So you have decided to take a natural approach to life. Congrats!! Welcome to the ride. You may be asking yourself “now what?” And wondering where to start.
The truth is, you just need to start where you are. You may feel the need to just throw everything out, but don’t try to change everything all at once. It can be very overwhelming. Make a list of things you want to do more naturally. Prioritize your list. Choose an area you want to improve on the most. Here are some ideas:
toxin-free cleaning products
make healthier meals and choose healthier foods
ditch OTC medications for natural remedies
switch to non toxic bake and cookware
toxin-free soaps and shampoo, etc.
toxin-free and pollinator friendly pest control
ditch artificial scents
use clean cosmetics
safer laundry products
get away from disposable products
make some of your own natural products
If you still are unsure where to start, ask yourself why you want to start this journey? Do you want to feel better? Improve your health? Or concern for the health of a family member? Leave a smaller footprint on the planet? Get outside more? That can help you narrow your focus.
Once you know what you want to improve first, research and read as much as you can so you can make the best choices for your family. I have found there is always room for growth here, so don’t stop learning and adjusting. Science is never settled.
Next, set some realistic goals for yourself. You can get as fancy or minimal about this. Some things I actually made spreadsheets for. When I started cloth diapering my husband was more concerned with if it would save us money, given a single diaper could be $20+. So I made a spreadsheet to show how much we would be saving over 2+ years of diapering, plus potentially how much we would get back from selling the diapers once we were done with them. Other areas I was not concerned about savings as it was a health decision. For something like natural remedies, I was more concerned with effectiveness than cost.
Once you have comfortably tackled one area, move to the next one on your list. Research that and make decisions. You are the boss, so go at a pace that is sustainable for you and your family.
Next week I will share how to eat organically on a budget.
Elderberry is native to Europe, Africa and parts of Asia, but it’s become common in the U.S. It has transient leaves, white flowers and berries that turn from green to red to black when ripe. Sambucus nigra is the full scientific name of the most common variety used for medicinal purposes, as well as the species on which the majority of scientific research has been conducted.
Sheet pan dinners are a fairly easy fix it and forget it dinner. Prep everything, throw it in the oven, maybe turn things half way through, then it’s done and ready to eat without making 5 pots dirty or having to hand wash a pan because you didn’t load the dishes last night. It may have happened a few times.
Anyhoo, for this deliciousness, you will need
1.5 lb chicken breasts cubed
1 red onion cute in chunks
1/2 head broccoli cut in florets or frozen
1 lb brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved
1/3 c balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves minced
Salt and pepper
Small handful fresh basil
Place cubed chicken, onion, broccoli and Brussels on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
There are so many benefits of a simple practice of drinking lemon water:
Helps digestion by stimulating and purifies the liver. Also, vitamin C is proven to decrease the risk of peptic ulcers.
Supports immune function by the vitamin c reduces the risk of respiratory infection. Anti-inflammatory and used as support for asthma.
Alkalize the body by the lemon containing citric and ascorbic acid allowing the minerals in lemons to help alkalize the blood.
Clear skin by the vitamin c and other antioxidants in lemons free the body of skin damage. Also has anti-aging benefits from protecting skin from UV exposure and environmental toxins. Lemon juice if applied topically, can help fade scars and age spots.
Promotes healing, vitamin C helps wound healing and helps to heal the bones, connective tissue, and cartilage. Vitamin C is also an essential nutrient for recovery from stress and injury.
Sometimes it’s hard to buy organic when you see conventional strawberries for $2.99 and organic is $5.99. But those seeking organic do so to avoid the pesticides sprayed on conventional produce. The good news is there are ways to save. It just takes a little time and effort.
1. Meal plan. This is crucial to stay on a budget. Be clear about exactly what’s needed including staples like spices and oil to make sure you have what you need for the week. You don’t want to discover later that you are out of olive oil so you run into the store and pick up a few other things not on your list while there.
2. Shop and meal plan around weekly sales. If items you use more frequently are on sale, consider buying more and freezing it. This is great with meats and berries that go on sale less often. I try to stick to a weekly budget but I make sure it all evens out at the end of the month. Also, pay attention to sales trends. You may notice that the first week of the month organic apples are on sale, the next week avocados are on sale, the following week frozen goods are on sale in the last week grass fed beef is on sale. Planning around and noticing these trends can help you better plan and save in the long run as well.
3. Plant a garden. Even some basic things like herbs and tomatoes can help you save. I’m pretty terrible with gardening but I do pretty well with herbs like basil and rosemary. Rosemary can even come back year after year. You can even try an indoor garden.
