Cherry picking, washing, pitting, and freezing.

We have been having a blast picking this summer now that the the twins are 3 and a half.  This is the first Summer that we have been able to spend some time picking with the kids old enough to participate a little.

Here is what we have picked this year:

  • Organic Blueberries at Minto Island Growers $1.74 ish per lb.
  • Cherries with Salem Harvest-Free!
  • Cherries at our generous friends the Askeys-Free!
  • Broccoli with Salem Harvest-Free!

It was a little hard to decide what to do with all the cherries, but in the end I decided to just wash, pit, and freeze what we could not eat immediately.

 

Here are the steps I used to “put up” our cherries…

1) After I read about some different techniques to wash fruit I got excited about using vinegar and water.  I figured that instead of a making a spray I could probably make a soak for them.  I put 3 parts cold water to 1 part vinegar and let them soak for a few minutes and agitated with with my hand a bit.  Then I fished them out with a shallow ladle type tool with holes in it.

2) After the soak I rinsed them in cold water for a bit to get the vinegar off and get them a little cleaner.

3) Next, I dumped them into my salad spinner to let them drip dry a little more without getting the counter soaked.

4) Now it was time to pit!  Little Miss woke up from her nap and was so excited to help me.  It was our first summer harvest we have gotten to work on together and a great memory.  She was very helpful and so eager.  Her job was to pull the stems off and keep my hopper full in the cherry pitter.  She took pride in her work and said some of the funniest things.  “Oh look at this tiny sad one Mama! You think she will be okay (cherries are obviously girls)?”  She also told me, “I am a Mama” and made it clear that she was feeling so very grown up.

This was my first summer using the Norpro Deluxe Cherry Pitter.  I bought it from Azure Standard and I have no idea how I would have done this job without it.

4) I then bagged the pitted cherries flat in zipper bags.  I got as much of the air out as I could and then stacked a couple bags on a cookie sheet to freeze.  After they were frozen flat in bags I rearranged them in our freezer.

These will be great for smoothies, baking, mixing into ice cream, and cobblers!  What a blessing to fill our freezer with free fruit!

3 Big Steps Towards Creating a Healthier Home- Part 2

Making slow healthy changes with our food and home has been a gradual progression around here for quite some time.  The changes largely started when we had kids.  Hubby and I joked that we had to get the Cheetos out of the house before the kids were born.  When you are building a person from the ground up why not make every bite count?  It was also greatly spurred on by a litany of food allergies that worsened after the twins were born which got me reading labels.  Some days we do better than others with this stuff .  We are by no means perfect (the twins coincidentally might have even had Cheetos this weekend on vacation).  Here are some more changes we have been striving for around here…

See the first 3 steps I wrote about  HERE.

4) Ditch the lunch meat.  We try to not purchase lunch meat often.  Most of them are full of nitrates and other preservatives, have tons of sodium, are often made with questionable cuts of meat, and quite possibly have MSG.  When I am craving a good grilled panini we splurge on high quality meat (without most of the scary stuff in it) and only occasionally as a “treat.”

We have replaced lunch meat with other forms of protein like hummus, eat leftovers for lunch rather than sandwiches, and made sandwiches out of home made chicken salad (amazing!) or other non “slimy meat” ingredients.

5) Make your own baked goods.  We try to have healthy whole wheat muffins on hand for breakfast, snacks, or cravings for something “sweet.”  Our current favorite is pumpkin chocolate chip.  The kids gobble them up and the whole wheat makes them much more filling than a regular muffin made with white flour.  We also love to make scones, whole wheat cookies, and cinnamon rolls for a very special treat.  Although, most of these would not qualify as “health food” they are much better made from home where you know the ingredients and can make some healthy substitutions.  Most people know that there is some scary stuff (mainly in the form of weird oils and tons of preservatives) in the boxed and wrapped baked goods, but even much of the grocery store baked goods have a lot of weird ingredients.  The fresh baked bread is not always too bad, but things like the plastic clam shells filled with neon cookies and cupcakes are probably pretty questionable.  Check out this link on the wonders of supermarket baked goods.

If you find that you are baking a lot you might even want to consider investing in a grain mill.  I love my Nutrimill!  Fresh ground flour is tastier, but best of all is much more nutritious.  As flour sits it loses nutrition and much of the flour in stores could even be rancid.  Even the way the flour was ground initially can affect its nutrition.  All you have to do is buy wheat berries and run them through the mill and you have flour (you can grind other grains as well).

6) Get the plastic out of the kitchen.  Plastics often contain BPA and other harmful ingredients.  Some of the new plastics are labeled BPA free, but I still prefer other materials when possible.  Glass, metal (stainless steel is great), and ceramics (Fiestaware is lead free) are just so much more attractive and whimsical.  Since the kids were little we have avoided using plastics with BPA in them.  When they were young we had to do a bit of looking at labels, now it is a bit more common to find clearly labeled kids products from big name brands.

