Saving Money And Winning With Money: Essentials For A Clean Life

Saving Money And Winning With Money: Essentials For A Clean Life

Last time I covered many ways to save money when it came to food. Only I forgot to mention another way you can save! So, I’ll share that now and then get into other ways to save money on non-food related items. I lump this in with couponing because, again, I don’t have many instances where I can redeem what I’ve purchased but almost every week I can get 25 cents or more for what I do buy. And it only takes a couple minutes and adds up after time. I’m willing to spend that little bit of time to eventually get free money. There are several of these cash back apps. My favorite is Ibotta. I’ve earned the most on this app. Every so often they offer $0.25 just for submitting a receipt. Another is Checkout 51. In my experience, it’s harder to earn the minimum cash back. In fact, in the three years I’ve been using it I’ve yet to reach the minimum to redeem the cash back. Not so the case with Ibotta. There is one other that I’m aware of and have conveniently forgotten the name but I never was able to use it because what I buy is not processed foods and name brands.

I’m hoping that you’ve figured out by the title what I’ll be covering today. Yes, all related to cleanliness. The first step I took to help reduce our costs was to begin to make my own cleaners after using up what I had on hand. I know some people say I should have tossed those chemically laden bottles of death but I couldn’t willingly throw them away knowing I spent my hard-earned money on them. And isn’t a homesteading creed to use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without?

The first cleaner I started with was an all-purpose cleaner. It’ so simple to make and the ingredients list is short: castile soap, super washing soda, borax (minimal amount so I’m not concerned with the controversy surrounding this), and essential oils like lemon and/or orange. Any citrus essential oil is a good choice for this type of cleaner.

The next item I made was toilet bowl tablets. I quickly learned I didn’t like them and I don’t feel they were effectively cleaning my toilet bowl (and yes, I was scrubbing the bowl it just seemed that the “clean” didn’t last as long as it did when I was purchasing the brand name one I used to use). Sometimes it’s a matter of trying something and if that doesn’t work try something else. And that’s exactly what I did. I came up with my own “cleaner” which is essentially a squeeze bottle that I fill roughly 1/3 full with castile soap and 2/3 water. I then squeeze the mixture around the rim of the bowl and clean with the toilet scrub brush. Works like a charm and so much less expensive.

And then I tried dishwasher tablets. And I’ll be honest, the recipe I found didn’t contain any “soap” at all and I just couldn’t wrap my head around that. So, I followed the recipe with the exception of the addition of castile soap. And I’ve been using it ever since without problem! My dishes come out clean!

Lastly is the big one that a lot of people seem to focus on: laundry. I replaced dryer sheets with wool dryer balls and started making laundry soap. I’ve tried a powdered recipe and a laundry sauce. Both had the same basic ingredients: Fels Naptha bar soap, borax, and super washing soda. I despised the powder. It left a white powder residue on my dark clothes. The laundry sauce though worked well enough. But what I found was that the elastic in undergarments were deteriorating (meaning they weren’t as elastic as they should have been) so I did some research into borax because at that point I’d been reading more about how it might not be safe for us. And what I found is that borax breaks down the elastic. Well, that is no good at all! I decided then to just use the Fels Naptha and super washing soda. Here’s what I do now:
* cut into pea-size chunks (or grate) the Fels Naptha bar of soap, add to a blender.
* Add about 2 ½ cups super washing soda to the blender.
* Blend together to mix together. The blender isn’t necessary, I just find that it incorporates everything together really nicely.
* Store in a quart jar

I use this in powder form. Because it doesn’t have the borax, which doesn’t dissolve easily, there is no powder residue on my clothes. I use 1–2 tablespoons per load depending on the size and amount of soiling. I haven’t had a problem with my clothes not getting clean nor have I had a problem with my clothes smelling….and we sweat a lot in the summer! It may not work for everyone but it works for us. At the very least give it a try. It doesn’t cost much. The Fels Naptha is $1 and the super washing soda box is $4. You only use 36% of the box at a time (cost per recipe for the super washing soda is $1.44). Total cost per jar is $2.44. For me, a family of three washing 5–7 loads a week this lasts roughly 2 months. Pretty economical if you ask me.

What else? Oh, the glass cleaner. It’s as simple as 1 cup white vinegar and 1 cup water together in a spray bottle. Use two rags; one to wash with and one lint free rag to dry. You’re glass and mirrors will look great! And trust me, the vinegar smell doesn’t last long.
Other areas items I’ve made at home are a foaming hand soap, dish soap, and liquid hand soap, and tooth cleaner. The foaming hand soap works great although it does require a slight shake to mix everything together before use. The dish soap I’m still perfecting as I’ve not been happy with the recipe that I found. The liquid hand soap is the most recent addition to my arsenal and so far, we have no complaints.

The tooth cleaner though has gone thru several different iterations. The first couple years we used recipes that use coconut oil. However, we decided to not do that because we have concerns about the coconut oil clogging the pipes. So recently I’ve moved to a tooth powder. The last recipe used calcium and magnesium powder for remineralization but the flavor was a bit odd so I’ll continue to tweak it until I come up with something that works for us. For the record, my dentist has never seen any evidence that our dental health has declined since we started using homemade tooth paste/powder.

