Adding More Vegetables to Your Diet

I am always looking for ways to add vegetables (especially greens) to our diets.  We try and stick to real foods and I make as much as possible from scratch but even still greens are not easy to get past a 2 year old so i’ve had to get creative.

Kale Powder

Kale is my new favorite “seasoning”.  I dehydrate the leaves for around 4 hours or until they are crispy.  Then I pulse them to dust in my blender.  I store this in a mason jar on my pantry shelves along side all my other seasonings and no one even notices (shh don’t give away my secret).  I add this stuff by the spoonful to spaghetti sauce, meatball or meatloaf mix, casseroles, eggs…literally everything.

Green Cubes

This stemmed from needing to preserve large amounts of produce because I tend to buy a lot when it’s in season and on sale.  I’ve used pretty much every vegetable imaginable but my favorite is a mix of broccoli, zucchini, and celery.  I give them all a quick rough chop and then throw them in my little food chopper until they are very finely diced.  Once everything is diced I fill ice cube trays with them and pop them into the freezer.  After they have frozen, I transfer them to freezer bags for long term storage.  These make cooking so easy! All I have to do is grab a couple cubes and toss them into anything that I want to add veggies to, no chopping or prep required.

How do you add more vegetables to your diet?


Mason Jar Snowmen

You might remember that I made SNOWMEN gifts last year for Christmas.  What can I say? I like snowmen.  As a family, we don’t do santa claus and reindeer and elves and all that jazz so I’m partial to snowmen gifts.  They are generic enough that no one will get insulted and cute enough that everyone likes them.  Granted the whole frozen “do you want to build a snowman” thing has taken it to an extreme…confession time: I haven’t seen the movie, and no I don’t want to.  We don’t do DISNEY EITHER.
Have I scared you off yet?  I hope not cause you are going to want to make this craft.  It is easy and cute, what more could you want?

Step 1.  Collect some old mason jar lids.  If you can a lot (like me) than you should have a ton of these laying around.  They can’t be reused as canning jar lids so I am always looking for other ways to use them.  I chose 2 regular lids and 1 large mouth lid to make the snow man a little rounder at the bottom.

Step 2.  Paint both the rings and the lids white.  This will take a couple coats depending on how white you want your snowman.  I wanted them solid white but I think they would have looked very rustic and cool with just a quick whitewash as well.

Step 3.  When the paint is dry, glue the lids to the rings and then the rings to each other, using a glue gun.  At this point I looped a piece of white ribbon through the top ring of the snowman before glueing the lid in place.  This gave me a way to hang it up later.

Step 4.  Decorate your snowman.  You can be as detailed or as simple as you like.  I went with the basic face, buttons, and stick arms.  I used pom-poms, googly eyes, and pipe cleaners but you could easily paint the decorations on instead.

See, I told you it was pretty easy.  We’re giving these to Tilly’s day care teachers but I’m tempted to make a few more to hang in our front windows, they are just so cute!

8 Things We Don’t Spend Money On

A big part of homesteading is being able to do things for yourself, it takes “homemade” to a whole new level with the ultimate goal being making, building, growing everything yourself. It allows us to save money, control the ingredients / materials that are being used, and teaches us valuable skills.  I am always looking for the next thing to make at home and while some things definitely take practice, I have a lot of fun learning and trying.

1. Yogurt: Yogurt is the most recent addition to my “make it at home” list.  After reading a million blog posts about people making their own yogurt I decided to give it a try.  Turns out that they were all right, it was so much easier than I expected it to be and the yogurt tastes great.  

2. Bread:  I love baking.  It is fun and satisfying work besides, the house smells like heaven when there is fresh bread in the oven. I’ve gotten pretty good at sandwich rolls and flour tortillas and tried many more recipes. A lot of the time I cheat and use my bread maker on the dough setting to mix and rise whatever I am baking.  Either way there is nothing that beats the taste of fresh bread and the cost difference is crazy! 

3. Fire wood:  While it does take a lot of work and owning some equipment (chain saw, splitter, etc.) it is still way cheaper to harvest wood from our own property.  If you don’t have a lot of wood on your property don’t worry, ask around you might just have friends or family that are looking to take out a tree or two.  Offer to take care of it for them as long as you can keep the wood.  We’ve done this several times and it’s worked out really well.

