Pay Down your Debt and Live a More Fulfilling Life

Years ago I used to shop for my entertainment.  We went to movies and ate out, hired a babysitter, the whole 9 yards.  I bought new clothes because I wanted to impress people with my good looks and I wanted my kids to dress nice so they could make friends.  I bought foods made by other people because I didn't ever have the energy to cook anything myself and it was a fast and easy alternative.  While that stuff was nice I always felt unfulfilled.  I mean, I was working all the time, I had no energy for my family, we never had any money, what was the point?

The last several months have been rocky while my husband has been unemployed, but it really has given me a lot to think about.  It has helped me to think about everything I have done to help us to save money, to hone the skills I have developed over the last eleven years.  Would it have been nice to have another income to fall back on?  Sure!  But we're making it, and you can too.

Eleven years ago I quit my full time job and I've never looked back.  Yes, ocassionally I look at my friends who live the kind of life I used to live and feel a tinge of jealousy.  Really most of them say they envy me, and why wouldn't they?  I set my own schedule, I never have to miss one of my kids' performances during the school day, we have plenty of food, I have time to pursue my hobbies, and we were even able to save some money for a rainy day.  How did I do all of this you ask?  I had to give up a lot, but I think it was worth it.  Read on to hear some of the things I did.

1.  Cut the cable.  Seriously, who needs to pay $100 a month to have shows to watch all of the time when there are plenty of free things to watch.  There are only so many new shows anyway, do you need to pay all of that money to watch reruns?  As an added bonus I have a lot more free time than I ever did before since I had to get my money's worth.

2.  Eat in.  Really it's not hard to throw a few things in a crock pot or roasting pan and just let it cook.  Make extra when you prepare meals and package them in freezer containers or can them for a quick meal when something unexpected comes up.  I know there are places I could take my family of 4 and easily plunk down $50 for one meal.  Do you know how many groceries I could buy with that same amount of money?

3.  Have a staycation.  Sure, it is fun to go exotic places and brag about your trip to Disney land but it costs a lot of money to fly to your destination, eat out, rent a car, plus the hotel stay.  Think about all of the money you could save by checking out places close to home, some of them may even be free!  All of the memories with money to spare!

4.  Lose the home phone.  With the prevalence of cell phones think about how many phone calls you get at home anyway.  Does it make sense to pay $40 per month for another phone when you always have one in your pocket anyway?

5.  Forget the data plan for your cell phone.  Yes, I know it's hard not to check facebook while you're out and about, but is it honestly worth the extra expense when you can just use wi-fi to do the same thing?  Money saved $100 per month.  Apparently smart phones "require" you to have data so I had to take the $15 package but that still saves me $85/month.

6.  Check your phone usage.   Unlimited talk and text? Wow, those plans sure are expensive aren't they?  Why pay $45 per month to have a smart phone with unlimited talk when you only use 300 minutes?  I'd rather add a line to an existing plan for $10 a month.  That's a potential savings of $35 per month!

7.  Quit buying frozen and prepackaged foods.  I'm not going to say this isn't a tough one.  It's great to just go to the freezer and zap up a dinner in the microwave, but you pay a lot for that convenience.  With a little planning you could make your own and consume less chemicals and preservatives at the same time.  (Have you ever looked at those ingredient lists?  Yikes!)  Next time you cook something make twice as much and freeze half of it for next time.  Don't forget to label it!  How much you save depends on how many of these you buy, but I know a family lasagna costs about $10 at Walmart compared to a little bit of flour, milk, and salt to make noodles, (or even $1 to buy noodles) a few tomatoes and herbs out of the garden, and some shredded cheese so the same meal would cost us about $8 less.  Not too shabby.

8.  Make your own home remedies.  I'd be lying if I said I have never struggled with this one, the family took a lot of convincing to get on board.  Obviously there are still going to be times when going to the doctor is a must.  Essential oils can be spendy, but they last a long time, a little goes a long way.  You can use them to make your own cleaning products, soaps, lotions, scented candles, and aroma therapy products too.

