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Bonus Post: Homemade Hair Gel

Because it took me so long to post the recipes for the household cleaners for you, Slowvolutionaries, I gift you with another blog post today as an apology.

Now you all have hopefully gotten it by now that I’m trying my hardest to go all natural, chemical-free AND to diminish my consumables. I was running low on my store-bought hair gel and went to my search engine and did a search for homemade hair gel. Now I will admit to you that I wasn’t expecting to find anything but lo and behold, I came across the above video.

You mean to tell me that I can actually make hair gel at home? Holy Canoli! So I finally ran out of the store-bought stuff. I ran to my co-op and got some bulk flaxseed and last night I made the gel. Now I was missing some quality essential oils like she mentions in the video but that will soon be rectified. In the meantime, I did use the tea tree to give it some anti-microbial properties and thus help it last longer and I added a smidge of olive oil to give it some moisturizing qualities. I’m hoping to add vanilla oil to my repertoire soon. But if you don’t have the oils she suggests or one of your own to give it a good odor, there really is no scent to it. Not a bad thing. But I want to smell yummy!

The video made me feel like it would take a bit of time but it doesn’t. The gel starts forming almost immediately and so you have to watch it very closely and keep stirring. I also didn’t have pantyhose and used a regular strainer which was a bad idea because as the mixture cools, it congeals and gets thick and doesn’t strain. So make sure you have all the things she says to save you the headache. I just kept re-heating it to get it out. Took longer, I’m sure.

Now fast forward to this morning when I’m prepping myself for an interview and I go to my fridge and I pull out the gel. It was cold. It was thick and blobby. It worked WONDERFULLY. You don’t need a lot at all, and it does get a little hard but it doesn’t flake and you can moisten and reshape the hair if you’d like. My hair wasn’t weighted down and I used a fraction of the amount I would use if it was the store-bought stuff.

In a nutshell, I loved it and so I’m saying goodbye to the store-bought stuff forever. Hope it works just as well for you! Enjoy!

SIDENOTE: Yes, this recipe is geared toward natural African-American hair. I don’t doubt, however, that all hair types could use this recipe.

 

 

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Homemade Cleaning Supplies: Recipes and Results

Okay Slowvolutionaries! You’ve taken that shopping list I gave you in the previous post and you’ve gone out and purchased the recommended items. In case it wasn’t clear, here it is again:

  1. The Naturally Clean Home by Karyn Siegel-Maier
  2. Baking Soda (Local Grocery Store)
  3. Borax (20 Mule Team can be found at your local grocery store)
  4. White Vinegar (Local Grocery Store. I get mine in bulk from Sam’s club.)
  5. Castile Soap (Your choice of scent, I use unscented)
  6. Essential Oils (Your choice of scent, I use Lime and Tea Tree for now)
  7. Lemon Juice (Local Grocery Store)

DISCLAIMER: I linked you to the sites where I purchase my items. This is by no means me telling you where to buy. It’s merely me giving you a visual and a good starting point to do your own research and find the places and prices that are right for you.

SIDENOTE: Some people use bleach or ammonia because they just don’t feel like the items above get their home clean enough. Well, the items above clean and DISINFECT your home just as well as bleach and ammonia do and without the harsh chemicals. I’m taking my home chemical-free. As totally as possible. You can still disinfect without chemicals. But if you choose to continue to use bleach or ammonia, I won’t judge you. Oh who are we kidding, I’m totally judging you.

Okay, so while The Naturally Clean Home has tons of recipes, some of you aren’t like me and you don’t have the time, energy and/or patience to read a book about all this crap. I mean, after all, it’s bad enough you have to take time out of your day to make the stuff, right? Okay fine. Here are five of my favorite recipes I use the most:

  1. GLASS CLEANER: One part vinegar to one part water and about ten drops (or to desired scent) of essential oil of choice. Pour into your spray container of choice. You can also put into a regular box-style container with microfiber or reusable cloths of your choice and have ready-to-use wipes also. 😀
  2. DISHWASHING LIQUID: Fill your container of choice with Castile Soap. If unscented, use anywhere from 10-30 drops of Essential Oil of your choice, to your preferred scent. If scented, then you’re already there. I used a 22 oz. dishwashing liquid bottle and 20 drops of lime oil and 10 drops of tea tree oil. This gives my dishwashing liquid some serious anti-microbial properties! Take that germs!
  3. ALL PURPOSE CLEANER: (for a 20 oz spray bottle) 1 teaspoon of castile soap, 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1 teaspoon borax, 2 cups water, 10 drops essential oil of choice. I use 5 additional drops of tea tree to add to my disinfecting power. Combine and it’s ready.
  4. SCOURING POWDER: In your container of choice mix 2 parts baking soda to 1 part borax. I also added 1/4 part of coarse sea salt to boost scouring and disinfecting power. 10 drops tea tree essential oil and 20 drops Essential Oil of choice or to desired scent. Stir with a spoon. (Now I know it sounds weird to add oils to a dry recipe. I thought so too until the oils were absorbed into the ingredients and there was no clumping or moisture to be found. I have no idea how that works but I think it’s awesome. My scouring powder makes Pine Sol smell like weak cologne. It’s AWESOME!)
  5. TOILET BOWL CLEANER: In your container of choice mix 2 parts baking soda, 1/2 part borax, 2 parts white vinegar, 1/4 part coarse sea salt, 1/4 part water, 10 drops tea tree oil and 20 drops essential oil of choice or to desired scent. (I found with the lime oil and everything going on with this cleaner, it did emit fumes. Vinegar and baking soda react with one another as we all should remember from elementary science class so just make sure you’re working in a well ventilated space and I suggest mixing it all together in the sink as it will at times overflow.) I used an old gallon vinegar jug for this recipe. The borax doesn’t fully dilute and you don’t want it to. It adds a scouring quality that is great. I use about a cup of this in my toilet, let it sit for about twenty minutes (enough time to start cleaning other parts of my bathroom) and then brush and done.

