Things I Make from Scratch (and some things I still buy!)

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cooking from scratch

Cooking from scratch sounds so intimidating. I don’t make everything from scratch, but I’ve experimented with various things over the last year and a half. Some things are worth it to me. Other things…not so much.

Taco seasoning mix:

taco seasoning

I actually didn’t know that most people buy the little packets from the grocery store until after I got married. My mom always made her taco seasoning from scratch. She gave me the recipe at my bridal shower, along with some other favorite family recipes. Taco seasoning is simple to whip up yourself, and the store bought version has unnecessary additives. Verdict: Make from scratch.

Chicken bouillon mix: The Trim Healthy Mama cookbook has a recipe for “Trim Healthy Bouillon.” Since it’s copyrighted material, I can’t repeat the recipe here. I will say that it was very easy to make though! Verdict: Make from scratch

Refried beans: I started using more refried beans when I was dairy free. Making them myself sounded intimidating, but it’s actually really easy. Dried pinto beans can be purchased inexpensively at most grocery stores. I put 2 cups of dried pinto beans into my crockpot along with 6 cups of water, a little bit of diced peppers and onions, and salt to taste. I left the crockpot on high for 8 hours. Once they were done, I mashed them and then froze them in individual servings. Verdict: Make from scratch

Boneless skinless chicken breasts (rather than buying a whole chicken): I have purchased whole chickens and processed them myself a couple times now. The second time was less gag-inducing than the first, but dealing with a whole chicken is still pretty nasty. I use a crockpot liner to contain the mess and let the whole chicken cook until it’s tender. Then I let it cool and take apart the meat.

On my last trip to Aldi, I found a whole chicken from their Never Any brand that was $5, which made the price $3.15. The Never Any brand has no added hormones, no antibiotics, and no animal-byproducts. Typically it’s also a good bit more expensive, but the mark down made it a great deal this time. Verdict: Whole chickens are worth it for nicer meat, but not for conventional meat.

Chicken broth: Making chicken broth is straightforward if you’ve just cooked a whole chicken. If you haven’t just cooked a whole chicken, it would be more of a pain. I’ve only made homemade chicken broth once. As with cooking whole chickens, I’m not convinced that this is beneficial enough to do all the time. Verdict: I’ll take my chances with the low sodium chicken broth from Aldi.

Tortillas: I have never made tortillas from scratch in my life. Honestly, I’m intimidated. We do buy the 100% whole wheat version.I might attempt making them myself someday…but honestly, 100% whole wheat tortillas straight out of the package are just so convenient. Verdict: I’m scared.

What do you make from scratch? Do you have favorite family recipes?

My Homemaking Mentor

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Becoming a homemaker is a transition. Even if you helped around the house a lot as a teenager, managing your own home is a new level of responsibility. As a society, we treat home management as something that is easy. In fact, it is supposedly so easy that it should come automatically. In reality, that’s not the case for many women. It certainly wasn’t for me!

While homemaking might not be easy or natural, it’s certainly worth it. The woman has the power to set the tone in her home. When I manage my home well, it becomes a haven and place of rest for the whole family. When my home is out of control, I feel stressed. My stress trickles down to the rest of the family and everyone is less relaxed.

About a year ago, there was a Kickstarter campaign to build an online training academy for Christian women to learn homemaking skills. I was one of the initial Kickstarter backers, so I’ve been with this project from the beginning.

My Homemaking Mentor is a collection of 15 courses on topics such as meal planning, cleaning, spiritual disciplines, motherhood, marriage, and modesty. At $99 for lifetime access, it’s actually a really great deal. Most of the online courses I’ve seen have been priced at $30-$40 for a single course. My Homemaking Mentor includes 15 courses from 12 mentors.

There will also be a bonus course that will be taught LIVE in the private Facebook group for My Homemaking Mentor members! The live course is starting April 1st.

One of the best things about My Homemaking Mentor is that you never have to pay for updates. When the academy first launched, there were 10 courses. Since then, five more have been added, but I never had to pay an additional fee for access to the new content. Pay once, enjoy forever.

Additionally, there is a brand new printable companion guide with all of the lesson notes. I can’t wait to download mine!

