How to Cook Spaghetti Squash

If you’ve never tried Spaghetti Squash, I highly recommend you add this to your veggie eating repertoire.

For the record, I don’t think I can pull off correctly pronouncing the word repertoire.  I just thought that sentence sounded better than me simply stating, “Yo. You should totally eat Spaghetti Squash.”

We were blessed with several fantastic spaghetti squash in our garden this summer and fall.  I’m not sure there’s a better meal than home grown spaghetti squash, served with sauce made from home grown tomatoes.  It’s delicious!  Plus, practically free.  Plus, super healthy.  It’s merveilleux! ( I can’t pronounce that either, but it means “wonderful” in French.  In other words: YUM.)

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash

1.  Rinse outside of the squash.
2.  Poke squash with a knife or fork 3-4 times.
3.  Place squash in a baking dish, uncovered.
4.  Bake in a 350° for 45-60 minutes or until squash is tender.
5.  Cut squash in half to open.
6.  Pull out seeds and discard.
7.  Use a fork to pull “spaghetti” away from the inside of the rind. (This is the fun part!)
8.  Serve cooked spaghetti squash as is, or serve with your favorite red or white sauce.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash

Beyond Spaghetti Sauce, we love this squash with Alfredo Sauce and Italian Cream Cheese Chicken.

Are you a fan of Spaghetti Squash, or is this something you’ve not yet added to your veggie repertoire?  What’s your favorite way to serve Spaghetti Squash?  Can you pronounce the word repertoire?

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Always Go to the Store When You’re Hungry

shopping cart 2

Yep, it’s just like Grandma used to say:

  • Be sure to go outside with wet hair on a cold day.
  • If you can’t say something nice, be sure to say it really loudly.  While sticking out your tongue.
  • Sit very close to the TV.  It’s good for your eyes.
  • Always go to the store when you’re hungry.

Best advice ever, right?  Good ol’ Grandma.  How’d she get so smart?

Obviously, I’m a little mixed up on what I remember hearing from Grandma.  Cold day…stick out tongue…  I think what she actually said was that when I go outside on a cold day, I should always stick out my tongue to lick the fence post.  Yes, that was it.

Before I get any more carried away, let’s set the record straight:  Don’t go outside on a cold day with wet hair or stick out your tongue (fence post or not).  Never say unkind words or sit close to the TV.  There, now you can’t sue me if your kid reads this and says, “That Heavenly Homemaker Lady said I should.”

But going to the store when you’re hungry?  Now that’s a different story.  Grandma never gave me advice about this, but I’ve heard it from plenty:  “Don’t go to the store when you’re hungry.  You’ll come out with a cart full of junk food you don’t need.”

I beg to differ.  Just hear me out.

Always Go to the Store Hungry

Last week, I went to the store before dinner.  I wasn’t “passing out hungry” because I do know my limits and realize that the grocery store manager would appreciate it if I don’t faint beside the display of plums.  I had snacked, and I was just on the verge of “Mmm, food is starting to sound pretty good right about now.”  You know that feeling?

That is when you should go to the store – to the produce section.  For the love of Doritos and Dolly Madison, do not go to the cookie aisle, the bakery, the bread aisle, or the potato chip aisle when you’re hungry.  But I dare you: Go to the produce section of the store when you’re hungry.

The pineapple, the asparagus, the cucumbers, the mixed greens, the apples, the pears, the fruit you’ve never heard of before much less tasted – it will all look fantastic to you!  You will begin to crave it right then and there.  You will imagine crisp slices of cucumber, dipped in fresh ranch dressing, and you will think that you might die if you don’t have some this very night.  You will long for vegetables roasting in the oven.  You will have to fight the urge to bite into a Honey Crisp apple right there on the spot, but for goodness sake, don’t do it because we all know Grandma told us we always have to pay for food before we eat it and that is the absolute truth.

Don’t cross your eyes.  They might stay that way forever.  But do go fill your cart with fruits and vegetables when you’re hungry.  Buy them.  Don’t complain about the price.  They are cheaper than junk and our bodies crave nourishment- so don’t even get me started.  Bring fruits and vegetables home by the bag full, then start crunching.  Eat your fill.  Enjoy the goodness.

Then wait 30 minutes before you go swimming.  Grandma knows best.

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5 Ways To Save Money While Becoming Healthier

blueberry_streusel_muffin

Remember how my healthy living journey started?