Now if you’re expecting these recipes to behave in the same way your chemical cleaners do, you will be very disappointed. Recently a friend gave me her all natural laundry soap because “it doesn’t smell like I’m used to so it doesn’t seem clean”. I happily took the free (of CHEMICALS!) laundry soap and shook my head. It’s because there are no chemical detergents (Soap= natural, Detergent =  chemical) and that’s GOOD. But we have all grown accustomed to the TOXCON goods. It’s why I use a lot of essential oils in my recipes. I don’t feel that way about my cleaners. The dishwashing soap doesn’t suds up as much as the Dawn. The All purpose cleaner doesn’t foam like the Formula 409 did. The scouring powder doesn’t have awesome commercials with bubbles that have faces on them. I don’t need to turn on my vent fan when I clean my bathroom. However, when I’m done, my bathroom and kitchen smell great, look great and are definitely cleaned AND disinfected. And the most important part is that I wouldn’t have a problem with a young baby crawling all over the floor and picking up toys and putting them in her mouth. Because she won’t be munching on a toxin covered block.

So there you have it my friends, 5 great, chemical-free and inexpensive recipes to help you get started cleaning your house. Invest in the book mentioned above or any other recipe book of your choice and you’ll learn about Dishwasher soap, laundry soap, dryer sheets, and lots of other things that will help you on your way to a more natural and chemical-free lifestyle. Oh, and you get to unplug from the TOXCON Matrix a little more too.


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Homemade Household Cleaners: Tools for Getting Started

Homemade Household CleanersGreetings Slowvolutionaries!

I spent a good chunk of my day Friday making cleaning supplies for the house. My bathroom was a hot mess and I went to clean it and my supplies were low so I turned on some 80s music and pulled out my containers and got to work (it’s hard to pour vinegar without spilling when you’re Rebel Yelling. I don’t recommend it.).

Now for those of you wondering how you even go about knowing what to make, may I recommend that you invest in The Naturally Clean Home by Karyn Siegel-Maier. It has tons of very easy recipes and information on the basic ingredients you’ll need in order to make your own chemical-free-and-yet-still-just-as-great household cleaners for your home. This is where I’ve gotten the recipes for all the items you see in the picture there to the left.

When it comes to the containers you’ll be keeping all of your items in, well, that part is easy. Simply re-purpose the items you have in your home already. As you run out of cleaning supplies, THOROUGHLY clean out the spray bottles and containers and re-use them with your own recipes. In the photo there, you can see several spray bottles (I actually purchased those at Dollar General so they were each $1) and some re-used dishwashing liquid bottles (also from Dollar general so also $1), a tub of shortening that I re-used, a re-used lemon juice bottle and a re-used vinegar bottle. The only things that are new are the spray bottles. Moving toward a zero waste lifestyle, the key is to first figure out what you ALREADY have that you can re-purpose and THEN buy if you must.

SIDENOTE: I am trying very hard to eliminate plastic from my life as plastic is composed of chemicals. Not only that but it reacts with EVERYTHING it comes into contact with (yes, even your food) and leeches chemicals into it too. So by that reason alone, my all natural cleaners are no longer natural now that they’re in plastic bottles. Sad, right? However my budget does not allow me to purchase the new, fancy stainless steel spray bottles that are popping up as the plastic-free lifestyle gains steam. At least not yet. I’m willing to buy them new if it will help me get to a plastic-free (and thus chemical-free) life.

Now I recognize that we are all at different stages of fiscal health and so I’ll begin with what I call “The Poor Man’s Starter Kit”. This consists of the absolute necessities: Baking Soda and White Vinegar. You don’t need any special containers to hold these ingredients, simply fill your sink with hot water and 2 parts Vinegar to 1 part baking soda and clean away. For scouring power, sprinkle the baking soda onto the surface and then scrub with a brush or sponge covered with vinegar and water. The baking soda will leave a white film-like residue. To get rid of this, use a vinegar rinse which is 1 part water to 2 parts vinegar and it will go away. Vinegar and water make a great glass cleaner also so there you have it. All purpose cleaners with only three ingredients (one of which is already in your home).

For those of you who are looking to make this a more permanent lifestyle change for your home and you have money to spare for the upfront purchases, I suggest you do so. Adding the additional ingredients will in turn help all of them last longer, particularly if you buy in bulk. Now a cardinal rule of zero waste is buying in bulk as it cuts down on frequent trips to the store, packaging, etc to purchase the items. In some cases, there is no packaging at all. For example, I take my baking soda container to the store and fill it there. And seriously, if you purchase in bulk then it will last you at least 6 months and up to 18 months. So if you factor that in, the cost is next to nothing compared to the store-bought chemical cleaners.