9.  Turn down (or up?) the thermostat.  Really a few degrees don't make a big difference in your comfort, but it can really help your wallet save a lot.  Usually we run our air all summer, this summer we have only used it for the hot and humid days choosing to use ceiling fans most often instead.  That has saved us about $50 per month.

10.  Grow your own.  Yes, I realize we can't grow our own oranges here in WI but if you can grow something that is normally an expensive part of your grocery budget you can end up spending pennies for things that can end up costing several dollars at the store.  Buy the rest when it goes on sale.

11.  Take advantage of the sales.  We love bacon in our house.  Who doesn't?  But at $5 per package we couldn't afford it very often.  That's a one pound package.  So it cost $5 for one meals' worth of bacon.  Then I learned that there is a butcher who sells their ends and pieces of uncut bacon for $1 a pound when it goes on sale.  So we could buy 10 pounds for what we could buy 2 pounds worth of packaged bacon for?  Sign me up!  Good thing I got the meat slicer for Christmas a few years ago.  We stock up on our favorite products when they go one sale and freeze, can, or dehydrate the extras for future use.

12.  Buy generic.  I used to be a big coupon shopper, but these days I find even with coupons it is way less expensive most of the time to just buy the store brand.  Most of them are just as good as the brand name, except Pepsi.

13.  Make your own.  Yup, you can.  Recipes abound from making your own soap, deodorant,  lotion, shampoo, body wash, face cream, moisturizer, laundry soap, toilet bowl cleaner, you name it you can find it on the internet.  Of course some of them require more work than others, but start slow and find others who make the same things you do.  Compare notes to find the best recipes.  Instead of paying $5 for one bar of soap you can spend that much for enough olive oil to make a couple of batches of soap.  If you don't want to store it all they also make great gifts, which you also won't need to buy!  Double bonus!!

14.  Fix your clothes or repurpose them.  A pair of pants is expensive.  I have seen many people throw them away because the got a hole in them when a simple repair job could have saved you from having to pay another $20 (or more!) on a new pair.  Grease stains can easily be brushed away if you cover them in baby powder, pants that are too short can become great shorts or even bags.  There is so much you can do with this "garbage"!

Thank you for stopping by to chat with me. Please leave me a message, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Cindy

Gluten Free Bread Products and Flour

First, I would like to welcome anyone who may have been directed here through Heather's blog.  I didn't know that you would necessarily be interested in my back story since you don't know me, but feel free to browse around.  My blog is an eclectic mish mash of gardening things, cooking, family stuff, crafts,...  Whatever I feel like writing about.  You can see by the dates of some of my posts I don't keep up on my posts as regularly as Heather does.  I hope that you find my information useful.  I share my knowledge randomly with no real order or thought to it really, but I think that may partly me a function of my lack of clarity in thought recently.  It is my goal to be more purposeful in my posts and share my journey back to health and wellness.

 In the Wheat Belly book Dr. Davis says to eliminate pretty much ALL grains.  Well, judging by my list from Wednesday's post I am sure that you can see that would be a near impossibility.  There is NO way I could get the rest of the family to abandon ALL grains in favor of veggies and meats almost exclusively so we are taking a baby step by eliminating wheat.

I have greatly reduced the wheat we have been consuming over the course of the last month or so.  While I haven't seen a significant drop in weight the needle on the scale has budged a little so it has given me hope that the more I do toward that end, the more the scale will go down for me.

What are some of the things we have done so far?

1.  I have begun coating our baked boneless skinless chicken breasts in potato chip crumbs or rice flour instead of the usual flour, bread, cereal, or crackers I have used in the past.  It is similar to fried chicken, very tender and oh so good.  I even use chicken that is boneless and skinless and it is still tender and juicy with a crispy coating.

2.  My battered fish has used my own home made gluten free flour mixture in place of the regular flour that I would have used before.  This flour has also been used in place of many other recipes I already used in the past without making any other adjustments.

