to eat it straight-up, you can grind it in a blender or food processor (Total ick but if I did it, so can you!), freeze it in ice-cube trays and then add a cube or two to ground beef when you brown it. You won’t be able to taste the difference, and it will add extra nutrition to your spaghetti. Not to mention it stretches that pricey ground beef a little!

7. Reduce meat consumption.

If you’re paleo or grain-free, this idea won’t work so well for you, but for everyone else, it’s an option to consider. I have a friend who stretches her ground beef by adding lentils to it, which is a great place to start. You could also try “Meatless Mondays”, or focus on making meat the side dish of your meal and not the main dish. For example, top a salad with it, or mix some chopped meat into a filling pasta dish. I also typically have one dinner a week that is based on fish rather than meat. A well-chosen can of tuna (taking care where it originates, how it’s caught, and how it’s packaged) still costs less than a pound of meat and forms the basis for a nutritious and filling meal.

5 Questions to Ask Your Essential Oil Company (Or, How to Find a Reputable Source for Essential Oils)

5 Questions You Need to Ask your Essential Oil  Company #essentialoils #youngliving #ylessentialoilsTo say that there is a lot of confusion out there about essential oils is sort of like saying that Niagara Falls is kinda big. In other words, it’s a gross understatement. No matter your query or how it’s worded, any internet search about essential oils is bound to bring up conflicting information, making it extremely difficult for a novice to sort through it all and find the kernels of truth hidden in all the hyperbole.

One of the most difficult questions to settle is the most basic: how do I know if the essential oils I’m using are quality oils? One fact that is uncontested in the aromatherapy world is that essential oils are notorious for being adulterated, and even experts admit it can be difficult for them to determine for certain if oils have indeed been adulterated. If even the experts have trouble, where does that leave the rest of us?!

I have been researching this question (and many others regarding aromatherapy) for the past couple years; and although I haven’t come up with any “foolproof” way to determine the quality of an essential oil, my research has taught me what I should look for in an essential oil company, and what kinds of questions I should ask when considering a purchase.  My growing knowledge of essential oils and essential oil quality has only confirmed for me that I made the right choice in my source of essential oils, and I hope to help others achieve the same confidence! So many people are curious about the oils and interested in using them, but overwhelmed by the options and the questions that abound.

Companies throw around terms like “therapeutic grade”, “natural”, and “organic” to the extent that those terms have become almost meaningless, so it’s difficult to sort through the marketing hype and find out what’s really going into the bottles they sell. Any company trying to sell you some of their oils is going to insist that theirs is the real deal, and unadulterated, but clearly they’re not all telling the truth. If you’re searching for a reliable source of pure essential oils, I have a list of 5 questions you need to ask any company that you are researching to determine if they really are selling the real deal or not. 

5 Questions You Need to Ask your Essential Oil  Company #essentialoils #youngliving #ylessentialoils1. Do the oils come from indigenous plants?

Plants are living things, and the essential oils that come from them prove that by their widely varying makeup. A lavender plant grown in France will produce a very different oil from a plant grown in, say, Canada. The reason is because the compounds in the essential oil are developed specifically for the protection, nourishment, and propagation of the plant they come from; and the needs of the plant will vary depending on a lot of factors including soil, climate, and pests. Aromatherapy has developed around the concept that certain plants have certain therapeutic properties… but those properties aren’t guaranteed to exist in a plant that has been grown outside its natural habitat. One oft-recommended essential oil company sources many of its oils from India, which is fine if you’re in the market for jasmine oil (actually an absolute), but not so fine if you’re looking for eucalyptus, which is native to Australia.

2. Do you own any of the farms or distilleries?

The majority of essential companies out there are merely distributors and not producers. This is an important distinction, because the further removed the distributor is from the process, the more opportunity there is for the oil to be adulterated. And the less a company has control over the essential oil production, the less they even know about the possibility of the oil being adulterated. Their sources may swear to the integrity of their oils, but how can a distributor know that for sure unless they are involved in the daily production process? I am much more comfortable purchasing from a company that has their hands in the process from beginning to end; and I’m extremely confident in a company that controls the process from beginning to end. 