My favorite place to shop is Soap Goods. You basically can get everything you could possibly need from this place. As a matter of fact, your boutique shops tend to get their items from this place. And the prices are incredibly reasonable. And the best thing? Bulk. They have tons of purchasing options from single serve to massive bulk sizes. I’ve developed what I call the $30 rule. This is a reasonable price for me and when shipping is added, never takes me over $50 which is my limit. And each pay period, I take the $30-$50 and buy another item for my repertoire. I’m down to only a few more items I’ll need and other than vinegar (seriously, you use it A LOT. It’s a blessing it’s super inexpensive), I won’t need to buy anything else until 2013. 😀

What’s on my list, you ask? Well the things I’ve purchased are: baking soda, borax, soap flakes, washing soda, castile soap, lime essential oil, Tea Tree Essential Oil, Lemon Juice and white vinegar. Yup, that’s it.  That’s approximately $200 for something that will last you about a year or more. Take a look around the website and look at the amount you get for your budget. $30 for Borax gets me 24 pounds of it! That should last me at least two years. Did you do the math? Yup, $15 per year, $1.25 per month, 4 cents per day. You could collect four cents a day by walking down a street and picking up pennies. My point? It’s not that expensive.

To go further with my zero waste, we will be slowly relinquishing our dependence on paper towels. We’ve been trying for a while now and have not had the kind of success I’ve hoped for but we’re going hard at it again in the new year. Microfiber cloths work fantastic, last forever and keep coming back for more. I cleaned my mirror with it the other day and it was amazing how little I had to wipe compared to paper towels.

Finally, a note about essential oils. Purchase your scent of choice and know that it will last you a very long time. Some can be incredibly expensive (I’ve seen oils for $4000 a pound. Holy Whoa Batman!) but what you want to make sure you have is Tea Tree Oil. It’s Mother Earth’s Miracle cure. It gets rid of EVERYTHING because of its antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal properties. This oil does it ALL! I’ve kept it in my house for years for use on everything from cuts and scrapes to pimples and even a case of ringworm my daughter developed as a kid (Thank you Chuck E Cheese. Womp). Make sure it’s 100% and not diluted which is surprisingly rampant on the market.  I wanted a citrus scent so I went with the Lime Oil (that stuff is STRONG!). I purchased my 16 ounce bottle over 6 months ago and I’m just now getting into my 2nd ounce so it’s going to last me a good long while. Most recipes call for about ten drops and a dropper can hold up to thirty so you can imagine how slowly you go through the stuff. It’s well worth the price you’ll pay. I mix my tea tree oil with the lime oil and it gives me a double whammy of antibacterial properties for cleaning the worst germ-collecting rooms, kitchen and bath.

Alright, Slowvolutionaries. You have your shopping list. Now go on out there and arm yourselves! Find containers in your home you can re-purpose. Buy, in bulk if you can, the items you want to use that will help you further unplug from the Matrix of Toxic Consumerism (TOXCON) and await further instruction which will be coming soon on how to mix these ingredients together to create products that will clean your home. Don’t want to wait for the next post? The book above is where I get my inspiration. Don’t hesitate to get your hands on it.

And because I always leave you with an educational video…


I Forevermore Dub Thee…

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the expansion of this blog and all the things I wanted to do with it and how there are a great many of you out there who are interested in the things I have to share with you. Well, I have this habit of nicknaming people, people who are important to me and guess what! I have thought of a nickname for YOU my dear readers! I mean, after all “Readers” is drab and dull and BORING and there are a lot of things I don’t mind being called but BORING is not one of them.

So without further ado, let the ceremony begin!

Please drop to one knee, bow your head and place your hand over your heart

I, City Girl Slowdier, Knight of the Realm of all that is Natural and Non-Toxic, hereby dub thee, My Faithful Reader, a SLOWVOLUTIONARY! You may now rise and take your place among the ranks of Fighters, Believers and other Knights who are preparing to take up arms and Battle Evil for the sake of their own Greater Good!!!

So, how do you like your new name? Sound off below! I love feedback!

😀


Looking Ahead Toward a New Future

It’s been nearly a year since I’ve written a post on here and there are several reasons: time, energy, overwhelming life changes. But it’s time I got back to sharing the growth I’ve experienced and all the wonderful things I’ve been learning with you all. I’ve been getting several requests and it’s the least I can do to help people who are choosing to walk with me (and countless others) down this path.

What’s new? Well, I think it’s inevitable that as you begin to go down the aforementioned rabbit hole and learn all about your food and where it comes from, it begins to impact nearly every other aspect of your life.  It’s a kind of strange evolution that I can only document like this: Going Natural/Organic-> Going Chemical Free ->Reducing Waste->Total Treehugger Mode. It also doesn’t hurt to get laid off from work and realize that you have to seriously contemplate just how much money you give or throw away in the form of waste: energy waste (leave the lights on much? We do!), food waste (just how much stuff do you throw away on trash day? For us it’s TOO MUCH!) and buying things you simply just don’t need but are convinced you do by the clever advertising.

I have learned a great many things and one of the biggest things I’ve learned is how much knowledge is being sucked away by consumerism. If the world as we know it ended tomorrow and we could no longer go and get what we needed from the grocery store, how would you survive? We like to think it’s a far-fetched question but if this economy or the sheer number of strange (or not so strange) natural disasters have shown us anything recently, it’s shown us how fragile this cushy life we live really is.

