Monday, February 28, 2011

"Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace"

by St. Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light,
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
seek to be consoled as to console,
not so much to be understood as to understand,
not so much to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
it is in dying that we awake to eternal life.

Romans 6:13 -
But present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

It is my prayer that today and every day, Lord, You use me as Your instrument for righteousness. Thy will be done.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

"For the Beauty of the Earth"

by Folliot S. Pierpoint

For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour,
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon, and stars of light.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of ear and eye,
For the heart and mind’s delight,
For the mystic harmony
Linking sense to sound and sight.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For Thy Church, that evermore
Lifteth holy hands above,
Offering up on every shore
Her pure sacrifice of love.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the martyrs’ crown of light,
For Thy prophets’ eagle eye,
For Thy bold confessors’ might,
For the lips of infancy.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For Thy virgins’ robes of snow,
For Thy maiden mother mild,
For Thyself, with hearts aglow,
Jesu, Victim undefiled.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For each perfect gift of Thine,
To our race so freely given,
Graces human and divine,
Flowers of earth and buds of Heaven.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Potluck Saturdays: Chili Mac


How many changes must you make to a recipe before it becomes your own?

I got this recipe from The Common Room. And then I did what I can't help but do to a recipe... I tweaked it. I tweaked it a lot. And then I renamed it because "Chili Mac" seemed much more fitting. According to the DHM, this recipe comes from the much recommended More With Less cookbook, but it seems that they have tweaked it a bit too.

So here is my own much-loved version of chili mac, so very much loved that this good-sized recipe doesn't last a day in our house! Big Littles and I each ate 4 bowls of it last time! Preacher Man ate 3! And then I dove into the leftovers a couple hours later. ;)

Chili Mac
1 pound ground beef - browned
1 large diced onion
1 diced bell pepper (or about 1 c. frozen)
2 cloves minced garlic
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (I use 2 pints of home canned)
1/4 c. sour cream or mayo
2 TBSP Worcestershire Sauce
2 tsp chili powder*
salt to taste
1 lb. elbow macaroni (or your preferred shape - I like to use whole wheat pasta in this recipe)

(I always have ground beef ready and browned because I buy it in bulk and brown it all at once. If you haven't done this, brown the meat first.) Saute the onions and bell pepper and when they are nearly brown, add the garlic. Stir in tomatoes.
Add sour cream or mayo, W. sauce, chili powder, and salt. Stir. Add pasta. Add enough water to almost cover noodles but not quite - it's less than 2 c. in my experience. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or 'til noodles are tender and water is cooked down.

This simple, fast one pot meal is a staple around here now!

*Now, a note about the chili powder... I am a really big fan of Penzey's spices. They are not paying me for an endorsement, I just love them so much, I wish everyone could experience the amazingness of their high quality, ultra fresh spices. Penzey's chili powder is partly what makes this dish taste so good. If you have a store near you, prepare yourself for a sensory overload. Make sure you check out their cinnamon and curry powder too! Oh and the pasta sprinkle! We really love that stuff!

You can use the coupon code 00002C in the "Express Ordering" section of their online store to get $5 off an order of $10 or more. Offer expires May 29, 20011. I recommend buying the spices in bags to get the best deal.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Time or Money?

A while back I was chatting with my Dad about travel plans for a trip. Calculating the cost-per-mile of driving and comparing it with the cost of airline tickets + a necessary rental car was coming out to about the same amount with driving being slightly cheaper up front. My Dad asked me the simple question, "Well, do you have more time or more money?"

In our case, the answer is almost always time.

This question of more time or money plays into a lot of our everyday decisions. For example:
  • eating out/cooking at home
  • canned beans/dried
  • hiring out for home improvement projects/doing it yourself
  • buying farmer's market veggies/growing them yourself
  • using the dryer/hanging laundry out to dry
  • shopping for a gift/making a gift from what you have
  • bakery bread/homemade bread
Every day, I face the balancing act of time vs. money. Sure other things like available space, skills, and weather play a role in these decisions among other things, but most often, it boils down to a choice between just time and money.

Time does not always win out. When we needed some summer weight bed coverings this past year, the decision boiled down to time or money. The need came upon us rather suddenly and we could not wait much longer. I can sew and have plenty of fabric to make the two twin size quilts we needed. What I did NOT have was the time to sew two quilts! Money won out in that case. And it was ok because nine times out of ten, time wins out. And the more I can work hard at getting time to win as often as possible, the better we are doing with saving money. And the better we are saving our money, the faster we can pay off our debt. And the faster we can pay off our debt, the sooner we can pay cash for a minivan. And the sooner we can pay cash for a minivan... well, we'll probably need to save for another midwife fee by then. And then... there will always be something else... that is life!

