I'll spare you the lengthy details, but a couple years after our marriage, I discovered the world of coupons. I'm not talking about getting a dollar off something we normally bought. I'm talking about checking out with a whole cart full of groceries and having them owe me money at the end. I was good at it, and it was fun.
At that point we didn't have any strict budget for groceries other than to buy only what we needed and not to spend any more money than absolutely necessary. Before I started using coupons we basically spent the same amount every month because I would buy the same things for the same prices. Sometimes we'd spend less if I'd managed to find meat or produce marked down because of an impending expiration date.
When I started couponing so heavily, we still didn't have a strict grocery budget. I would just buy whatever was free or close to free with coupons and fill in the gaps with meat and vegetables.
Our pantry was filled to the brim. My husband had to build extra shelves – twice. We had boxes and boxes of cereal, shelves loaded with canned vegetables and soups, boxed potatoes, baking mixes, condiments – you name it and I had it. And I had paid almost nothing for it.
I tried to be careful. I tried to buy only the “healthiest” stuff. We ate cereal for breakfast, but I tried to get the kinds with less sugar. We ate granola bars for snacks as opposed to cookies. When I got Hamburger Helper meals for free, I would get them only for the purpose of using the pasta, and I would throw away the packages of chemicalized sauces.
Occasionally the temptation to enjoy convenience crept in, and I would allow myself to bring home cookies, chips, and soda when I got them free. But we still tried to keep the “junk food” to a minimum and only use it as a special treat.
But the fact of the matter is that processed food is…well…processed. It doesn't matter how many claims on the box say that it's healthy or all-natural. If it comes in a box or a can, 90% of the time it contains ingredients that were not meant for human consumption. At best, it doesn't contain any real nutrition. Even if harmful ingredients are not added to the food, the process by which it must be preserved and packaged to withstand a long shelf life at the store renders it nearly void of any nutrients.
Our trend of consuming free-with-coupons food continued for about 3 years. Cooking was easy because I always had a pantry full of food from which to choose. I could open a few boxes and cans, stir them together, and have a meal ready very quickly. But shopping was another story. I grew tired of having to resist the temptation to get the free cookies and chips. I grew tired of not really knowing what my food was made out of, but eating it anyway because it was helping our grocery budget.
One week I brought home 40 (!) boxes of Pop-tarts, not because we intended to eat them, but because they had paid me to buy them, and I was using the overage to get other things for which there are no coupons like milk, meat, and vegetables.
I should have immediately gotten rid of them, but I stuck them in the pantry to deal with them later. (You know all about my propensity to do that if you've been reading here for any length of time!)
Eventually we opened some of them up when we were hungry and needed something in a hurry.
A couple months later I went into the pantry to find that all 40 boxes of the Pop-tarts were GONE! In a couple months time, we had eaten 40 boxes of Pop-tarts. I was disgusted.
I knew something had to change…
The other night when my husband came home from his job at the cabinet shop his face was black. “I've been glazing today,” he told me.
I hate it when he has to work in the finishing room, breathing all that stuff and even getting it all over his face.
Before I knew what he was doing, he disappeared into the bathroom and came out a few minutes later with a clay mask on.
“This feels so good. Now I understand why women do this!” he said.
He left it on for about 15 minutes, then went and washed it off. When he was finished, he was all excited about how wonderful his face felt. I mean, all excited. He went on and on about how it felt like an entire layer of his skin had been removed, how his skin felt so soft and clean, etc. Now, my husband is quite a manly man (if you don't know what he looks like, you can see how rugged he looks in the pictures of our frosted glass door). Believe me, it was quite unusual for him to be excited about something like a clay mask.
I felt his face, and he was right! It was so smooth! I was like, “Give me the clay! I want to wash my face!”
Being the kind soul that he is, he decided he would give me a mini spa treatment and do my face for me.
And now, here is the picture I can't believe I'm posting:
Yes, it felt good. Really, really good. There was not a trace of oil or dirt on my skin, but it was not dry either. It was perfect. Absolutely perfect. If you know me, I'm not a prissy girl. So if a manly man and a not-at-all-prissy girl are raving over a clay mask, you know it's got to be pretty amazing!
Seriously, I know some of you must be thinking, “What is her problem? She's a little strange.” This is just not the type of thing I normally talk about. But when I discover something that's great, I like to tell people about it, even at the risk of being thought of as strange. (See how much I care about you? :))
So what exactly was this mask we were wearing?