So what have I been up to and what can you expect from future posts on the Slowvolution? Well, if the video above is any indication I’m moving my family toward a Zero Waste Lifestyle. I’m not going into too much detail right now but suffice it to say that we will be making the transition in 2012 to a life of as little waste as possible. With that comes a lot of other byproducts- reducing consumption, reducing expenses, going chemical-free by making our own household products, repurposing old and worn items and learning about things my grandmother and great-grandmother knew how to do or had neighbors that could do it: Soap and lotion making, making household cleaners (which we’ve been using for about 6 months in our home already), old school toiletries etc. I will also be varying the blogs with Vlogs on how to make the things I’m learning how to make and demonstrations of changes we’ve made around the home.

Like our new toothpowder for instance! 🙂

So stay tuned folks. 2012 is going to be quite interesting in our household! Hope you’re ready!


City Girl Farmer

Sorry for leaving you in the lurch for a while! I promise to do better!

So I’m still over the moon about joining my CSA. I won’t receive my first box until mid-February though so once I do, I will let you know how it is! I’ll even upload a picture for you. Smile! 🙂

I went into the grocery store for the first time in a month the other day and I was instantly overwhelmed. All I wanted was honey. Why couldn’t I simply find the honey? I’ve never liked grocery stores. They’re too big and confusing. That experience just made me appreciate my efforts even more and think of new ways to expand on those efforts.

Up next. A garden. And not just any garden but the beginnings of an all out miniature farm. I’m both nervous and excited about it. Doing a garden the right way is a lot of work if you want it to be productive. I’m still researching a great many things like soil, compost and planting conditions. But I’ve decided on what I’m going to plant: carrots, broccoli, onions, snap peas, chard, collards, arugula, spinach, okra, and some herbs.

I’ve done herb gardens in the past because buying cooking herbs is expensive and it was nice to have them on hand always when I was making dishes. But to do vegetables and greens is going to be a challenge. But if all goes according to plan then my garden will compliment my CSA box and I won’t have to buy salad greens ever again! And it will be interesting to see what experimental recipes come out of both.  

This is a great start to truly unplugging and not seeing the inside of a grocery store again but I know that there will still be items I’ll have to go get. In the meantime, are you able to begin a garden of your own? Seattle Tilth has been a great starting resource for me in figuring out what to do to be more organic at home. Do some research and see if there is a local resource in your area to get you started. At the very least, your local home improvement store is a great start as well. Do you remember that thing called a newspaper? They have gardening sections that provide a great deal of information. Container gardens, greenhouse gardens, or digging up the backyard, it IS POSSIBLE. The only question is, how?

More to come on this topic as I build on it! Until then, healthy eating!


Slow but Steady Revolution- Slowvolution

Well, I feel like I’ve shared a lot with you and yet I feel like I’ve only shaved a little off the top. There is so much regarding food, health, nutrition and politics that can be discussed. But today I wanted to share with you my excitement.

I FINALLY joined a CSA! YAY!

What is a CSA? Well, I attached a video for you to take a look at but in a nutshell, CSA is an acronym for Community Supported Agriculture. In essence, I’ve bought a share of a farm and in exchange, I get fresh-from-the-farm food in a box every two weeks.

For me, this is monumental. Unless the farmers are lying (which I doubt they are but I acknowledge the possibility), my produce will have never seen a pesticide in its life. This means it is true organic, organic by MY definition. The only thing it’s seen is soil, rain, sun and maybe a blustery breeze or two. It’s as if I went out into the woods or the fields and picked it myself. It’s not genetically modified or doused with chemicals. Allow me a moment to breathe my sigh of relief. Whew.

This is merely a part of my year-long project to unplug as much as possible. First meat, then produce. Soon, I’ll be at a grocery store for my very basic of staples like my great-great grandmother used to do. They’d go to the grocery for sugar and flour. And that was it. My hope is to get to that point by the end of the year. And I plan on doing it all as a city girl. Full time job, wife, mother, yoga, happy hours and bread from scratch.

This is why I didn’t include produce in the Cost Analysis.  If you buy organic produce from a grocery store, the price is going to be astronomical ($6.59 for one avocado? Really?). Admittedly, I have not been eating organic produce. I have been washing the conventional produce better and praying over it. But now I’ll be able to eat fully organic produce for around $20 a week. Yes, that’s right. The family size box of produce I’ll be receiving from Full Circle Farm in Washington is costing me $20 a week. If meat is about $20 a week and produce is about $20 a week, my $50 a week goal for groceries looks more feasible now doesn’t it? (And you people laughed at me for daring to think I could feed a family of three on $50 a week! HA!)

Now with the CSA you are limited in what you can have to items that can be grown locally in your climate and items that are in season (amen for living in the PNW where the winters are mild and stuff still grows). This creates a fun (or painful) challenge where I have to find recipes to match the ingredients I’ll be getting. It also brings about the possibility that I won’t eat everything in time before it begins to spoil so guess who’ll be reading up on canning and freezing in the next few weeks?

In the meantime, I’m beginning my list of what I will be planting in my own garden this year. It will be my largest gardening project ever (I usually do herbs each year) and I’ll be adding greens and veggies which is a first for me. I’m also looking into a greenhouse and thinking about a class on urban chicken farming (which will be news to the hubby!).  I do have to figure out what to do about these raccoons though… (suddenly it doesn’t sound like I really live in a city, does it?)

Wish me luck and I’ll keep you posted on the how the CSA is working for me and my family. In the meantime, I hope you’re still doing your own digging and you’re setting your own goals on how to unplug.