But in the meantime, making those dollars go further by using my resource of time, we are able to live a more abundant and generous life. And isn't that what it is all about?

Ephesians 4:28 - Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

Links Anyone?

An odd question, perhaps...

Did any of you, my kind readers, happen to link my post Church Mouse Learns Frugality sometime a little over a month ago?

I ask because it was one of the first posts I ever wrote, and it suddenly got lots and LOTS of hits. The only other posts that have gotten over 200 hits like this one are the ones that have been a part of a link up like the 4 Moms posts or that someone else kindly linked from their blog or Facebook. (Nice riding on the coat-tails of an experienced blogger like the Deputy Headmistress of The Common Room!)

I've searched and I can't find this one anywhere. My curiosity has gotten the better of me, so I'm finally just going to come out and ask.

And if you did link it, THANKS! :) I'm happy that you did!

Can anyone help me solve the mystery?

Right now, a typical Church Mouse post gets between 30 and 60 hits. Here are a couple of my most popular posts for the curious:
1. Lifting Holy Hands
2. Potato Salad
3. Gifts for the Neighbors
4. Sausage Chowder
5. Breakfast of Champions

Church Mouse Learns Frugality is #6.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thankful Thursdays: Living Water

Psalm 42:2 - My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;

John 4:13-14 - Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

Matthew 7:7-11 - Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Back in October when I first started this blog, I described myself as being spiritually "as dry as a desert". I cried out to God about my thirst, and He heard my prayer. Today, I am thankful for His living water which He has been pouring into my life ever since. I still don't often hear an entire sermon, and my time for personal study is as rare as it was before, but God has blessed me with spiritual nourishment just when I need it the most in the form of encouraging fellowship, a kind note, encouraging lectures, Godly advice, and insightful books. The Lord has been mindful of me, and I am grateful for His blessings.

I've not yet finished the book, but I have been so encouraged reading Diapers, Pacifiers, and Other Holy Things by Lorraine Pintus. This collection of encouraging words from a mother who has been right where I am now has been a balm for my soul. Being a mother of Littles is tough work. Here's an excerpt from the first chapter:

I love You, Lord, I prayed. I want to spend time with You. But the days of hour-long quiet times with You are gone.

God agreed. You don't have an hour, Lorraine. But you have a moment!

Day after day, I worked hard to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (II Cor. 10:5). Seeing God in every circumstance became easier, more natural. Then a strange thing happened. I began to sing! In the midst of mundane duties, God was allowing me to glimpse His glory. Even as I wiped spit up off the floor or cleared strained peas off the wall, I rejoiced. I was in the presence of the living God.

Before having kids, I had compartmentalized God, sticking Him into time slots labeled Bible Study, Quiet Time, and Church. Now the compartment walls had fallen down. God spilled over into every moment of my life.

Ironic isn't it? It took not having an hour with God to realize that I had the whole day with Him!

Thank you God for these moments. They are like streams of water in the desert, quenching the thirst in my soul. Thank you God for Your Word, the Living Water in my life.

Isaiah 35:6-7 - For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In the Center of the Hurricane

This is from "Each New Day" by Corrie ten Boom:

It is dangerous to live as a halfway Christian in this age filled with darkness, chaos, and hopelessness. In the center of a hurricane there is absolute quiet and peace. There is no safer place than in the center of the will of God.

Revelation 3:15-16 - I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (ESV)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Collections can be fun. As a child, I enjoyed collecting postage stamps, rocks, fabric scraps, etc... As an adult, I tend to collect more useful items, though I still have quite the collection of fabric scraps. :) Personally, I'm not a collector of knick-knacks, but I know some people enjoy that. Adding to a person's collection can be a wonderful gift, especially when you know it is just the thing that will make them happy.

When it comes to our personal collections though, I recently had a breakthrough in my own mind. A couple of years ago, I happened upon the entire collection of hardcover Beatrix Potter books (20+ little volumes) in perfect condition for $5 at a garage sale. I knew this set was worth about $100, so I was very happy to snatch it up. The Littles and I have been enjoying reading the charming stories. Still, that one missing book kind of gnawed away at me for a while. I thought perhaps I should look into buying the missing volume so we could have a complete set. I looked online and priced the book. It would cost about as much for the one book as I paid for the whole set. Now, $5 is really not too bad of a price, and $10 for over 20 books is still a wonderful deal. But I hesitated.