If you prefer auditory learning, all of the video lessons are also available as an audio download. The courses can be accessed from any device, so you can learn via your computer, tablet, or phone.

My Favorite Courses

  1. Jolene Engle teaches “A Wife Who Cultivates a Fulfilling Marriage.” The marriage courses in MHM are taught from a complementarian perspective. Contrary to popular belief, submission does not mean being weak. I love how Jolene evidences that in her course. Just from hearing her speak you can tell that she is not a weak person!
  2. Marci Farrell teaches “Simple Routines to Keep Your Home in Order.” The key to maintaining a home is consistency and habits. The videos show precisely what she does in various rooms to maintain order.
  3. Jennifer Ross teaches “Encouragement for Weary Moms.” I love how she asks questions to get to the root of your weariness. As the mom of eleven, she’s walked through many seasons of motherhood. I like her perspective on how different things need to be most important in different seasons.

I’m currently approaching my second wedding anniversary and my son’s first birthday. In the last year, I’ve gained so much knowledge and confidence in my homemaking skills. Putting the things I learned from these courses into practice has transformed my home.

Enrollment in My Homemaking Mentor will be closing on April 3, 2017. It will re-open at a higher price in the fall.

To secure lifetime access before the price increases in the fall, click here!

101 in 1001: Update #1

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101 in 1001

This is my first update on my 101 in 1001. I’m planning to write one of these every 3 months or so. Instead of the more traditional New Year’s Resolutions, I decided to do a list of 101 things to be done in 1001 days instead. My 1001 days began on December 15, 2016 and will conclude on September 12, 2019. I broke down my goals by category when I wrote the original list, so I’ll be doing that here as well.

Faith

  • I’m still on track to finish reading through the Bible in 2017. I just finished 2 Samuel. Reading the Bible is one of the items in my habit tracker in my bullet journal. Having that reminder has helped a lot with consistency.
  • Another goal was to find a place to contribute at church. I signed up to be in the nursery rotation. I’m hoping to be able to help with some other things too, as the need arises.

Family and Friends

Homemaking and Organization

  • I finished making the list of 101 things (that was a task in and of itself).
  • I decluttered my closet. A lot of things were worn out or didn’t fit. It’s much easier to find things that I can actually wear now.
  • I organized the pantry, which was a one time task on this list….but looks like it’ll actually be an ongoing saga.
  • I’m getting into a groove with doing the daily cleaning tasks from How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind.
  • All of our pictures are on the walls. You know you’ve really moved into a new place when you have pictures on the walls.
  • I decided to use my bullet journal instead of a designated blogging planner, but I have posts planned for the next two months. Now I need to write them all.
  • I’ve learned how to use a bullet journal and I love it!

Health

I did an experiment where I cut out sugar, dairy, and gluten from my diet for 30 days. While I didn’t see the type of improvement I had hoped for, it was worth a shot.

Writing

  • With the exception of one week, I’ve managed to stay consistent with posting on my blog twice a week.
  • I bought a domain name.
  • I’ve written three guest posts, which you can read on Veronica Anne, Raising Arrows, and Homemakers in Action.
  • I created a printable, which is now available for free when you subscribe to my newsletter. Subscribe by clicking on the button in the sidebar!
  • I chose a word of the year: brave. I’ve continued to think of that often.
  • I learned more about blogging by watching some videos.
  • Participated in my first link party.
  • I commented on more of other people’s blog posts.
  • I set up a newsletter in January.

Cooking

  • I made a month long meal plan, which ended up turning into 28 Days of Meal Planning.
  • I also tried out making refried beans from scratch, which was surprisingly easy and tasty!

Reading

So far I’ve read 13 books from the Rory Gilmore Challenge:

  1. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  2. Snow White and Rose Red by Grimm Brothers
  3. Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  4. The Story of My Life – Helen Keller
  5. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
  6. A Comedy of Errors – William Shakespeare
  7. Rapunzel – Grimm Brothers
  8. Emma – Jane Austen
  9. Merry Wives of Windsor – William Shakespeare
  10. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
  11. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  12. Walden – Henry David Thoreau
  13. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde (It was disturbing.)