A decade ago, clipping and using coupons was one of my favorite hobbies.  I got Hamburger Helper for 33¢ a box, Windex for 49¢, and cans of green beans for a dime.  Cheap or free – that’s what I looked for when purchasing the food we ate, the cleaning products we used, and the tissues that wiped our noses.  I was the Coupon Queen, and I rocked that job.

Then, our fourth baby was born with chronic eczema.  Suddenly our poptart-filled lives needed to change drastically.

We recognized right away that we could no longer use regular (cheap) laundry detergents as they caused major break-outs for Malachi.  Anytime a spray cleaner was used, he would be even more miserable.  Before he was a year old, we realized that everything we brought into our home – from food to cleaning supplies to medicine – needed to be changed.

dark_choc_granola_3

Dark Chocolate Almond Granola - Less Than $1 Per Serving

I’m thankful for the kick-start we received so that our whole family could become healthier, but it really was quite a difficult and discouraging time full of question marks.

A loving friend who knew I was trying to find better foods and cleaning supplies for my family handed me her health food co-op catalog.  She said it helped her family save money.  Excitedly, I started skimming the pages.

With one glance, I was soooo disappointed!  These were the best prices to be found on healthy food and household products?  Seriously?  I was used to paying pennies for our food and cleaners.  And what even was half of that stuff they listed in there?  Kimchi, kombucha, coconut milk?  Weird…and expensive.

Well, here we are, a million and a half life lessons and experiences later.  Thankfully, I’ve learned the importance of investing in nourishing foods and non-toxic household items for our better health.  I’ve also learned many new ways to save money – the healthy way.  Isn’t God cool?  He always provides what we need – from finances to information to ideas to support.

chicken_pot_pie_5

Easy Chicken Pot Pie – Less Than $1 Per Serving

I still have a lot to learn.  I don’t always practice these money saving methods perfectly.  But I do my best to save money and be healthy at the same time.  I’ll continue to share the great deals I find and the tips I come across.  I know this journey can be hard, and I want to encourage you in any way I can!

The Healthy Living Bundle I’ve been talking about so much this week?  That’s probably the very best deal available anywhere I could find to share with you.  Nine years into this healthy living journey, I am learning so much by reading each piece of information included.  I love that I don’t have to become an expert on everything – I can just learn from others who know more than I.  The bundle is a fantastic investment to save you hundreds and hundreds of dollars as you journey on toward healthier living.  If you can swing it, get it.  You won’t regret it.

You’ll want to be sure and check out our
entire section of real food meals for $1 per plate!

Here are five of my favorite ways to save money while striving for good health:

1.  Make it Homemade

You already know this about me, so I’ll just briefly say – it saves our family hundreds of dollars every month when I make most of our simple meals from scratch.  Here are some of the highest money-saving foods I make:

Beyond food, I’ve found that it saves a lot of money to make our own cleaning supplies (see #2 below).   I’m also very interested in learning to make bars of soap.  That would save loads of money!  I’ve skimmed the Natural Soap Making eBook in the bundle and can’t wait to really dig in.

Natural Soap Making Cold Process Basics & Recipes

2.  Skip it Altogether

While I used to have a specific cleaning product for every single cleaning need on the planet, I’ve found that it’s not necessary at all.  Do I really need to spray chemicals from a can onto my dusting cloth before wiping down my furniture?  Um…who knew a bit of water would work just as well if not better?  (sometimes I amaze myself)

I use a great All-Purpose Cleaner from Tropical Traditions for tougher jobs.  Otherwise, simple household items like baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice are completely healthy, inexpensive, and pretty much amazing.  A great way to save money is to make your own household cleaners (see #1 above).  I’ve loved learning great recipes and tips for this in the five books included in the Healthy Living Bundle that will save me even more cash.

DIY Natural Household Cleaners

3.  Think Outside the Box

What if the way we’ve always done things isn’t necessarily the only way to do it?  What if doing something different might be healthier and save money too?  It’s hard to think outside the box sometimes – especially if anything outside of our norm seems foreign to us.  But on your healthy living journey, you’ll find it’s great to save money by exploring new ideas.

For instance, I used to run my kids to the medical clinic for every sniffle or bump.  The costs really added up, but what’s a mom to do?  I am so thankful for what I’ve learned the past few years about treating my family at home when possible.  Doctors and clinics are there for a reason, and we certainly use them when we need to.  But home remedies, essential oils (I’m just digging into these and LOVE what I’m learning!), natural options for keeping on top of illnesses - these are keeping us healthier and saving us hundreds of dollars too.

Lavender at Lake Balaton,Hungary

This eCourse is one of the most popular items in the bundle,
so I wanted to be sure and highlight it.  It’s an amazing resource.

