Fridge & Pantry Cleanout Challenge Reminder!

Just a reminder that I'm starting to host a Fridge & Pantry Cleanout Challenge every Monday, as I plan my menus! Whether you're a fellow blogger, a commenter, or just a lurker, I encourage you to carve out some peaceful time this weekend (with relaxing music and hot tea) and join me as I do my best to make a menu out of what I have on hand. The goal is to spend as little as possible on my shopping list for this week!

So, if you already plan your menus and post them, consider participating in the challenge. I'll link to your post (if you e-mail it to me, carriethienes [at] hotmail [dot] com!) and you can link back to my post and even grab that icon and use it if you'd like! If you don't have a blog, you can leave a comment! Let's inspire one another to be creative about what we have.

Full details on the challenge can be found here.

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I wanted to mention about my new header and logo, in case anyone was confused! I was just so excited to get these up on my site because they look so great! A big thank you to my father-in-law for his amazing artistry and design! You may have noticed the obvious "www.organicthrifty.com". Yes, that's my "new" blog residence, but I have not yet moved in. The land is purchased, I just need to hook up the old blog, if you will, to the new site and hopefully it will be up and running within a couple of weeks. I though it might be good to flash the new URL up for the sake of "transition" since I'm not sure yet if my old address will automatically forward you to my new site. I'm excited and will give you faithful readers plenty of notice when the official move occurs!

Oh, yeah, and I suppose I should explain why I'm losing the "e" from Oreganic. It's not a real word, and so it makes it hard for anyone who's trying to search the web for thrifty and organic ideas to come my direction! And besides, I always had this fear I was projecting a horrible inability to spell "organic" on a consistant basis. And while I'm excited about the new name, I'll always be an "oreganic" and hopefully my fellow Oregonian Organics will consider themselves the same!

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Thursday's Thrifty Meals from New Seasons

This week's Thrifty Meal is one I've gotten many, many requests for. It's a winner at potlucks, and it's the perfect one-pot meal for a busy day when you need to have a nourishing dinner prepared! Best of all, the recipe is composed of ingredients that are simple and inexpensive!

This recipe is modified from Mabel Hoffman's book, Healthy Crockery Cookery, my all time favorite slow cooker book!

Cabbage Burger Bake (this makes 2 meals!)

3/4 lb. of ground beef ($2.24 on sale)
1/2 a cabbage, shredded ($1.29)
1/2 # of carrots, shredded ($0.30, great price on organic carrots!)
1/2 tsp salt ($0.10)
1/4 tsp pepper ($0.10)
1 medium onion, chopped ($0.25, but I buy them in bulk from Costco)
1 cup long-grain rice ($0.75, on sale)
1 can (16 oz. size) tomato sauce ($1.29 at New Seasons)
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon dried basil leaves -- crushed ($0.10)
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt ($0.10)

Follow the recipe found here. So easy!

Total: $6.52 for 2 meals (freeze half and when you reheat it, freshen it up with an ounce or two of some shredded parmesan cheese $1.54)

$3.26 per meal

For more Bargain Meals, visit $5 Dinners.

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Jonathan's Story: How Real Food Healed My Son

The picture above was taken September 17, 2007 when my son, Jonathan, was 3 months old. It's hard to believe that the face above is the same face as that of my smiling, chubby, 20 month old. Many people don't believe me when I show them his early baby pictures. How did this sallow-faced, acid-reflux, colicky baby of three months old who was dropping percentiles every month become the thriving, rarely-sick, joyful boy who wears 2T at 20 months? The answer: God's grace and Real Food.

For the most part, Jonathan's pregnancy was textbook. After a traumatic birth with many complications of his older sister, it was nice for everything to go smoothly. I followed a Weston Price diet of raw milk, coconut oil, beef, and cultured beverages daily. I exercised, I wasn't too stressed. Everything went perfectly, and he was born a good size of 7#, 6 oz just a few days after his due date.

Not everything was perfect, however. My attempt to birth him VBAC had failed due to cephalo-pelvic disproportion (I have very narrow hips and tend to birth big-headed babies who never engage). That wasn't so bad in itself, but the administration of lots and lots of antibiotics during labor (for Strep B) probably posed a problem for little Jonathan's gut. I also have a low milk supply due to breast hypoplastia, which is a lack of glandular tissue. I nurse, but must always supplement. Thankfully, I was able to continue nursing my daughter until she was four years old thanks to a device called a Lact-Aid. I thought that perhaps my supply would improve with my second child, but all of the pumping, herbs, and nourishing food I ate did not significantly improve the situation.

Jonathan needed supplementation (as per the lactation specialists and the pediatrician's advice) so I quickly sought out the ingredients for the Weston A Price Raw Milk formula. I was so proud that I could at least make his food with my own hands, if my body could not. I knew this was far better than anything in a can, and I wasn't worried in the least about "raw milk germs" because of the immense trust and faith I have in my farmer, who uses immaculate cleanliness practices in her small, certified dairy.

