Thursday, July 28, 2011

Healthy Homemaking Series: Bring Your Own Bag

Baby Step 6: Bring Your Own Bag

Challenge: Use re-usable bags instead of plastic grocery story bags.

Why: 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used every year worldwide (statistic from Reuse It).  An aspect of greener living is better stewardship of the earth and cutting down on waste is part of that.  I'd say that this is a pretty big source of waste.

How: I have always reused any plastic bags I end up with as garbage bags for the bathroom and bedroom.  This gives them another purpose before they are thrown out and prevents me from having to buy "garbage bags."  If a bag has a hole in it or something else to make it unusable I make sure that it ends up in the recycling bin, not thrown in the garbage.  I think what makes the biggest difference though is using re-usable cloth bags in place of plastic or paper grocery bags when shopping.  They've greatly risen in popularity with nearly every store selling them in all sorts of colours and styles.  I have gotten all of mine free by either having them be given to me from friends/family, receiving them when making purchases through companies like Pampered Chef, or having them provided to take home leftovers from a restaurant.  Everyone wants to get in on the free advertising.

President's Choice bag.  Clearly I shop at Superstore.

I have also taken it another step by replacing the plastic bulk and produce bags you find at the stores with re-usable mesh bags as I have written about here.

Mesh produce bag.

Cloth "shopping bags" are great for many things besides shopping too.  I use mine often for picnics, beach trips, and transporting pretty well anything really.  The mesh produce bag could even double as a delicates wash bag in the laundry.

What do you use your cloth bags for?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Healthy Homemaking Series: Lighten Up Your Pantry

Baby Steps 4 and 5: Lighten Up Your Pantry

Challenge: Find 2-5 items (or more) that you know your family shouldn't be eating and get rid of them.  Then look for and implement replacements or alternatives for those items.

Why: "First, do no harm," is one of the first rules of good medicine.  It's important to eliminate the unhealthy choices as well as adding more healthful things so we are not counteracting all the hard work.

How: Stephanie provided a list of 11 products or ingredients that she believes just shouldn't be in a kitchen.  We went through it and began the purge.  I chose 3 items to write about here with the replacements we have begun using.

Just some of what we got rid of.

1. Margarine to Butter - Margarine contains toxic oils, and it has been my understanding that animal fats are better for you than imitations with vegetable fats.  I grew up on margarine so the switch to butter was unusual, but I will adjust.  We also made it a priority to buy organic butter because most of the toxins that animals ingest are stored in their fat which we then eat in forms such as butter.

Organic butter.

2. Boxed Cereals to Other Breakfast Foods - I was really surprised to see boxed cereal on the list.  I never knew that they contain hydrogenated oils, dyes, sugar, and difficult to disgest grains.  We now usually eat fruit, cottage cheese, yogurt or smoothies for breakfast.

Breakfast options.

3. Packaged Convenience Foods to Homemade - I think it is pretty well known that these aren't good for you, but the ease is the selling factor.  They often have very little nutrient value, use white flour, contain preservatives, MSG, dyes, and so on.  We now try to make homemade versions of those foods and freeze them to bring out when we want an easy meal.

Toasting homemade frozen pancakes.

What foods are banned from your kitchen?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Healthy Homemaking Series: Cooking Brown Rice

Baby Step 3: Cooking Brown Rice

Challenge: Learn to make perfect brown rice.

Why: Brown rice is better than white because it...
             -has more nutrients
             -has more fibre
             -keeps blood sugar more stablized
             -is an unprocessed, whole food

How: I already know that I hate brown rice.  I have written about it previously, and you can check out some other still healthy alternatives I've used here - black rice and here - quinoa.  Since this was the challenge though, I knew I had to tough it out and do it.  Stephanie suggested trying basmati brown rice for those who don't like the chewy texture and nutty taste of brown rice, so that's what I did!

Add rice and water (or broth) to a large pot at a 1:2 ratio.

Place on high heat until water comes to a boil.  Put on the lid and turn to medium-low heat.  Allow to simmer for approx 45 minutes.  Ta da!

My finished meal, Curried Cod, Lentils and Rice.  I'll post the recipe at the end of the post for anyone interested.

I really enjoyed it!  I wouldn't love to eat it on its own, but when mixed into a one-dish meal like I made, it was tasty.  Stephanie also writes that the more a person eats brown rice, the more it will grow on them.  I hope that happens quickly and am happy to have found another healthy rice option.

Do you eat brown rice?  What type do you like?