THE COST OF GOOD EATING

If you are reading this then you have hung in there with me through the doom-and-gloom videos and ranting and raving about the Food Industry. I have taken all of your excuses as to why you “can’t” change your eating lifestyle- what’s the big deal? (fake food is unhealthy for you is the big deal!), only hippies care about that stuff! (just because I love roaming around barefoot doesn’t mean I’m a hippie, thank you), where would I even begin finding better food? (eatwild.com, localharvest.com), I’m only one person, I can’t change the system! (CONSUMERS are king, not corporations!)- and I have turned them totally on their ear.

Well, all except one and it’s by far the biggest one of all. How much more money is all of this changing over to REAL FOOD going to cost me?

SIDENOTE: I’d like to just point out here how lucky you all are that I’m willing to share the things I’ve learned with you. For me, all of this is a process of digging and finding and comparing and WORK. You all just get to read a blog! I hope, however, that you’re not just taking my word for it. I do hope you’re going out and researching for yourselves. I’m intelligent and I’m doing a lot of research but that doesn’t mean I’m right. The problem with people today is how much we rely on others to provide our information for us instead of seeking it ourselves. This is how we got into this mess in the first place. But I digress…

When I initially decided to make a change to my diet and the diets of my husband and daughter, I had a double blow to consider. My parents had been buying the majority of the groceries in the house. So not only would we have to move to buying our own groceries, which would be a significant impact to the budget, but if we’d be buying organic, we were going to go broke. I had to realistically consider that, as much as I may want to, I may not be able to afford it.

My journey to Whole Foods that I’ve mentioned before crept back into my mind. There was no way in hell we’d be able to afford $25 for a loaf of bread. And if the bread was $25 then my goodness, how much was everything else going to cost? I was worried. I was worried that I would be forced to feed my daughter crap- LITERALLY!- and be the first source of the cancerous, womb-killing yuckiness she’d receive in her life (yes, a bit extreme perhaps, but ensuring her future is everything to me and this worried me).

But I also knew that I really had no desire to shop at Whole Foods. Again, they’re a part of the system that hurts more than it helps and I wanted to unplug from the system. But the PCC Natural Markets was a co-op and that co-op was a part of it that HELPED. Hubby and I decided we’d just go and take a look around.

The first thing we see is the dairy section and WOWSERS! There was so much to choose from, so many labels to read and the prices made my heart hurt. $6 for a gallon of whole organic milk. $9-$12 for a gallon of raw milk or milk from pastured cows (my goal). Conventional milk can be found for $2 a gallon. We were not starting off on a good foot at all.

The meat section was next and I felt the fist squeezing my heart loosen its grip in stunned shock. By the time we made our way through the entire store, we’d picked up a few items to make for dinner that night and my spirits were soaring. Not only was the food affordable but it was actually possible to buy it within my set goal of $75 per week for a family of three (I’m hoping to get it down to $50 a week and I’m certain it will happen).

I know what you’re saying to yourself. “She’s CRAZY! If that pastured milk is 600% more than what I pay for regular, HOW can this lifestyle change be affordable?” Well, the reason why is two-fold and one has nothing to do with organic eating at all.

1) Plan your meals in advance. Breakfasts, lunches, dinners, desserts and snacks. Account for any anomalies such as field trips for the kids and make a little wiggle room to get food for days you may not want to cook, like hotdogs. Once you’ve planned the meals, create a shopping list based on all the ingredients you’ll need for those meals. Then, go shopping. Do not stray from the list. Do not go up and down all the aisles. All you need is what’s on the list so only get what is on the list. If it’s not there, it’s not bought, end of story. Don’t forget about price comparisons at different stores. There are some things I get at Trader Joe’s that are cheaper than they are at PCC and some things cheaper at the Farmer’s Markets, etc. Stick to this rule and you will save money, guaranteed.

2) Eating REAL FOOD costs more money, this is a fact and it’s one my research corroborates. However, eating REAL FOOD does not cost THAT MUCH more. And when I say not THAT MUCH more, I mean that the concern over how much it costs is not valid enough to not make the change (with some exceptions which I will explain later).

This past weekend I went major grocery shopping. I went to the butcher for bacon, I went to the co-op and Trader Joe’s. I stocked up for two weeks worth of meals for the three of us and some nights for the five of us. I spent a total of $200. I was over budget by $50 (admittedly I didn’t stick to the list). I have selected 11 rather everyday items that I will now compare for you. Please note that I took the conventional Grocery Stores SALES prices just to make it REALLY interesting. It goes something like this:

  Conventional Natural/Organic
Bacon Oscar Mayer$7.69 From the Butcher who got it from the farm$8.50
Cheddar Cheese (same brand and size at both stores)   $4.09  $3.59 (weird that it was cheaper at the co-op)
Ketchup Heinz (check out the ingredients, it’s SCARY!)$2.99   $3.29
Bread Store brand Whole Wheat$1.50 Spelt Whole Wheat$3.69
Hamburger Buns $.89 $2.69
Cream Cheese $2.79 $3.29
Eggs  $2.59 Pastured$2.59 (SAME PRICE!)
Family pack Chicken Wings (3 lbs weight)  $6.00 (~$2/lb) Pastured$9.00 (~$3/lb)
Milk (1 gallon, Whole Milk)  $2.89 (Organic, not pastured)$5.69
Beef Pot Roast (4 lbs weight)  $9.96 (~$2.49/lb)  $19.96 (~$4.99/lb)
Hot Dogs Oscar Mayer Angus$3.49 Straight from the farm$5.50
Total $44.88 $67.79
Difference   +22.91

I selected these items for their randomness and their frequency of purchase. These are pretty much staples in most kitchens. I have found that there is a trend toward where your money really goes and that’s bread and dairy. I personally don’t think the meat is that much more expensive, especially considering the quality of meat you’re getting in the natural versus the conventional but you may feel otherwise. We go through a gallon of milk a week so to me, paying $6 for it is not that painful. If I had a household of growing children, I don’t doubt I’d feel differently. But at the same time, I might sacrifice in another area to ensure my growing children were getting the PROPER nutrition… again, that’s just me.