3. What kind of tests do you run on the oils?

Most companies will boast that they run a GC/MS (Gas Chromotography Mass Spectrometry) test on the oils, and that’s a good start. Much has been made of the GC/MS test in online circles in recent years, but honestly, that particular test doesn’t really tell you a whole lot about the oil. It can tell you if there are any chemical solvents added to the essential oil, and it can tell you if the oil has the generally expected number of various chemical compounds that it should… but it can’t tell you if each of those compounds are natural or manufactured, and it can’t tell you if they all came from the same plant or were pulled from a variety of different plants.

An essential oil can pass the GC/MS test and be declared 100% natural when that might not, in fact, be the case. It’s entirely possible (and actually happens all the time according to chemists and aromatherapists in the know) for an essential oil to be labeled as “lavender”, for example, when it’s really compounded from several different other (cheaper) plants. The problem is that when the oil is pieced together like this, it doesn’t work as it should for therapeutic purposes, because – as I mentioned at the beginning – plants are living things. Genuine plant oils cannot simply be manufactured from this and that; an effective essential oil is the oil in its entirety.

4. What quality control measures do you have in place?

This question ties in directly to the last 2 questions. Because most companies are merely distributing an end product, and not actually producing said product, the only quality control measure they can take is on the back end. Their control over the seeds, cultivation, harvest, and distillation is minimal at best because they have no actual say over the production process. Their only option is to accept or refuse the final product based on their own observations and/or tests. And typically, the only test they run is the GC/MS test, which as I have shown is limited in its scope.

Having said that, there are a few companies that either own the farms and distilleries producing the oils, or they have an ownership investment of some kind (almost like share-cropping) in the farms and/or distilleries. Those companies are the ones that can actually control the production process to one extent or another, and those companies should have some quality control measures in place. Such quality control measures should include things like the choice of seeds used for planting (Heirloom? GMO?), quality of soil, pest prevention measures, harvesting procedures, distillation standards, etc. The more a company can tell you about the measures they take, the more confident you can be in their final product. 

5. Are the plants grown organically?

This is a no-brainer, really. You don’t want chemical pesticides ending up in your bottle of therapeutic essential oil! Organic labeling gets complicated, though, with the vast majority of oils being sourced internationally with different countries regulating “organic” in very different ways. So it’s better to ask some pointed questions about how exactly the plants are protected from insects and disease. The best oil companies use organic and natural planting methods that do not leave any kind of chemical residue on the plants that could make its way into the essential oil. 

As I mentioned in the beginning, the more I learn, the more confident I am in my own personal choice of essential oil brand. I’m sure there are other reputable and reliable brands out there, but to date I have not found any that answer these questions more satisfactorily.

Edited to Add: A fellow “oiler” actually did her homework and called a bunch of different popular essential oil companies, and asked them these and other questions. Here is a chart she made showing their answers:

questions to ask an essential oil company

If you’re interested in learning more about essential oils, how they are made, how they are adulterated, and how you can use them medicinally, I highly recommend the book “The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils” by Kurt Schnaubelt.  (That’s an affiliate link there; you’ve been warned!)

Teaching with Heart – Printables from Love. Laugh. Teach.

20% off #teachercreated resources #printablesA couple years ago when I was doing preschool at home with my Certain Little Someone, I came across an amazing resource that I wished had been around back in the day when I was teaching K5. And now that I’m once again teaching preschool (K3 this time), I’m ever so grateful I live in this age of internet technology when I can access creative printables and other teacher tools at the drop of a hat… without dropping a ton of money! 

Teachers Pay Teachers

The resource I speak of is Teachers Pay Teachers, and I love the concept: all the material available is developed by actual teachers who’ve actually used what they’re selling. It’s totally a win-win all around, because the teacher who developed the material gets a little money on the side for all her (or his) hard work, and the teacher who purchases it receives a high-quality resource that does exactly what she needs without costing an arm and a leg.

Another thing I love about Teachers Pay Teachers is that the majority of what is available is very specific, so instead of buying a big huge $20 book full of printables, and using only a few pages, you can find – and pay for – only exactly what you need and only what will work for you.