The last area I want to cover is using fabric napkins and rags instead of paper napkins and paper towel. Now, I’m not saying to never use them but in our daily lives that is what we use. We’ll break out the paper napkins when we have company and paper towel when it’s a particularly yucky (think cat vomit) mess, something greasy, or to remove the poop from the freshly gathered chicken eggs. By reducing your use of paper products, you will save some money in the long run. Every little penny, nickel, and dime adds up.

Next time I’ll cover the behaviors and habits that affect how effective we are with keeping money in our coffers.

Free Bread Baking 101 Course!

Free Bread Baking 101 Course!

If you’re afraid to get started with baking bread or struggle with getting a good loaf of bread then this course will help you.

You’ll learn common terms and tips and tricks.

I also touch on ways to be able to eat bread on a Paleo and Ketogenic diet! Bet you didn’t even know that was possible.

And of course, I talk about how to make a gluten-free bread.   And other important aspects of cooking gluten-free in a kitchen that does both the traditional wheat style bread and gluten-free bread.

I’ll take you thru step-by-step as I make three delicious loaves of bread.

Won’t you join me? You’ve nothing to lose and knowledge to gain.

Register Here – Free Bread Baking 101 Course

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How To Keep Homesteading Through Hard Times

How To Keep Homesteading Through Hard Times

Have you had second thoughts on whether to keep homesteading or not? Maybe you’ve felt like quitting during difficult moments?

I certainly have. In the past 10 years of living rural and homesteading on my own with my husband and two children, I’ve had those moments, too. And I’m not ashamed to share them with you today.

My hope after you read through what I’ve shared with you is that maybe I can change your mind about wanting to quit the life you set out to find for yourself. About feeling the need to get back to an easier life or try something else.

You see, homesteading is a lifestyle. Just like healthy eating and exercise. Just like mind-healthy habits you want to change for yourself. Homesteading and rural living is that lifestyle that you want for yourself.

At least you thought you did, right? Just like with healthy eating and exercise, there are always hard moments and temptations that make you want to quit. Am I right on this?

Well, in this post, I’m going to share with you:

  • How to keep homesteading through hard times by changing a few ideas and taking action
  • Things to consider when you think you might want to quit on your goals
  • Some motivation and inspiration for you from my own experience.

Let’s jump right in to the very first obstacle. Your mind.

Think about why you started

Yes, your mindset is negative right now and longing to change to the positive, easier side. It longs for a break from thinking soo much about what to do and how to get it done.

But, I’ve learned that you don’t need to think about all the things. Just think about one thing right now.

I want you to go back and remember WHY you started. Why did you want to homestead? Why did you want children? Why do you want to raise goats? And the list goes on and on.

You see, friend, you have to go back and analyze if this is still something you want to pursue before you make any sort of decision about quitting. Quitting too early can result in regret and no one has time for regret in the back of their mind.

So, please sit down and remember why you started your venture. Talk with your team, your family. Here are some things to consider in this discussion.

Things to consider

  1. Why did I start this venture?
  2. Is this venture making me happy?
  3. Did this venture begin as a hobby I enjoyed?
  4. What are the problems going on in this venture making me loathe it?
  5. From there, what could be the one problem I can change right now?
  6. How will I change this problem?

What To Take Action On

  • Have this conversation with your team or someone you trust.
  • Decide what one underlying problem may be.
  • Decide what action will be taken to change the problem.
  • Decide who will take that action.
  • Give it a month (or longer) to see actionable change.
  • Follow up with your team and make the decision.

Follow Up Questions To Ask In A Month

  1. What problem did I attempt to change in my venture?
  2. Did changing this fix anything?
  3. How has this change made me feel about wanting to quit?

Focus Focus Focus

Quitting something is a HUGE decision. I want to encourage you to just focus on one thing or problem for now.

This is something I’ve really started paying attention to in my life in order to find that balance between life, work and play. Nothing in life is going to be peachy keen all the time. There will always be a problem to solve.

And sometimes we are too quick to just throw it under the bus. Mainly because our minds can’t handle that much disappointment and despair.

So, I want you to pick your biggest obstacle…your biggest failure. And just focus on that. I’ll give you some examples here in a minute. Just stay with me.

I’m about to motivate you now.

How to Stay Motivated When You Feel Like Quitting

A month is a LONG TIME when you feel like just throwing it all away right now. So, I wanted to share some motivating tips and tricks I have found very helpful through grace periods of my decision making.

  1. Communicate with your team and stay updated on progress
  2. Read positive books or articles related to the topic. Join positive online communities.
  3. Listen to audiobooks (A big one for me – Again, I’ll share soon).
  4. Start your day off right. Early mornings are huge for me.
  5. Keep three top things on your to-do list to focus on at a time. Don’t get overwhelmed.

