Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Inexpensive Organics

I've just discovered Now Foods line of organics .. and I'm not sure why I hadn't seen them before but while at my local organic market I bought a bag of Quinoa, which we like way better than brown rice, and golden flax seed meal which we add to just about everything to get an extra boost of omega 3, protein and fiber .. plus you can sub for oils or eggs in baked goods (with a little extra water) .. Both the quinoa and flax were about $3 for one pound package which in this area where these items are usually available at the supermarkets is a good price! I don't know what the difference is between the Now brand and others but I'd bet its like the store brand at the supermarket .. no advertising or fancy packaging costs to get added into the retail price!

Plus the owner of the market is on a mission to find organic dried whole milk for me .. which I don't even know if it exists, we've been giving the kids NIDO powdered milk mixed with warm water at bedtime (M1 calls it "cozy milk") but I'd like to find an organic powder that doesn't require me to buy 10 lbs of it at a time! I've found some on Amazon but I'd rather buy it at a local shop even if its something that comes on a truck since most likely it would be coming with other items rather than just itself if I were to order it .. save a bit of trucking that way!

I'd like to make this a series .. posting info about different organics that we use on a regular basis .. I know when we started to make the shift to organics and natural foods it was really confusing to find "cheap" organics. I'm hopeful, however, that since people are becoming educated about the benefits of natural foods, the supplies for inexpensive products will become available!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Chef's Catalog has some great deals on kitcheny stuff .. and free shipping on any order through Nov. 5 ..

Christmas Cookie Cutters $1.99

Good for kids sandwiches .. the girls love the Lunchables but I don't like the processed food in them so we make our own .. I think it would be fun to have star shaped cheese and turkey!
They're plastic so it would be safe for them to use when we make cookies too!

Twist and Chop Onion Chopper $2.99

The big bag of organic onions I got from one of the local farms here is full of onions that like to make me cry :( .. I love onions so this might just be worth the $3

Ice Cream Sandwich Maker $2.99

Includes recipes to make heart shaped Ice Cream Sandwiches! .. or frozen yogurt when we make that with our new yogurt maker as soon as it arrives .. we ordered one from amazon
last Friday when it was marked to $10 and I can't wait to try it out!

Here's my order .. with the sale price and the regular price!

Christmas Cookie Cutter - Star $1.99 $10
Christmas Cookie Cutter - Round $1.99 $10
Twist and Chop $2.99 $20
Ice Cream Sandwich Maker $2.99 $20

TOTAL: $9.96 $60

So I saved around $50! .. Not that I would have bought this stuff at regular price but it's stuff that will be used .. the cookie cutters on an almost daily basis for sandwiches and pancakes and the like, the twist and chop just as much if not more, and for $3 the sandwich maker will be fun for special treats!

Discounted Lands End Merchandise

Just wanted to pass along a link to the "Overstocks" section of the Lands End website. For anyone that isn't familiar with Lands End its an outdoor clothing catalog company similar to LL Bean
(which is another favorite of mine!) Usually there stuff is pretty pricey, alright it's downright expensive compared to finding it in a thrift store or consignment shop! But like so many other things you get what you pay for .. the quality is fantastic and I like the simple timeless designs, especially for the kids clothes!

My two favorite parts of the Overstocks section are "On the Counter" where they list clearance items on Saturday and discount them through the week and "Not Quite Perfect"which would normally turn me off but they tell you exactly why it's not perfect! Like on this toddler dress it tells you in the description that it's off color, no big deal, especially since we have 2 of these dresses and they are fantastic but getting too small for M1, thankfully M2 is starting to want to wear dresses all the time! And while $9 is more than I usually would spend on a dress for the kids (or me!) I know that it'll be worn quite a bit and by both girls, so I think it's worth it!

There's some good discounts on LL Bean's site too, but that'll be a post for another time!

Monday, October 29, 2007


So, the few weeks or really the last few months I've been debating on what do with M1 (our oldest she's 3 1/2) in regards to school. Before we moved it was pretty much decided that we'd be sending her to a Montessori charter school in the local public school district. However, since we've moved the ONLY school option is the local public K-12 school. This is the type of school I went to and graduated from and while the class sizes are small and there's a lovely atmosphere to these small schools I remember being horribly bored and not really liking school at all. I really don't want to pass this on to my kids. My ultimate goal is for them to be "lifelong learners" and enjoy discovering new things through their lives. I feel that the public schools in general and although the school district here is small I don't think it would be a good fit for our family. It's literally the only choice though, there are no private schools, no charter schools .. it's either public school or catholic school. We're not catholic or religious at all, so what then, home school? It seems that's the natural choice and I think there has to be some reason I'm so resistant to sending my girls to public school. So, I start to research homeschooling and what's the deal with that (my Seinfeld impression for the day, BTW are the Bee Movie promos driving anyone else crazy?) and it's insane the options that are available out there .. everything to literally have school at home with whole grades of texts and workbooks and teacher's editions to this whole "un-school" school of thought, which while has some good fundamentals it's a little to out there for us! I instantly loved the ideas of montessori when I first learned of the method and in the process of learning more about montessori at home ..