So far, I haven’t created a lot of my own printables to sell on TPT, but my sister, who teaches K4/K5, has her own store on TPT where she offers printable worksheets for math and phonics. She currently targets a K5/1st grade level with the various worksheets she has available.

file0001694774604Love. Laugh. Teach.

Each of her sets focuses on a particular skill – patterning, for example, or consonant blends – and drills through that skill in a progressive fashion, starting with easier tasks, and continuing until the student achieves mastery of the skill in question. Because of their targeted focus, her printable sets are perfect for anyone who needs extra work on a particular skill, or to use as supplementary seatwork or homework to really internalize a concept.

One of my favorite resources she offers is Simple Addition Word Problems for Beginner Readers. What I love about this one in particular is that it is uniquely designed for emerging readers who are just figuring out how to sound out simple words – I don’t think I’ve ever seen word problem practice worksheets written with that skill level in mind! It’s perfect for your student who loves math but isn’t so great with reading, and/or your little kindergartener/first-grader who could use a little practice with word problem skills but can’t quite read the more complicated ones.

My sister’s store on TPT is very appropriately called “Love. Laugh. Teach.” Since my class is right next door to hers, I can attest to the fact that she loves her students and they love her… and there certainly is a great deal of laughter going on! Follow her on Facebook here.

From now until Tuesday, April 8, you can purchase any product in the Love. Laugh. Teach. store for 20% off! No coupon code or secret handshake necessary. This is your perfect opportunity to check out the wonderfulness that is Teachers Pay Teachers, while supporting a teacher at the same time… and getting a good deal for yourself! I tell ya, win-win all around.

Whether you are a homeschooler or a school teacher, trust me, you’ll love what you find at Teachers Pay Teachers. So what are ya waiting for? Go check it out!

Super Simple Learning {Review & Giveaway}

Win a copy of Super Simple Songs DVD

Win a copy of Super Simple Songs DVD

Boy you guys are spoiled! Right on the heels of the Einkorn Berries giveaway from Tropical Traditions, I have another awesome little gift for one lucky reader.

Today it’s a copy of the “Super Simple Songs” DVD from the folks over at Super Simple Learning, a great company with some wonderful resources for anyone working in early childhood education… or any mom of littles. 

Learning with Songs

My class of 2- and 3-year-olds got to review this gem of a DVD during our weekly Friday morning “movie” time, and they thoroughly enjoyed it. The songs are easy to sing along with and engaging, which can sometimes be quite the feat for children this age. What’s more, I found the graphics and videography to be very professional and well-done, a refreshing sight in a world full of cheap and (let’s be honest) crappy children’s videos.

Trust me, children know when a video is of less than stellar quality, and it won’t hold their attention for very long at all. You’ll have no such problems with this DVD, which was designed to match the pace and attention span of preschool-aged viewers. I think any child 18 months to 3 years of age will have fun watching and singing along with all the short clips found on Super Simple Songs.

Sample Super Simple Learning’s work by checking out their YouTube channelI particularly love the phonetic alphabet song, which introduces the letters by their sound rather than their name. My phonics-teaching heart thrills a little at the thought! Watch it right here:

The video cannot be shown at the moment. Please try again later.

If you’d like to purchase the DVD for yourself (ahem, I mean for your children), you can get a digital download for $13.99 or order a hard copy for $16.99. Whether or not you’ve embarked on formal preschool education for your sweet little one, the songs on this DVD will help them learn the basics of their age range: letters, numbers, days, months, etc. Plus, they’ll get a chance to work on their motor skills as well by mimicking the actions shown on the video. All of that put to music means a well-rounded mini-education in 30 minutes at a time! 

Super Simple Learning also has some great resources for moms and teachers on their website, including printables, flash cards, crafts, and more.

Win a copy of Super Simple Songs

If you’d like a chance to win this DVD, enter below. Please note this giveaway is only open to US residents aged 18 or older. The giveaway will end on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at midnight, at which time a winner will be chosen randomly by Giveaway Tools. This giveaway is sponsored and fulfilled by Super Simple Learning, and I am not responsible for ensuring that you receive your prize. The winner will be contacted and will have 48 hours to respond with their information in order to receive their prize, or another winner will be selected.

