Monday, September 1, 2014

Simple Living: Ideas to Simplify Your Life


New 2 month series on how to simplify your life starting TODAY!

Simple living and organizing life with less, is something I have been passionate about for years now. Many emails and questions I get, are about the desire to live with less. Live a simpler life. Life a contented life. Is there a "perfect" way to live with less? No. Is there one right answer out there, that we all have to find and abide by? I honestly do not think so. We each have our own story and each live different lives. For a reason. For me personally, I believe what matters is what we are living for.

How do you begin to live a simpler life? This is a question that I wrestle with daily, as I walk around our house, I know we have much more than we deserve, yet hang out to much more than we need to. That is why I wanted to start this series: for a personal reason, but also to maybe help guide you into a simpler living lifestyle. I want to share my personal story and life through this series as well. As we all walk this road together.

Where to begin? I think one of the best questions you can ask yourself is:

What is most important to you?

This simple question really wraps up everything into a few simple thoughts. If you can answer this question with a list of a few things, this helps bring your focus back to what truly matters.

So, what is most important to you?

Here are a few things that are important to me:
1. Love God and share His love with others
2. Serving my husband
3. Caring for and serving those God has brought into my life
4. Being the best steward I can with what I have been given
5. Spending my time purposefully and enjoy life

It's simple. Yet those 5 values are jam-packed with responsibility, time, and energy. But in the end, I feel that is what is most important to me. Everything else in life, I could take or leave it. And THAT is what the next step is:

GET RID OF EVERYTHING ELSE that does not fit into what is most important to you.

What does that look like? That I am still working on. To me, anything that does not fit into those 5 things, could potentially be a waste of my time. For example, watching tv doesn't really fit into any of those categories. Will I quit watching tv? No, but typically when I watch tv, I am watching something specific (purposeful) instead of just having ambient noise in the room. Take a look at exercise. Exercise helps me be the best steward I can of my body. I find exercise helps me enjoy life, life around me, and I am choosing purposefully to do something. I used to make jewelry, collect craft supplies, etc., but found I wasn't being hte best steward of my time and money when I lost interest in some of those hobbies. You get the idea?

It is so easy to fill life with the unnecessary, the unfulfilling, and unsatisfying. What is in your life, that is NOT important to you, but you continually hang onto it, participate in it, yet dread doing it?

Narrowing down what is MOST important to you, helps keep you focused on what you value most, and in the end, helps you live a SIMPLE LIFE.

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What IS most important to you? Feel free to share below!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

How To Freeze Green Beans


Do you ever wonder what to do with the abundance of green beans that you have? 
I know that every single year, we always have way more beans than we can eat fresh, so I always come down to the question: to can or freeze?

Often I answer with this question by thinking about how much TIME I have. Canning beans, though I enjoy doing it, is time consuming - more so than freezing. That is why so far this year, I have resorted to freezing. I thought why not share these simple tips on how to freeze green beans?

Start by washing/rinsing off your green beans. Who knows what has landed on them while in the garden!

Boil water in a pan until it is rolling. Add your green beans and BLANCH for 3 minutes (which means boil for just a few minutes and then...)
*You will read that there are various suggestions on how long to blanch green beans - do what you feel comfortable doing

Immediately place them in a bowl of ice water and give them an ice water bath for 3 minutes.


Spread out on a towel or paper towel to allow to dry (to prevent freezer burn)

Place green beans in freezer bags and put in your freezer for use throughout the winter! 
My FAVORITE green bean recipe is the classic Green Bean Casserole. This is one recipe I never get sick of and always request for a big meal!

What is YOUR favorite recipe using GREEN BEANS?

Friday, August 29, 2014

How To Save Money Packing A Reusable Lunch


I have been so excited to share today's post with you! Why? With school starting back up for most in the next few weeks (or maybe already have), so much frustrations and discussions happen around school lunches. Often school lunches are the last thing you want to pack for, plan for, and even buy for. So, the easy way out? Find the most snack-size options available so that you can just throw and go. It is an easy fix, right?

Well, my friend Hannah over at Wild Mint, is always looking for ways to make an impact. In fact, Hannah states: "our team at Wild Mint set out to discover what we all can do to help save money, better our health, and protect the environment when it comes to lunch packing". 

She has recently done a study on comparing how packing a reusable and waste-free lunch versus a disposable lunch, can save you time, money, and waste. Hannah has spent time researching, taking polls, interviewing others, and came to the conclusion that choosing to pack a reusable and waste-free lunch versus a disposable, families can literally save over $400 PER SCHOOL YEAR!