4. Buy local, like at a farmer’s market. Many small local farms use organic growing practices but just aren’t certified. Getting certification can be extremely expensive for a small farm which would inflate the cost of organic foods. If you get to know your farmer and know they use organic growing practices, then this can be a great way to save on organic foods.
5. Join a farm co-op or CSA. This can vary by market but check out how it works around you and see if this is less expensive than the store. You can ask about growing practices or customize your box around produce you don’t mind getting a conventional version of (like those in the Clean 15 category).
6. Buy a whole, half or 1/4 cow (or pig) and freeze the meat. You can save a lot on meat costs. Of course you may need a deep freezer, but check local sales groups and you will probably be able to find one at a good price, plus you will be able to use it for years to come and freeze soups, meals, veggies, etc.
7. Go super old school and hunt! Fill that deep freezer with venison.
8. Go meatless at least one meal a week (i.e. Meatless Monday). We’ve done this with great success and even look forward to it now. We are a meat and potatoes family, so if we can do it, anyone can! Every Monday we have salads and vary the vegetable toppings we have with it, plus we have baked potatoes too.
9. Buy foods that are in season. Strawberries are often on sale and very inexpensive in the spring into early summer and in the fall and winter are so much more expensive. Apples on the other hand are harvested in the fall and are less expensive then than in the spring. Eating in season, the produce is often more flavorful as well.
10. Buy in bulk (hello Costco) and freeze or share what you can’t use. For example, go halvies with a friend for bulk greens, or freeze half the fresh berries. Instead of prepackaged individual snacks or applesauce pouches, but the bigger bags/containers and use your own reusable containers to make smaller portions.
11. Avoid processed and prepackaged foods, opt for fresh or frozen whenever possible. Stick to the perimeter of the store. Just because a processed food says organic doesn’t mean it’s healthy. This includes buying whole carrots and peeling yourself over baby carrots, and avoiding prewashed/prepared salad kits. Same with packaged broccoli, cauliflower, etc. Doing the prep work yourself will save you money.
12. Use Ibotta for in store grocery rebates. I have use this app for a couple of years and have gotten over $1,200 back in cash rebates, and I don’t use it that often. So use it religiously and wisely and you can really rack up some great rebates. There are actually a lot of good organic /health food options. And it’s free. Rakuten is another rebate app that is great if you shop online.
13. Use grocery pick up or delivery to prevent impulse purchases. I love pick up. I avoid the temptations. Even if there is a fee, you are likely to save overall by avoiding those impulse purchases.
14. Similarly: Don’t shop hungry. Those junk food items are costly and definitely more appealing when you are hungry.
15. Check prices at Thrive or Vitacost (and don’t forget go through Ibotta or Rakuten for cash back rebates). Vitacost often has deals and they allow coupon stacking for most coupons. They have a special section on their website for promo codes on specific products. They often have overall codes (such as 15% off your total order) which will stack with other codes.
Thrive will price match. They are membership based ($60/year), but offer a free 5 year membership to teachers, first responders and more. Use this link for 40% off your first order.
17. Label leftovers with the date so they don’t go to waste. Talking to myself here too.
18. Freeze produce like berries, or fresh meat (as long as it wasn’t previously frozen) if you won’t be able to eat it before it goes bad. Some leftovers can be frozen too, like soups, or lasagna. Things come up, plans change is it sometimes we may not get to cook or eat all of the meals that we planned. You can go ahead and make the meal and freeze it (especially if the meat has previously been frozen) or just freeze the meat. For ground beef, you can just brown the meat and freeze it to use later in chili or tacos.
19. You can also use leftovers in other meals. Last night’s chili could be a baked chili potato tonight. Leftover chicken breast can be used to make chicken salad for lunches.
20. Check with your local grocery store. Sometimes you can save by buying in bulk. For example, if you buy 4lbs of ground beef, they may offer 10% off the ground beef.
21. This may seem obvious, but shop around. Most stores now offer apps which can make it much easier to compare prices. Also know which stores honor other stores prices. This will save gas money from shopping around.
22. Know which stores have their own organic brands for staples like flour, sugar, bread, etc. For example, Whole Foods has their 365 brand and Publix has a Greenwise. Not everything in these brands is organic so be sure to read labels if you want a particular item to be organic.
23. Learn how to make more food items from scratch. Making bread isn’t too terribly difficult and can’t save you a lot of money. Homemade potato chips are also amazing. Mayo, salad dressing, baked goods, can be made from scratch less expensively than store bought. Granola and granola bars aren’t too difficult to make and taste amazing. There is a season for everything, so even if you don’t have time to make from scratch now, tuck the idea away for the future. You can also make this a fun family activity and get the kids involved when time (and energy) allows.