Why I Use Young Living Essential Oils

Young Living Essential Oils #yleo #essential oils If you are interested in using essential oils as an alternative to chemical-based medications, then you’ve probably come across at least a few different brands, all of them claiming to be the best for one reason or another. The information out there is often conflicting, always biased, and extremely difficult to sort through.

I can’t tell you definitively which brand of essential oils (EO’s) is the best, but I can tell you why I chose to use Young Living oils almost exclusively. I’m not writing this post to bash any other essential oil companies out there – I have no reason to do that – but simply to explain what benefits led me to choose YL over other brands in the event that my decision-making process is helpful to someone else out there researching the available options.

Why I Use Young Living Essential Oils

  • History – Young Living has over 20 years built into the industry, giving them plenty of time to learn about and invest into the oils they sell, as well as plenty of time to develop a reputation. Many of the brands out there have popped up seemingly overnight (certainly that is not true of all of them, and surely there are companies even older than YL, but I am not speaking of those on this point), and are relative unknowns as far as I am concerned. It is awfully easy for those start-ups to be here today and gone tomorrow. Young Living is not a start-up or an unknown entity, and that’s enough to edge it out over others that were recommended to me.
  • Reputation – Twenty years has given Young Living plenty of time to develop a reputation, and aside from those who are skeptical of any alternative medicine, that reputation is a very good one. The vast majority of people who have used Young Living oils have been very pleased with them and found them to be of high quality. I can count on one hand the number of negative reviews I’ve read in terms of the performance of Young Living’s oils. 
  • Quality – The quality of the oils is what is behind their strong reputation. Much has been made online of Gas Chromatography /Mass Spectrometry testing, but in reality that test only tells the beginning of the story when it comes to essential oils. Young Living performs a total of 7 tests on every batch of oil that passes through their facilities and onto their customers, and if the oils don’t pass the tests, they don’t sell them. Even so, that’s not enough to establish the quality of the oils, because once again, each of those tests tells only part of the story. The chemical makeup of an essential oils depends on so many factors, all of which are highly variable, so YL makes sure that optimum conditions exists in all those factors. Starting with the seed of the plant, and continuing with its cultivation and harvest, YL monitors every step of the way to ensure that the highest quality oil is the end result. If you don’t believe me, read this summary from a chemist that explains in detail all the efforts YL takes to ensure a quality product.
  • Training and Support – If I ordered a random oil from a random company online, chances are I’m left to sink or swim when it comes to using that oil. Sure, a quick google search will tell me the basics about any particular oil. Or I could read tomes and tomes of textbooks about oils, their chemistry, their usage, etc, and I probably will (I’ve already read a few!). But what has helped me more than anything has been the support of my sponsor and the rest of the folks on her team. Any time I have a question, I know where to go, and someone on the team always has an answer for me! Young Living’s company structure was intended to create that network of support so that no one is left in the dark on how to use their oils. As my own team grows, my desire is to create that same environment of training and support that has been so beneficial to me.
  • Thieves’ Oil! – This proprietary blend is produced only by Young Living, and although others have similar products, this is the one I kept hearing about over and over and over again. I haven’t been disappointed with this powerful oil, and I always make sure to have some on hand. I clean and disinfect with it, and I use it whenever someone in my family gets sick! I have seen it first hand cut colds and the like short when they’ve already started, and I’ve also seen it prevent various sicknesses from passing through the family from one person to the next. Good stuff, I tell you.