With living in a "want it now" culture, it is so easy to gravitate towards the easy and most convenient. Although, often in those moments, we can throw away the value of what it might mean for our bank accounts, the environment, and even our health. The money spent on food and packaging when it comes to disposable lunches, is astronomical when you calculate the numbers. In fact, Hannah discovered that by packing a reusable lunch and snack each day over a disposable, you can save $2.32/day, which equals out to be $417.60 per year. It may seem like an outrageous number, but when you look at the calculations here, you will be shocked at what it really costs to be convenient versus reusable and resourceful.

It is also mind-boggling to think about how much waste is collected because of disposable lunches. Think about how many paper bags, plastic sandwich bags, plastic utensils, and empty juice boxes, are collected each day, at each school? What if more thought was put into the impact this has on our environment, and really, how easy it is to use a reusable drink bottle, reusable food storage options, etc.? Wild Mint actually has a WIDE selection of various reusable food storage ideas, lunch boxes, utensils, bottles, and so forth! You can find their great and stylish selections here.


This study has been so intriguing to me and in fact, I have read through it numerous times because it really made me think about how much waste I am creating, just through my disposable lunches. Hannah also hits on how workers everyday (not just children), create an incredible amount of waste as well.

If you are interested, intrigued, and want to learn how you can save time, money, the environment, protect your health, and even find new and creative lunch ideas, you can check out this link to Hannah's full study:
http://www.wildmintshop.com/learn/lunch-savers.asp

I am sure you will be just as shocked as I was, when I really put some thought into what it costs to pack a disposable lunch versus a reusable and waste-free lunch. Thank you Hannah, for taking the time to share this with me and I hope you all see just as much value in this study as I did!


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

How To Freeze Peas



Peas are a fan favorite in our household! Not so much the frozen kind that you buy in the store, but whether fresh or frozen in the pod straight from our garden - we absolutely love them!

This year my husband built an amazing and practical pea trellis. This was the solution to having a successful pea crop this year! We are still enjoying the goodness of these peas - we have so many that we are not able to eat them all while still fresh. That is when I decided it was time to start learning to freeze peas, to use in stir fry's, as a vegetable, and other dishes. 

Start by washing your peas 

Snip off the top with your fingers, BUT...

Before you completely snap off the whole top, peel back the "seam" of the pea pod, which is along the inside of the pea pod.

Start a pot of boiling water (about 4 quarts). Add the peas (about 2-3 cups) after you have a rolling boil.
In order to kill the enzymes and bacteria that can change the color and flavor of the peas while freezing, you need BLANCH the peas. 
You can do this by boiling them for 2 minutes

Then immediately plunge the peas in ice cold water (basically give them a ice water bath) for 2 minutes

Lay them out on a towel or paper towel to dry

After they are dried to your desired rate, seal them up in freezer bags.

Now you can enjoy "fresh" peas from the garden all winter long! It's as easy as that!

What is your favorite item to freeze?

LAST DAY TO SIGN UP!


Giveaway runs until August 27, 2014!
Only residents of the U.S. and Canada are eligible to enter.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Why DIY vs. Buy



Have you ever dreamed of becoming Martha Stewart or cook like Rachael Ray?

I sure have! I dream of having a home on acreage like Martha's Vineyard. I dream of having cookware and gourmet meals like Rachael. Yet I find myself wondering if having all the "right stuff" is really worth it? Do I need to buy or live like like them, in order to be happy?

Of course, I come to the conclusion by answering that question with a big fat NO.

Instead of aspiring to be someone else, what if I took ideas from them and made them into my own? That is what I want, isn't it? To just be me? Why to live up to someone else's standards for in reality, what makes Martha Martha, is the fact that she has her own unique skills and ways.

I think often we try to literally buy into the fact that we can be a certain someone and buy all the things we need to be this person, only to fall up short every time. What if we learned to be people like Martha and Rachael, not by what we buy, but what we DON'T buy?

What if we set out to be our own unique individual and DIY'ed what WE wanted to DIY instead of buying into other's recommendations?

This is where I think considering the DIY vs. BUY idea can help anyone ease their desire to be someone else and save money in the process!

Why do you buy something? Because someone suggested it to you? Because you need it? Because you don't want to spend the time making it? Whatever the answer may be, I want to help you consider some items that you could start "DIY-ing" instead of buying.

Two things to consider first:
1. Is a DIY project worth the money?
2. Is the DIY project worth the time?