4. Compost:  Why pay for garden mulch and compost when its as easy as collecting food scraps and cleaning out the chicken coop?  We have an on-going compost pile that gets veggie scraps, egg shells, dirty coop shaving, etc. added to it regularly.  When I need to compost the garden I just fill up a bucket from the back of the pile and I’m good to go.

5. Hats / Scarves: Learning to knit and crochet was one of the best things I’ve done.  I have so much fun making hats, scarves and other little projects.  It makes for great homemade gifts and I’m able to keep my family warm all winter with things I lovingly made for them.

6. Clothes repair: A small sewing machine and a well stocked sewing kit has made it so that I never have to pay to have pants hemmed or pockets sewn again.  *I’m short so having pants and skirts hemmed is common.  My machine and sewing kit aren’t fancy but its enough to handle basics and that’s all I need.

7. Cleaning Supplies: I make the majority of our cleaning supplies from laundry soap and all- purpose cleaner to cut rags for dusting, dish towels, etc.  The all purpose cleaner is just a simple mix of vinegar, tea tree oil, and sweet orange oil (for scent).  I picked up a couple big spray bottles from the hardware store and mix a new batch whenever we are running low.  It’s all-natural, inexpensive, and safe for use around kids and pets. 

What do you like to make at home? 

Teaching Young Children to Help

We knew from the beginning that we wanted to make sure that Tilly had a very active role in life here on the homestead.  When she was first born we would wear her while doing everything from cooking dinner and picking apples to stacking firewood and feeding the chickens.  From that young age she saw us working and became used to seeing these chores getting done.

Now that she is getting bigger (she’ll be 2 in November, can you believe it?) we have her working right along side us and we love it! She is learning that living on a homestead involves work and she is gaining skills that will help her through out her life.  Even more importantly, she is learning to help.  Sure, I could probably accomplish all these tasks a lot faster by myself but sometimes the lesson is more important than the time it takes (or the quality of the work).

5 Ways to Teach Children to Help

1. Toy or child sized tools: Tilly has her own pot, spoon, little cups and other things that she plays with while I make dinner.  It keeps her busy while I am cooking and also gives her time to practice using those items.  She also has a bucket and shovel for when we are working in the garden.

2. Clean up time: We have clean up time every night before bed.  We go around the house and pick up toys and other items and put them back where they belong.  Tilly has always seen us doing this and now readily helps out when we declare it “clean up time”.

3. Observation: We have always made a point to keep Tilly a part of everything that we are doing.  She has seen us working, cleaning, and cooking from the time she was an infant in the baby carrier.  The more she sees the more she learns so we are sure to give her a front row seat.

4. Start small:  Start with simple things like putting the crayons back in the box or pulling the clean clothes out of the dryer and build up to harder or more complicated tasks.  Always be right there to guide them and make sure they see working along side.

5. Praise:  Keep your tone upbeat and shower your little helper with praise.  Be specific with praise and name the job they are doing “Wow, what a great job carrying the napkins!”.  The more specific you are the better, it keeps your praise genuine and helps the child to know that every thing they do to help is appreciated.

*How do you encourage little ones to help?

5 Ways to Keep Healthy This Fall

It’s back to school time folks, well unless you work at a year-round school like us then it’s always back to school time. With both Ian and I working at a school and with Tilly in day care we are exposed to every bug, cold, and virus that comes around.  I’ve done a lot of research on immune support and natural remedies and that paired with a healthy diet of real food has kept us going.  Here are 5 simple ways to get healthy and stay healthy this fall! 

Immune Boosting Gummies: I wrote the recipe for these last year (HERE) and I still make them from time to time.  They are a great way to boost little immune systems and taste so good that it’s really more like dessert! 

A Good Nights Sleep: Getting enough sleep is so important to your health and wellness.  If you are having a hard time falling asleep at night try cutting back on “screen” time right before bed. We use lavender essential oil rubbed into our feet when we know that we could use some extra rest.  We also use the lavender oil mixed with coconut oil for Tilly when she is having a hard time settling down at night. 

Activated Charcoal: After an awful round of stomach bug I did some serious research and settled on activated charcoal as a natural solution.  We started taking it shortly after I got a second round of the bug and I recovered way faster and Ian never got sick! Its not recommended for little ones so we gave Tilly extra doses of elderberry syrup and she didn’t get sick either.  I was so relieved!