And I'm glad I hesitated because it became a good learning opportunity for me. Why did I really need that last book? If I were honest with myself, it wasn't because of the merits of that particular volume. The reason I wanted it was so I could have the complete set, and that is a rather vain reason. I did NOT need that last book. We did not enjoy the Beatrix Potter books any less just because one book was lacking. The one book meant very little in the grand scheme of things, and my mind was finally perfectly satisfied not to have it.

Do you have any collections? Can you be happy and content with an incomplete collection of something? If not, perhaps it is time to take a good look at your heart. Letting a collection stay incomplete is a way to save money, but more importantly, it disentangles you from becoming too deeply attached to the things in this world. Things are things. I can understand feeling some sentimental ties to a family heirloom or photographs because those things remind us of people whom we love dearly. But if you are so deeply tied down to you stuff that you couldn't just leave it all tomorrow if you really had to, maybe you need to re-evaluate your relationship with your stuff.

People are more important than things.

God is more important than things.
Matthew 6: 19-20 - Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (ESV)

Monday, February 21, 2011

How's the Hospitality Going?

So, you may be wondering how my New Year's resolution of working on planned, purposeful hospitality is going. (It was my goal to have one family a month over for Sunday dinner in 2011.)

Not well.


A bit of a re-cap:
January - I made two attempts to invite people over. One was not very well-executed on my part. I failed to invite anyone ahead of time, but still had an idea of a group that could work out for a spontaneous get-together. We had been sick, we had major commitments going on, and I knew I could not do it all. So I made a choice. I didn't accompany my husband to a gospel meeting he was preaching the Saturday before so I could take care of my "Martha jobs" and get the boys (who had been sick) to bed early. I was feeling proud of myself - I was so on top of things and prepared. Then the group we tried to invite fell through when they made other plans. I admit to being bitterly disappointed over that one. I so wish I could go back and go to the meeting with my husband. But I learned a couple of very important lessons.

1) Make plans ahead of time and 2) choose the better part!

My second attempt was foiled by illness yet again - not in our family, but in our guest's family. That is ok. We're working on rescheduling. We were also ill for two weeks in January.

February - We were traveling for the first two weeks of the month. We were ill the third week of the month. I have one Sunday left. *sigh*

So I'm trying. And I'm learning. And even if no one has actually visited our dining room table on a Sunday afternoon, I'm practicing. I like that the NASB uses the word "practicing" in Romans 12:13.

Practice makes perfect, right?

Romans 12:10-13 - Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. (NASB)

1 Peter 4:8-10 - Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. (ESV)

I'm also hoping we can finally get everyone in our family on the road to good health once again! That will certainly help our efforts at hospitality!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

"Trust and Obey"

Trust and Obey
By John Sammis

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.

But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet.
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way.
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Communion Bread

Perhaps some of you are preparing for the Lord's Day tomorrow by preparing the bread for the communion. You may already have a favorite recipe, but I thought I would share mine here as well as some useful techniques and tips to help your unleavened bread turn out better and to simplify the process.

Perhaps you have never made unleavened bread before. I think it is a very useful skill to have. If you never have the blessing of preparing the bread for your local congregation's worship service, you may find yourselves homebound on a Sunday by poor weather and as long as you have flour and oil on hand, you should be able to bake some communion bread for use in family worship.

There are many different recipes and styles of the unleavened bread. This simple recipe handed down from my grandmother is the one that I like to use. This will make 6-8 crispy, cracker-like rounds. Feel free to double or triple the recipe if you need bigger batches.

1/2 c. white flour (I've used whole wheat in a pinch and it works just fine)
2 tbs. warm water
2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil

(If anything, err on the side of too much oil - too much water will make a very hard cracker - too much oil will make it crispy.)

Preheat your oven to 450*. Put all of the ingredients in a bowl together (cereal bowl size works fine). Mix lightly with a fork and then form into a ball with your hands. The ball will feel a bit oily, but this is o.k. Lightly flour a clean work surface, pinch off a ball of dough and roll it out with a floured juice glass into a round. I use a 3 3/4" round cookie cutter and cut it into a nice, thin circle shape. Transfer to a baking sheet. I've always used a baking sheet with a silpat, so if you don't have one, you may want to use parchment paper if you have problems with sticking. Repeat the rolling out process until you've used up all of the dough. Once all of the rounds are on the cookie sheet, prick all over with a fork. I've also heard of using a clean hair comb to prick the holes. Stick the bread in the oven for about 10 minutes, but watch it carefully. Depending upon the thickness of the rounds they may be done in as little as 7 minutes or take as long as 14. Some of them may get done at different times, so just take them out as they are done and transfer to a cooling rack. You will know a round is done because it will be lightly browned on
the top. When the breads are cool, you can wrap them individually in plastic wrap, put them in a tupperware-like container and put them in the freezer to be used as you need them.