7 Quotes to Keep You Going

  1. “Remember that sometimes, not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” – Dalai Lama
  2. “No matter who you are, no matter what you did, no matter where you’ve come from, you can always become a better version of yourself.” – Madonna
  3. “Don’t keep allowing the same things to upset you. Life’s too short to live that way.” – Joel Osteen
  4. “Use your energy to create, not destroy.” ~ Mama
  5. “Don’t cry over the past, it’s gone. Don’t stress about the future, it hasn’t arrived. Live in the present and make it beautiful.” ~ Grandma
  6. “Never give up on something you really want; it is difficult to wait, but more difficult to regret.” ~ Grandma
  7. “Beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from negativity.” ~ Grandma

It’s all about being happy. Like I mentioned before, your mindset means everything to your success. What you choose to do daily determines the outcome of your happiness.

But probably the biggest and best quotes I’ve followed have come from God in the words of the bible. I started incorporating daily faith into my life and it completely began to change everything for me during one of my hardest moments.

Before I go into my 2 hardest moments, let me explain how I let faith in and how I now walk with faith held high each and every day.

Let Faith into your Life

God and I have a long relationship but it’s been a rocky one.

I was baptized into his house as a baby and attended our rural church regularly clear up into high school. But when I was a Junior in High School, our relationship changed when my grandfather passed away from cancer.

To make a long story short, I turned away from God in my life. I didn’t understand why my Grandpa had to be taken away at such a young age.

It wasn’t until about 10 years later that I let him back in. Want to know why?

Well, have a seat and let me tell you about my two hardest moments ever where I felt like I wanted to quit. These moments are when I started to let my faith back in.

My Hardest Moment Ever #1

Raising goats shouldn’t be hard for someone with an Animal Science degree and a lifetime experience raising beef cattle.

But it seemed to be for me. My goats kept having babies born too early or underdeveloped. What was I doing wrong?

I felt like their nutrition was top notch. I know they weren’t wormy because they were fat, happy and their fecals showed to be worm free.

Well, in year #6 after a lot of research, Hubby and I decided to synchronize the does for breeding using natural hormones before turning them in with the buck. We knew exact breeding dates then so we could treat them for a disease called chlamydia. That’s the problem we focused on and guess what?

It worked. We used a very small dose antibiotic in our doe herd halfway through their gestation to prevent any more abortions from happening in our goats.

I had felt like quitting because I hadn’t figured out what was happening. However, when I focused on the problem, got my team of veterinarians together, we came up with a solution that worked.

Amazing feeling. And this was an easy fix. Let me tell you about another moment when I wanted to quit homesteading that was even harder to fix.

My Hardest Moment Ever #2

When I became a mom, I got depression. Postpartum depression. It was a low, low time when I felt compelled to quit homesteading. Even at times, my life!

Worst yet, my partner didn’t understand the extent of what I was suffering. He just saw what I WASN’T doing. He saw me napping in the afternoons and not getting the gardening or canning done. He saw me throwing away important tasks and having to pick up the slack. He said I was lazy.

To make a long story short…I wasn’t going to get any assistance from him. And seeking a therapist alone was out of the question due to my anxiety of going to see one. Nope – No way!

When I felt like everyone had their backs turned to me that’s when God stepped in. HE really does work in amazing ways. HE said, “I will help you get through this. Just turn to me.”

So, I did. And things started happening for me.

And that’s when I started my podcast. I listened to audiobooks. The best book I read was by Lysa Turkherst called Uninvited. Get the book and feel inspired!

Here’s what started happening: I started my farm market business. I began to feel my purpose in my community and it motivated me. Oh my word…I have tears in my eyes just telling you all this.

But when God and I had our conference calls in the quiet dark early morning hours, I realized the one problem was ME. It was my own mindset that needed changing. So, I let him change me.

Then, HE took me to a church 20 minutes away that has a faith-based school for my children to attend. As well as an amazing congregation with deep learning opportunities.

And remember when I said I turned from HIM when my Grandpa passed away? Well, coincidence or not, the preacher of the church looks, acts and talks LIKE MY GRANDPA! I think this is a gift from him, saying… “Here’s some comfort for you and a reminder that I love you.”

What a gracious gift. All worth the wait.

My faith in the Lord and turning to him is what changed it all for me. I hope my story inspires you to grow your relationship with your God so you can have faith in the big decision you have to make.

Biggest Lesson to Learn from My Experience

The biggest most valuable tool to keep with you during your times of trial is your faith. Keep your bible and your positive community with you to turn to. And just focus on one thing.

Friend, I know if you’re reading this, you have considered quitting one or maybe all of your homesteading adventures. That’s a big decision that will result in some even bigger changes in your life and I hope I have inspired you to take a step back, evaluate and change something for the better.

Today, I’ve given you some tips and methods to go back to the beginning and work through problems instead of just up and quitting. Quitting is not always the answer, even when it feels right.

The truth is, friend, that you have to realize you don’t know everything. And you never ever will because you don’t have to. You just have to enjoy your life and enjoy being and doing you. Today and every day.