4.  Plan Ahead

While it isn’t possible to see into the future, there are a few constants in life we can prepare for.  For instance:

  • You will always need toilet paper and laundry detergent.
  • We all need to eat three times a day.
  • Christmas is always December 25.

Planning for what I know will be needed saves my sanity and keeps us from spending money we don’t need to spend.  Making meal plans each week has saved me so much money!  You can see all my weekly menu plans here.

MEALS ePlanner

Purchasing Christmas gifts throughout the year when I see something on sale saves loads of money – which has nothing to do with a healthier lifestyle, except that it keeps me from becoming crazy, so it totally counts.  Buying cases of toilet paper online so that I never run out is a life saver and money saver too.  Which leads me to…

5.  Use Online Resources

I continue to be amazed about the awesome deals I find online.  Not only am I saving money on the items themselves, I’m saving all kinds of gas money and travel time.  I love that I can shop at my convenience, and save time by having items shipped (usually, for free) to my door.

I always try to share great online deals with you here when I find them.  You’ll find a button on my sidebar for our Amazon Deals page, which I update regularly with all the 20% off plus coupon deals I find at Amazon.  Huge savings there!

Tropical Traditions runs free shipping deals every few weeks, along with sale prices.  WHICH, this weekend happens to be a free shipping special AND they finally are offering a 40% discount on their Organic Palm Shortening at the same time!!!!!  I’m so excited about this, I bought two gallon-sized buckets!  Get a great deal on palm shortening and free shipping too!  (Plus get a free coconut oil book if you are a new customer and shop through my referral link here.)  Use the code 12914 for free shipping to apply.

palm_shortening

Phew, this is a long post.  If you’ve stuck with me this long, you’re in for a treat!  MadeOn is offering one of you a $25 Gift Certificate to spend in their shop!

MadeOn is one of my very favorite online resources.  I use their BeeSilk Hard Lotion all the time.  Their products are completely safe and wonderful for the skin.

You may have noticed that every single one of us who purchases the Healthy Living Bundle gets a FREE package from MadeOn worth $16.50.  This freebie along with the other natural living freebies (like herbal remedies from Trilight Health and yogurt starter from Cultures For Health - woot!) make the bundle worth the purchase a million times over.  The bundle will only be around for three more days.

madeon

This is why it’s extra sweet that MadeOn is giving away an bonus $25 gift certificate here!  Leave a comment on this post if you’re interested.  (Subscribers, click over to the post on my blog to leave a comment for a chance to enter.)  I’ll draw a random winner on Wednesday, September 17.  Be watching for a post stating the winner as you will be responsible for contacting me if your name is chosen!

Share with us – what are your best tips for saving money on your healthy living journey?

This post contains affiliate links.

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14 Oven-Free Breakfast Ideas for Summer

Have I ever mentioned that we don’t have central air conditioning in our home?  People think we’re crazy.  Well, yeah.  But there are a few important aspects to note about our variety of crazy - and about our lack of central air conditioning:

1.  Our house is over 100 years old and was built to stay cool back before air conditioning was invented.  We have high ceilings, which makes a significant difference.
2.  We have an attic fan that sucks hot air out and pulls cool air in.  (I believe I just told you that our attic fan sucks.)
3.  When a person is used to air conditioning, a person tends to think they need air conditioning.  When a person is not used to air conditioning, a person gets used to not having air conditioning.
4.  I freeze to death when I go to Wal-Mart and other places with air conditioning and freezer sections.  See #3 above.
5.  We have several window air conditioning units.  Remember this?  Ain’t she a beaut?  We haven’t even installed it this summer.  We haven’t been home long enough to care.  But we have that one, another for out guest room, and another for our boys room upstairs.  Window units work great for our needs.

All that to say:  I rarely turn our oven on during hot summer days.  We typically deal with lack of air conditioning just fine – but avoiding the oven makes this much more doable.  Baking muffins, quick breads, and egg casseroles is rarely an option.  Instead, we stick with stove-top meals, toaster oven choices, or smoothies.  Here are some of our favorite oven-free breakfasts, which of course can be made for lunch, snacks, or dinner too.  Breakfast for dinner always rocks.  Kind of like my attic fan sucks.  (Oh, stop it.)

14 Oven Free Breakfast Ideas For Summer

14 Oven-Free Breakfast Ideas for Summer

It’s always fun to throw in the occasional bacon or sausage too, if I have time.  Fresh fruit in the summer time is amazing.  All the delicious berries, nectarines, plums, peaches, melons available – incredible.  Yes indeed, summer time is my very favorite time of year – even without central air conditioning.  :)

What are your favorite oven-free breakfast ideas?