I would love to give you simple answers to these very questions, but each person is different. So let me try to answer these questions simply by looking at a few different DIY vs. Buy projects that you may consider utilizing someday.

1. Garden - when you consider the cost of what a pack of cucumber seeds may cost vs. the cost of one cucumber bought at your local grocery story, the price is relatively the same. The only hold-back is the time it takes to maintain a garden. There is great pleasure that can be found in growing your own food and the thrill of picking fresh vegetables out of your garden for supper? Hard to compare!


2. Meals at home - with the invention of the internet years and years ago, it has transformed the kitchen. Cookbooks are not as popular as they used to be with numerous copycat recipes, restaurant secrets, and tv show concoctions, all available online. Why pay for a meal from a certain restaurant when you can make it at home? Yes, there is something to be said about NOT making dinner, but if you have the time, it IS worth the money to cook at home.

3. Clothing - this is a toss up. It wasn't that long ago, that many were still making their own clothes (and some still are!) Though, the cost of fabric and the cost of clothing from stores, makes it difficult to spend the time making something, when it may be readily available at a store for a cheaper price. The kicker is when alterations need to happen or even a fixin'. How many items of clothing do you throw away because there is a rip, a button off, or whatever? Fixing is by far cheaper than buying a whole new piece. Learning basic and simple sewing skills, could end up saving you oodles!


4. Canning/Freezing - preserving food may seem like a daunting task when you can buy a can of vegetables for cheap at the grocery store. Have you ever read the other ingredients that come in that can as well? When you can and freeze your own food (or even fresh vegetables or fruit that you buy from the store), you know exactly what is going into that can or freezer bag - pure natural goodness! Yes, canning can be a little time consuming, but even freezing is very easy to do when it comes to websites like www.pickyourown.org!


5. Home Renovations - when something breaks, leaks, or falls apart in your home, what is your first instinct? To call a repairman? Even though you may think you may be saving time, you actually may not be, and even more so, NOT saving money. When a repairman says he is going to be there between let's say 8-12pm, you spend half your morning, waiting for him to show up. With helpful websites like youtube and just researching how to fix something, you may actually be able to fix the problem yourself! My husband has fixed numerous items in our home, thanks to youtube and a how-to-fix-anything-in-your-home book that he received as a wedding gift. He has saved us so much money, but taking the time to fix something himself. He is learning, feeling accomplished, and his wife couldn't be more thankful!

What are some things that you prefer to buy instead of DIY and vice versa? 

It is easy to take the easy way out and just pay the money, but is it REALLY worth it? Is it REALLY worth the money? The joy and pride that comes out of DIYing, makes some projects worth the time and effort! Be yourself - don't try and be someone else - try the DIY route!
Giveaway runs until August 27, 2014!
Only residents of the U.S. and Canada are eligible to enter.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Back To School Snack Idea: Pretzel Crisps


Thinking about the kids going back to school, is already overwhelming right? If you need some extra tips, check out my week long Stress-Free Back To School Prep series I did a few weeks ago! In thinking about packing lunches, sometimes the hardest part is not packing them, but wondering what TO pack in them.

There are so many great options out there - grab 'n go snacks that offer the ease of not spending oodles of time making something. Yet, sometimes the homemade snacks are the best, right? Typically they are healthier and can even taste better.

Well, on a side note, I don't know if you remember when I did a blog post about my new favorite dip: the Refrigerated Spinach Dip. One thing I absolutely love about this dip, as I mentioned, was eating it with my new favorite dipping material: Pretzel Crisps. They were not just a one-time buy. They are something I continue to buy and keep stored in our home.

So what makes Pretzel Crisps worthwhile and worth your money?

Pretzel Crisps are unlike your "normal" pretzel. Think of a pretzel chip! They are low in calories with only 110 calories per serving! Plus, no trans or saturated fat (the fat that is NOT recommended to be consumed, that is). You will say goodbye to potato chips as this is a much healthier option, with an incredible taste!


Pretzel Crisps come in a wide variety of tastes: garlic parmesan, chipotle cheddar, sesame, peanut butter crunch, sea salt and cracked pepper, and MANY more! My favorite of course being the garlic parmesan! I have used these Crisps not only in dips, but also in soups and snacks!

Check out all of the unique, creative, and delicious, and fun recipes that Pretzel Crisps has to offer! You won't be boring your guests with the same ole same ole, anymore! Give these a try!

About the size of a quarter!

Now Pretzel Crisps has come out with minis, which makes it even EASIER to take these bits of goodness along for a snack in your backpack, purse, office drawer, you name it! Being pregnant, these have been a craving of mine and I could eat a whole bag in one sitting (thankfully I have yet to accomplish this task!)