3.  I also use my gluten free flour to make my own gluten free bread.  The flavor lacks nothing, but it is a bit more dense than flour I have used before.  I am still working on tweaking it to make the best bread possible, but aside from the bread seeming like it should raise a bit more I have been very happy with the loaves I have produced

4.  I have made pizza crust from cauliflower.

I plan on doing more in the coming days and weeks, but sometimes our busy schedule prevents me from experimenting much.  That, and someone else likes to cook too (though I suspect that this person is just trying to avoid me making too many healthy dishes).

Now, on to the recipes!!!!

Baked Chicken Breasts-  Soak chicken in milk (I like to use milk kefir as well which imparts a slightly tangy flavor) to make it more tender using a baggie to allow meat to be immersed in milk.  Several hours is ideal but at least 30 minutes.  Mix 1 c flour alternative (if you are using potato chip crumbs you may need more than that) with 1/2 t salt, 1/2 t pepper, 1/2 t Italian seasoning and mix well.  Remove chicken from milk and dredge in flour mixture, them place in a greased baking dish.  Bake at 400 for about 30 minutes or until juices run clear.  Bone in takes a bit longer, boneless takes less time.  It also varies depending on the thickness of your meat.

Beer Battered Fish-  2 eggs, 6 oz beer (allow to go flat), 1 c flour substitute,1 t baking powder, 2 t baking soda, 1 t salt, 1 T oil (whatever type you are frying it in), 1/2 t pepper, a splash of lemon juice, and a sprinkle of milled flax seeds.  Combine all ingredients together.  Dip fish into batter mixture and cook in  fryer preheated to 350.  Fry about 5 minutes until golden brown.

Gluten Free White Bread-  use 1 1/4 c water/milk/milk kefir, 3 c flour substitute, 1 1/2 t salt, 3 T sugar, 2 T butter, 1 1/2 T dry milk, 1 1/2 t yeast, sprinkle flax seeds.  Mix, knead, let rise, and bake as you would any other bread.  This will not rise like the gluten filled flours do

Pizza crust- Use a head of cauliflower, cut florets off and grind cauliflower in food processor, steam until soft, and allow to cool.  Place in a towel and then squeeze the liquid out of the cauliflower until it is dry.  (This is the step I missed last time and it turned out a bit soft and mooshy, and stuck to the pizza pan.)

Measure out 3 c (or close to it) and place the cauliflower into a mixing bowl. Add cheese.  1/4 c parmesan, 1/4 c cheddar cheese (or any cheese you want really but at least 2 types really enhances the flavor of the crust), 1/2 t each salt, dried crushed oregano, dried crushed rosemary, garlic powder, and onion powder, mix then add an egg to hold it all together.

Once your crust is mixed you are ready to bake it!  I think I will try to use my baking stone next time, but whatever you do, make sure to grease the pan or you will loose some of your yummy pizza to the pan.  Spread out your crust evenly on your pizza pan or baking sheet.  Try to have it about 1/4 of an inch thick if possible.  Bake at 450 for approximately 10 minute, until golden brown.

Top your pizza with desired ingredients )I made my own from tomato paste, but we'll talk about that another time! Bake an additional 5-8 minutes (or until your cheese is melted to your desired color) then serve.

Now, for the flour substitute I've been using.  It is really delicious and hard to tell it isn't regular flour though you need to be careful when making rising crust items.  I'd suggest reading some gluten free baking books if this is something you want to learn more about.  When just used in place of flour for coating meats I don't think it matters much.

I used my wondermill to make my own flour from products I had on hand since the gluten free flour is so expensive to purchase.  I think I will do a cost comparison post in the future...

1 c rice flour
1 c oat flour
1 c potato flakes
1 c tapioca flour
1/4 c cornstarch
3 1/2 t guar gum

Use cup for cup the way you would use your normal flour possibly adding a small amount of extra fat in your recipe.