I have also found there’s a bit of what I call an “upfront cost”. This is to replace the things like syrup, ketchup, rice, etc. that you tend to buy in bulk or not very often. I like to buy pasta and things in bulk and so now I’m replacing a lot of these things. This is also sending me over budget in the beginning and wasn’t something I accounted for though I should have. I deliberately have not included produce because I will be doing a post dedicated solely to produce next week.

So there you have it. The way I look at it is, that $20 extra dollars is merely the cost of a co-pay for a doctor’s visit or for over-the-counter or prescription medication. I’d rather give it back to my body in the form of healthier and more nutritious food than to Big Medicine.

I encourage you to visit your local farmer’s markets/co-ops and do your own cost analysis. You don’t have to buy anything to do it, all you need is a pen and paper and some patience. (And you need to not mind having people stare at you as you walk through the store and write things down.) But go visit, take a look, investigate on your own. I promise, the cost is not nearly as bad as most of you think it is. And take it from the cheapest chick in the world, it’s well worth it.


Benefits and Disappointments

Okay I think it’s time I finally let you all in on what I feel have been the benefits and disappointments of our new lifestyle choice. I wasn’t deliberately keeping you in the dark, I merely wanted to give it real time to set in so I had some hardcore data to give you and not just “Well, I THINK I feel better!”.

Immediately after watching Food, Inc. in November we made SOME changes to our diet but we didn’t go full-fledged until January 1. The first week of January I did a detoxification process to expel the old toxins and only ate fruits and veggies and drank water. (I didn’t complete the 7 day detox. I was detoxing from so many things that I felt awful so it only lasted 5 days. I plan on redoing it again.)

I will forewarn you, some of the things I’ll share with you are not normally mentioned in polite conversation but I have to share it with you because it’s just a fact of life and a big part of determining health and the changes to it. So here we go.

BENEFITS

Taste

I quit smoking June 14th, 2010 after smoking for 15 years. One thing all ex-smokers always told me was how much better food tastes once you quit. Well, I never experienced that. I’ve always been someone who was quite in touch with my senses, especially taste, and so I was a bit disappointed that great tasting food didn’t become blissfully sublime food. But that has all changed now. My meat is infinitely better tasting. In several blogs I used the word delicious and every time I do I cringe. Because delicious doesn’t begin to cover it. Now when we eat, there are pleased grunts and nods of approval. That pleases me, especially since I’m the cook.

I’ve hated chicken my whole life. We ate it a lot when I was growing up and I just have come to abhor it. I had to go and marry a man who loves eating chicken all the time. It made me crazy. Now, I can eat chicken everyday. Pastured chicken and Grocery Store chicken taste NOTHING alike. Grass-finished beef… well my mouth is watering just thinking about it.  I could go on and on but suffice it to say that everything tastes INFINITELY better.

Bloating and Fullness

I forgot what it felt like to be “full” or “stuffed” until yesterday when I broke and had a pizza from this specialty pizza place. I hadn’t had it in a while. It looked tasty. But it was disgusting and I felt like a total gargantuan after two slices. You see the whole taste thing was a huge factor. It LOOKED tasty but I made my own homemade all natural pizza at home last week and, well, this specialty pizza WISHED it was as good as my simple italian sausage pizza I made at home (I mean the italian sausage alone was divine!).

“Itis” is no longer something we experience. That “full” bloated feeling is no more. Couple that with the fact that we eat so much less (HELLO SAVINGS!) because the food we eat now is so much more nutrient-dense and we’re feeling really great after a meal. And no, it doesn’t mean we’re still starved. It’s a little difficult to describe so I’ll put it like this. You COULD eat more but your body and brain are wondering why you want to. You feel satisfied, even a little happy.

And the Queen of Potato Chips is snacking less. WAY LESS. I’ve worked on the same bag of chips for over a week. I used to do a bag a day. I just don’t find myself feeling hungry an hour or two later anymore. My breakfast ties me over until lunch, my lunch until dinner. It’s wonderful. (I still can’t give up my desserts though. Not happening.)

Digestion

Briefly, I’ll say this. When you go natural there is an exponential increase in your fiber intake. I’m terrible about drinking water but the dehydration headaches became too much to bear so it forced me to drink more water (we’ve stopped drinking juices. I don’t even buy them anymore though sometimes I steep mint leaves because I just hate plain water). Water and fiber are what the body uses to detoxify. Hello clear water in the toilet after #1 and amen to regularity I haven’t seen in over 20 years! I’ll leave it at that.

Energy and Mood

I’m going to lay it all out there for those who may not know. I am a vampire. I do not sleep at night. I AVERAGE 5 hours of sleep a night during the week. Two nights ago I got three hours. It’s just a fact of my life that I prefer to sleep during the day than at night. I have a hard time sleeping at night because my brain is not only active but CREATIVE and I love to write.

Despite that, my energy levels have evened out in a way that almost frightens me. Sure, I’m sleepy but I’m not FATIGUED anymore. I don’t feel fatigue. I haven’t in weeks. No more feeling run-down, no more praying for an afternoon nap. It’s been since… never that I’ve felt this even-keeled.