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How to Warm Up Food Without a Microwave

Our family stopped using a microwave about six years ago when we began our healthy eating journey.  We still have a microwave, because it is a permanent fixture above my stove and would be a pain to take down.  Guests do use it occasionally, which means that I should probably actually clean it every once in a while.  But in general, I’ve pretty much forgotten that it exists.

Why do we not use a microwave?

I’d like to write an entire post about why you may want to consider avoiding the use of a microwave oven.  But I’m not a girl who uses big words or who can write informative sentences about the dangers of microwaves, imparting knowledge like, “The apparent additional energy exhibited by the luminescent bacteria was merely an extra confirmation.”  Shoot, not only can I not write a sentence like that, I can’t even read one and come away feeling like I have an actual working brain in my head.  Therefore, if you’d like to read all the big words and reasons for avoiding a microwave, I encourage you to check out all of the helpful information in this article.

Otherwise, in Laura’s simple and non-big-word language:  We don’t use a microwave because we think that it makes our food yucky.

The question I receive often then is:  How do you warm up leftovers if you don’t have a microwave?

Easy.  I warm up our food on either the stove-top, in our oven, or in our toaster oven.

Pardon the fairly ugly picture, but really, how cute can leftovers in a saucepan actually be?!  ;)

I usually add just a shot of water to the saucepan with our leftovers to keep the food from sticking.  I have also found that it is a good idea to keep the heat at a medium setting and to stir often.  If I’m rewarming Creamy Mac and Cheese or something else milk based, instead of adding a shot of water, I will add a shot of milk, which keeps the food creamy!

To warm up Pizza, Taco Corn Fritters, Popcorn Chicken, or Burritos and such, I’ll use our oven or toaster oven.  We LOVE our toaster oven!  We pop the food in, put it on “toast” or “bake” depending on what we want, walk away and do something else for a few minutes, then our food is perfect.

toaster oven

While a microwave might take one minute to warm up your food, I’d say the stovetop takes about two minutes.  A toaster oven might take five.  Those few extra minutes really don’t hurt my feelings very much.  It’s not so hard to wait.  My food tastes better rewarmed this way, plus I don’t have to worry about it losing it’s nutritional quality.  Those are a few extra minutes well spent.

What are your thoughts about using a microwave?  How do you warm up leftovers?

This post was originally published February 28, 2012.

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Breaking Free of Sugar Addiction — Should We Be Eating Stevia?

For every positive piece of information we can find about a product, we can typically find a negative piece of information to go along with it:  Butter is bad.  Butter is good.  We all need to drink milk.  We should all stay away from dairy products.  Eat only organics.  Organics don’t matter.  Eat brown rice.  Brown rice may be a source of toxic arsenic.

Pardon me while I go bang my head against the wall.  (Although I read once that doing so may not be good for my health.)

Because there is so much conflicting information out there, my conviction is to stick with eating a balanced variety of food that is food.  Food that has been around forever.  Food that provides needed nutrients to keep me healthy and strong.  Meat, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, whole dairy, eggs, nuts, beans…my body needs them all.

Breaking Free of Sugar Addiction

But then there’s sugar.

Should we be eating sugar?  And if so, in what form?  Artificial sweeteners are not real - which is, in fact, the reason they are called artificial - so we should not be putting them into our bodies.  White sugar is completely empty.  High fructose corn syrup is highly processed and toxic.  So instead, shouldn’t we stick with sugar in its whole form: honey, real maple syrup, dehydrated cane sugar (sucanat)?

Yes, if you’re going to eat sugar, that’s my recommendation.  Those are real.  Our bodies recognize them and utilize them.  But here’s the bigger “thing,” along with my confession to you:

Sugar - in any form - whether it is all natural, whole, or straight out of a bee hive – is still sugar.  Our bodies handle these better than processed white sugar and high fructose corn syrup, for sure.  But don’t think that since you’re eating cake made from sucanat you can go ahead and eat half the cake.  You’ll still get sugar overload.

I know this.  I’ve lived this.

I’ve been addicted to sugar my whole life.  I hate to think how much sugar I’ve put into my body.  When people tell me, sheepishly, how much they love sugar and have a hard time giving it up, I so totally get it.  I’ve been right there with you, loving sugar, eating too much sugar, sneaking extra bites of sugar-filled goodies – all in the name of “I’m eating healthier treats so this can’t possibly be too terribly bad for me.”