Just for Fun

The only thing I got to from the “fun” category was judging at a debate tournament. I judged the semi-final debate round at an NCFCA tournament, which was a lot of fun!

I’m glad I chose this method of goal setting. What are your goals? How are they going?

Discernment vs. Fear

New moms face choices as they enter the fray of the mommy wars.

Fat is bad. Carbs are bad. Sugar is bad. Stevia is bad.

Don’t have caffeine when you’re pregnant. Don’t raise your arms over your head when you’re pregnant. Don’t sleep on your back when you’re pregnant.

Don’t have a c-section. Don’t use formula. Don’t breastfeed. Don’t breastfeed in public. Don’t breastfeed with a cover.

Don’t have children. Have children, but not too many. Have as many children as physically possible.

For mothers of young children, life can seem like an endless series of choices. No matter what choice you make, someone will be there to let you know that it was wrong and that if you really loved your baby, you would have done X instead. It’s enough to drive a person crazy.

In light of this, lets talk about two concepts: discernment and fear.

What is discernment?

It is the ability to make discriminating judgments, to distinguish between, and recognize the moral implications of, different situations and courses of action. It includes the ability to “weigh up” and assess the moral and spiritual status of individuals, groups, and even movements. – Sinclair Ferguson

Discernment is good. It is good to examine the information you have and to make an informed decision. Christians are in situations where discernment is required every day.

But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. – Hebrews 5:14

This verse is part of a passage about the different needs of new and more mature Christians. As we grow in our walks with the Lord, we learn more about what He would want us to do in various situations. The right choices become more clear.

What is fear?

The Bible mentions two different types of fear. One type of fear is meant to convey being in awe and being reverent towards God. Fearing God in that way is a good thing. We ought to respect God.

The other type of fear is being scared of something or someone. That sort of fear is discouraged. Many verses begin with the phrase “Do not be afraid.”

Both types of fear are different from being discerning.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. – John 14:27

In John 13 and 14, Jesus was talking to His disciples about how things would be after He ascended to heaven. He talked about His deity, His power, and the gift of the Holy Spirit to Christians. In a passage rich with theological depth, Jesus began to conclude by commanding His disciples to be unafraid.

By definition, the distinction between discernment and fear seems clear cut. Reality is not always as obvious.

When making a parenting decision, I try to think through these questions:

Am I making this choice because I’m afraid? Is it a healthy or an unhealthy fear?

I’m afraid of my baby getting hurt if we hypothetically got in a wreck. That’s a healthy fear, so I make sure he’s securely fastened in his car seat every time we get in the car. Fears of rejection, unpopularity, and loneliness are not healthy fears.

Am I making this choice so someone else will be impressed with me?

What impresses someone else isn’t necessarily what’s actually best for my child. Parenting is not about me and my own self-glorification.

parenting is not about me

Does the Bible speak specifically about this issue? If not, is there a more general Biblical principle that I could apply to my situation?

The Bible contains examples of many situations, but there are some issues where we are left to wonder if we can apply a general principle. Further, there are some situations where there is no morally right or wrong answer at all. The Bible does not discuss cloth diapers, though we know historically that’s what everyone was doing. Disposable diapers are not a sin.

Outside of the parenting realm, healthy living tends to fall into this category. Individual dietary needs vary, as I personally discovered in my own family. There is more than one way to be healthy.

Use the information you have. Pray. Choose. And do not be afraid.

Have you had to fight between fear and discernment in your life? How did you decide how to make the best choice?

I’m linking up to Christian Marriage & Motherhood.

Our Real Food Journey

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real food

What is real food? When I use the term, I’m referring to an approach to eating that does not try to eliminate any food groups, but rather just focuses on whole foods. Real food is not laden with sugar, highly processed, or from a fast food restaurant.

Over the last year and a half, I’ve learned more about health and nutrition. Before I got married, I had little interest in cooking. Like most college students, I didn’t obsess over health too much. I was never overweight, but I wasn’t particularly healthy either. I got married a few weeks after I graduated from college. Six weeks after our wedding, we found out that we were expecting.