~ Much Love ~
MINDY

Slow Starts & Peaceful Mornings

Slow Starts & Peaceful Mornings

I am sitting here in my robe by the fire, with my coffee and felt compelled to share my thoughts this morning.

There is something so precious and peaceful about a slowly started and peaceful morning. Can you relate to this? I hope so, but my fear is that the majority of the population today starts their morning with such a frenzy – the alarm blares, you quickly spring from bed, with lightning speed either dress or shower, wake the kids, remove the skin from your mouth by quickly inhaling that first cup of hot coffee, grab something quick for the road and race out the door. Oh WOW, just writing that gave me anxiety and stress – I have indeed experienced that in my life, BUT I am so thankful for the life I have created.

We are in a storm of sorts currently so just like you when traveling through the high winds it is not easy, but at the same time, I am able to realize how blessed I am that I have the ability to determine my day and even more so my life. Despite the hard and maybe even the unknown – I know by trusting and having faith there will eventually be a light at the end of the tunnel and I will be a warrior on the other side.

This feeling I am experiencing this morning is reminiscent of my summer vacations visiting my grandparents. I think they too understood the benefits I am experiencing. I just so clearly remember their routine and it puts a smile on my face. Yes, they woke to an alarm (one I never heard), but every day they woke at the same time, started the coffee pot, put the bread in the toaster and pulled out their bibles.

I would not wake to their alarm because I always slept so good in their home. I believe because It was something unfamiliar, a comfortable spot for me. I would awake to the smell of coffee and toast. To this day, that is a distinct smell to me that just gives me such joy and takes me back in time. I don’t know what it was about their coffee or their toast, but it was just such a unique alluring smell. It would allure me out of bed and as I would head downstairs I would always find them both at the kitchen table each with their bible partaking in their daily devotions.

I never really understood the value of that daily peaceful routine and even more so that deep walk with Jesus that they both enjoyed so much until we embrace our off-grid homesteading life. Why?  I think because my pace was so great that I missed the simple joys that came with the slow and simple in life and because like many Christians – aside from Sunday church I was afraid of offending someone while speaking my faith so I shared it with a few safe people and the rest of the time I stuffed it!  There is something so incredibly freeing to be in the company of people such as my Mountain Man and my son that allows me to be who I am – to be able to wear my heart, soul, and faith on my sleeve and not have to hide!  So empowering to be around safe and comfortable people for the first time in my life!

This slow pace is an acquired and evidently needs to be a learned, almost forced pace on our lives. I see so many people fight to slow down and pride themselves like a champion at the speed of light they travel – when if they resigned to the slow and peaceful, their lives would be truly something they could pride themselves with!

My grandparents were referred to by some as bible thumpers and even hypocrites (the only thing I ever really saw them do was from time to time talk about the neighbors or local people)- they made mistakes just like the rest of us, but they were such good people. I strive to not only talk the talk but walk the walk.  I am not perfect and I will make mistakes, but if I take on the title of Bible Thumper I will wear that badge proudly. And because of all the miracles I have visibly seen over the last 10 years and feeling and seeing God’s gracious hand on my life and my family, I can no longer hide my joy, my faith and all that I have to celebrate. I have learned that I will more than likely inspire many and actually offend less. I am not shoving Jesus and my faith down people’s throats, but more so sharing my excitement, my faith and the miracles that are happening around me. It is just JOY and extreme FAITH spilling out of me.

I can truly praise and thank my pap for the faith I have today!

His encouraging and wise words were stored in my heart and revisited often throughout my life.  Often during some of my greatest struggles – he was there!

So today on this quiet Friday morning – just me, the dogs and my coffee by the fire I feel that God blessed me with those simple joys and fond memories created as a child so that when I was an adult I would remember those times with great appreciation and peace.

We have been stuck on our homestead since Saturday after receiving 20” of wet snow the weekend before and this last weekend receiving another 24” of fresh powdery snow. Our backhoe is down and our backup equipment couldn’t move that volume of snow. We could have chosen to panic – we did have places to be and things that needed to get done, but when these things happen I truly believe we are right where God wants us to be. We are forced to pull into him – trusting and waiting to see what will happen next. It builds on our faith, it causes us to have a closer walk with Jesus, it makes us think about what is most important in our lives and it also causes us to re-evaluate what we are doing in life… It makes us wonder if God is putting us in this current place to show us what he desires for us rather than what we desire for ourselves. Quite profound – yet is it so? I think YES!

I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and I also believe that amazing things happen in the still, quiet, peaceful moments we allow in our lives. That small voice can be heard and direction can be found.

Do you create those peaceful moments in your life right now?

Do you know the amazing peace that comes from a walk with Jesus?

Well, maybe it is time you should!

 

PS – My journaling bible is the first bible that has truly made sense to me (those thee’s and thou’s lose me even though I love the authenticity of the King James Version of the Bible).  I thoroughly enjoy reading it and being guided through it!  This is my favorite Bible app.