My body has not been like, “Oh, thank goodness all this sugar you’re feeding me is in its natural form.”  No way.  Instead, my body has been like, “Mmmm, sugar.  Give me more.  Sorry you feel crummy and catch colds frequently.  Now about that sugar.  Weren’t you going to feed me more?  I’ll take it in chocolate form.  Or butterscotch.  Why are we even still having this conversation?  Give me sugar!”

Let’s Learn Moderation

Our bodies do need sugar to function properly.  Yay!  Bring on the cheesecake.

Hmmm, well actually, our bodies don’t need that much sugar.  Plus it prefers sugar from fruit, vegetables, and other carbs like potatoes and grains.  Cheesecake?  It’s an awesome and fun treat sometimes.  Enjoy!!!  But keep it a treat and keep it occasional.  You’ll enjoy it so much more this way.

Do you struggle with eating sugar in moderation?  Oh how I know how you feel.  Don’t feel guilt.  Don’t feel stupid.  Don’t give up and eat a quart of ice cream.  God knows what you need, what your struggles are, and what you desire.  He’ll help you break free from this.  Don’t make it a “thing.”  That will just make you worried and frustrated.  Let God help you with this one.  That’s the one and only way I know how to beat the addiction.

So What About Stevia?

Should We Be Eating Stevia

I’ve recently been experimenting with liquid stevia.  Stevia is an herb, which is naturally sweet.  It is not a sugar, nor is it an artificial sweetener.  It takes a teeny-tiny bit of stevia to provide just the right sweetness, compared to the amount of sugar/honey/maple syrup/sucanat it takes to provide sweetness.

Sounds great, right?  Yep, and I’ve been excited about using it as a way to cut down on sugar.

But guess what?  There’s controversy about stevia.  (Surprise, surprise.)  Is it really good for you?  Does eating it cause side effects?

I spent several hours recently doing more research on stevia.  I went to some of my most trusted sources.  I went to random sources I’ve never heard of.  I did internet searches.  I read article after article.  My findings?

Most say that stevia is safe and healthy.  Some people are allergic to stevia.  (Some people are allergic to cats.)  Highly refined stevia can cause digestive issues.  (As does most anything that is highly refined.)  Stevia in its whole form has not been approved for consumption by the FDA.  (Though they have approved pesticides, aspartame, and Captain Crunch as a part of this balanced breakfast.)

Then there are the forums I found that talk about stevia being used as birth control.  These claims caused me to spend considerable time researching.  I only found a few articles on this topic, and while it seemed that the authors had done their research, none of them were from sources I’ve heard of.  Based on what I read, I believe you would have to consume a LOT of stevia for it to effect your fertility.

My Conclusions About Stevia

I tend to stick with my trusted resources (Mercola, Fallon, Price) who tell me that stevia is an okay food when it is in its whole form.  Much of the other information I found was in forums or not backed by research.

Some countries have been consuming stevia for centuries.  Japan has been using it as a sweetener since the 1970′s.  According to Price, “In all this time, there have never been any reports of toxicity or adverse reactions to its usage.”  I found that article to be very helpful, especially given how many years of research and study went into Price’s findings.

Stevia should not be eaten in excess, because that is not the purpose of stevia.  Those who have been consuming stevia for years and years have not been gorging on it.  They use it as it should be used – in very small amounts.

After all my hours of research, I’ve concluded that I will keep eating it occasionally.  Stevia gives me a nice option as a sweetener when I want to avoid sugar.  I encourage you to do your own research and seek your own conviction.  You can certainly take stevia or leave it.  It’s not like we’re talking about vegetables, which are not an optional food choice for optimum health.  Stevia isn’t a health food that we all need in order to thrive, right?  It’s simply a real food sweetening option.

Here is What I Really Want You To Hear Me Saying Today:

Desserts, treats, and sweets?  Whether we’re adding table sugar, sucanat, honey, real maple syrup, or yep, even stevia – these should never be our main food focus.  I think we get all wrapped up in figuring out how to sweeten our drinks and desserts in a healthy way, when the bottom line is that we should not be eating or drinking many sweets anyway.  I’ll continue to use a tiny bit of stevia in my Chocolate Whipped Cream.  I’ll drizzle a few drops of real maple syrup on my Whole Wheat Waffles.  I’ll add a touch of honey or sucanat to my homemade muffins.  These are all real food, real good options as a part of my balanced, whole food diet.

But none of those foods are going to be my main food focus.  Desserts, no matter how I sweeten them, will remain a treat.  Fruits, vegetables, meats, good fats, eggs, whole dairy, nuts, beans, and a few whole grains will continue to be my focus – in balance and for wholesome nourishment.