Reasons Why YOU Might Like Young Living Oils

Some more for you to consider as you make your decision:

  • Young Living has grown 75% in the past year! That’s some pretty incredibly amazing word-of-mouth sales going on there!
  • Young Living’s wholesale price (available to distributors) is comparable to a lot of the companies I’ve seen online, plus you have the option to enroll in their Essential Rewards autoship program, which allows you to earn bonus points you can use towards free oils! I’ve received 4 or 5 free bottles of oil in the past 6-8 months. When other companies imply that they are cheaper than YL, that’s probably because they’re comparing against the full retail price.
  • Young Living makes it easy for you to get the wholesale price – all you have to do is purchase a starter kit (from $40-150) and then make another $50 purchase within the year. No other commitment, but all the benefits of having a wholesale account.
  • Of the major brands, Young Living is the only one I know of that owns and operates their own farms and produces their own oils. Not all of their oils are produced in this way, but quite a few of them are. Some of those farms are based in the US, and some of those farms are based in other countries where the plants are indigenous to that area.

If you think you’d like to give Young Living oils a try, I’d be happy to have you join my team! Visit my Young Living website for more information. 

Please note that I am not a doctor and I am not dispensing medical advice. I’m simply sharing what I use for my own family. 

Maty’s All Natural {And Effective} Cough Syrup {Plus Giveaway!}

This is a sponsored post.  Thanksgiving will be here in just one short day, and then in one short month… Christmas! Wow, it’s coming up fast!

And somewhere in the midst of all the festivities, another not-so-joyous season will creep in unwelcome and unannounced: I am speaking of flu season, of course. And even if you don’t get the flu, chances are you’re going to catch one of the many colds flying around this time of year, so now’s a good time to stock up on your remedies.

But forget those antihistamines, NSAID’s, and any other cold meds that line the drugstore shelves – you won’t need them. Trust me, there are a multitude of effective and safe natural remedies that quickly relieve cold symptoms while helping your body to heal faster without side effects.

Safe Natural Remedies from the Drugstore

As you know, I like to use essential oils whenever possible in treating various illnesses in my family. I also employ time-honored home remedies and the occasional homeopathic medicine when I find it useful. I also always like to keep a few ready remedies on hand for those winter illnesses that are sure to come: cough syrup and chest rub, for example. Sure, I could make them myself – I have before – but in this busy time of year, I like to have something on hand I can trust.

A frank little side note here: to be perfectly  honest, I don’t always find the homemade remedies to be as effective as some store-bought ones. Just sayin. 

An effective – but natural and safe – remedy I make sure to always have on hand this time of year is cough syrup. Tiger Cub in particular seems susceptible to coughs whenever he has a cold, sometimes with coughing fits that keep him up at night and make him miserable. I’ve found that while raw honey itself is only partially effective, a honey-based mixture like Maty’s All Natural Cough Syrup knocks the cough out almost instantly.

Check out the ingredients in this cough syrup:

  • buckwheat honey
  • zinc
  • grapefruit seed extract
  • celtic sea salt
  • lemon peel
  • lemon balm
  • apple cider vinegar
  • cinnamon
  • cayenne pepper

This stuff packs a punch! (And yeah, I have most of those ingredients in my kitchen, but do I have time to whip up my own cough syrup? Uh, no. Not hardly!) As a matter of fact, Tiger Cub has a cold right now, and last night his cough was keeping him awake: as soon as I gave him a spoonful of Maty’s Cough Syrup, his cough stopped and he slept soundly! In fact, I didn’t hear him cough again until earlier this evening, and once again, when I gave him a spoonful of Maty’s Cough Syrup it stopped the cough in its tracks!  

Here’s some more information about Maty’s from the founder:

In 1996, my daughter Maty was born with severe heart defects. And to make matters worse, she was also born without a spleen. By age five, Maty underwent three complex heart surgeries.

For those first few years of her life, it was a challenging time for our family. We were constantly in and out of doctors offices. Although her heart was mended, she was left with difficult medical issues and a weakened immune system. Her condition made her vulnerable.

Desperate to help my little girl, I devoted my time to finding natural remedies that would help her get and stay healthy. And it soon became my passion. I started reading everything and anything to do with natural ways of healing. I took classes in natural healing and even got certified as a holistic health practitioner.

And along the way I discovered natural remedies that really worked and started using them on my family. Whatʼs even better is that I was now equipped with modern knowledge of healing and incorporated that into these old time remedies to make them even better. I bottled some of these remedies up and gave them to family and friends to help them get healthier. And they became popular.