With the help of Pinterest, I kept us fed and out of restaurants for the most part, but I still didn’t know much about nutrition. I was sick for the entirety of my pregnancy. I continued to cook, though sometimes all I could manage was dumping something into the crockpot. It was difficult for me to eat much, due to being so sick.

When I hit the 16 week mark and had still gained absolutely nothing, my doctor expressed concern. At that point, I still didn’t feel fabulous, but it was slightly better. My mom had been into Trim Healthy Mama for a while and mentioned crossovers, which is when you have healthy carbs and healthy fats in the same meal. Following that principle, I worked really hard at trying to get calories in for the next month, only to lose (pun unintended) all of my progress when I came down with the virus of the century.

I drank Trim Healthy Mama Good Girl Moonshine every morning, because the ginger would keep my sickness to a slightly more manageable level. The taste wasn’t my favorite, but I was desperate after four months of barely being able to eat. I got the Trim Healthy Mama book for Christmas, and learned quite a bit about health. My son was born three days early at just under nine pounds. Clearly, my sickness and consequential struggle to eat enough did not affect his weight gain. 😉 In the end, I did gain enough weight, had almost no swelling at all, and lost all of my baby weight quickly.

At 12 days old, I suspected that my son had dairy issues, so I cut it out of my diet. It seemed to cure his problems, so I stayed dairy free for the next 8.5 months. Attempting to do Trim Healthy Mama, exclusively nurse, and be dairy free did not agree with my system and I looked like I was wasting away. I ended up ditching Trim Healthy Mama and just tried to be as healthy as possible, while also getting enough calories.

For a while there when I was in survival mode, I caved and ate some highly processed and unhealthy snacks. Eventually though, we got into a groove and I was able to put more time into preparing healthy meals again. I still like a lot of Trim Healthy Mama recipes and think the concepts are wonderful for many people, but everyone in my household currently needs more carbs than what THM allows. We use some things like whole wheat pasta and honey that THM suggests only for growing children. With that in mind, we’ve focused on two main areas in our quest to eat real food.

1. No Sugar

The most important thing that I learned from Trim Healthy Mama was that sugar is terrible for your body. I’m related to several diabetics, so I knew that to a certain extent, but I didn’t truly understand the number of problems sugar can cause until I watched the film Fed Up. (As I write this, Fed Up is available to stream on Netflix). Fed Up is a documentary about sugar in processed foods and the resulting negative health consequences. If you’re on the fence about whether or not sugar and highly processed foods are really that bad, I would encourage you to watch it.

2. Limited Processed Food

I try to always read the nutrition labels when I’m grocery shopping. If you’ve never read labels before, it’s shocking how much sugar and other additives are in a lot of foods. As a general rule, you should recognize most or all of the ingredients in your food. I cook a decent number of things from scratch.

We’ve been happy with our real food lifestyle. I’ve listed my favorite healthy cookbooks below. About 95% of what I cook comes out of one of these three cookbooks. We are certainly NOT perfect, but we’ve definitely improved over the last 18 months!

Recommended Resources:

The Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook by Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett

Necessary Food by Briana Thomas

100 Days of Real Food by Lisa Leake

To see what my family actually ate in January 2017, click the button below to receive 28 Days of Meal Planning for free! Again, keep in mind that we aren’t perfect!

 

6 Meal Planning Methods for Busy Homemakers

how to meal plan

One of my favorite homemaking tasks is meal planning. Since I got married, I’ve tried to learn more about preparing healthy meals. For that to happen, I need to plan ahead. A lack of planning tends to land us in the drive thru line too often. I’ve experimented with a few different methods over the last two years, and eventually landed on planning everything once a week.

  1. Plan Everything

This is what I do. I plan breakfast, lunch, a snack, and dinner. If you’re naturally a type A person, planning everything is the way to go. Type A people tend to think this sort of thing is fun. If you are trying to follow a diet such as Trim Healthy Mama, I would also recommend planning everything. Without careful planning, it’s easy to end up with unintentional crossovers.