Balance, Balance, Balance

That’s the key word, right?  Balance.  Try not to let all the contradictory information out there baffle our minds.  If we do, we’ll all just feel like banging our heads against the wall.  (Which is, if you recall, not a healthy option according to all the experts.)

Let’s continue to enjoy the gift of food variety, and focus on giving our bodies balanced nourishment.  Sound like a plan?

Where are you in your journey to cut down on sugar?  Have you tried and do you like stevia?

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The “Eating Healthy” and “Save Money” Balancing Act

We all want to be healthy.  We all want to live frugally.  We all want the best for our families.  We all want food to taste good.  We all want great deals on groceries.  We all want delicious food, special treats, our favorite snacks…and if they could be free, cheap, come with a coupon, or be buy-one-get-one free – that would be fantastic.

Yeah, pretty much, we want it all.  Is that too much to ask?

Balancing Eating Healthy With Saving Money

Is it just me, or is it tricky sometimes to balance saving money with healthy eating?  Especially as our boys get older, I can not believe how much it costs to feed us well.  I believe it would also cost a lot to feed us poorly, simply because we eat so stinkin’ much food at our house all the time, every day, all the time.  We can not believe the lie that eating well is too expensive.  Eating junk is expensive too.  I’ve done the math.

I don’t have any wonderful new tips to share today as we work to keep our real food grocery budgets low.  I don’t have any great online grocery deals to share.  Instead, I just want to encourage keeping a healthy perspective when it comes to balancing saving money with eating healthy.

There really is great, real food out there that is not expensive.  It’s amazing all the wonderful combinations of real food ingredients we can creatively put together to feed our families while staying under budget.  We do not need to become discouraged, caving in to buy margarine because it’s cheaper than butter, or buying a cheese substitute because it’s cheaper than real cheese.  We do not need to skip the fruits and vegetables because we are afraid of the price tag.  They are not more expensive per ounce than a box of empty-calorie crackers.  I’ve done the math.

God is going to continue to provide for you and your family.  I believe the food on your table is as delicious as your attitude dictates it to be.  The health benefits of eating the best you can within your means, while trusting God?  Priceless.

Tired of the same old cheap real food meals of beans, rice, bananas, and carrots?  Ask God to give you more creative ideas, to provide you with what you need, and to give you a heart of thanksgiving.  I can almost guarantee that our little Gladis, over in Honduras, has very little variety in her diet, yet all of what she eats is real food and wholesome.  She and her family are simply thankful to have food, and they do the best they can.  Praise God for his provision!

Remembering her when I look into my refrigerator and pantry keeps me in check.  Gladis gives me perspective and offers me a chance to appreciate anew the abundance we have.  From thousands of miles away, she shuts my complaining mouth and calms my heart of discontent when I feel like whining about the price of strawberries.  How blessed we are to have access to the luxury of strawberries.

I pray we find balance as we seek to eat healthy while saving money.  I pray we look at what we have through the eyes of gratitude.

Let’s all continue to feed our families the best we can, while enjoying the blessing of real food – whatever it might look like on our individual tables.

Hoping to get your budget on track as you work to balance healthy eating with saving money?
Be sure to check out BudgetFocus as a wonderful resource!

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It Takes 47 Seconds To Prepare Broccoli For the Steamer…

It’s true.  It takes 47 seconds to prepare broccoli for the steamer.

I know this because I timed myself preparing broccoli to be steamed.  Why are you looking at me like that?  You would do something this geeky too if you heard people say, “making healthy food takes too long to make” as much as I do.  I figure, I can keep saying, “does not, huh-uh, does not” or I can actually time myself making healthy food and prove people wrong with a stop watch.

Preparing Broccoli Only Takes 47 Seconds

Yeah, I’m a weirdo.

The good news?  Timing myself preparing broccoli didn’t take long because preparing broccoli doesn’t take long.  Okay then.  Plus my 12 year old thought it was fun to use his stop watch to time me prepping broccoli.  He only asked twice, “Wait, why are we doing this?”

I felt this information was worth documenting as sometimes even I don’t feel like I have the time to make healthy food.  Sometimes I feel that it would take less effort and time to slap down something less than stellar from the freezer section of the store.  Sometimes I don’t want to go to the trouble to put something nourishing on the table.  Me.  The one who knows the truth that healthy eating doesn’t take extra energy or time.  Me, the one who has already proved this truth many times over.  Me, the one who loves to cook.