Your Chance to Win

If you want to give Maty’s a try, enter our giveaway! The winner gets to choose one full-size version of any of Maty’s popular products:

  • All Natural Cough Syrup

  • All Natural Kids’ Cough Syrup

  • All Natural Baby Chest Rub

  • All Natural Vapor Rub

  • Breathe Better Nasal Ointment

This giveaway is only open to US residents and will end Sunday, December 1 at midnight.
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Oxygen Bleach, My New Favorite Household Cleaner {PLUS Giveaway!}

Oxygen Bleach has recently become my most favorite household cleaning ingredient. When I first started using oxygen bleach, I bought the cheap stuff at the dollar store; and while it was effective, I quickly realized that it was not pure oxygen bleach. Since I couldn’t figure out exactly what was added to it, I opted to be safe rather than sorry, and go for the good stuff.

Thankfully, around that time, Tropical Traditions offered to send me a big container of their oxygen bleach. I jumped at the chance, of course! And I am so glad I did! Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to try another natural brand of oxygen bleach, and I have to say the Tropical Traditions Oxygen Bleach was of significantly higher quality. It cleaned better and left less residue behind.

What do I do with my oxgyen bleach? The better question is, what don’t I do!? But here are a few of the household uses I have found for my bucket of oxygen bleach: 

Clean carpets quickly and easily with oxygen bleach. Oxygen bleach has become just as essential to me as vinegar and baking soda in my selection of household cleaning supplies, and that’s saying something! To compete with those workhorses means a product has to be multi-purpose, effective, inexpensive, and easy to use, and oxygen bleach is all of those things. To be fair, it does cost more to purchase than either vinegar or baking soda, BUT you typically only need to use a tablespoon or less at a time, so it lasts forever. My big container from Tropical Traditions probably lasted a good six months. 

Tropical Traditions Oxygen Bleach Giveaway

So you have the opportunity to win your own container of Tropical Traditions’ Oxygen Bleach! Lucky Ducky You! Please fill out the Rafflecopter below to enter the contest. This contest is only available in the US. This contest ends at midnight, Sunday, July  14, 2013.

And now for some legalese before the giveaway begins:

  • 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.
  •  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.

If you are not familiar with Tropical Traditions, here’s some info about this great company that provides high-quality food and household goods for those seeking to avoid chemicals and other additives:

Note: If you’re having trouble accessing the giveaway below, try entering via my Facebook page.

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4 Books I’ve Been Reading (That I Highly Recommend)

First of all, can I just say that I love my Kindle? (Actually… what I really love is my Kindle app on my tablet… but my Kindle makes it possible to enjoy my Kindle app… so I love my Kindle!) I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my Kindle in the last few days, and have actually devoured quite a few brand-spankin-new eBooks in the past 24 hours. I’ve been toting my Kindle everywhere – to the living room, to the dining room, to the kitchen, to the bedroom, and, of course to the bathroom (where else does a busy mom find time to read?!).

Whether or not you have  Kindle, too (my friend Erin wrote a very helpful post about reading digital books without an e-reader), you can benefit from the ever-growing digital library of wisdom out there that is far more accessible (and takes up a lot less space) than its old-fashioned hard-covered, paper-backed ancestor. In particular, there are 4 recently published digital books that I have been perusing the past couple days and highly recommend to you!

Cloth Diaper Guide
1. Confessions of a Cloth-Diaper Convert

Whether you’ve been cloth-diapering (or CD-ing, as the lingo goes) since before it was popular or are pregnant with your first little one and curious about the possibility, you will learn something in The Humbled Homemaker’s brand new eBook, published just a few weeks ago. I promise. Erin leaves absolutely no stone un-turned and shares every little shred of knowledge she has learned in her years of researching (and using!) cloth diapers. I totally wish I had access to this book when I was researching cloth diapers, because I would have avoided some mistakes along the way that led to the demise of my first set of CD’s. Confessions of a Cloth Diaper Convert is currently available right here via PDF for $9.95 (But the price is going up soon, so get it while you can!).