Saving And Winning With Money: Food

Saving And Winning With Money: Food

Several years ago, I was working full-time in a corporate environment with a two-hour daily drive. To say it was draining is an understatement. My husband and I had several discussions about me quitting work and becoming a one-income family. The plan was for me to do some virtual assistant work but not to count on any of that money should I make a go at it. I’ve shared our story in More Was My Catalyst. Check it out for some further background.

With the decision to become a one income family I had to learn some new skills. Scratch that – LOTS of new skills. While I knew how to cook I wasn’t the one who did the majority of the cooking when working the full-time job. We were like a lot of households in that we were normal, with consumer debt and a consumption mindset. Debt and no savings. Doesn’t that sound stressful?

We had to ask ourselves, what steps could we take to reduce that stress and succeed in our plans to start homesteading?

Start with the Food

June 2014 began my foray into being a homesteader and home economist. All the skills needed to be successful in both endeavors don’t just happen overnight. Well not most. The first thing I had to do was become more proficient in cooking from scratch. And while I was pretty good at planning and organizing I had to get better. Menu planning is of utmost importance when trying to reduce the grocery budget.

How can a pre-determined menu help lower the grocery bill? Planning helps avoid waste and stretch the food longer. I purchase my bacon from Zaycon Fresh. The packages are three pounds of thick cut bacon. Best bacon ever in my opinion. Anyway, my family cannot eat three pounds for one meal so I’ll cook up the entire package. We can then have eggs and bacon for breakfast, freeze some to have BLT’s in the future, save some to have on a cobb salad, and use some for a bacon wrapped chicken dinner. Yes, I started with three pounds but I’ve also saved myself time to do something else because I bulk cooked that bacon at one time. It wasn’t spread over four different meals.

Stretching Meals

Want to know another way to make food stretch and save money? Buy a whole chicken instead of the parts. It’s much cheaper and you get more meals out of it. Cook the whole chicken. That’s meal one. Use the leftover chicken for chicken salad, or on a BBQ chicken pizza, pick off the smaller pieces of chicken and freeze to be used later for chicken quesadillas. Or leave it on and use some of the chicken to make chicken soup. Did you know you can use those bones more than once to make chicken stock?

Tiffany at Don’t Waste the Crumbs has more great ideas on how to stretch a whole chicken to feed a family. She also has some great suggestions for stretching pork loin and using it in different ways. I hope these examples give you some ideas on ways you can make your money go further. Another great website to check out for budget-friendly meals is Budget Bytes.

How else can you save money on groceries? Grow some of your own! Most fruits require a long-term plan, think fruit trees that take several years to produce, but there are some that may produce the first year (although the second year is better) like strawberries and some raspberries. My raspberries produced first year (planted spring and had a small harvest in the fall). If you know you’re going to stay in place for long-term you may want to consider investing in fruit trees. Otherwise, try planting some berries for a quicker harvest.

Grow Your Own

Most people think of vegetables when the topic of growing food comes up. Is gardening easy? Yes. And No. If you have no experience there is a learning curve. And if you’re really interested in growing food year-round it’ll take research into techniques, what varieties will work best for your particular climate, and by understanding your growing zone! Most people though focus on the summer garden. Which is ok. There is nothing wrong with that at all. That’s mostly what I did the first year. Tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, garlic, peppers, summer squash, and beans were what I concentrated on most. I’ve added on every year since incorporating more of the cool weather crops like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, beets, spinach, lettuce, etc. Have they all been successful? Nope, not at all. But I keep trying. My biggest nemesis has been groundhogs…and weeds. Oh man, those weeds! I could probably write a full page just about my feelings about them.

But you know what? I keep trying because it’s so worth eating homegrown food! It tastes so much better. The freshness just cannot be beaten! And there’s a pride to be taken in putting in the work to feed your family high-quality food. And do you know what else you can do with this food you grow? Can it! I just love pulling a jar of crushed tomatoes off the shelf to make my homemade pizza sauce. Best sauce ever! And it only costs about 50 cents (that’s if I don’t grow the tomatoes and buy a bushel from the local farmers market). That’s a pretty good savings from what you can get at the grocery store. I don’t even know what that cost would be because I haven’t bought pizza sauce in three years!

Cook From Scratch

Earlier I mentioned cooking from scratch. Do you know how easy it is to make pizza dough? When I was working full-time we would plan our menu (mostly) because we never got home until 6 at the earliest. This means we would get out whatever meat needed to thaw the night before (it’s still a habit) and whatever else needed done. Back then we didn’t make pizza sauce but we did do the dough. We’d make it and then just keep it in the fridge overnight lightly oiled and covered with plastic wrap. I say this to show you that if you are still working full-time you can still do many of these habits. It just takes a little planning.