Now that you and I have learned the 47 second truth, neither of us can fall back on “I just don’t have the energy to make anything healthy tonight.”  Even if we are compromising by putting something on the table that is less than stellar (hey, I do it sometimes too when I’m in a pinch or when we just want a fun treat).  That’s fine.  Throw down a take-and-bake pizza or whatever.  Just take the additional 47 seconds to steam broccoli or make a salad to go with the meal.

If you really want to save time and energy, prep your broccoli ahead of time, put it in a baggie, then dump it in your steamer at dinner time.  Like this:

Get Your Broccoli Ready to Steam Quickly

Once you’ve done that, you can pull it out of the fridge and take the remaining 8 seconds of the 47 seconds total broccoli prep time to pour it into your steamer and turn on the burner.  Seriously people.  It takes more energy to do all the math on this than it does to actually just go prepare the broccoli.

If you’re wondering the specifics of my 47 second broccoli preparation process, it is as follows:

  1. Get out pot, run water into the pot, place it on the stove.
  2. Set the metal steamer into the pot of water.
  3. Get the broccoli out of the fridge.
  4. Wash the broccoli under running water.
  5. Cut the broccoli off the stem directly into the steamer on the stove.
  6. Put the lid on the pot , turn on the burner, and walk away.

Boom.  47 seconds.

Not that you haven’t already thought of this, but using frozen broccoli is just as good for you and takes even less time.  (Skip steps 4 and 5 above. Pour frozen broccoli directly into steamer. You’re welcome.)

I believe we can all agree that preparing broccoli (or other veggies) is incredibly fast and easy and none of us has any excuse to not make them, serve them, and eat them.  Now how many of you are going to get out the stop watch tonight as you make your vegetables?

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How I Get a Soda Fix While Avoiding High Fructose Corn Syrup and Extra Sugar

I’m the one who used to be addicted to Pepsi.

I’m the one who drank a minimum of 4-5 Pepsis every day.  I’m the one who drank Pepsi for breakfast, Pepsi for a late morning refresher, Pepsi for an afternoon treat, and Pepsi with dinner.  I’m the one who bought cases of Pepsi cans and loaded my cart with 2-liter bottles each time I went to the store.

I’m the one who took advantage of free refills at restaurants by filling my cup over and over and over.  I’m the one who came up with excuses to go out to eat so I could refill my Pepsi cup over and over and over.  I’m the one who had a double standard – not letting my kids drink soda, but going through the drive-through every time I was out so that I could get a large cup of Pepsi, easy on the ice.

I’m the one who finally learned more about eating healthy, decided to make big changes in our diets, started buying free-range chicken and organic lettuce, but still couldn’t give up Pepsi.  I’m the one who learned to hate high fructose corn syrup, but still couldn’t give up Pepsi.  I’m the one who had to land in the hospital because I hadn’t been taking care of myself before I recognized my need to stop drinking Pepsi and fill myself with nourishment.

So I’m the one who understands others who have a hard time giving up their favorite soda.  I’m the one.  I totally get it.

There were two main reasons I struggled to give it up:

  1. It tasted good to me.  It was a treat!
  2. I love the fizzy burn of soda.

Now that I’m a recovering Pepsi addict (8 years clean!), I have actually come to a point that I don’t miss it any more.  That’s a total God thing, and I’m so thankful for this!

But here are two things you should know:

  1. I still love drinks that are a treat.
  2. I still love the fizzy burn of soda.

I love drinking plain water, believe that drinking plain water is super important, and make drinking lots of plain water a high priority every day to keep my body healthy.  We should never substitute our water drinking needs for “treat drinks.”

But just like I think food is fun, I think drinks are fun too.  It’s fun to sit down with a cup of coffee topped with Chocolate Whipped Cream.  It’s fun to sip a Warm Vanilla Soother.  It’s fun to treat myself to a glass of refreshing iced tea.  It’s fun to drink Creamy Orange Cooler with breakfast.

Enjoy Soda Without the Sugar

For my soda “fix?”  Here are some fun treats I like occasionally:

1.  Mineral Water With a Little Bit of Juice Added

I’ve found that about 1/4 cup of 100% juice (usually grape) mixed with about 1 1/2 cups of mineral water really hits the spot.  It’s mildly sweet, fizzy, and fun.