Thank you for stopping by to chat with me. Please leave me a message, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Cindy

Why try Gluten Free?

Earlier I wrote a post about doing a gluten free trial and some of my thoughts as well as a few things I have read about gluten from various sources that all had a very similar message.  Cut the wheat to improve your health.  It will allow your body to do what it was built to do which is to heal itself when things go wrong with it.  I told you I would discuss with you the reasons for our gluten free trial later this week, so here it is.

We actually have many contributing factors that I think reflect much of what is going on in the rest of America as well.  Brain fog, inability to loose weight, joint pain, hypothyroidism, prediabetic, IBS, low energy levels, bladder issues, ADD, headaches, acid reflux, depression, I could go on and on.

I have been trying to lose weight for years, but I haven't successfully been able to do so since 13 years ago before my daughter was born.  Did I suddenly forget how to exercise and eat healthy?  Well, if you listen to the medical community that is the obvious fact.  I have been told to quit eating so many cookies, to be more active, eat healthier foods, and on and on.  I don't know about you, but I hate being lectured about things I already know.  It's even worse when you are trying to do these things but no one believes you and judges you to be a fat, lazy slob.  They have looked at my food journals and basically said I was lying and I must have forgotten to write down a bunch of food.  Seriously.  Then the medical community wonders why WE have so little faith in THEM?

My son has been a 3 sport athlete for 4 years.  At first the weight just fell off.  Being so active and lifting weights brought about a bit transformation in him.  But he totally stalled out when it came to weight loss for wrestling season this year.  None of our prior weight loss ideas has helped him a bit this year either.  What happened?

I could go on and on giving the back stories behind all of the symptoms listed above, but I think you get the point here.  I have been thinking and thinking about this and it just doesn't add up.  Is it the chemicals and preservatives in processed foods?  Overuse of prescription medications?  What gives?

Several years ago I began by cutting out the ready to eat processed foods that we used to buy from the store.  I began canning, dehydrating, and freezing foods that I grew myself or bought on sale and in season from farmers and grocery stores alike.  It does make more work for me, but it has helped some with things like ADD, but it hasn't completely solved all of our issues.  I continued to search for answers to our health dilemmas.

While studying natural remedies to replace some of the prescription and OTC medications we have been taking I kept coming up with the same information.  Our bodies have natural abilities to heal themselves.  Not that we will ever be able to stop everything completely, but it is a nice goal to wish for.  I began to wonder though, what was stopping my body from reaching it's full potential to heal itself?  The search continued.  I began seeing a chiropractor which has helped to increase my energy levels and clear the brain fog, but I still haven't been able to achieve much in the way of weight loss.

Now comes in the gluten free option.  I read the book Wheat Belly which I saw both on Dr. Oz and a few of my friends were trying it and seeing great results.  That book dealt with EVERYTHING on our list, plus others that weren't even on there.  Wow.  I think it's worth a try.  I mean, after examining our regular diet I noticed that we ate ALL of the no-no foods on a regular basis.  ESPECIALLY wheat.  Really.  Wow.  I never imagined that could cause so many issues, but it really does make sense.  When you overload so much on one particular category of foods, I suppose that is what you get.  I just can't help but wonder why wheat is in everything we eat.  I guess I'll be making MORE of our own stuff.

So, what did we like to eat before going gluten free?  Well, some of our favorite meals include burgers, chicken dumpling soup with a loaf of bread, grilled cheese and tomato soup, spaghetti, pizza, brats, breaded chicken baked in the oven, battered fish, ...  Notice what they all have in common?  Yup.  Wheat in every item there.  Guess who's in for a total meal make over?  Yup.  That's my next post.  So far we have tried a few items that I want to share with you.  I did manage to lose a couple of pounds so far so things are moving in the right direction for me.  Once I can get the rest of the family to jump on the bandwagon it won't be so hard to resist the temptations they keep presenting.