One thing that has also been helpful and this is something we did back before I became “retired” as my husband would say, is to make up several meals to put in the freezer. We’d set aside a weekend to fill the freezer with things like chicken pot pie, lasagna or baked ziti, homemade chicken nuggets, etc. Many of these will yield more than one meals worth. If you find it hard to set aside a whole weekend try to find a day that you can do just a couple meals. It really is worth it. All else fails, double up on dinners (or breakfasts – we make extra pancakes, waffles, breakfast burritos, etc. to freeze for quick on the go meals during the week) and freeze the extra half.

Don’t Waste Food

Do you know what has been a huge cost saver for us? As a general rule, we don’t buy “lunch” food. I may purchase a package or two of sliced lunchmeat but that’s about it. My husband and daughter usually take dinner leftovers for lunch. For example, I’ll make a big pot of soup and that will feed us dinner and about two lunches worth for all of us. It’s pretty easy for my husband as he has access to a microwave to heat his lunch. For my daughter who doesn’t have access to a microwave, we purchased a Hydroflask thermos. We have three and have never had an issue with them. They work great for her to have a hot lunch without buying something thru the school cafeteria that is of questionable nutritional quality.

Buy In Season

It makes me feel really good knowing that my family is eating food that I prepared and possibly grown. If I don’t grow it, I try to get it from the local farmer’s market. I’ve gotten fruits and vegetables, honey, and eggs there. Often times I’ll buy stuff in bulk while it’s in season and at its peak and preserve it by canning, dehydrating, and possibly freezing.

For those items that I can’t get from the farmer’s market, I’ll try to find a local supplier (for example, I recently learned that there is an organic grain farm not too far from me so I’ll be purchasing my flour from there). Other items that I don’t have a local supplier, such as cashews, pecans, sugar, dried beans, etc. I’ll purchase in bulk from Azure Standard. It’s just like Zaycon Fresh in that you are given your pick-up time, meet the semi-truck and take your delivery from the back of a semi. It’s really easy and pretty seamless. With both, you need to check their website for local drop locations.

Buy In Bulk

Did you catch that I mentioned a bulk purchase of flour? I buy 50 pounds at a time. And I go thru it in less than a year. I make bread, pizza dough, pastry dough, tortillas (NOTHING like the taste of homemade!) and other baked goods. I’ve had friends say to me that they don’t know when they last used flour and it astounds me. Homemade just tastes so good! And it really isn’t hard. Homemade pasta sauce is to die for too. My recommendation is to choose one thing and start with just that. Perfect it. Then pick something else. For us, it was pizza dough first and then the sauce. We have homemade pizza every Friday. To get the same pizza (pepperoni, black olives and green olives – Yes, I know how much salt that is) from our favorite local pizzeria is about $14. As previously mentioned, the sauce is about 50 cents homemade, the dough is roughly the same cost. We use turkey pepperoni which is about $3–4 per package (I need to see if I can find this elsewhere!) and use about ½ a package. Then the olives come in less than $1. That homemade pizza feeds the three of us dinner and two of us lunch for $4. (Side note: in case you’re curious we’ve started incorporating other types of pizza for variety.)

Are Coupons Worth It?

You’re probably wondering, what about using coupons?? Many people will say that one key to saving money is to clip coupons. In my experience, you can save some money but in the overall scheme of things, if you’re cooking from scratch and buying store brands vs. name brands, you won’t have much savings. I personally still go thru the coupons but I don’t clip nearly as many as I have in the past. It takes me five minutes to go thru them and put them in my coupon sorter (something I got years ago for $1. It doesn’t have to be expensive!). Then, before I go to the grocery store, I pull out the coupons I’ll most likely use based on my grocery list, which was made based on what is needed (close to being out, what I may be buying extra of because it’s on sale – like pasta, and what is absolutely necessary for the meals on the menu or something that is purchased every week, like milk). This week I had $2.65 in coupon savings. Some weeks it’s only $0.25. In the long run, it adds up.

This is a multi-part series on how my family has taken action to save and start winning with money.   Next time, I’ll review another area where we’ve achieved some wonderful savings and talk about apps that I’ve used in my endeavor to keep as much of our hard-earned income.

Please share…

Do YOU have any tips you would like to share on saving money with food? 

Is there something specific YOU do to control your food costs?

Modern Homesteading and Mental Health

Modern Homesteading and Mental Health

Being self-reliant means many things to many people. Usually, a self-reliant lifestyle is associated with some degree of homesteading, living off the land-perhaps even off the grid and providing for yourself and your family with nothing but the skill and strength of your own two hands.

It means being prepared to survive and care for your family in any event, being financially independent and indebted to no one, and taking control of your physical health and wellbeing with natural medicine and the type of physical fitness that comes from long days of hard work.

Indeed self-reliance can be (and often is) all of these things. But there’s one other very important aspect that is rarely talked about, yet it’s the foundation upon which all other important skills are built. It’s our mental health, and it’s perhaps the most powerful weapon we have in our arsenal.

The Importance of Mental Health for Self-Reliance

As a society, we still struggle to talk openly about mental health. For some reason, it’s still a bit of a taboo subject that gets dismissed too often as being little more than new age quackery. But mental health is very real and affects us all just as much as our physical health (sometimes more).