In spite of the near-perfection of the raw milk formula (it was scientifically formulated by Dr. Mary Enig, PhD and world-renown fats expert, to mimic the properties of breast milk as closely as possible) it just didn't agree with Jonathan. He was gassy, burpy, and spitting up constantly. In an effort to improve the digestibility of the formula, I began using kefir made from raw milk since it is already predigested and full of probiotics. To my utter surprise, this made things worse!

There was lots of spitting up. Feedings spanned 45 minutes to an hour. There was bad gas that was keeping him from being able to sleep. And worst of all, he wasn't growing.

At every well baby check up in those first three months, he fell a percentile each time. He went from 50th percentile at birth to less than the 5th percentile in 3 months. My pediatrician, being the non-alarmist that she is, patiently allowed nature to take its course a few months before she suggested an acid reflux medication and Nutramagen formula (it's that expensive formula that smells awful).

At that point, commercial formula was totally out of the question for me. I saw the damage it did to my daughter, and I knew this ultra-high heat processed product was not food. It may have had chemically-formulated vitamins and minerals added, but it was chock full of soybean oil (an industrial waste product) and corn syrup solids. Not real food that my baby needed.

We had explored the breastmilk donor option, but none were available that I trusted, save for my dear sister, XK, who was just getting pregnant with her second at the time! Hope was beginning to dry up. I tried the Liver Formula (using bone broth and chicken livers) from Nourishing Traditions and the results were a less gassy baby for sure, but there was still no growth. In fact, his stools turned an awful dark black which is totally not natural for a baby!

The Nourishing Traditions book has a brief mention of goat milk formula, but doesn't seem to extol its virtues as much as cow milk, and gives very little information about it. I decided to give it a try since a relative of my husband's had been raised on raw goat's milk. He turned out beautifully, so I figured it was worth a try.

I began making phone calls to the limited goat dairies in Oregon. There aren't many anyway, and all but one had dried their does up for the winter, which is common.

Enter Mrs. Amazing Goat Milk Farmer, an amazing Christian mother of 6, including two autistic sons, who homeschools and runs her goat dairy with her husband, Mr. Amazing Goat Milk Farmer(who works a full-time job away from the farm). Mrs. AGMF's heart's desire is to help babies just like Jonathan; babies for whom neither breastmilk nor formula are options. She has helped many, many babies thrive on the goatie milk, and takes a personal interest in supporting and loving all of us weary moms.

When I first spoke to Mrs. Amazing on the phone, I had lost hope. I knew goat milk would help him, but I couldn't find a source. When she said "I can have 3 gallons for you this afternoon, when can you get here?" I about fainted! Mrs. Amazing said "Of course I'll help you! You have a baby!!" The Amazing family generously sacrifices their own supply, along with other faithful customers, so that a baby in need can come to the top of her list. Since winter is a low producing time for goats, she gets what she can and gives it first to the young ones who need it most.

As soon as we returned home from the goat farm, I immediately fed Jonathan the goat milk. He guzzled the entire 5 ounces down in 5 minutes (remember, it had taken 45 minutes previously!) and I was amazed at the changes I noticed almost immediately. This picture was taken just a few weeks after Jonathan started drinking the goat's milk. I started noticing that his stools turned yellowish/green. He immediately became more alert and quickly filled out in his face. Within a couple of weeks, we returned for a weight check and found that in two weeks, he had gained two pounds (and he had only been drinking the goat milk for about one week at that point!).

His growth continued to take off. People noticed and commented on how big he looked all of the sudden. His clothes became tighter and there was fat around his wrists. The gas and reflux became a thing of the past overnight.

I believe that goat milk is liquid gold (next to breast milk, of course!). There are too many virtues of goat's milk to list here, including smaller fat molecules that more closely mimic mother's milk. The protein structure differs dramatically from cow's milk, as does the lactose. Essentially, it's a different chemical altogether. I will devote a separate post in the near future to most specifically talking about the benefits of goat's milk and share what formula I personally used for Jonathan. Until then, check out this resource for a comparison of raw milk to infant formula/pasteurized formula published in Scientific American.
At this point in time, I made a choice to work more closely with my naturopath in healing Jonathan's gut, which had been damaged by the prolonged use of cow milk. We gave him L-glutamine to heal the gut lining and additional L-Bifidus probiotics. Although Jonathan grew and developed tremendously on the goat's milk, he did go through what I believe was an intense detox period as his body let go of accumulated toxins (from undigested cow milk proteins). This manifested itself as a runny nose that was persistent for about 8 weeks total.

In due time, Jonathan's gut healed and he began to enjoy a variety of nourishing foods. I started him on chicken liver pate and broth, along with avocado, sweet potatoes and egg yolk. Initially his gut was not ready for egg yolk, so we held off until after a year. I introduced sauerkraut and lacto-fermented beets, which he loves. Sardines and salmon were also a favorite, along with butternut squash.