It was a paste made with Bentonite Clay and water. There are tons of different uses for bentonite clay, so if you decide you want to get some to clean your face, you will get a huge bang for your buck because you'll be able to use it for all kinds of other stuff too!
Have you ever used bentonite clay? What do you use it for?
If you missed Part 1 of this series, you can catch up on it here.
This is the beginning of the story of our family's journey to healthy living.
Healthy living is just that – a journey. Sometimes the steps taken are very small. Sometimes there are giant leaps. But it's a journey, and the goal is to always be moving forward. There are always new things to learn, new things to try, new steps to take.
The beginning of our journey started when my husband and I got married 6 1/2 years ago. We were now the ones in charge of deciding what to eat (and we were the ones who paid for it!)
We both came from families who mostly ate food that didn't come from packages – meat, vegetables, milk, eggs, etc. I was the kid who got jealous when all the other kids had those cute little packages of chips, packaged brownies, and Hi-C drinks in their lunches, while I munched on a banana and sipped a thermos of water. Mom didn't fix Hamburger Helper or Progresso soup for supper; she fixed spaghetti or meat and potatoes.
I felt like I was coming into my role as a homemaker with a healthier standard of eating than most Americans. I would stay away from those middle aisles where all the packaged food was and mainly shop for meat and vegetables.
I also made a weekly stop by a couple of grocery salvage stores (stores where they sell expired or damaged goods for a deep discount) and pick up canned vegetables and bottled salad dressings to go with those healthy salads I was serving. (If I'd only know then what I know now!)
Things were going smoothly – I had a nice repertoire of healthy meals to cook, and thanks to stores like ALDI and the salvage stores, our budget was staying fairly low.
Then I had a revelation. I discovered a whole new world of saving money. Instead of paying prices for our food that were only reasonable, I figured out how to pay even less money and come home with more food than ever before!
When it comes to the way we feed our families, those three words create a juggling act that every homemaker does her best to perform well.
I'd like to examine our attitudes toward each of those juggling balls, but before I do, allow me to give a little introduction.
Food, especially as it relates to “health food”, is a touchy subject. I know this because I've experienced both sides of the “touchiness”. On one hand, I've felt like I didn't measure up to others' standards of what I should be feeding my family. On the other hand, I've also been criticized for not having my priorities right and spending too much money on eating healthy. (“I mean, we're all going to die anyway. Everybody's going to end up with cancer anyway. Why spend all that extra money on food when it could be used for the Lord's work?”) Those weren't the exact words, but that was the gist of what was being said.
I've had to come to terms on both counts with the fact that the only person to whom I'm accountable when it comes to what I feed my family is God.
I can't worry about what anybody else thinks.
When I fully embraced that thinking, I was free to make decisions for our family that, in other's eyes, may or may not be “healthy enough” or that may or may not cost me too much money and time, but that are the right choices for us and for our particular situation.
With that being said, I want everyone to understand that I'm not here to tell you what you should eat or to tell you how much money or time you should spend purchasing and preparing your food. I want to be an encouragement to everyone no matter what your particular circumstances to continue doing your best to balance these resources (all of them – time, money, and health) for the benefit of your family and the glory of God.
Now, let's take a quick look at these different juggling balls:
1. Time. We all have different responsibilities in life, but there is no denying the fact that we are all busy. Our days are filled to the brim with completing one responsibility after another, and time in the kitchen is yet another activity to add to our already full schedule. It's not a wonder that when dinner time comes we want to prepare whatever is going to be the quickest and easiest so we can get that obstacle out of our way and continue on with our day.
2. Money. There may be a few people in this world who have more money than they know what to do with, but I don't personally know any. We all want to use our money wisely and not spend any more than is absolutely necessary – especially on something boring like the grocery bill. While some are better at it than others, I would think that every family desires to trim down their eating expenses as much as possible so that there is more money left over for other needs and desires.
3. Health. This is usually the juggling ball on which we focus the least of our attention. We've exerted our effort so much on trimming down time and money spent on eating, that we lose control of that third ball. Since we've done so well on managing the “time” and “money” balls, we feel as if we can relax a bit and not worry too much if our “health” ball becomes a little unsteady.