I have also found it useful to keep this recipe written down in the back of my Bible so I always know where to find it. Here's the short version for copying down:

  • 1/2 c. white flour
  • 2 tbs. warm water
  • 2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
Roll into thin rounds and prick. Bake at 450* for 7-14 minutes.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 - For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Surviving Survival Mode

The plague... the creeping crud... whatever you want to call it, we've had it this week. It has been a week of misery for everyone. This should explain my lack of posts. One of these days, life will get back into a nice rhythm again... I remain optimistic anyway!

So I thought I'd do a post on how to survive such a time from several different angles.
  1. How to prepare. (Because you know your time WILL come!)
  2. How to cope when you're in the thick of it.
  3. How to help someone else when THEY are in the thick of it.
How to prepare:
There is only so much that you can do, but a few things do help. Having a well-stocked pantry is a big one, and I've talked about that a lot lately. I was very thankful for the cans of ready made chicken soup in the pantry. Homemade is best, of course, but there are times that mama just can't even stand up, let alone stand around the stove to cook! Crackers and cans of ginger ale, Sprite or lemon-lime seltzer are helpful also. I try to always keep a little stash, because when illness hits, it often hits without warning, and sometimes it is hard to get out to the store. For the children in the family who are not sick, or are in recovery mode, fast and easy is the way to go, worry about nutrition later. Cheese or peanut butter and crackers is fine. Add some fruit if you have it. Serve these on the bare table and you won't even have to worry about dishes!

My husband came up with a brilliant plan AFTER we ruined two pillows... Use a kitchen size trashbag over each child's pillow and cover with a pillowcase. It will be a little crinkly, but it will be a good waterproof cover in a pinch. This is useful for little ones who get sick in the night and are too young to use a bucket.

How to cope:
Let things go. Let the kids watch (wholesome) movies, let them eat ice cream for dinner, let the floors go unswept, let the dishes pile up, etc... Prioritize and let the rest go, then take care of yourself and your family. You can get it back under control one step at a time once everything is over. And remember that it will be over. Someday. :)

Don't be afraid to call for help. Ask someone to pick up some groceries for you if no one can get out. I am INCREDIBLY blessed that Preacher Man works from home and has a flexible schedule. Very few women I know have this luxury. If you are alone and need help, try to think of a relative, someone from church, a teenage homeschool girl, someone who can come over and help you out. If you are like me, you would do this as a last resort, but hopefully you can swallow your pride and realize that you are giving someone else the blessing of serving. And DON'T try to clean the house before that person arrives! Stay on the couch! Yes, that's an order!

How to help someone else:
It's a fine line, but I've learned to be a lot more pushy when it comes to offering my help in this way. I don't want to annoy, but try to push past all of the "Oh no, you really don't have to do that..." kind of niceties. (And I know because I always say those things myself!) Fix some homemade chicken soup and some nice bread. Stop by the store and get some tempting fruit that is in season, some Sprite and ginger ale, some frozen fruit bars, some crackers, etc... Call before you go please, but simply say, "I'll be out later this afternoon and I'd like to stop by to bring you some soup." (Notice that I did not ask this as a question, but rather phrased it as a statement.) Before you go, grab a bucket, a bottle of vinegar, rubber gloves, and a roll of paper towels. I always recommend bringing cleaning supplies with you so you don't have to ask where the family's are kept and bother them any further. Bring the soup, but say that you would like to please help out while you are there. You might have to fight their protests, but insist as much as you can and show that you have cleaning supplies in hand. Cheerfully go to work and give the bathroom(s?) a good cleaning and wash their dishes. If you see anything else you can take care of while you are there, by all means do it, but really, taking care of those two rooms will be a tremendous help. If your sick host(ess) is trying to follow you around and help clean, insist that they sit or lie down and brew them a cup of tea if that will help.