Armed with more information this time around, I was determined not to go down the empty carb path that so many children find themselves on, my first daughter included. I introduced Jonathan to real food from the start, and he got no crackers, pretzels, bread or grains of any kind (babies lack amylase, the enzyme that digests grains, until they get their 2 year molars). Nor did I introduce refined sugar, and I limited fruits so that he could develop a taste for vegetables (covered with plenty of healthy fat like coconut oil and butter). Of course there was also the Cod Liver Oil, which he excitedly takes every day and asks for more! Train them young!

I am so thankful for Mrs. Amazing and for the sacrifices she makes every day for babies like Jonathan. I am incredibly thankful as well for the support I received along the way from my Naturopath and the few close friends who knew the truth (that I was feeding my child raw, homemade formula!) and didn't give me grief about it! I think the proof was in the pudding, in this case!

I thank God every day for my Farmers and for his leading me to this much-needed medicine.

I hope someday to keep a goat so that we can free up the Farm's supply for others, but goat milk is a mainstay in my kids' lives. They both still love their goatie milk and it's worked wonders to help my daughter as well!

Jonathan is twenty months now and is growing bigger every day. He's wearing a size 2T, talks in sentences, and has a huge vocabulary. Other than the occasional cough and runny nose, Jonny is healthy, active boy who prefers to walk on his own rather than ride in the carseat. Everyone who knows him can attest to his almost other-worldly sweetness and peacefulness. Always smiling, Jonny brings the joy of life to all he encounters.

My prayer and hope is that more mothers who feel like commercial formula is their only option will be able to try this real food baby formula if they face irreparable milk supply issues as I did. Of course, if you have a low supply, please see a lactation specialist before supplementing! There is LOTS you can do to improve your supply!

For more stories of real food healing, check out Real Food Wednesday hosted by Cheeseslave!

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Sunflower Seed Pizza Crust and Thrifty Pizza Toppings

Who says you can't have pizza when you're grain free? Whether you're avoiding grains for health reasons or weight-loss purposes, this thrifty meal is an indulgence for the taste buds and not the waistline or the budget! Just make sure you budget your time, as this simple crust takes a few hours to bake.

This recipe was a spur-of-the moment attempt at fulfilling a desire for pizza on Valentine's Day. All things considered, this grain-free crust got the job done and it was pretty darn good. Even our guest devoured every bite and enjoyed it! In the end, the recipe made 2 crusts, so it stretched quite a bit, making it a thrifty home-made alternative to fancy schmanzy pizza schmizzas!

Sunflower Seed Pizza

For crust:
2 onions ($0.50 at Costco)
1.5 cups sunflower seeds(sprouted is best) (about $0.75 through Azure Standard)
0.5 cups flax seeds (optional) (about $0.21 through Azure Standard)
1/3 cup olive oil (about $0.60)
2 cloves garlic ($0.10)
1 tsp herbamere or 1/2 tsp sea salt (or more to taste) ( $0.05)

Total: $2.10 for 2 crusts.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Chop onions coarsely enough to fit into food processor. Add sunflower seeds, oil, garlic, and herbamere. Process until pasty. Beware, you might shed a few tears during this process!

When the mixture is think enough to hold together, it is ready. If it happens to be too watery, you can add more sunflower seeds or optional flax seeds.

Prepare a pizza stone by lining it with parchment paper. Pour the sunflower-onion "dough" onto the parchment-lined stone and use a spatula to spread the mixture as thin as you can without "breaking" the dough.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden on the edges. Reduce heat to 200 degrees and slowly cook for 2-3 hours so that the middle will be fully crispy. Since this is a yeast-free dough, it won't rise, so it tastes best if it's rather cracker-like.

When the dough is done (middle is not mushy), remove and top with your favorite thrifty pizza toppings.

Basic Thrifty and Easy Pizza Sauce:

1 can tomato paste ($0.50 at Winco)
1/4 cup chicken or beef broth ($0.15 if homemade)
1-2 cloves garlic ($0.10)
1 tsp oregano ($0.15)
salt to taste ($0.05)

Whisk tomato paste with chicken broth in a small saucepan until a sauce forms. Add more stock if needed, but it works best with less. You don't want it too watery. Add the oregano, garlic, and salt to taste. Spread on sunflower seed pizza crust.

Variation: Hidden Veggie Pizza Sauce:

Use the recipe above, but use the puree of 1 steamed zucchini or summer squash to thin the tomato paste, adding broth 1 TBS at a time until desired consistency is reached. Add the garlic, oregano, and salt, and any other herbs you have available.

Total: $0.95 for a nourishing, simple pizza sauce.