And my moods have also evened out tremendously. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you I have major yo-yo mood swings. Not anymore. And my depression is becoming less of something I overcome daily and more of an afterthought. And this is a MAJOR boon in my life and the lives of my husband and daughter. I am definitely happier. Genuinely happier.

Did I mention taste? Okay, just checking.

Spiritual Reconnection

Allow me a moment of esoteric rambling. Without turning this into some deep conversation about religion I will tell you I am not religious. I do not follow a religion. I am, however, deeply spiritual. I have admittedly been feeling a bit of a spiritual disconnect in the last few years though and it’s bothered me a tad. All of that has changed.

My husband joked the other day that the novelty will soon wear off and I won’t be cooking everyday. I don’t know if that’s true. Not only is cooking the food providing my family and myself with delicious sustenance but I have found a new spiritual connection not only with my food (and inevitably the earth and thus the universe and thus the Creator of the universe) but also with my family- the two people I love more than anything. Because I’m putting love in each meal I prepare. I’ve lovingly and carefully picked out each ingredient, lovingly and carefully prepared it and all with a deep sense of concern for their health, happiness and well-being. Each slice of a carrot and stir of a pot has me thinking about them and their health and whether they’ll be happy with what they eat.

I’m a firm believer in energy and that each of us transfers energy with everything we do. Be it positive or negative, we give and take energy. I don’t doubt that the energy I’m using in preparing their meals is transferring to them and thus to the people they touch. Couple that with the growing feeling of wanting to be the one that got my hands in the dirt and nursed the carrot from seed to dinner plate, of wanting to be the giver as well as the taker. I want to input positive energy so I can withdraw positive energy. Some of the farmers call themselves “Stewards of Nature”. This is profound to me and it’s one of my favorite parts of this entire transformation. Expect future blogs about my experiences on the farm. That is definitely happening.

DISAPPOINTMENTS

Total Detach

Completely unplugging from “The Meatrix” is profoundly difficult. It’s amazing the lengths Big Food has gone to ensure their total dominance of Global Food. I bought a package of “organic” dry sauce mix. Well, it had the fake ingredients. Now don’t get me wrong, maltodextrin is made from corn. But you know what, I don’t need it in my food. I don’t WANT it in my food. This is why I’m learning how to make my own condiments. Because when it comes to salad dressings, sauces, ketchup and the like, it’s virtually IMPOSSIBLE to go fully natural. I’m so glad I’m viewing this as a challenge. But I’m impatient. I want to unplug now. But as a city girl, it’s not going to happen unless I’m growing the food myself.

Paranoia and Cynicism

I’m a paranoid person by nature but learning about all of this has made it a little worse, I’ll admit. I think it was sort of a nail in the coffin for me to realize that greed truly knows no bounds, that people will literally do ANYTHING for money, even kill the people they’re trying to milk the money from. It’s frustrating and frightening and sad. I won’t eat anything now without looking at the ingredients. Perhaps it’s still the newness of it all. I’m hoping one day I’ll hit that point where I just KNOW what I’m going to buy when I walk into the market. But until then, I’m incredibly paranoid about everything I’m putting in my body.

And I’ve grown more cynical about people in general. I’m a firm believer that the majority of us humans are decent and kind people. It’s unfortunate they’re not the ones in charge. I’m growing more and more distrustful of those that are in charge. I want to have faith and belief but… it’s very difficult.

Working Harder

I don’t know if this is a disappointment persay but I put it here because most people will probably view it as such. If we’re having a busy evening with meetings and things, I can no longer just swing by McDonald’s and eat. I have to ensure we have time to cook and eat before we go. Or that we have money for something like already prepped sushi packs or something. I do buy the all natural beef hotdogs for just such an occasion. But it does make things more difficult.  Especially since my husband doesn’t cook.

I also now have more elements involved with getting my food. No more quick jaunts two blocks down the hill to the QFC. Now I have to travel farther and plan ahead and ensure I have the time to go and read labels. I’m sure this will change once I’m comfortable with my food choices but until then it is a bit more work.

And I’m cooking everyday and preparing more of my own condiments and desserts and it takes a bit more time and energy. This is not a disappointment to me at all but it could very much be one to the movers and shakers of the world. I do my best to ensure there are always leftovers handy for a quick warm up, just in case I’m not able to cook that day. We won’t even be TEMPTED to do the fast food thing. No thank you.

People’s Attitudes

You would not BELIEVE how many excuses come out of people’s mouths when you discuss natural eating. Mind you, people are asking ME about it only to then tell me how wrong I am or refute what I’ve researched without themselves doing any research (I don’t at all mind being told I’m wrong by people who have done their OWN research!). I always assumed healthy eating was expensive too. Until I did my research. I once didn’t want to learn or accept where my food REALLY came from. That was a MASSIVE mistake. I do believe I can affect change, even though I’m only one individual. It really is not that difficult to find natural food, no matter where you live, if you’re willing to look. And no, wanting to be healthy is not just for wealthy hippies. We should all want that for ourselves and ESPECIALLY for our children.

If I didn’t have The Diva, I’m sure I wouldn’ t be as steadfast about the lifestyle changes. But I do and it is my duty to ensure that I instill the right attitudes and values in her while I still have the chance. It is also my duty as her mother to ensure I’m doing everything I can to ensure her health and well-being. I don’t think feeding her shit- literally!- accomplishes that.