2. Accidentally Green

Accidentally Green is a memoir of one woman’s journey from “normal” to “green“… almost by accident! Wherever you are on your journey to improve your health and your environment, you will identify with the questions, obstacles, and issues that provoked Hillary to discover “new” and better ways to eat, clean, shop, heal, and just plain live! I found myself empathizing with Hilary at times, and admiring her at others. Her determination to research the best for her family is inspiring to me and encouraging as I continue on my own journey to simplify our family life without sacrificing what is authentic and real. As someone who strives to make EVERY decision in life based on the Word of God, I also really appreciated her Biblical perspective. This quick read is available for just $2.99 via PDF, Kindle, and Nook.

IB 300x250 ad 2 Affiliate Program 3.  Intentional Blogger

 

Can you believe that when I first started my own blog, I had never actually read  one before? I had only heard of them. It makes me laugh to think about the earliest beginnings of my blog when pretty much me, myself, and I were the only ones who ever visited it. And then when I started it up again – in earnest and for reals – I still had absolutely no earthly idea what the heck I was doing. I didn’t even know for the first year that I could actually monetize it beyond Google Adsense. Crazy, right? Too bad I didn’t have LeighAnn and Nikki’s new (as of yesterday!) eBook, Intentional Blogger, then! I would have started out right instead of making a zillion mistakes along the way and falling flat on my face more than once. Huh! If I had read their book first, I might even be a mega-blogger today (Haha!)!!

Clearly, I’m in the place where I’m supposed to be… but if you’re a blogger at any stage, I really think you need to read this eBook. Packed – and I mean PACKED – with resources, you’ll have everything you need to take your blog to the next level (whatever that is). And I love their emphasis on focusing on God and what HE wants from your blog. You won’t be a success without that determination as your guiding focus. And since it’s a brand new eBook, you can currently get this book for $12 (25% off the price) by using the code “LAUNCH25″ at checkout. (Only for a limited time.) Alternatively, if you subscribe to the authors’ newsletter, you can get 50% off the purchase price until 8am April 26 (which is Friday morning). Buy Intentional Blogger here. 

Easy Peasy Chores @ GoodOldDaysFarm.com 4. Easy Peasy Chores

This last one is more of a tool than a book you sit down and read. But WHAT a tool it is!! Busy mamas everywhere have been needing this resource for a loooonnngggg time. I can remember back when I was growing up, and my mom organized our chores using index cards in a little file box. She would have loved this system! Alina has broken down all the possible chores that need to be done in your home into simple tasks that even the children can help with. Whether you want to organize the tasks by person, by room, by zone, or by day of the week, you can do so with this – truly – easy peasy system. There’s an initial cost for printing out the cards and purchasing the supplies, but Alina’s even got some great ideas to help you get started with minimal out-of-pocket expense. I am SO excited to get The Boys (ages 4, 2, and, um, 33) and myself started on this house-cleaning system, especially now that I’m teaching again and my boys are going to school with me. Anything that simplifies my life excites me, and I’m pretty sure you’re going to find this resource exciting, too! It’s only $15.99, and it’s worth every stinkin’ penny. (It would honestly be worth even more.) You can buy the Easy Peasy Chores system for yourself here.

PS> Several of these books will be available in an eBook bundle sale coming up next week. $30 for almost 100 eBooks, all of them just as good as the ones I mention below. It’s not a hard choice to make… $16 for Easy Peasy Chores today? or $30 for Easy Peasy Chores PLUS 96 other books, ecourses, printables, planners, etc etc?! Yeah, like I said, not a hard choice. It’s coming on Monday, so stay tuned!

PSS>My very own eBook – Your Grocery Budget Toolbox – is in the same eBook bundle. Yippee!

PSSS> The very last one I promise. I’m a total cheapskate, but even I have to say that this bundle deal is gonna be kickin awesome and totally worth it. $30 is a lot to spend on books all at once, but it’s WAY more than books. Stick around and I’ll be telling you more about it here on the blog, on FB, and on Pinterest.

PSSSS> Oops. Really the last one. I forgot to mention that there are more than $140 in bonuses that come with each purchase of the book. Seriously, this is a no-brainer.