So far we're at $3.15. Depending upon your pizza budget, you can choose how to spend the rest of your hard-earned, (grain-free) dough:

Thrifty Topping Ideas:

Homemade "30 Minute Mozzarella" (I've not done this, but hope to try soon!) will give you artisan quality (if all goes well!) mozzarella for the cost of a gallon of pasteurized milk, a few pennies' worth of citric acid, and a small amount of liquid rennet. Estimated cost: $3.00

Leftover meat and stir-fried veggies can be creatively strewn upon your pizza to reincarnate last night's dish into an exotic pizza. Thai chicken curry pizza, anyone? Estimated cost: $0.00 (leftovers don't count!!)

A simple "herb and cheese" pizza will taste delicious; just be creative with the dry herbs you have on hand, of if you're blessed to grow an herb garden, then harvest them fresh! Estimated cost: ($1.25 for store-bought cheese and a few herbs)

A thrifty and healthy way to get the effect of pepperoni without all the fat, additives, and calories is to use a link of gluten-free, hormone-nitrate-antibiotic-free artisan sausage (we love US Wellness meats; it's a tad spendy, but remember, you're using 1 link for the whole pizza!) and slice the sausage very thinly to make "pepperoni". If you are a Costco Member, Aidell's sausages can be found for a little less than $1 a sausage (beware, these are free of everything I don't like except for those dreaded nitrates). Estimated cost: ($1.80, high end, $1.00, low end)

Any way you slice it (sorry, it's just too perfect of a pun), 2 homemade, gluten and grain-free pizzas (light on calories as well!) can be yours for under $5.00 per pizza. Just a careful budgeting of time to ensure that your crust is crisp, and you can easily throw this together in no time.

This post has been part of the $5 Dinner Challenge!

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Menu Plan Monday: Fridge & Pantry Cleanout!

This week's menu planning took place in the passenger's seat of our car somewhere between Yakima, Washington and Hood River, Oregon. We had a lovely weekend visiting with family as we celebrated the baptism of my beautiful niece.

Today also marks the end of meat eating for Orthodox Christians as we get closer to the beginning of Great Lent. Fasting is an ancient practice of cleansing and preparation, and every person must discern how best to practice the fast with regards to their own health limitations, and with the help of their priest/spiritual father. Nursing and pregnant moms, as well as those with severe dietary allergies, and of course young children, are exempt from fasting.

Fasting while also being grain-free is a big challenge, since most vegans/vegetarians rely heavily on grains for protein and calories. I'm going to rely heavily on vegetables, seafood, and good fats to nourish us during this period while still keeping the spirit of the fast.

Click here for my nutritional tips on fasting with traditional nutrition principles.

Thankfully, the executives at Kroger, Inc. felt lead to put a large variety of fresh, wild-caught seafood on sale this week at Fred Meyer and I'm going to take advantage of the good prices on wild, Northwest-caught shrimp meat ($3.99/lb) , wild bay scallops ($3.99 /lb), wild Alaskan cod ($5.99/lb), and wild Alaskan whole sockeye salmon($3.99/lb) and stock my freezer so that we can enjoy good sources of protein and good fats during the fast. I'll also be taking advantage of some rock-bottom prices on broccoli and cauliflower ($0.68/lb!!!) to use in soups, stir-fries, or simply steamed with butter to form the basis of our grain-free, thrifty meals.

Remember, the way to eat nourishing without spending a bunch of money is to look for the deals on meat, poultry, and seafood as well as produce and build your menu on those things. Then, round out your meals with whatever you have on hand. And remember, you don't need lots and lots of meat per meal; only about the size of a deck of cards! Serve a cheap, nourishing soup (made from homemade stock) with your protein in order to better digest and assimilate its nutrients.

*Items in green are on my shopping list this week.**All other items "using what I have".

eggs, fruit, leftover muffins
L: leftover veggie curry, kids: leftover sloppy joes
D: scallop/veggie stir-fry

B: green smoothies & acorn squash muffins
L: broccoli/carrot/onion saute
D: creamy, veggie soup, high-enzyme salad(w/avocado), salmon

B: squash pudding
L: sardines, cheese, celery sticks
D: tuna curry w/ cauliflower "rice" pilaf

B: eggs & veggies
L: leftover tuna curry
D: zucchini latkes, lacto-fermented salsa, cheese

B: nut butter pancakes, green smoothies
L: salad (me) hot dogs (kids)
D: Greek vegetable-navy bean soup, coconut flour biscuits w/ herbs & cheese

B: smoothies
L: leftover soup
D: cheese & veggie pizza w/ sunflower seed crust (come back Tuesday for this bargain recipe!)

D: cheesy cauliflower bake, sauteed greens

For more menu-planning inspiration, visit The Organizing Junkie.

Update! Go see how Country Girl cleaned out her fridge and pantry to make a delicious, thrifty menu plan!

If you would like to participate in the
Fridge & Pantry Cleanout, please send me a link to your post listing how you used what you had on hand to create a nourishing meal plan or leave a comment! I'm always looking for inspiration!