Offering this kind of help was something that I was regularly able to do as a single woman and as a married woman without children. Now that I have young children of my own, I find myself on the receiving end more often than I am the one able to give the help, but this is ok. Just remember that there are different seasons of life and make the most of each one. There are occasions where Preacher Man can watch the Littles and I can still go clean someone's home for them. I just hope that where I cannot do something, there are others that can and will, and I continue to do what I can. I find that I can still take over a meal fairly easily or if I can't deliver it, send it with Preacher Man. I just double the recipe and we eat half and share half, so it isn't too much trouble. I try to do this when there is an illness (especially long term), a new baby, surgery, or even for the elderly.

Now a special note on the elderly or those with a long-term illness. When my grandmother was very, very ill, I started going over to her house once a week and doing the heavy cleaning - scrubbing out the bathtub and toilet, mopping and vacuuming, and any other little jobs I saw. While bent over double, cleaning around the base of the toilet, I realized that there was no way in the world anyone with an aging body could accomplish such a task. I resolved then and there to try to do this for an elderly person when I could... even if just once a month, it will be a great help. Be active in the lives of your brothers and sisters in Christ. Open your eyes to their needs. Especially look for those without family close by and take it upon yourself to show love and care.

Matthew 25: 37-40 - Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"This World Is Not My Home"

Sunday Hymn Post: This World Is Not My Home
Attributed to Albert Edward Brumley

This world is not my home, I'm just a passing through,
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue;
The angels beckon me from Heaven's open door,
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore.

They're all expecting me, and that's one thing I know.
My Savior pardoned me and now I onward go;
I know He'll take me through though I am weak and poor,
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore.

Just up in gloryland we'll live eternally.
The saints on every hand are shouting victory.
Their songs of sweetest praise drift back from Heaven's shore.
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore.

O Lord, you know I have no friend like you,
If Heaven's not my home, then Lord what will I do?
The angels beckon me from Heaven's open door,
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore.

This is one of my very favorite hymns. I often sing this one at bedtime to the Littles. As wonderful as moments on this earth can be, thinking of heaven sure is a comfort for me!

Matthew 6:19-20 - "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal." (ESV)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Winter Dry Skin Solution: Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil is one of my favorite things! *cue Julie Andrews*

I particularly like this brand, Nutiva, because it has some wonderful coco-nutty flavor to it and I happen to love its delicious smell and taste. Coconut oil has many uses in the kitchen:

  • tastes amazing in homemade popcorn!
  • use it to saute vegetables
  • make some KILLER brownies (and really any other baked goody)
  • use it to grease your pans when baking
  • add a spoonful to smoothies
This incredibly versatile oil is also wonderful for your hair and skin! I have used it to moisturize my face from time to time, but my favorite new use is in the bathtub for my little ones. I noticed a few weeks ago that Big Littles was getting a couple of dry patches that looked suspiciously like eczema. Little Littles had a few dry spots also, but not as bad. We dragged out the humidifiers, but didn't see much improvement. Then, I started adding about 1/4 c. to their bathwater, and then rubbing their skin down with even more when they got out of the tub. They both have baby soft skin once again.

The only downside is that the tub needs cleaning out more often, but I'm ok with that.

So, where to get coconut oil:

Your local grocery store may carry coconut oil near the olive oil and other various kinds, but it is likely to be very expensive. A health food store would also have it. One of the best places to order coconut oil is on Amazon. You can get free shipping if you buy enough of it and they offer really good discounts and from time to time run even better sales, particularly on the Nutiva brand. I love to use my Swagbucks to buy normally high priced grocery items for free - things like coconut oil, quarts of maple syrup, mother's milk tea, etc...

You can also find great prices on coconut oil on Use my referral code BUN441 to get $5 off your first order. iHerb is also a great place to buy essential oils, probiotics, supplements, etc...

Coconut oil is a healthy fat and helps nourish your body. If you are interested in the health benefits of using coconut oil, see here.

I'm not being paid to promote coconut oil by anyone, I just wanted to share how useful it is and how we use it in our household to keep our skin and bodies healthy.

Have you tried coconut oil before? How do you like to use it?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How to Shop for the Pantry


I've written a couple of posts about my style of meal planning, which is essentially NOT planning, some ideas for expanding your pantry ingredients, and "Desperation Dinners" made from pantry ingredients, but how would a person go about stocking the pantry? This is a very good question I received from a reader, and I'm hoping I can address it thoroughly here.

If, the day before your trip to the grocery store, you are feeling like "Old Mother Hubbard" as she describes, you have a bit of groundwork to do.