Tummy Troubles Tea: I love this tea (RECIPE) for all sorts of stomach ailments.  It aids digestion, settles upset stomachs, and relieves gas pain.  The best part about this tea is that it is perfect for young children, I used it in place of gas drops for Tilly when she was as young as 2 months old and it was a huge help. 

Bone Broth: There is a lot of truth in the old “chicken soup when you are sick” tale.  Chicken or beef broth has all kinds of wonderful immune boosting power.  Its also a great first food if you’ve been sick as it can be sipped slowly to give you energy while being really easy to digest and easy on the stomach.  I use my crock pot to make broth after roasting a chicken, you can get the recipe HERE.

What tips do you have for staying healthy? Pop on over to our Facebook page to join the conversation or visit our Pinterest boards for more recipes and inspiration! 

*Linking up with: Homemade Mondays, Homestead Barn Hop, The Modest Mom

No Technology Night

Recently Ian and I decided that we were spending entirely too much time on our computers and netflix. We found that once we were finished with our nightly tasks that we would sit down on opposite sides of the couch and be “busy” on our computers until it was time to go to sleep.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of important, useful things that we use our computers for (This blog and Diaper Parties are two great examples) but there is also a lot of not so important or useful things that we like to use our computers for.
We decided that while we would still continue to use our computers for those useful, important things we would cut back on the amount of time that we spent with them.   We came up with a master plan entitled “No Technology Night”.

No Technology Night is Wednesday night at our house and from the time we get home from work on through the night our computers stay off and put away.   We go about our usual evening routine of dinner, homestead chores, and prep for the next day and then instead of sitting down on our computers we sit down with each other.  The past few weeks we’ve tuned the radio to the Red Sox game and played a few rounds of dominos before heading to bed.

You know what…I haven’t missed my computer! We have had a great time talking, laughing and enjoying a little friendly domino competition.  It is such a nice break in the middle of the week and come Thursday I feel refreshed, its just the thing to get us ready for the end of our week.

Do you have a “No Technology Night” at your house?

The Ultimate Nighttime Diaper

If you’ve been reading the blog for awhile now than you know that nighttime diapers have been a bit of a sore subject for us.  We have tried many different options and just recently discovered what I like to call “The Ultimate Nighttime Diaper”.

It’s super absorbent without being uncomfortably thick and that is pure magic.  Every other option we’ve tried has either been trim but not absorbent or absorbent but so bulky that no pajama bottoms in the history of pajama bottoms can contain it.

And so without further ado, I give you “The Ultimate Nighttime Diaper”.

The “Ingredients”

1 flour sack towel: I buy these at Target for like $3.50 a 4 pack. They are in with the dish towels and bar mops (whatever those are).  No, they are not made to be a diaper but trust me they work.  They are 100% cotton, thin as paper, and hold so much water (or not water in this case).

1 square of fleece:  These are just strips from an old fleece blanket and look like garbage but they are my little secret.  The fleece pulls moisture away from the edges of the diaper and single handedly saved our cloth diapering journey, seriously.

1 diaper cover:  We like Flips by BumGenius but there are bunch of great companies out there.  Just please, please, don’t use “made in China” diapers or covers.  The U.S. has specific standards that China doesn’t have. The materials used in China made diapers / covers can end up being very dangerous to your child’s health. Please do your research and make sure you know what your diapers are made of!

1 hemp insert:  We use Thirsties Hemp Inserts, but I have heard good things about a few other brands.  Hemp is the key material so make sure that you have hemp as the main fiber.  Hemp is ultra absorbent but without being super bulky.

Putting it all Together:

1.  Fold the flour sack towel in half and in half again.

2. Lay the hemp insert on one side and fold the towel over it (a hemp insert sandwich, if you will)

3.  Put the towel insert sandwich inside the diaper cover.  I love that Flips have the edges that you can tuck inserts into, they really help hold the whole thing together.

4.  Place the fleece square towards the top / center of the diaper

That’s it! This combo has kept Tilly dry and comfortable each night that we have used it.  While it has gotten a good bit heavier during the night she hasn’t had any leaks or weird bunching.

Hope this helps solve your nighttime diaper problems!  What other suggestions might you have?