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Anatomy of a Grain-Free Breakfast

Breakfast, they say, is the most important meal of the day. This is totally true for me; I've always needed a full breakfast to get me going since I'm not a morning person. A complete breakfast, thanks to the cereal ads of our childhood, conjures up images of 2 margerined slices of white wonder bread, a tall glass of orange juice, a bowl of sugar-laden, extruded grain cereal, and perhaps eggs and bacon of some kind. I'll keep the latter, and replace the sugar/grain component with some more filling, lower-calorie, nutrient-dense foods!

I give Rachel Albert-Matesz all the credit for enlightening me to the notion of how to eat a complete, healthy, grain-free breakfast, from her amazing book The Garden of Eating. She offers a simple breakdown of proteins, veggies, and fruit. The way I interpret this is:

25% protein
50% vegetable (half starchy, half non-starchy, but include leafy greens!)
25% fruit

On fasting days when we don't eat meat, I emphasize the fruit and vegetable and just make sure I stock up on protein the other days of the week.

Here are a few ideas, inspired by The Garden of Eating, for grain-free, wholesome breakfasts:

*scrambled eggs with leftover veggies and apple slices
*bacon and fried eggs with broccoli and oranges
*hard-boiled egg, sardines, leftover vegetable soup, grapes
*nitrate-free apple sausage with cooked butternut squash, butter, honey
*smoked salmon-egg scramble with roasted asparagus and blueberries
*almond butter pancakes topped with raspberries
*herbed hamburger patty with sauteed greens and apples

And my favorite, which is displayed in the photo above, is:

scrambled eggs topped with cortido (Latin American sauerkraut), green onions, raw cheese, and salsa, with a side of collard greens and orange slices. Delish!!

Some tips for eating breakfast:

*Upon rising, drink a tall glass of lemon water or a lacto-fermented beverage. I love to drink a glass of coconut kefir first thing. It really enlivens me.

*Take your cod liver oil next.

*If you must do coffee, please partake after you have hydrated yourself with good-quality water as mentioned above. When we awaken, our bodies are relatively dehydrated from the night's hard work of digesting, repairing, and detoxifying. Since coffee is so acidic and dehydrating, it's very contracting and therefore not the best thing first thing in the morning.

*I love to enjoy a tablespoon of coconut oil (the best price is here) melted into a cup of herbal tea. I try to take this about 20 min. before I eat breakfast in order to prevent over-eating. I sip on this as I make breakfast.

*I usually use leftover veggies from the previous nights' dinners to accompany eggs for breakfasts. This is a great way to use up leftovers.

*Soups make very filling and nourishing breakfasts. They are great when you're missing that piping hot bowl of oatmeal.

What are your favorite, nourishing breakfasts? Please feel free to leave a comment!

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My Economic Stimulus Package

When it comes right down to it, the economic situation we're facing as a nation has taught me that the best investments are relationships.

What is social security other than strong family bonds? The commitment of marriage and the community of loving friends and neighbors to stick with us when times get hard?

What "medicare" is better than good, nourishing food, just as God created it, prepared properly as our forefathers and mothers would have?

What better education reform than using libraries, Internet, and each other to learn how to make and grow more ourselves? Connect with local farmers and ask to shadow them for a week. Better yet, if you have young children, set up some sort of volunteer program whereby your children work on the farm and learn how to take care of chickens, and milk cows? (I'm excited about doing this with my own kids this summer!)

So yes, my economic stimulus package includes French Breakfast Radishes, Brandywine Tomatoes, and Purple Globe Turnips. I've been working on preparing my Square Foot Garden and plan to experiment with recycled modular container gardening using milk crates and tires!I'll keep you posted on how Wall Street Reacts....

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Thursday's Thrifty Meals at New Seasons!

Bargain Meal of the Week

This week's Thrifty Meal from New Seasons is simple, nourishing, and will provide at least three (if not more) additional meals for the freezer or nourishing lunches. Using a thrifty cut of meat that's on sale at New Seasons, along with a handful of cheap bulk spices (10% off all bulk items right now at New Seasons!) make this easy meal in the morning and forget the dinnertime hassle!

Slow-Cooked Shredded Beef Tostados

1 bottomless round roast (approx. 3 lbs) $8.97 (@ $2.99/lb)
2 medium onions, sliced ($0.25 each from Costco)
2 cups beef or chicken stock, homemade preferably ($0.30 if homemade)
5 tablespoons chili powder ($0.62 on sale)
3 tablespoons onion powder ($0.45 on sale)
1 tablespoon each cumin, garlic powder, paprika, powdered oregano, and Rapadura (evaporated cane juice) (est. cost $1.25 all on sale except Rapadura)
2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt (on major sale at $0.50/lb)
4 diced serrano peppers ($0.40)
3 tablespoons arrowroot powder and enough water to make a paste ($0.31 on sale)
1 package sprouted corn tortillas (Food for Life brand) optional ($2.50) or
1 package rice tortillas (For for Life brand)($2.50) or
4 leaves romaine lettuce (if you're going grain-free) ($0.50)
3 or more tablespoons olive oil or melted lard for tortillas ($0.10)

Total (using tortillas): $14.97 divided by 4: $3.74 per meal!
Total (sans tortillas) : $12.47 divided by 4: $ 3.12 per meal!