Curried Cod, Lentils and Rice (1 serving)

4 1/2 oz  cod
2 tsp       extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp       chopped garlic
1/2 tsp    curry powder
1 tsp       ginger root
1 tsp       lemon juice
1 cup      raw spinach
1/4 cup   lentils
1/4 cup   cooked brown rice

Pan fry cod in olive oil on medium-high heat with garlic, curry powder, and ginger breaking up cod into pieces.  Add lemon juice, lentils, and cooked rice.  Stir in chopped spinach and leave on heat until spinach is wilted.  Serve and enjoy!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Healthy Homemaking Series: The Wonders of Vinegar

After a few people asking, I decided to make a Facebook page for the blog.  You can get updates right in your Facebook news feed if you "like" The Wife Life page.  Check it out here.  Now, on to the series...

Baby Step 2: The Wonders of Vinegar

Challenge: Discover and add a few uses of vinegar to your collection.

Why: Vinegar is a simple, non toxic product that can be used for cleaning or a multitude of varied purposes.

How: After perusing Stephanie's list in the book and her online references, there were literally hundreds of possibilities.  We chose 3 new uses.

1. Prevent Cracks When Making Boiled Eggs - I have always had issues with my eggs cracking while boiling them, so this one jumped out at me right away.  I added a "splash" (probably about 1 tbsp) of white vinegar to the water before boiling.  Unfortunately, I dropped one of the eggs while placing it in the pot which cracked it right off the bat.  I thought I had ruined the experiment, but that was not the case.  The other 3 eggs never cracked, and even though I had cracked the other egg shell, no egg came out!  I was so impressed.

Yum, yum!

2. Fabric Softener and Static Cling Reducer - I have wanted to find a way to eliminate the wasteful, chemical-filled fabric softener sheets that I use, so this was another exciting opportunity.  I added 1/2 cup of white vinegar into the fabric softener section of the washing machine and continued to do my laundry as usual.  I used Norwex's dryer balls only in the drying machine, and our clothes came out soft and cling-free!  I will be doing this every load from now on.

Fill to the max line.

3. Relieve a Sore Throat - Yesterday I spent the evening outdoors in the rain exerting myself.  Not surprisingly, I came home with a sore throat.  Turned out to be a good chance to try out another vinegar use.  I added 1 tbsp of vinegar to a full glass of warm water.  Then I attempted to gargle and swallow 2 mouthfuls.  This was no easy feat (and that is coming from an avid oil of oregano user.)  I managed to choke my way through the process, and the relief was instant.  I went to bed and am still pain-free this morning.

I had no idea what was coming.

Bonus:  These were all white vinegar uses.  Here are 2 tried and true ideas for two other types.

Balsamic Vinegar - We use this on its own for a tasty and much healthier salad dressing.
Apple Cider Vinegar - Sun burn relief!  I have been doing this for years, and it is effective.  You can check it out here.
How do you use vinegar around your house?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Healthy Homemaking Series: Reduce Waste

Before I begin with my first baby step, I have say a huge thank you to Stephanie over at Keeper of the Home for telling the Facebook world about my blog series.  It was such an encouragement to see the jump in views and some new followers!  To any new readers: Don't be shy, I love reading comments.  So, here begins my journey.

Baby Step 1: Reduce Waste (Going Green/Sustainable Living)

Challenge: Find 3 ways to reduce waste produced.

Why: (In her book, Stephanie first explains why each particular step is important.)
Landfills are being filled up at an alarming rate.  Healthy Housekeeping states that "almost 100 landfills across the U.S. closed last year because they were crammed to the brim."  One hundred landfills in one year in just one country!   Not to mention the fact that our modern trash does not decompose quickly (or sometimes at all) and some is releasing toxic chemicals that come back to us through the soil and water.

How: Stephanie provided a list of 18 possible changes that a person could make along with online resources to research for even more.  Some we had done already, others we hadn't even thought of.  Here are our 3 waste reductions:

1. Paper Towel to Cloth Towels - We have always used cloth towels for hands and dishes, but still used paper towel for spills and things like that.  Now  we will be designating the more worn out towels and cloths specifically for spills/the floor/anything else we previously used paper towel for.
Paper towel roll we never refilled.  Now what will hide my laundry hook up?

2. Disposable to Reusable Cleaning Products - I have always loved the effortlessness of a Swiffer Sweeper or disposable dry dusting mitt, but I do not love the extra waste.  I have switched over to a washable and reusable Dry Mop and antibacterial Dusting Mitt from Norwex. (If you haven't checked out this company before, please do!  Their purpose is to be good to the environment while still cleaning effectively.)

 Dry Mop and Dusting Mitt by Norwex.