Garden Planning Part 2

In my last post, I started to fill you in on our plans for this years garden (you can check that out HERE).  Well, one post just wasn’t enough to cover all the awesomeness that we have in store.  The long winter gave us plenty of time to plan and dream and so we did….and maybe got a little carried away in the process.

Last year we grew tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, and basil.  Those are all coming back again and this year we are adding corn, peas, dill, and cilantro.  We had lots of space so I decided to fill it! Corn and peas are some of Tilly’s favorite veggies so I knew I had to add them.  I had grown the dill and cilantro before but last year I didn’t bother and missed having fresh herbs.  I have 3 big pots that I’ll use for the herbs that way I can bring them in the house come fall and keep picking from them.

I never used to bother with flowers.  I always said that I wanted to grow things that were useful and flowers were just for looks.  Well, I’ve changed my mind.  We were given some zinnia starts last year and planted them in front of the house.  Turns out they looked great and I fell in love.  This year I am planning a mix of zinnias and dwarf sunflowers for the front of the house.  Both are “cut and grow” varieties which means I can cut some for bouquets to sell at the top of the driveway along with eggs and the plants will keep producing.

We are planning some improvements to the garden area as well.  A fence is going up to keep those pesky critters at bay and the chickens are getting a covered run to keep them safe from hawks.  We’ve lost 3 since we started our flock and while I love letting them roam all over I love them alive and safe a bit more.  They’ll still have plenty of space to peck around and I’ll make sure they get all the weeds from the garden to munch on.

Are you planting a garden this year?

Immune Boosting Gummy Squares

Seeing as we’re stuck in the winter that won’t end, I figured I’d share a little trick I have to getting some immune system support into Matilda (and us big kids too).   These immune boosting gummies are super easy to make, it seriously took me 5 minutes and it packs a punch. *Please excuse the pictures.  We polished off the last batch before I was able to take pretty blog pictures.  So, you’ll have to look at the couple I managed to snap with my phone.  Or you could make a batch for yourself and take all the pictures you like :).  

2 cups of your favorite flavor of juice, I chose grape (100% juice, preferably organic)
3 tablespoons of elderberry extract
1-2 tablespoons raw honey
2 dropperfuls (yes, that’s a measurement) of echinacea extract
2 packages or 4 tablespoons of plain gelatin

1. Heat 1 cup of the juice and the honey up on the stove until just starting to boil.
2. Remove from heat and add the gelatin (stir to mix)
3. Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl and mix.
4. Pour into a small shallow pan or ice cube trays and refrigerate until set.
5. Enjoy!

Linking up with: Homestead Barn HopHomemade MondaysModest Monday

1 Chicken – Many Meals

Not that chicken, but you get the idea

I am all about saving money and stretching groceries.  My absolute favorite way to do that is what I like to call “chicken in a crock pot”…I’m so creative, I know.  Seriously though, if you’ve got a chicken and a crock pot you are ready to go.

I start by shopping around till I find the best deal I can on a roasting chicken (antibiotic and growth hormone free is a must, free range is preferred, locally raised is ideal).  I chuck the chicken in the crock pot along with some roughly chopped garlic, onions, celery, etc.  Top it with a couple pads of butter, crank it up to “low” and go to work.
By the time we get home it’s good and cooked.  I’ll mash up some taters, warm up some peas and dinner is served.  But wait… we’re not done yet.

Chicken broth cooling on the counter

After dinner, I’ll take all the leftover meat off the bones and store it in the refrigerator.  The bones, skin, and whatnot go back into the crock pot (I leave the veggies from the first round in there too).  Fill it with water, turn it on and let it go for at least 24 hours….tadah! Chicken stock.
Strain the stock into jars, let them cool and then into the fridge or freezer they go.  Now, you’ve got stock to make soup, sauces, whatever you like.
Are we done now?…nope!

Chopped salad with shredded chicken

You still have the leftover chicken in the fridge.  Usually it isn’t quite enough to be a meal on it’s own but it can easily be stretched by using it in a casserole, soup, or as chicken salad.  We love using it in fried rice along with lots of veggies but really it’s up to you.   Visit my recipes board on pinterest for even more ideas!

There you have it. 1 chicken gave you 2 dinners plus enough stock for at least another 2 meals.

What is one way you save money on groceries?

Linking up with: Homestead barn hopHomemade MondayModest Monday