Optional: TOPPINGS (I suggest you just use what you have or what's in season where you live to save money):

Shredded raw cheese, lettuce, tomato, avocado, salsa, sour cream, cortido (recipe in Nourishing Traditions).

Place beef and onion in slow cooker. Combine stock and seasonings in a small bowl. Pour over beef and onion. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or until tender. Remove largest pieces of meat to bowl or cutting board and shred with two forks. Add arrowroot paste to the leftover juices at the bottom of the slow cooker. Once thick, stir in the meat and chilies.

While the meat is cooking, prepare tortillas. Brush both sides with olive oil or lard and bake in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes until crisp.

Place the meat on the tortilla and top with toppings as desired.

Modified from Source.

For more Bargain Meals under $5, visit 5 Dollar Dinners for a store near you!

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Natural Anti-Perspirant and Deodorant and Low-Carb, Grain-Free Coconut Recipes

This week, Kelly the Kitchen Kop is gathering delicious recipes that highlight the many uses of coconut. Since I'm a big fan of coconut and have posted many recipes here, I'll go ahead and share (again) my favorites and add a few new ones as well!

I'm going to share my recipe for homemade deodorant using coconut oil. Remember, we should never put anything on our bodies that we wouldn't put into our mouth! This deodorant works amazingly well and is a frugal choice that is allergen, alluminum, and chemical-free. A little goes a long way with this, so don't glob it under your arms. It really works. I'm not sure exactly why, but when I find out I'll post about it!

Coconut Deodorant

1/2 cup of virgin coconut oil (don't be put off by the expensive prices in the store, go here for the best deal!)
4-5 drops lavender oil
4-5 drops tea tree oil

That's it! I apply a thin layer and everything's good, all day long!

Best-Loved Coconut Recipes:

Coconut Flour Honey Muffins

"Just like Jennie's" Coconut Macaroons

Peppermint Coconut Bark

Cinnabun Lara Bars

Better Than Lara Bars

Thai Coconut Soup

Brazilian Shrimp Stew (perfect for a Lenten Fast!)

This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays, hosted by KellytheKitchenKop!

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Frugal and Healthy Meal: Tongue Tacos

I know that the notion of eating tongue is probably totally unappealing to most of you; it was to me for sure. Recently, however, at an authentic Mexican restaurant, I ordered tongue tacos and they were delicious and inexpensive! When I found out that my grass-fed, organic beef farmer sold tongue for $2.50/lb, I had to figure out a way to use it in a delicious way. Here's what I did, with pictures of the transformation from icky cow tongue to deliciously spicy, shredded beef!

This recipe is surprisingly simple to make in the slow cooker. It took about 10 minutes to prepare and 8 hours to cook. Combined with favorite taco toppings and safely tucked into an appropriate tortilla, your loved ones will never know they're eating tongue!
I know this looks like a total turnoff, but believe me, it's good! This is 1 beef tongue, covered with water and 1 onion, sliced. There is also one bay leaf floating around in there. There are also 6 cloves of crushed garlic. I added about 1 TBS of cumin to the recipe because I felt it needed a little bit more "kick". I also added a strip of kelp (kombu), even though the recipe called for salt to taste. I simply covered and turned on the crock pot and forgot about it. Then 8 hours later, I found this:

Still not the most appetizing, but oodles of delicious, gelatinous broth along with some tasty shredded beef await!

Remove the tongue. Cut away and discard the outer covering. Shred the beef with a fork or cut into little cubes. Top with your favorite taco condiments:

The verdict? Two thumbs up! My children devoured this dish, and my husband enjoyed his "hidden" in a rice tortilla! The leftovers cooked up wonderfully, refried in lard, with a splash of fresh-squeezed orange juice and chili spices.

The price breakdown is as follows:

Tongue $1.75 (this is 1/3 of the tongue, plenty for 4)
1 Onion $0.25
1 Bay Leaf $0.02
6 Cloves Garlic $0.10
1 TBS Cumin $0.10
1 Roma Tomato $0.50
1 Serrano Pepper $0.10
Shredded Cheese $1.00 (this is the raw, organic stuff,cheaper otherwise)
Romaine Lettuce $0.25
1 Lime $0.30
4 Scallions $0.50

Total: $4.87

For more frugal and healthy meal ideas, visit $5 Dinners!

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This Week's Menu: Fridge & Pantry Cleanout

Welcome to the first week of my fridge & pantry cleanout challenge! I am challenging my fellow bloggers and readers to not only plan their menus, but to use up those leftovers and pantry items as well! Please, leave a comment or e-mail me privately if you'd like your link added to this post. All I ask is that you refer a link back to this blog. You are also welcome to grab my button (above) and use it! I'm so excited to see what others are doing!!