Thank you for stopping by to chat with me. Please leave me a message, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Cindy

Gluten Reduction Trials

It seems no matter where we look these days, we are being bombarded with all kinds of health messages from a variety of different sources. Among the loudest of messages is how bad the present day genetically modified wheat products are.

You see, back 65 years ago wheat was taller and had less of an effect of blood sugar.  It didn't have things in it that caused you body to attack itself and it didn't contribute so many difficulties with our autoimmune systems.  Our health agencies did studies on the old wheat showing us how healthy it is for us and promoted it's use in our food products.  At the same time, more companies started making more and more quick and easy products for us to eat on the run.

As more and more manufacturers have vied to add wheat products to their food lines, they looked to make it less expensive and easier to grow.  This scientific manipulation to make plants more productive, less susceptible to diseases, and the injection of pesticides into the DNA of these wheat seeds has changed the structure of this once good for you food.  It has been made into something that many people are either afraid to eat or they simply can't eat because of all of the health consequences they get from consumption of modern day wheat.

I find it strangely coincidental that there has been a sharp rise in autoimmune disorders such as type 2 diabetes, hypothyroidism, and celiac disease since the increased use of manipulated wheat in our food products.  What happened to increase cancer rates?  I have a hunch that it is a combination of several factors including (but not limited to): more processed foods, less home made goods, less food variety available because of the increased usage of wheat, more greed from corporations willing to poison us in order to make a profit, and more corruption in the political climate of our country.

What should we do to lessen the impact of wheat?  Eat less of it!  I know it is hard when you look in the center of the grocery store and all you see are food products loaded with wheat but with a little effort and label reading you can find products that do not contain it.

The hardest part for me has been having to give up so many of my favorite foods.  Doughnuts, cereals, bagels, noodles, creamy soups, cookies, cakes, burgers, sandwiches, pancakes, breaded meats,...  Should we eat the same thing at every meal without thinking about it?  How many of us would sit down for every meal and eat the same thing over and over?  Would you?  I mean if you were supposed to eat beets at every meal how long would it last?  Wheat is so easily disguised and blended into all that we eat.  It could almost be considered an invasion into our food supply if you think about it.

In the coming days I will share with you our reasons for cutting back on our wheat consumption as well as some recipes that we have tried.

Thank you for stopping by to chat with me. Please leave me a message, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Cindy

Making your own Extracts

Last fall I made some killer vanilla extract.  Not only was it easy, but way cheaper than the pure vanilla extract.  $9.08 for 2 oz of Watkins pure vanilla extract?  Are you kidding me?

I know what you're saying, the materials needed costs more than the extract does, but really it's just barely more expensive.  My bottle of vodka was $9.99.  Those materials can be used to make so many things as well, like more extracts.  As an added bonus, I knew what was in it too.

After my easy success how could I not try to make other extracts?  After all, I already had the vodka and so many other ones can be made with stuff you already have in your home.  Some of which most people even consider trash!

I did several different experiments using this so called garbage.  I used lemon peels to make lemon extract, grapefruit peels to make grapefruit extract, orange peels to make orange extract, and the pineapple skin to make pineapple extract.  I also made walnut and coconut extracts.  Following are the procedures I used to make them.

For my citrus extracts I placed about 1/4 cup of peels (minus the bitter white pith) into a half pint canning jar.  Added a 1/2 cup of 80 proof vodka and let sit in a dark place (in my kitchen cabinet) for a couple of months.  Don't forget to shake daily.

I had WAY more pineapple than I needed so I just filled the jar loosely with pineapple skin scraps and topped with vodka and followed the same procedure.

The nuts I used 1/4 cup of nuts cut finely chopped and 1/2 cup vodka.  Same procedure as above.

I think my next experiments are going to be almond and mint extract!

My friends have also asked me how I use these extracts.  I use them mostly in baked goods such as pies, cakes, pudding, flavoring frosting and ice cream, etc.  I bet they would also be great in a drink like coffee, tea, cocoa, or home made soda or in jellies.

Thank you for stopping by to chat with me. Please leave me a message, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Cindy