*We do however use Ikea’s plastic children’s bowls and plates.  I was told they were BPA free and they are very affordable.

 

I never mean for these posts to make anyone feel like they are not doing enough for their family.  Being a mom is hard!  This is just our SLOW journey.  Some days we do great on these types of things, and other days we are just trying to hang on and survive.

Hope your day was splendid! If not, tomorrow will be a fresh start.

Blessings!

 

What changes have you made in your home?

 

3 Big Steps Towards Creating a Healthier Home

1) Ditch the Teflon pans. Many of us are used to cooking on Teflon.  Its nonstick surface is so appealing.  What is not appealing is the dangerous substance that it is made from.  Have you heard of the “Teflon Flu”?  Apparently it is the fumes that are emitted and inhaled that are the most dangerous (especially for animals).  We are slowly replacing our Teflon pans with other alternatives.  I recommend stainless steel or cast iron.  I have just been buying one piece at a time as I find them cheaply at places like Costco, Kohls (with a coupon), and TJ Maxx.

Here is a link to more info on Teflon

2) Change up your breakfast routine a bit. Instead of serving breakfast cereals, strive to feed your family things like organic oatmeal from scratch (easy), home made whole wheat muffins with fruit in them, yogurt or kefir, eggs, and one or two bigger breakfasts if you like.  It won’t take much more effort at all.  Breakfast is the easiest meal to change up if you are striving to feed your family more healthy whole ingredients.  It is the perfect place to start!

 

3) Skip the High Fructose Corn Syrup. Whats the big deal with HFCS?  I kinda wondered this for awhile too.  I figured it was worth avoiding feeding it to the kids. Over time I have learned more about why I did not like it all along 🙂

Here are the reasons why I try to avoid it.

  1. It has been linked to many negative health impacts (much like sugar).
  2. HFCS can very likely contain mercury. One study states that mercury was found in about half of its tested samples.  That is crazy.
  3. It is often a sign that a product is made up of cheap ingredients.  HFCS is a very inexpensive sweetener.  When companies choose it to sweeten their foods they are often choosing other cheep or poor ingredients…which could often point to use of GMO ingredients, MSG (or hidden MSG), trans fats, etc.  By avoiding HFCS you are likely avoiding other bad things.
  4. The process to make HFCS is scary.  It sounds like it includes chemicals, chemists tweaking stuff, things that aren’t safe to touch, huge labs, protective gear etc (watch King Corn).  Its no small thing.

More sources on HFCS here and here.  A bit on how it is made here.

Disclaimer-I am no genius. I am just a mom trying to do the best for my family.  Be sure to research things for your own family before making any big changes.

Getting started with Azure Standard…my new favorite food resource

I must tell you all about my new favorite thing. For more months than I would like to admit I have been modifying my “virtual cart” at Azure Standard.  Last week I was finally able to get my first order.  Azure Standard is a co-op of “quality bulk and natural foods”.  They can ship most things to your door, but the best way to order from them is by having your order sent to a “drop point.”

It is like grocery shopping from your couch…for good quality food…at great prices.  What’s not to like?

To get started you can call customer service and tell them your city and see if they deliver to your area, or check out their route information on their site.  Then, ask them for the phone numbers for some people who have “drop sites” in the area.  After calling around and settling on the coordinator that is most convenient for you ask when you need to submit your order by (or try to figure it out online), and when the order will come.

The items come by truck to your drop point and either the driver or coordinator will usually call you to tell approximately you when your things are coming/ have arrived.  Some sites work things a bit differently.  Some drops are in parking lots and some are on porches.

I found it a bit difficult to get started because of all the phone calls that I had to make.  With three small children it was really hard to call the 9 names they gave me to actually figure out which drops where near me.  I attempted a few times, but then got busy and a month or so would pass before I would get back around to it.

The other tricky thing is that most drop sites have to make a minimum order to get delivery.  The first drop I tried was going to be really close to my house, but we did not make the minimum order and I had to switch at the last minute to find a new one.  I ended up doing what I knew I should have done all along and went with a “tried and true” drop that a friend used that always meets their minimum (around$500).  Another thing to be aware of is that I believe most sites require that you meet a personal minimum order of $50 if you are having your items sent to a drop.

Be sure to check out their specials as well.  Their sales span over a two month period.

They carry SO many different types of things.  They carry tons of bulk foods, canned goods, produce, packaged natural/organic yummies, dairy, frozen goods, meats, herbs, health and beauty items, cleaning products, baby things, supplements, pet care items, and more all at great prices.

Here are some more shots of the goods…in case you are as curious as I am about what other people buy when they shop.

Here is what happens after you get all your pretty new glass jars out and start putting your bulk purchases away.  After months of dreaming of this moment…your toddler knocks the oatmeal over.  You bite you lip, try to show grace, and see how fast you can run the price per lb.

 

(In case y’all were wondering, I get nothing for this endorsement. I just am really enjoying my purchases.)

If you have any other questions for this newbie feel free to try me.