3. Keeping Glass Jars for Storage - Glass cannot be put into the recycling bin where I live, and because of this we had been throwing away the occasional emptied glass jar from jam, apple sauce, etc.  We now wash and save these jars to use to store dry goods that we've bought in bulk or in place of a tupperware-style container for leftovers.  I have even been bringing them home from my place of work.

Collecting jars.

One more change that I haven't made yet but am intrigued by is using cloth in place of toilet paper.  I think I could only handle this for #1 incidents, but I am sure even that would make a difference over time plus save money by buying toilet paper less frequently.

There you have it!  My first step down, only 25 more to go.  I will be posting again on Sunday with Baby Step 2: The Wonders of Vinegar.

For now, are there any changes you have made or would like to make in reducing waste?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Healthy Homemaking Series: Intro

I just finished 2 incredible books written by a blogger I follow from Keeper of the Home, Stephanie Langford.  The first was Real Food on a Real Budget which is about having better quality, more nutritious foods and saving money while doing so.  The second was Healthy Homemaking: One Step at a Time which is "a 52 week journey of baby steps to help you move towards more natural, nutritious and sustainable living."

These books have been so fantastic because they provide practical, achievable steps that anyone can make to move towards healthier living, and she backs it up with research and accurate information.  Stephanie Langford is a Christian homemaker, and these books are written from that perspective.  She writes in a way that is so encouraging, and she keeps the books from being overwhelming.  I recommend that anyone who wants to make changes for the better and move towards a healthier lifestyle read these books.  Stephanie Langford, her books, and the blog have been such an inspiration to me.

I am now going to begin a series documenting my experiences as a I make my way through the 26 baby steps of Healthy Homemaking.  I will be going at a bit of a faster pace though, attempting to do 2 steps each week.  Each of the steps will fall into one of 4 categories.  These categories include Going Green/Sustainable Living, Natural Living, Nutrition, and Cooking and Food Preparation Techniques.

Wednesday will be my first day posting as I tackle Baby Step 1: Reduce Waste (Going Green/Sustainable Living).  I am very eager to make these changes and be able to document it in this way passing along information and experiences.  I hope you are all as excited as I am.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

You Are What You Eat

I had the pleasure of watching Food Matters a couple nights ago, and I am so excited about it.  I heard about the film just a little while ago on a blog that I follow and immediately requested it at our library.  After having watched Food Inc I was very interested to see what this film would have to say.

Food Matters is a documentary style film (not at all boring though) that takes a hard look at the actual nutritional value in the modern foods we are eating.  Another major topic is the sometimes unnecessary and unhealthy use pharmaceutical drugs, and how people can instead use diet and vitamins to become healthy again and stay that way.  There are some very shocking statistics and true stories that should be heard by the public.  This film even dispelled some myths for me, particularly about vitamins, which I loved learning.  Food Matters is another film that has changed the way I think about food and will have a real impact on my life.  I feel empowered with the knowledge I now have.  When possible, diet is a much cheaper, safer, more natural way to control your health, and the results are incredibly effective.  Food can be medicine!  I think everyone should watch this film, especially those with chronic or long term health problems.

Here is the trailer for Food Matters.  I hope you watch the trailer and are then inspired to watch the film.  Always free at the library!

PS - What do you guys think of the blog's design makeover?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Lost My Marbles

Another birthday is coming up, and thus another homemade present had to be thought of and created.  This one is for an older woman, so Brad and I thought jewelry might be nice.  I look around on the internet and discovered "fried marbles."  I thought it would look best on a necklace.

To make a Fried Marble Necklace you will need:
-approx 17 gauge wire
-glass/metal/some sort of strong glue
-necklace chain or cord
-frying pan/toaster oven

Marbles in the frying pan.  I will be honest with you guys though, this did not work for us.  We couldn't get them hot enough and heated all throughout.  We ended up putting them in the toaster oven at 450° F for as long as you're willing to wait (at least 20 minutes).  Move around occasionally.

As quickly as possible, move marble from pan into ice water.  This is what causes the pretty cracking inside.

Using pliers, make a small loop of the wire around the necklace chain.  Then work around the loop to form a spiral as big as desired.  We used steel wire.  For a more polished look, use sterling silver wire.

Gently pull the wire down away from the loop to form a dome shape.  You can also make more elaborate cages for the marble.  There are plenty of tutorials on the internet if you're interested.

Glue the marble into the cap, and allow to dry.  We used Amazing Goop's Craft Contact Adhesive which "glues whatever, bonds forever."

And there you have it!  Looks pretty doesn't it?