24. If you have Amazon Prime, you get special discounts at Whole Foods. They have Prime Member Only discounts and members also receive and extra 10% off yellow tag sale prices. I have saved anywhere from a few dollars to $30 each week.
School will be starting soon and lunches will need to be packed again. I’m so not ready! I do not like using the disposable plastic bags so I have a set of these Stasher silicone reusable bags. They close easily and tightly with their self loc feature; and comes in all different sizes for an endless number of uses. They are dishwasher safe and can be used again and again. We’ve never had an issue with them leaking.
You can also get larger 1/2 gallon sizes, including a stand up version, to store produce in the fridge or freeze items. And smaller sizes perfect for on the go snacks or keeping a pacifier clean in the diaper bag. And Stasher go that can clip to a bag and perfect to fit a phone, so perfect for the pool or beach to keep your phone clean and dry.
The zipper part can be a little hard to open so practice with your kids before sending their lunch in these. The sandwiches size is perfect for typical bread size but wider sizes, like some organic bread brands, may need the edges trimmed to fit the bag. They obviously are a little bulkier than disposable baggies, but we haven’t had an issue.
Stasher bags are made from food grade platinum silicone. Platinum food-grade silicone is safe for use in the freezer, microwave, dishwasher, boiling water, soups vide, and oven up to 400 degrees F. Stasher also participates in 1% for the Planet. They are BPA and phthalate free.
I’ve tried several different methods of pre-washing or not and storing berries but the one that works the best for me is a few minutes of soaking in cold water with a few tablespoons of white vinegar (confession: I totally eyeball it). I give them a gentle rub with my fingers.
After they have soaked, I lay them on a towel to dry. They must dry COMPLETELY before storing them in the fridge.
I typically store them in an open bowl so moisture isn’t trapped in. I sometimes will place a washcloth or paper towel in the bottom and cover with a kitchen towel just to catch any extra moisture. My kids don’t let berries last very long. They will devour 2 pounds in a day, easy (I have 3 kids).
I do the same for grapes
You can also use baking side instead of vinegar to help remove residue. I found vinegar is great to prevent berries from molding too quickly. Have you tried this method? What works for you?
Fabric softeners may make your clothes soft and towels fluffy but they are actually bad for fabrics and contain toxins. Fabric softeners work by leaving a thin, lubricating film on the clothes. (This is enough to make me go eek! No!) This is not good for athletic fabrics designed to wick moisture away, and they actually typically have instructions on the tag to not use fabric softeners. (That’s what one of those symbols mean.) Over time, the waxy coating from the fabric softener builds up preventing moisture from being wicked away. The coating can also build up on towels making them less absorbent.
In the same vein, the coating can trap in stains and discolorations. This coating can also make it difficult for water to permeate the fabric to properly clean the clothes and remove stains and odors. Have you ever had a greasy/bluish looking stain on your clothing after the wash that wasn’t there before? That’s because the fabric softener itself can sometimes leave behind discolorations and stains.
Because the fabric softener builds up on the clothes, that means it’s in contact with your skin, probably 24/7 if you use it on all your clothes.
What’s it made of? Many ingredients, especially ingredients in the fragrance used, are not disclosed, especially fragrance ingredients. Looking on EWG.com, there are many common ingredients that are endocrine disruptors, cause organ toxicity, are skin and respiratory irritants.
“Usually, fabric softeners and dryer sheets contain cationic surfactants of the quaternary ammonium type (also called QACs), which is known to exacerbate asthma symptoms and irritate skin, and has been linked to cancer and reproductive issues. This is what makes clothes feel smoother. But the chemical can build up on fabrics over time, potentially limiting a material’s breathability. It can also inhibit flame-retardancy in kids’ clothes.
QACs biodegrade easily in the air, they don’t biodegrade very well in water. They are actually not completely removed during wastewater treatment. And of course, that’s a problem, because our washing machine water goes straight into the oceans.
Check labels and product websites for these ingredients and avoid them all: distearyldimonium chloride, diethyl ester dimethyl ammonium chloride, variants of hydroxyethyl methyl ammonium methyl sulfate or the vague terms “biodegradable fabric softening agents” and “cationic surfactant.” Also avoid fragrance which can be a skin irritant and contain phthalates.”
Environmental concerns One researcher conducted an experiment using new organic cotton towels, and clean washers and dryers, to sample laundry emissions after using scented fabric softeners and dryer sheets.