If you are looking for something new to put into those school lunches and please your children's taste buds, check out this deal:

You can receive a $1.00 coupon for the Pretzel Crisps Minis just by liking their Facebook page HERE

Maybe I am a little partial to these, but I really would not spend the time writing up a whole blog post about these Pretzel Crisps, if I didn't think you would love them. In fact, they spread like wildfire in the teacher's lounge last year, as teacher's used them in numerous soups! I definitely jumped on this bandwagon and you will be glad you did too!

______________________________________________________________________
Giveaway runs until August 27, 2014!
Only residents of the U.S. and Canada are eligible to enter.

Friday, August 22, 2014

How To Safely Store and Handle Cleaning Chemicals



 Today I am sharing another article from guest poster Karen!

Safe storage of cleaning chemicals is of great importance for every household. All of us use a great deal of cleaning products in our homes, but do we know how to properly handle and dispose of them? If used or stored improperly, each solution may be dangerous, which may lead to fire, environmental and health hazards.
To reduce the risk of your household cleaning products becoming dangerous for your entire family, check out what measures you can take. Below CityCleaners in Hammersmith offer you a few cleaning chemicals storage and handling tips.
 
Labels
 The first thing to give you an insight into a product's contents and proper storage instructions is the label. Here is where you will find considerable information about the ingredients used, expiration date, safety tips and others. Be careful with words like “Warning”, “Danger” or “Caution”. If the latter appear on the label, it means you must handle the product with extreme caution. Furthermore, take into consideration the following:
·       Flammable liquid: its flash point is below 60°C (140°F)
·       Flammable: it means the product burns rapidly and can catch fire very easily
·       Irritant: it means the product can cause swelling or soreness of eyes, skin, respiratory system or mucous membranes
·       Toxic: it means it can cause damages or death if absorbed through the skin, absorbed, inhaled or swallowed
·       Poison: it can cause injury or death if inhaled or absorbed through the skin
·       Corrosive: it can lead to the destruction of a living tissue or material; examples of corrosive substances are sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, perchloric acid, formic acid and nitric acid
·       Combustible liquid: its flash point is between 60°C to 392°C (140°F to 200°F)

Easy Reach
 It's always advisable that you keep your cleaning products out of reach of children. These solutions can be deadly and your kids must know about the dangers. Always keep your cleaning kit in a cool, dark place. High temperatures can cause some products to explode, whereas low temperatures may lead to some substances freezing. To avoid that, always read the label and do as instructed by the manufacturer. Every product on the market has safety use and storage instructions; if you comply with them, it's all going to be okay.

Chemicals and Food
Never store chemicals and food in the same place. This could lead to food contamination, which can pose a health threat to you and your family.

Using Alternative Products
 Instead of putting your health and life at risk, try using healthier alternatives to hazardous cleaning chemicals. For example, you can use white vinegar, lemon and lemon juice, baking soda and other ingredients found in the household to clean surfaces like cupboards, floors, windows, tiles, marble, etc. Using natural solutions helps protect nature and does not cause any damage to living organisms.

Chemicals and Containers
  It is crucial that you keep chemical products in their original containers. They should never be transferred to another container, especially if the latter is not appropriate for chemical storage. There may be spills or other problems that can cause health or fire hazards.

Corrosive Substances
           Corrosive substances should be kept in cool places (not too cool however).

Toxic Substances
   Toxic cleaning products should be kept out of contact with oxidizing substances, moisture, acids and    heat. They should be stored in well-ventillated, cool areas.

Mixing Two Cleaning Products
 It is not advisable that you mix tow different cleaning products to obtain better results in cleaning. This may be extremely dangerous, especially if you are not aware of the ingredients of the two products and whether it is safe to be mixed with other chemicals.

Hopefully your home is safer and guarded against any harmful chemical or dangerous situation!


The 'Ove' Glove company has offered to giveaway ONE (1) 'Ove' Glove for FREE, to an Organizing Life With Less reader! Now you have the chance to experience what the Anti-Steam 'Ove' Glove can do!

  • Giveaway starts Wednesday, August 20, 2014 and ends Sunday, August 24, 2014 at 11:59pm.
  • One winner will be chose via Rafflecopter.com
  • Open to U.S. residents only and must by 18 years or older
  • Organizing Life With Less will email the winner and the winner has 1 week to confirm
  • Winner will be shipped the 'Ove' Glove free of charge.