So I'll keep updating on where we're at with this whole home school thing! Half the time I think I'm insane for thinking that I can handle something like this, especially when most parents I talk to here can't wait until their kids are old enough for school .. but I realized just now writing this that it's not so much about the structure and organization and the extra work as its about teaching my kids about the world around us and how to interact with it .. its about snuggling and reading together and learning to read .. and how natural is that?!?

I realize that we're about 2 years away from having to legally have any of this decided, which is probally why Mr. M looks at me like I'm crazy for even thinking of this now .. even though he's the only that's always amazed at what M1's able to do! Any comments or advice from those in the know would be wonderful .. I feel so overwhelmed at the moment!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Homemade, All Natural Laundry Soap

For about 2 years now I've been making laundry soap. It's cheaper, doesn't irritate our skin, leaves our clothes much fresher longer and doesn't build up inside the washer. This recipe makes a nice powder that dissolves easily and smells nice! It's made with all natural ingredients but I would recommend mixing it in a well ventilated area away from the kids!

1 bar Fels Naptha Soap ($1.25)
1/2 76 oz. box Borax ($1.75)
1 box Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda ($2.25)

Grate the soap using cheese grater .. I have one I picked up a thrift store that's only used for soap! Mix all ingredients in a large container, I got a plastic cookie jar with a screw on top from a dollar store that works well .. I dump everything in and shake .. then wait a bit to let the dust settle.

To use in washer: Add 1/8 cup to washer as it's filling, swish a bit to dissolve, and add laundry. This batch usually lasts us 2-3 months, even with a 3 1/2 year old that loves to play dress up 3-4 times a day!

It works for me!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Cost breakdown for Venison

Here's a cost breakdown for the deer that my husband "bagged" this weekend:

  • $15 -- License (he bought a "combo" license for $30 which allows him to get 2 deer, he'll get another so I figure $15)
  • $3 or so -- The arrow and broadhead used to kill the deer .. both were bought after deer season last year on clearance, he did have the arrow "refletched" at a sportsman shop for $2 .. it was a clean kill so both can be used again
  • $2 -- Supplies to package the meat for the freezer, bought on sale and with coupons of course!
So figure around $20 .. we, with help from his parents, (you really need help!) processed 15 lbs of ground meat, 7 packs of tenderloin steaks (1 meals worth per pack about a pound) and 13 packs (again 1 use per pack) of steaks, plus the true tenderloins and back strap we had for dinner on Saturday and the pound that was made into jerky. So about 35 lbs of lean, all natural meat for $20 or less than $.60 per pound! The cheapest that Ground Sirloin ever is in our area is $3/pound, natural beef is about $1 more .. so just the savings on the ground meat is over $36 .. and even that comparison isn't entirely fair since ground venison is much leaner than even ground sirloin .. in fact most directions for processing ground venison has you add some sort of fat, usually suet .. we don't however since we don't tend to actually make burgers out of the meat we don't find it necessary.

Whew .. what a busy summer!

After a crazy few months that involved moving, not once but twice (that's the military for you!) we're finally getting settled down and into a normal life instead of one of transition. Our new home is wonderful, set in nature where we don't have to worry about traffic going past our house (3 cars in one day is the record so far!)

One of the main reasons for choosing the home we did is the abundance of nature around us, I like my kids being able to explore different habitats .. a big plus for my husband is the 10 acres that surround us and the fact there are numerous deer that like to drink from our pond every night. Hunting can be a touchy subject for some environmentally respectful people who think its wrong to kill animals for human gain or for sport. Of course there are negatives to hunting, after all another living being is losing a life .. but the benefits are far greater in my opinion. The deer population is closely monitored each year by the Department of Natural Resources and there are only so many licenses that are issued. This protects the deer population from becoming too thin, or more importantly too populous so they starve over the winter or venture more into the "human world" and are killed by cars. It's also a protection for the hunters and their families that consume the animals .. The animals are tested for diseases such as TB and those areas where TB is found in the deer are part of the annual hunt.

We strongly believe that it is wrong to hunt purely for sport .. My husband gets a "combo" license that allows him to take 2 deer each year. He's already shot a small buck with a bow & arrow and we've spent the weekend processing the meat into our freezer (I'll break down the pricing in a bit as this is truly frugal) .. this animal has given it's life to feed our family for the next year, this is something we respect and honor. The next deer he shoots will be processed for his sisters or his parents to give their church's food bank. You can also donate meat through the Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger. You just drop off your deer at a participating processor and it's processed and donated to food banks in Michigan. He gets to hunt (a very primal instinct), get a bit of exercise (tracking and dragging the animal), provide meat for his family and others and help keep the deer population under control (to prevent starvation, ect) .. I know not everyone agrees that hunting is a positive activity but I would rather see an animal lose it's life in a quick manner that provides food for humans than to see it starve or hit by a car .. just my 2 cents!