What was coming out of those vents? (And into people’s lungs?) Seven hazardous air pollutants and 25 volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some of these, including acetaldehyde and benzene, are not safe at any level. (These are also pollutants that commonly spew out of vehicle tailpipes.)
Many dryer sheets contain chemicals that react with the air to create formaldehyde, a probable human carcinogen.
What are alternatives?
I use vinegar in place of fabric softener when needed. For stinky towels or clothes, I also add some baking soda.
For the dryer, I use wool dryer balls. They help separate clothing in the dryer preventing static and helps reduce drying time. I only dry towels, bedding and basic cottons (socks, underwear and t shirts). If you struggle with static, make sure you are not over drying or using too high of heat. If it’s still an issue, attach a safety pin to a dryer ball. The safety pin will transfer the static to the dryer drum and away from clothes.
I hang dry athletic clothes, jeans, nicer clothes and T-shirts with a heat press I want to keep looking nice. This keeps clothes looking newer longer, reduces fade from the heat, and pilling from tumble drying. It also prevents missed stains from being set in, and saves on energy costs. I have this clothes drying rack with this wall fan to help dry them quicker.
Sheet pan dinners are great! Fairly quick, you only mess up one pan and nothing to really babysit. Plus you can really use your imagination.
I had chicken legs, tons of basil from the garden, potatoes in the pantry and zucchini in the fridge. I grabbed those as well as an onion and some spices and boom! Dinner was going. Here is what I did…
1.5 lbs potatoes cut into bite sized pieces
4 medium zucchini (you can use less, I just used what I had. You can also mix in yellow squash.) Cut into chunks.
Handful of grape tomatoes
1 onion sliced in chunks
Enough chicken legs for your family
2 teaspoons garlic powder or 3-4 cloves minced
1 teaspoon each salt and pepper (or to taste)
Fresh basil, 1 handful slivered
Preheat oven to 400. Arrange cut veggies on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Drizzle 2 teaspoons of olive oil over the veggies (use more if needed to coat). Sprinkle with most of the spices and toss. Arrange the chicken legs on top. Spray or use a pastry brush to thinly coat in olive oil. Use the remaining salt, pepper, garlic and basil. Bake for approximately 40 minutes. Note oven temps and chicken sizes vary, so check with a meat thermometer as to not over cook. This will make the zucchini and tomatoes a little mushy, so if you prefer firmer veggies, cook those in a separate pan and put in oven about 15 minutes after the chicken, potatoes and onion.
This is easy to alter. Brussel sprouts would be so good with this as well.
Menstrual cramps are a pain (pun intended), and we all know it. But taking Tylenol or ibuprofen regularly is not good for our bodies. Midol also has less than ideal ingredients. So what ways can we go about this naturally?
There are items you may already have at home to help, and others you may want to consider adding to your Aunt Flow arsenal.
• Heating pad — I love the king size. It wraps around more of the abdomen and feels so good!) A flaxseed heating pad is a great natural alternative • Fair trade chocolates — chocolate just makes everything better. I get the soy free, they are trade chocolate. Soy and I do not get along. • Cloth pads — I had far fewer cramps with much less intensity, as well as a less heavy flow once I ditched toxic tampons and pads, and switched to cloth or at least organic cotton pads. • Menstrual cup — this is the best eco-friendly option (besides free bleeding). This prevents any waste. • Earthley’s Ease the Ache — amazing for cramps! I’ll give a testimonial below as well as details of how to save 58%. But if you have cramps, this is a must have. • Kombucha this is a great fermented tea with beneficial probiotics do you help keep your gut health and check. • Soothing music — I Carmens tend to peek during her your menstrual cycle. Bring a little calmness to your day with soothing music. • Herbal bath — Who doesn’t love a nice relaxing bath? These beneficial herbs can help bring relief to cramping as well as help heal after birth, plus it’s safe for baby!
Earthley’s Ease the Ache was formulated for women who need some help during menstruation. The herbs help to ease cramping and pain, are rich in vitamin K to slow heavy bleeding, and help to smooth out mood swings. It’s also great for postpartum mamas to deal with pesky afterpains! Try it for just $5!
My teen and I have used it the last few months and I can tell you, this works! I no longer have painful cramps, and my teen no longer complains either.
Here’s more to consider to have a more natural menstrual cycle.
Have you considered what the tampons you are using are made of? How they affect your body? Would they be causing more intense cramps? The materials used to make pads and tampons are often bleached, and because tampons and pads are considered medical devices, manufacturers are not required to disclose the ingredients. Check out this article for more information. And 7 reasons why you should ditch tampons here.