First of all, find some good storage space.
If you don't have a built in pantry, you may have to look outside your kitchen for it. The above photo is my pantry storage in the basement. We live in an old house, and these shelves were made for home canned goods. I do a lot of canning in the summer and autumn, but admittedly, less than I used to do, since we got a deep freeze and I now freeze many of our home grown vegetables. This has made a lot of space free for things like canned beans, canned fruit, vegetables, pastas, oils and pickles. Have some extra shelves in your basement? What about a clothes closet? Under a bed? Get creative! Just be sure you store foods in a place where they won't be exposed to extreme temperatures that would cause them to spoil.

Second, look at your budget.
It would be very easy to just go to the store and spend $300 just to stock up your pantry and freezer, but you would likely be paying full price for most things and that would defeat your good intentions of saving money. If you have a grocery budget of $70 a week, next week see what you can do to only spend $50 on weekly essentials, and plan to spend $20 on pantry items that you can find on sale at their lowest price. As you slowly stock your pantry over time, you will come to the point where MOST of your grocery budget is going towards stocking, and only a very little is being spent on weekly essentials. It may be helpful to look at your monthly budget as opposed to weekly. One week, the sales might be rather disappointing, while another, they are incredible! In that case it is advantageous to rollover grocery money until it is worth spending it on the items you need at their lowest cost. I have a lot of flexibility in our budget, but if things are really tight, do what you can. As you start saving over time, you will be able to do more and more.

Third, prioritize.
A) What grocery items are the most useful to you? It may well be different for you, but for us, things like crushed tomatoes, pasta, dried beans, rice, cornmeal, baking supplies and for the freezer, meats and vegetables are most heavily used and are the backbone of my cooking. If my cupboards were bare, these would be the items I would want to start stocking first.
B) Look for the best sales. Know the rock bottom price for your most used items, and buy extra at that time. Until you see that rock bottom price, just buy what you need, but when you finally see it, buy the store's limit or as much as you can use by the expiration date.

Maybe an example would help clarify?
28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes went on sale for $.75/can. This is the rock bottom price for my area barring the very, very rare coupon/sale combo where quantities are even more limited. I bought the limit of 12 cans, and because they don't expire for over 2 years, and because we use them every week for Spaghetti Sunday and Friday Night Pizza, I went back and bought two more cases over the course of the month long sale! The cases are stacked in my basement.

When I see a 20 lb. bag of rice for less than $7, I buy it and put it in the deep freeze. When I go to Super Wal-mart (which is actually only a couple times a year for us), I buy a bag of lemons for freezing (paid 2.50 for 11 lemons) and 12 cans of their refried beans for desperation dinners because I know they have the rock bottom price. Incidentally, Wal-mart RARELY has the rock bottom price on groceries... only on a couple of items on my price list! Keep a sharp eye! Which brings me to my next point...

Fourth, know your stores!
If you have a scratch & dent grocery outlet in your area, check it out for some AMAZING deals! We don't. :( If you have an Aldi, look for some more incredibly good deals. We don't. :( My options are rather limited. We have two basic grocery store options and I finally quit even shopping at one of them after having so much trouble every single trip with their prices not being correct. I got tired of ending each shopping trip by straightening things out at the customer service desk and decided the little bit of savings was not worth my time. (Always check your receipt!!!) Our other grocery store is quite good though and I'm happy there. I know that this store runs a "Can-Can" sale every January. All canned goods are at their rock bottom price of the year. I plan ahead that this is when I will stock up on those things, and boy do I! Preacher Man always comes along to help me with the heavy cart!

I also know that they run a special on their hams/turkeys every Thanksgiving and Easter and I can earn a free one. I know that they double coupons up to $1.00. I know that if an item is buy 10 for $10, you can just buy one and get it for $1, BUT if the item is buy 3 for $5, you MUST buy three to get the sale price! (Tricky, they are!) I know that they accept internet coupons. I know that certain cashiers do the coupons correctly and others don't. I know that you get $.05 off for each canvas bag you bring and use. I know that they offer sales that include free canvas bags every spring, so I always get my canvas bags free... I don't know what the situation is at your local store, but these are good things to know and keep in mind when planning your shopping. Every store is different. Learn as you go!

Fifth, start filling the shelves! Remember that you are undergoing a paradigm shift, so your cart will look very different than it used to. I am no longer embarrassed to buy 9 bags of frozen brussel sprouts or 16 bricks of cheese, but I used to be! Be a smart shopper and learn to win the grocery game!

This post is a part of the Four Moms linkup on Food Storage. Check out the other posts for some creative ideas.

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