2.  100% Juice Cans of Soda

I am so pleased that I continue to find more and more varieties of “healthier soda” on the market.  It’s not cheap, and it’s still not going to offer us much in the way of nourishment – so we only drink this rarely.  But it’s fun to order a case of this type of soda every once in a while for a special treat.  It’s fizzy and sweet – but not too sweet because it only contains 100% fruit juice.

switch soda

3.  Flavored Sparkling Water

It has no sugar, and no fruit – so if you’re looking for a sweet drink, this isn’t it.  But the FIZZZZZZZZ!!  I love the fizz in these. I think it’s fun that there are different flavors like lemon, lime, orange, etc.  I just ordered a fun variety pack of Talking Rain Sparkling Water online.  I’ll enjoy one every few days as a refreshing treat.

So how about you?  Have you kicked the soda habit?  What are your favorite “treat drinks?”

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My 10 Favorite Real Food Pre-Packaged Convenience Foods

Can food be pre-packaged, convenient, tasty, and healthy – all at the same time?  Why yes, as a matter of fact it can.  Is it possible to fill your shopping cart with foods that are nourishing, delicious, and guilt free?  Why yes, as a matter of fact it is.  And finally, does anyone know where I might have put my favorite pen?  Eh, that’s okay.  I figured it was worth a shot to ask.

There are many healthy foods that take little to no time to prepare.  Today as I was putting lunch on the table and asking the boys to pull out strawberries, carrots, peppers, and pickles from the fridge to go with our meal, I was once again struck by how easy it is to put healthy foods on the table.

Stop believing the myth that eating healthy food is difficult and time consuming!  And seriously, if you come across my missing pen, would you please let me know?

10 Real Food Pre-Packaged Convenience Foods

There are dozens of foods you can buy that are full of nutrition, just because they were born that way.  You might need to take the time to peel it, wash it, or slice it – but have you ever timed yourself opening a box of cookies, then working like mad to get the plastic pouch inside to tear open?  In the meantime, you really should have just sliced a cucumber.

Here are 10 great ideas for real food pre-packaged convenience:

1.  Mini Sweet Peppers

Oh my goodness, have you tried these?  They are deliciously sweet, perfectly crunchy, and wonderful all by themselves or in a salad.  We take these on the road trips, munch on them for snacks, add them to our lunch plates, and argue about which color tastes the sweetest.  I can’t get enough of these.

packaged convenience 1

2.  Fresh Berries

Without a doubt, you can not compete with fresh berries picked and eaten right out of the garden.  But during the times those are not available, we look for the best deals on strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries at the store.  Wash ‘em and eat ‘em.  It doesn’t get any easier than pulling out berries for a snack or a side dish with a meal.

packaged convenience 2

3.  Grape or Cherry Tomatoes

Again, these are best fresh out of the garden.  But since ours won’t be ready for another month or two, buying these pre-packaged works great for us.

packaged convenience 3
 4.  Baby Carrots

There is some controversy over buying packaged baby carrots because of the information many have heard about baby carrots being soaked in chlorine before being packaged.  Read this info and do with it what you wish.  As for me, sometimes buying a package of baby carrots is a huge help in my effort to provide my family with extra veggies during a meal.

packaged convenience 4

5.  Mixed Greens

Think making salad is too time consuming?  Oh for Pete’s sake.  Just buy a container of mixed greens and throw it on the table.  It’s pre-washed and ready to eat.  We go through a couple packs of these each week.

packaged convenience 7

6.  Pickles

Open a jar, put it on the table, your work here is done.

packaged convenience 6

 7.  Cheese Sticks

These can be a little pricey compared to buying a hunk of cheese and slicing it yourself.  But when we’re talking about pre-packaged convenience foods, this one is a winner.  Cheese is great for an on-the-go protein snack.  Yay cheese.

packaged convenience 5

8.  Larabars

Yes, you can made these homemade.  I’ve done it myself many times.  But sometimes my family needs something to stuff in a pocket to eat in between soccer games.  I watch for great sales and coupons through Amazon or Vitacost, and buy these by the case.  They contain fruit and nuts only – a great healthy snack.

packaged convenience 8

9.  Fruit Leather

Again, I make this homemade sometimes too.  But for a fun treat, I like getting pre-packaged fruit leather when I find it on sale.

packaged convenience 9

10.  Raisins

Buy them by the bag or in individual serving sized boxes.  This pre-packaged convenience food is awesome for snacking.  And really, aren’t those tiny little boxes just the cutest?

packaged convenience 10

What else?  Oh, I could list tons.  Peanuts, cashews, almonds, bananas, apples, grapes, oranges – think of all the pre-packaged real foods there are to pick from!  Never again can we ever claim that healthy eating is difficult.  And never again should anyone carry my favorite pen out of my office, put it down, and forget about it.

Leave a comment and tell us your current favorite healthy convenience foods.  It’s great to share so we can all get new ideas!

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