Folks, that was me not too long ago. I had the “time” and the “money” ball flowing in a steady rhythm, and I thought I was doing pretty well on the “health” part too. Until I started feeling like dirt all the time.
I had to take a step back and really examine what we were eating and what nutritional value it was providing for us. I did a lot of research on various foods because many times what appears to be healthy on the surface is not really so healthy. There was a lot of nutrition my body was missing out on.
Can I tell you something? If you know any of “those people” (you know, the health food “nuts”?), don't knock their beliefs if you've never researched them. Don't get the attitude that their ideas are a bit over-the-top if you've never taken the time to find out exactly why they do and don't eat certain things. I would have never become convinced if someone had simply told me that I should or shouldn't feed my family certain things, but after doing my own research and finding things out for myself, I am quickly becoming persuaded that certain things just shouldn't be consumed by anybody, no matter how inexpensive they may be and how little money you may have.
In the next post, I'll be sharing some of the changes we made in our diet as well as other shifts we made to keep the “time” and “money” juggling balls from faltering.
In the meantime, I hope you'll take a little time to think through your handling of these juggling balls. Have you relaxed a little on the “health” ball due to the fact that time and money are tight? I challenge you to take the time to do some personal research on just one thing this week . Maybe it's an ingredient in your food that you don't know what it is, or maybe you wonder why people would want to pay extra money to buy raw milk.
I hope I can be a help to you through this blog. I'll be sharing our family's personal experiences of what we're learning about being healthy while simultaneously managing our time and money wisely.
Have you ever wondered how to make your own hair spray? It's actually very easy!
I cannot believe I didn't research this sooner, but I just always figured that it was probably impossible.
The good news is that it's not impossible, and you can make your own hairspray! No more breathing nasty chemicals and spending money.
Homemade hairspray requires only 5 minutes of your time and 2 ingredients.
It costs literally 2 cents to make an entire bottle of hairspray, and the best part is that it will hold your hair every bit as well as well as a bottle of store-bought hairspray!
Here's what you do:
That's it! I have been using this recipe for several months, and I honestly forget that I'm not using “real” hair spray.
A few notes from my personal experience:
1. I used an empty bottle of store-bought hair spray. I figured the mist would be the perfect consistency that way (and it is.)
2. I also added around 8 drops of lavender oil to mine to make it smell good, but that is completely optional.
3. The first time you use your homemade hair spray, you might think it's not going to work because it's so wet. Give the water a couple minutes to evaporate, and you'll be left with nothing but hair held firmly in place. If you want an even firmer hold, give it another misting after the first round has dried.
If you try out this recipe, be sure to let me know! I'd love to hear how you liked it!
I started making this using raw, organic cane sugar instead of refined white sugar. It goes bad much more quickly with the raw sugar. (It will last about 2 weeks.) Adding a few drops of lavender or rosemary essential oil will extend the shelf life a little longer.
There are so many uses for coconut oil! If I could only have one natural thing in my house I think I would probably choose coconut oil just because it is good for so many things!
Here are 30 ideas to get you started:
1. Skin Moisturizer
2. Lip moisturizer
3. Make-up remover
4. Under-eye treatment for bags and wrinkles
5. Prevent or treat stretch marks
6. Treat nails and cuticles
7. Smooth rough and cracked heels
8. Natural sunscreen
9. Treat dandruff
10. Reduce age spots
11. Tame hair flyaways
12. Dry hair treatment – leave in hair for a couple hours, then wash out
13. Make homemade body scrub – mix with sugar and essential oils
14. Natural deodorant
15. Shaving cream
16. Homemade toothpaste – mix with baking soda
17. Treat minor diaper rash
18. Treat cradle cap
19. Treat or prevent nipple irritation for nursing mothers
20. Increase milk flow in nursing mothers
Health and medicine:
21. Soothe bee stings or bug bites
22. Soothe sunburn
23. Energy boost
24. Prevent nose bleeds
25. Use while cooking in place of vegetable oil
26. Butter substitute
27. Use in place of shortening or pan spray
(For tons more ideas for using coconut oil in cooking, go here)
Around the house:
28. Mix with lemon juice for natural furniture polish
29. Homemade Goo Gone
30. Leather moisturizer
This is by no means an exhaustive list. If you use for coconut oil for something that's not on this list, would you mind leaving a comment and letting us know?
You can order coconut oil from Tropical Traditions. Theirs is the highest quality oil I know of.