While I generally prefer to have every meal and snack for the week set, sometimes I’m too busy for that. Instead, I will…

2. Just Plan Dinners

For free spirits, the thought of planning everything that you’re going to eat for an entire week is stifling. I wrote about that in depth in a piece for Homemakers in Action. For most people, dinner is the most elaborate meal of the day. Having that decided, even if it’s the only thing you have decided, saves a lot of stress. You also don’t necessarily have to commit to having your seven dinners in any particular order. If you’re in the mood for tacos on Monday and you wrote down that you’d serve them on Tuesday, you can switch.

3. Plan One Week

This is what I do. I have several chores that I have set as once weekly tasks. Meal planning is in that category. When I really have it together, I go through the refrigerator and pantry and choose my meals based on what ingredients I already have. I don’t always really have it together though, so sometimes I just list whatever comes to mind and go from there.

4. Plan One Month

I have never been organized enough to sit down and plan an entire month’s worth of meals in a single sitting. However, I did develop 28 Days of Meal Planning over the course of a month. It’s a free download that is available when you subscribe to Homemaking for His Glory.

If you live in a rural area and aren’t able to get to the grocery store without a major production, making a monthly plan could be a good fit for you.

5. Plan Themes

If you’re short on time and if you want to only plan dinners, the thematic method is ideal. Essentially, you decide on a “theme” for each night. Example themes: crockpot, Italian, Mexican, family favorite, pizza, leftovers, etc. Each day of the week gets a theme. Then you only have to select a recipe that fits the theme for each night. The themes make the selection part of the process quicker.

6. Automate It

Maybe you’re sold on the benefits of meal planning, but you just don’t have the time to implement it. There are several paid services that will expedite the process for you. One of my favorite bloggers has five children under the age of five. She really likes Build a Menu. While I have never used it myself, she loves it. I could see myself using a paid service if I was in a busier season of life.

Do you meal plan? What method or service do you use?

Would you like to try meal planning? Click on the button below to download a completely free plan!

23 Classic Books for Less Than a Dollar Each!

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Did you know that you can get classic books very inexpensively from the comfort of your own home?

Ever since I first learned to read, I’ve loved books. Ever since, I first understood the concept of money, I’ve appreciated a good deal. I never thought I’d see the day when I liked ebooks, but the day did come. At first, it was primarily out of necessity, but now my Kindle Paperwhite is one of my favorite possessions.

I love my Kindle because of all the great deals I can get on Kindle books. While classic books are virtually always available inexpensively, even more recent releases will go on sale for less than $5 periodically. I search for my favorite authors’ names in the Kindle store every few weeks to see if any of their books have gone on sale. I go through a lot of books, so keeping costs down is a necessity.

You do not need to own a Kindle device to read Kindle books. My husband will read a couple pages on the Kindle app on his phone if he gets stuck waiting somewhere. Click here to find out how to read Kindle books on iOS, PC, or Android.

I have alphabetized this list by the author’s last name. At the time of this writing, all of the books below are priced at $0.99. Amazon reserves the right to change prices at any time, so always be sure to double check the price before placing your order.

23 Classic Books

  1. Aesop’s Fables – $0.99
  2. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – $0.99
  3. Little Men by Louisa May Alcott – $0.99
  4. Jane Austen: The Complete Novels – $0.99
  5. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie – $0.99
  6. The Bronte Sisters: The Complete Novels – $0.99
  7. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett – $0.99
  8. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – $0.99
  9. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – $0.99
  10. The Complete Novels by Charles Dickens – $0.99
  11. The Complete Works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky – $0.99
  12. Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection by Arthur Conan Doyle – $0.99
  13. Alexandre Dumas: The Complete Works – $0.99
  14. Grimm’s Fairy Tales: Complete and Illustrated – $0.99
  15. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway – $0.99
  16. Victor Hugo: The Complete Novels – $0.99
  17. Rudyard Kipling: The Complete Novels and Stories – $0.99
  18. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery – $0.99
  19. Plato: The Complete Works – $0.99
  20. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare – $0.99
  21. Leo Tolstoy: The Complete Novels and Novellas – $0.99
  22. Mark Twain: The Complete Novels – $0.99
  23. 12 Novels by H.G. Wells – $0.99

I hope you enjoy this list! Do you have a favorite classic book? Let me know in the comments!