Consider the fact that, according to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people suffer from depression worldwide. And that’s just depression. There are many more people who live with varying types and degrees of stress, anxiety, trauma and even phobias, all of which take their toll on our mental health and our ability to function optimally in our day-to-day lives.

Now, what does this all have to do with self-reliance, you ask? A lot.

For starters, anyone pursuing a self-reliant lifestyle is probably someone who wants to take control and responsibility for their own wellbeing and not have to rely on others to care for them.

When it comes to physical health, we all know it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, eat nutritious foods and stay physically fit so as to remain in good health and avoid reliance on doctors and hospitals as much as possible. It shouldn’t come as a big surprise then that this concept applies to mental health as well: In order to maintain good mental health and avoid doctors, drugs, and therapists, we must train our minds just as we do our bodies and feed our brains positive thoughts just as we feed our bodies nutritious foods.

Another reason why it’s so important for homesteaders and others striving for self-reliance to maintain good mental health, quite frankly, is because we’re too busy not to!

For the average homesteader, the to-do list is never-ending. There are gardens to be tended to, meals to be cooked from scratch, wood to be chopped, fires to be stoked, homeschool lessons to be delivered, projects to be completed and livestock to be fed, watered, birthed, harvested and cared for. We need to make sure we are mentally as well as physically fit to handle all of the pressures and demands of this lifestyle before we find we’ve bitten off more than we can chew.

I have personally battled anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and continue to live with moderate anxiety today. I know first-hand how debilitating these types of mental health challenges can be. There have been many days when I’ve struggled to even get out of bed, let alone tackle my to-do list with enthusiasm. I’ve spent years learning techniques to help me cope with and overcome these challenges. But I know well what it’s like to have anxiety creep up and paralyze you, rendering it seemingly impossible to complete even the simplest of tasks.

Homestead life can also be emotionally taxing when dealing with unpleasant realities like slaughtering livestock, losing animals to predators, having crops wiped out by pests and disease and dealing with the many other challenges and heartbreaking losses that can make even the toughest of us question whether it’s all worth it in the end.

Now, not every homesteader is doing or dealing with all of these things (I’m certainly not), but many are, and many others are striving to do as much as possible on their own. Accomplishing all of this hard work requires focus, dedication, determination, diligence, resourcefulness, confidence, and faith, all of which can suffer when we’re in a state of poor mental health.

Finally, there is at least some degree of emergency preparedness that goes hand-in-hand with living a self-reliant lifestyle. When we talk about homesteading and self-sufficiency, we often touch on the importance of being prepared for anything by raising our own food, having a fully-stocked pantry, having a source of off-grid heat, power and water, knowing first aid and having supplies packed and ready to either bug-in or bug-out in the event of a major emergency. But again, we rarely talk about the importance of being mentally prepared.

Imagine disaster strikes and chaos ensues. Now more than ever you need to think clearly and rationally, stay focused and remain calm. It’s also the time when you’re most likely to panic or break down if you’re not prepared and you’ve never practiced how to stay calm in stressful situations.

Thankfully you can train your brain to better be able to handle stress, anxiety and negative emotions. Much like you can train your body to become stronger, so too can you train your mind.

While there are many physical things you can do to support mental wellness (such as exercise, healthy diet, natural medicines and getting enough sleep), I’d like to touch on the emotional, spiritual and mindful techniques you can use to improve your own mental health and overall wellbeing.

Please keep in mind that I am not a doctor, and I advise you to seek professional medical help if you are experiencing any sort of mental health issues that are affecting your day-to-day life.

These are just a few tools that have helped me to deal with some of the mental health challenges I’ve faced while eliminating my reliance on doctors and prescription drugs. I hope you’ll find them equally useful…

Just Breathe

The most effective technique I’ve learned to help deal with stress and anxiety is the practice of mindful breathing. This is a tool I can whip out anywhere, anytime to help me get through some of the most uncomfortable feelings of unease, ranging from mild anxiety to full-blown panic attacks. And you literally don’t need anything but your own body to put this into practice. Simply take a few slow, deep breaths in and out (as many as you need), and focus your attention on each inhale and exhale.

The mind can only consciously focus on one thought at a time, so focusing your attention on your breathing actually helps to replace any other negative thoughts you may be experiencing.
Also, slow, deep breathing can help to oxygenate the body, which eases nerves and calms your mind and body.

This type of mindful breathing is the first step (and one of the most highly recommended relaxation techniques) when it comes to managing stress and anxiety. This is a really great technique to practice to help you remain calm in an emergency or otherwise stressful and chaotic situation.

Be Present

I also practice mindfulness regularly by taking time to focus my attention on whatever I’m doing at the present moment. Whether I’m pulling weeds, turning compost, cutting pastry or picking strawberries, I find my mind is most at ease when I’m completely focused on the task at hand.