And no, I’m not getting all “uppity” now. I’m growing more conscious and aware of one of the most intimate things I do- and I do it at least three times daily mind you. When it comes to your own well-being, you should care. End of story. I’m done leaving my health in the hands of others.

So there you have it. These are the benefits and disappointments I’ve experienced so far. As you can see, the benefits far outweigh the disappointments. And maybe you’ve noticed that COST is curiously absent from this list. Wink.

Are you tempted to go natural? Have you already started? I’d love for you to comment your testimony.


Questions and Answers

So I’m getting lots of questions from people and since I’m still not ready to give you the cost analysis (how do you expect me to keep you coming back? Be interesting? HA!) then I will answer some questions.

Q: Are you becoming a vegetarian/vegan?

A: If you haven’t figured that out by now, the answer is a resounding HECK NO. I LOVE meat, beef especially, and I do not ever anticipate that it’s something I’ll give up. I am, however, eating LESS meat. And I’m making sure the meat I eat is NATURAL. But no, I will not be a vegetarian/vegan.

Q: When you said in your post “make your own condiments” did you really mean “make your own condiments”?

A: Yes, I did. How else do you truly know what’s going in them? This is not easy to do in the beginning unless you get access to recipes for them. For example, I now make my own vinaigrette. I didn’t have a recipe but I had apples and apple cider vinegar so I made an apple vinaigrette. It is delicious. I’m moving into more adventures of learning how to make more dressings and things. But if you pay attention to the ingredients in your condiments, you should be good.

Q: Does it take you longer to make your food since you’re only using all natural ingredients?

A: Yes and no. I’m no longer buying a boxed lasagna to just toss in the oven. I’d make my own. So that would take longer. I buy the blocked cheese now so if I want slices or shreds I have to do it myself. Otherwise I don’t see a significant increase in the amount of time it takes to cook. (Desserts would be the exception.) I make my salads and salad dressing WHILE something is cooking. I have to stand there and monitor it anyway so why not. But I’ll tell you why cooking has now become so much fun and is no longer a chore in the benefits post. WINK!

Q: How is your daughter handling all of this?

A: The other day, The Diva got a hold of a McDonald’s french fry from my parents (who are “old dogs” and thus having a hard time learning “new tricks”) and she looked at me said “You know, I’m good. I like what we’re eating now. It tastes better”. So I’d say she’s doing just fine. Veggies are still a bit of an issue but I’m working on getting more vegetarian recipes to vary the routine up. But she’s loving the meat so much that she eats the veggies as a sort of appreciation for the meat. Strange but so far that’s how she’s approaching it.

Q: What is a Slowvolution?

A: It’s a very cute take on the Slow Food idea (thanks to one of my fave people!). I’m undergoing a revolution toward a Slow Food lifestyle (the kinda dull but informative video above should explain more for you). I don’t embrace ALL the ideology (I’m still a City Girl after all and I don’t have time for all this!) but I do believe in returning to our roots, back to the basics as far as our food is concerned. So maybe we’re not eating at the dinner table but we are returning to a slower eating lifestyle. I do believe in what Slow Food feels about localized and seasonal farming and eating and food freedom for all.

Q: Did you really visit a farm?

A: Yes. I did my research on eatwild.com and found a farm on Whidbey Island. My in-laws have a summer house out there and we were going to ring in the new year there. I happened to find 3 Sisters Beef which was on our way to Deception Pass and so we stopped on the way. I bought 3 meals worth of meat and talked with one of the 3 Sisters. We’re preparing a large order from them here soon. I’m also planning on spending a few weekends this summer volunteering on one. I’m growing more and more interested in learning how to propagate my own food.

Q: Are you trying to eliminate EVERYTHING from your diet? Even sweets?

A: I’m trying to eliminate the need to ever step foot in another grocery store. To be healthy, I don’t have to DEPRIVE myself of anything but the fake toxins Big Food slips us in what we buy from them on a daily basis. You know, the stuff our bodies don’t know what to do with and thus leads to chronic illness (including depression, which I suffer from) and cancer? Yeah, I’m trying to eliminate that stuff. I made an all natural and organic white chocolate fruit tart the other day. No fake ingredients (even managed to steer clear of the soy lecithin which is hard to do if chocolate is on the menu). It was delicious.  So no, not eliminating sweets. Just changing their source.

Q: What sorts of questions do you ask your butcher?

A: Well I always ask the name of the farm they got the meat from. I’ve been looking them up and finding out information about them. Also, I ask if the meat has been PASTURED. So for my chicken I don’t ask if it was free-range (which could mean a 1×1 patch of grass and that’s not what I think free-range means. Again, the good ol’ USDA/Big Food collabo), I ask if it was on a PASTURE (enjoying the grass and sunshine as it helped itself to its own food). For pork, I ask if they have nitrates and nitrites which your body does not like. For beef, I ask if it’s grass-FINISHED. I’m not eating grain-finished beef. Those days for me are over.

Q:  Do you feel any better now that you’ve changed your diet?

A: Tremendously better. I’ll explain more in the benefits post.

Q: Are you breaking your bank doing all this?

A: Not at all. But cost analysis is coming soon! Stay tuned!

I didn’t expect this many people to be interested in my blog and lifestyle transition. So I want to take this moment to let you all know that I appreciate you reading. I LOVE FEEDBACK so please don’t hesitate to post comments or questions or correct any mistakes or research. I want to educate the masses. The more contributing intellects the better!