Do you order from Azure? What are your favs?

Back in the game!

It had been awhile since I have planned a big shopping trip.  I spent the kids nap time going through my coupons, reading blogs for match ups, printing coupons, and planning my stops.  I ended up hitting  Walgreens, LifeSource, and Fred Meyers.  I was quite excited with what I ended up with.  The most exciting part was how I was able to work the recent change in Fred Meyer’s coupon policy.  They are now taking Catalina coupons (the coupons that print out with your receipts at the end of a transaction).  They are reporting that they will take a Catalina from any store, as long as it says “manufacturer coupon” on it.

I was anxious to see if coupons like my Register Rewards from Walgreens would work like it sounded they might…and THEY DID.  I had $12 in RR’s and they just came off my total at Fred Meyers.  This is wonderful news because I was able to use them in the same shopping outing on things like groceries and clothes I needed.   It was so much easier than saving them for my next Walgreen’s trip and trying to figure out what to spend them on (before they expired).  This is another great example of how couponing can even help fund your natural/whole foods budget (disregard the Cheez-Its) :).

Here is what I got at F.M.

2 Bags of Kettle chips 2/$5 sale this week

2 bags of organic potatoes 2/$5 sale this week

3 organic pears (not on sale)

2 boxes of Annies mac 10/$10 plus used a manufacturers coupon they had on a tear pad right above which made them about 65 cents

Food Should Taste Good GF multigrain crackers (for retreat) $2 ish after coupon

2 jars of organic baby food (trying new tricks to get baby to eat food)

Yoplait-coupon for free product.

2 dozen “repackaged” eggs.  I had a coupon that would work on any 2 packages of eggs, but they did not have any on a good sale.  I happened to find 2 packages of eggs for 99 cents each.  I asked the guy about them and he said that when an egg breaks in a package, they repackage them and mark them down.  Little shopping trip blessing 🙂

2 boxes of Cheez-Its on sale plus used a store coupon and manufacturer coupon.  (Both supposed to be for the Women’s retreat this weekend, but hubby found them and suggested we keep one.)

1 box of Chex for $2 after sale and store coupon (somehow did not get in picture…wonder if I missed others?)

4 pairs of Kids Connection shorts (we especially love the girls ones) and 2 shirts.  On sale for 4.99 each and then an extra 15% off with coupon in the baby sale flier (thanks Sarah!).

Total for all pictured- $40.95 (loved using my Walgreen’s RR’s!)

Here are my purchases from Walgreen’s

Pull-ups-4.99 after Register Rewards and coupon

Baby Magic-Free after RR’s

Colgate-Free after RR’s

Aquaphor lip treatment-free after RR’s and manufacturer coupon

Children’s “tylenol” B1G1 free this week-$4.99 for both

Quaker Oats- Used coupon in ad and manufacturers coupon and got for $1.50

Total for this trip- about $21 out of pocket and got $12 in RR’s

Here are my purchases at LifeSource

Wheat Berries for grinding-$6.55

Little organic oranges for $1.58 they were only 49 cents per lb. !!! GREAT DEAL (Head there soon if you want some)

Organic raspberry kefir on sale for $3.69

Total  $8.72 (after returning glass cream containers and bag discount from bringing my own bag)

Happy shopping! Let me know if you have any questions!

Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peas

(Sunshine Squash in the glass container, Butternut waiting to be baked, and Sweet Potatoes up top)

If you have a little one who is getting ready for baby food anywhere in the near future and you are thinking of making your own, now is the time!  If you act quickly you can still get the tail end of some of summers bounty, and all the yummy things of fall to preserve for your babe.

My kids practically lived off of squash during their early months.  Our newest baby is still a couple months from her first bites, but I realized that if we want to feed her the same types of things we need to get moving.  We love making our own baby food because it is fresher, cheaper, and closer in taste to the real fruits and veggies than the jarred foods.  I think this is important because they won’t have any rude surprises when you discontinue the Gerber and move on to the real stuff at the dinner table.  I also tend to believe that home made baby food cooked just enough and then frozen is likely to hold more of its nutrients than the stuff that sits on the shelf.

When the twins were little we delayed offering things like rice cereal (some people even say to skip this altogether) and fruits and veggies for a bit.  By the time we introduced them they could have almost had soft cubes.  Even though they were soon ready for soft cubes and nibbles, I loved having the convenience of having the purees on hand.  They were so great to add to many other things to pump up the nutritional quality.  We frequently added purees to plain yogurt (whole yogurt when they were little for the fat) and oatmeal.   Don’t feel like you have to make a huge variety of purees… just a few will do.  You can soon supplement with whatever fruits and veggies you are feeding your family.  You can even buy a few jars at the store if you feel like you are lacking in variety.  We tired to start with things that were not too sweet so that they would not turn their nose up at vegetables later.

The Salem farmers markets only run through the end of the month, but after that you should still be able to find some organic produce in season at the grocery stores.

Bake or steam, mash or food process, and freeze!