This week's menu contains some tried-and-true, and some new adventures. I am so excited about trying Thursday's crockpot dinner from Stephanie a "A Year of Crockpotting": Chicken Makhani. This is my absolutely favorite dish, and any time I've tried to look up the recipe it looks way too complicated. Her recipe not only looks simple, but I have all the ingredients for the recipe on hand! Score!

Notable Fridge Items to Use Up:
3 quarts fil mjolk (cultured milk)
leftover beef tongue
1/2 head cauliflower
beef broth
sunflower seed pizza crust
nut butter
squash pudding

Freezer Items to Use Up:
ground beef
chicken thighs

Pantry Items to Use Up:
navy beans
lima beans
sea veggies

B: squash muffins (made from leftover squash pudding), orange slices, fil mjolk yogurt
L: veggie stir-fry w/ chicken sausage
D: tongue carnitas (leftover from last week's tacos, I will deep-fry leftovers in lard with spices), fixings: cortido, salsa, scallions, lettuce

B: bacon, eggs, collards, cortido
L: sunflower seed pizza (I will post this recipe soon!)
D: hidden liver sloppy joes over cauliflower "rice" (shredded, roasted cauliflower)

coconut smoothies, acorn-peanut butter squash bars
L: miso soup & sea veggies
D: zucchini latkes w/ roasted asparagus (only $0.99/lb at Freddie's this week!)

B: bacon, egg & broccoli scramble
L: leftover sloppy joe's
D: Crockpot Chicken Makahani w/ curried cauliflower "rice"

B: nut butter pancakes, fruit
L: sardines & roasted asparagus
D: navy bean chili

fil mjolk smoothies
L: @ niece's baptism reception!
D: on the road

For more menu-planning inspiration, visit The Organizing Junkie!

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Introducing the Fridge & Pantry Cleanout Challenge!

Every week, I make it my goal to not have to purchase anything for the week's menu. I've never met that goal, but each week I seem to be getting more and more efficient about paring my list down to the essentials. Since I have a freezer stash of so many things (including my milk, meat, and butter) and lots of bulk items (beans, legumes, sea veggies, etc.) from azure in my pantry, the only real thing to shop for on a weekly basis is produce. So, when I say "I spent under $40 this week" it may not be totally realistic because my big, three-times-per-year bulk purchases or once a month purchases are not "amortized" into the equation. So, in an effort to keep myself more accountable, I'm beginning a "Fridge and Pantry Cleanout" challenge.

Here are the simple rules, if you wanna play, and I hope you will!

1) List "Notable Items in Fridge to Use Up" (feel free to post a pic as well)

2) List "Notable Items in Freezer to Use Up"

3) List "Notable Items in Pantry to Use Up"

4) Either list your menu plan or at least 2-3 meal ideas with which you'll use those items.

5) E-mail me the URL to your post and I will add it in to my post for more "link love" for you. (If you don't have a blog, feel free to leave a comment!!!)

6) Link back to my weekly fridge & pantry cleanout post.

I'm working on a cool little button for this too, which will be available soon I hope (the one I made just got lost in cyberspace, and I just realized that it was gone at press time, but the post must go on!)

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Super Easy Valentine's Treats: Almond-Date Hearts

Happy Valentine's Day! I had a busy day today hosting a baby shower and attending a baptism, so I'm just now getting back to post my favorite, last-minute treats! These are the easiest things to make, and you can do them any day for a healthy, sugar-free snack!

Almond-Date Hearts

1.5 cups of crispy almonds
1 cup pitted dates, soaked for 10 min. in warm water, then chopped
cinnamon, cocoa, or coconut flakes for coating

Pulverize almonds in your food processor. They won't get completely powdery; that's okay. Just avoid big chunks. Add the dates and pulse several times until a "doughy" consistency is achieved. Add almonds or dates as necessary to make the right texture; the "paste" should be neither too wet nor too crumbly. You'll know.

Place in fridge for an hour if you want the paste to be easier to work with, but it's not necessary. Roll into balls, flatten with the bottom of a cup or mug, and use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out a heart (or other desired shape).

To coat, place desired coating in a shallow bowl and cover both sides. Place on parchment-covered plate and chill for several hours in the fridge. Enjoy

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Thursday's Thrifty Meals at New Seasons

Those of you locals who read my blog know how eclectic I am in my grocery shopping. I like Trader Joe's for some things, I do Azure Standard for lots of things, and for meat I usually buy it off the bone. All of this renders my "weekly shopping" down to a minimum since I pretty much go for fresh produce and fresh seafood, poultry, or beef cuts that I don't have on hand. I do try to usually use what I have, so this keeps my weekly costs down. I realize that not all of my readers have access to Azure or the freezer space to store tons of whole chickens and hamburger meat, so I'm going to begin featuring a weekly "Thursday's Thrifty Meals" featuring the weekly specials at New Seasons Market. This is part of a greater project in conjunction with $5 Dinners who features a "Weekly Bargain Meal of the Week". Each Thursday, since New Seasons' ad cycle goes from Wednesday thru Tuesday each week, I will be offering a few meal ideas (gluten-free, of course!) based on the best deals in their weekly! This will be helpful for me, as I usually start thinking about the next week's menu on Friday and try to do my shopping on Sunday afternoons while dear husband is home. Even better, I have the option of getting my groceries delivered from New Seasons if it's a particularly busy week!!