This practice of being present and mindful is another awesome technique that requires nothing more than your own body and can be applied anywhere at any time. By focusing on the present moment, you block out anxiety about the past and worry about the future and allow more space for positive, calming thoughts to flow. You can practice this at any moment, but I’ve found that doing regular yoga and guided meditations have really helped me to hone this skill.

You can find some great free guided meditations on Youtube or you can gain access to a huge library of resources including dozens of guided meditations, calming music and visuals, and relaxing sleep stories through my favorite new app called Calm. You can sign up for a one-week free trial here and gain access to everything that Calm has to offer. Then you can choose whether to subscribe or cancel your trial but keep access to some of the features for free. I’ve been using this app every night before bed since I discovered it a couple weeks ago and I absolutely love it!

“Keep Calm and Carry On,” and Other Affirmations

Another thing I do to help me through uncomfortable or highly emotional situations is to repeat mantras and affirmations to myself. When I find I’m getting caught up in a negative thought pattern, I try to replace the negative thoughts with positive and reaffirming ones.

One of my personal favorite mantras is “this too shall pass.” I repeat this to myself when I’m engaged in a painful or uncomfortable task, caught up in negative emotions or dealing with anxiety or panic attacks. It reminds me that the pain and discomfort I’m feeling won’t last forever, and I just have to ride the wave and keep on pushing forward until it passes.

Don’t Go It Alone!

In addition to repeating affirmations to yourself, talk to someone you love and trust. Remember, just because we are striving to become more self-reliant doesn’t mean we have to do everything alone. We are still social beings that rely on our relationships with others to survive and thrive in this world. If you are dealing with mental or emotional challenges, find someone you feel comfortable confiding in and get it off your chest.

It’s normal to want to shut yourself away or hide under your blankets alone when you’re feeling down, but it’s much healthier to talk to someone or even just be around loved ones and supportive people. Sharing with others can lessen our own burden while positive feedback and advice can help us to feel better about ourselves and get on with our lives.

Be careful about toxic relationships though! Think carefully about who you can open up to without judgment. Sometimes those closest to us can be the most critical, so talk to someone you know will lift you up instead of bringing you down.

Have Faith

Last but most certainly not least, give yourself over to God.

Knowing that we cannot control everything and relinquishing the need to be able to control every outcome is incredibly liberating; Like a huge weight of responsibility being lifted off your shoulders.

I’ve learned to trust that everything happens for a reason, even if it makes no sense at the time. There are forces beyond our comprehension at work and I believe there is a greater plan for all of us. Relinquishing the need to control that which we have no power over and putting our faith in God allows us to align with the divine path we are meant to be on, which makes us feel more joyful and at ease.

I’ve learned that making time for regular spiritual practice has helped my mental wellbeing immensely. If you are of the Christian faith, this might include attending church regularly, doing daily devotionals and/or keeping a Bible journal. If you consider yourself more spiritual than religious, you might choose to set aside time each day for meditation, yoga or simply being in nature. Basically, the same types of activities you engage in to help you become more mindful will also allow you the time and space you need to open up and connect with your own higher power.

Give Thanks, Every Day

Practicing gratitude is another amazing technique for easing anxiety and depression and filling your heart and soul with joy. We are truly so blessed in so many ways, but it’s easy to forget this and only focus on what is lacking in our lives, which inevitably brings us down.

Keeping a gratitude journal or simply making time each day to count your blessings is enough to calm your mind and lift your mood. If you have air in your lungs, food in your belly, a roof over your head and a family to love, remember that you are already more blessed than many people we share this planet with. Anything extra is truly icing on the cake.

How Self-Reliant Living Can Boost Your Mental Wellness

The best part about living a more self-reliant lifestyle is that it has allowed me the time and space to practice all of these techniques on a regular basis. Living closer to the land has allowed me to have a deeper connection to God and all things.

It is humbling to watch the miracles of nature all around us or to look up at a sky of stars on a summer night and remember how tiny and insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things. It can really put our perceived problems into perspective.

For me, living more rurally has also helped me to escape a lot of my anxiety that stemmed from living in a big city. The traffic, the faceless crowds of people, the rush and business and hurry of running the rat race every day, going nowhere… I left all of that behind when I moved to the outskirts of a smaller town and started living my homestead dream.

I have more time to be with my family, to do the things I love like cooking and gardening and creating, and to enjoy life’s little miracles, like watching a seed grow into a plant and harvesting the fruits of that plant to feed my family. I’m living a lifestyle I love and living true to myself, my morals and my own higher power. If that isn’t good for the mind, body, and soul then I don’t know what is!

Many people pursue a homesteading lifestyle for the health benefits of eating good, organic food and making healthy, natural products from scratch. But the mental and emotional benefits can be just as rewarding. Take full advantage of them and remember to give thanks every day that you are able to choose this beautiful lifestyle, no matter where you are on your journey.

So remain focused, dedicated, determined, diligent, resourceful and confident. But above all else have faith: Faith in God, faith in yourself, and faith in this incredibly rewarding lifestyle you’ve chosen. The simple life may not always be easy, but I promise it is worth every ounce of energy you put into it. You’ve got this.