Planning meals is crucial to saving money in two key ways:

1) You plan your meals based on what you have on hand (pantry staples; rice, lentils, beans, pasta, etc.).

2) You use the weekly specials to augment what you have with fresh, perishable goods like produce and meat/seafood/dairy and to restock your pantry with staples as they come on sale.


I've found personally, that there are many pitfalls with shopping from the ads. I believe that about 80% of what is in the "advertised specials" is junk food that we don't need to eat. What? Fruit Loops are 2 for $5? Kraft Mac N Cheese is 5 for $1.00? Yipee. Those foods are not options for me, and even if I was on food stamps I wouldn't feed that non-food to my family.

Okay, off the soapbox, I think you get my drift. So I'll take a pass on the Diet Coke and Frito-Lay specials and dig around for the meat and seafood deals and surround it with delicious, in-season, local produce, eggs, and dairy and do my best to demonstrate on how one can be Thrifty and Oreganic.

By the way, I should mention that I get no money or points or privileged parking spaces from New Seasons Market for doing this. They will probably never know. I am simply choosing to support this local and sustainable business that has a commitment to supporting local farms. They actually sponsor some of the local farmer's markets because they want their farmers to stay strong and productive for them!

Their customer service is outstanding. I have a neighbor who works at New Seasons and formerly worked at Safeway. The benefits package she received at NSM was incredibly generous compared to Safeway. And New Seasons gives so much back to their community.

The reason why I'm taking the time to "defend" New Seasons so much is that sometimes I get the sense that people who are trying to be thrifty poo-poo these types of stores as "yuppity". In my opinion, there are those stores in Portland, but New Seasons is not that store. So if prejudice kept you away, please give them a chance.

End diatribe. Begin weekly meal deals:

Mostly Vegan Organic Black Bean Nachos w/ Salsa Fresca:

8 oz Black Turtle Beans (Western Family) (use your slow cooker to prepare them ahead of time as mentioned here.) ($0.88)

-or- if time is tight:

1 can Natural Directions organic black beans ($1.20)
1 bag Kettle Organic Tortilla Chips ($1.99)
1 container Brown Cow Cream Top Yogurt (or make your own!) ($0.59), in which case you'd need 1 cup's worth of Pacific Village Organic Milk, which is $0.19)
4 scallions (about $0.50)
1 serrano pepper ($0.10)
2 Organic Roma Tomatoes ($1.00)
1/2 Med Yellow Onion ( $0.40)

Assuming you didn't already have some of the ingredients on hand:

TOTAL: $5.40 (w/ dried beans) $5.72 (w/ canned)

You can re fry the black beans with some cumin and chili powder in a little lard or coconut oil if desired. Serve over chips and top with chopped scallions. Use cream top yogurt in place of sour cream.

Make a salsa with the tomatoes, peppers, and onion to top the nachos.

Tuna Stroganoff (I omitted mushrooms)

1 can chunk light tuna ($0.89)
1 med yellow onion ($.79)
1 can Amy's Organic Cream of Mushroom Soup ($1.99)
1 container Brown Cow Cream Top Yogurt (or make your own!) ($0.59) Use in place of Sour Cream.
8 oz Lundburg Organic Brown Rice (on sale, $1.00/8 oz)

TOTAL: $4.26

Stock Up On:
Organic Maple Syrup ($6.99 each, reg. $8.99)
Applegate Farms Uncured Bacon (2 for $7)

For more amazing inspiration, please check out the other contributors to $5Dinners Weekly Bargains, including my friend and fellow local blogger, Frugal Granola!


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Updated! Thrifty Chicken Broth in the Slow Cooker

Chicken broth (or broth of any kind, for that matter) always used to intimidate me. I'm not sure why, but it just seemed like a lot of work. I realized, however, how much I liked the flavor it added to rice and soups, so I started buying it in the asceptic containers. Wow, did that start adding up! Then I actually read the label, and there wasn't actually any indication that it was really made out of chicken! Not only is making your own stock extremely thrifty, I have a tip for making it even cheaper and simpler than normal!

To make good chicken broth, you do need to try to scout out a good source of organic , pastured chickens. In the Portland metro area, Kookoolan Farms or Deo Volente are my farms of choice. Now, you may have noticed that buying a whole organic chicken can be rather spendy. Well, I don't buy a whole chicken with the purpose of making broth (although you certainly could). If I just want a gallon or so of chicken stock for the week, I will use simply a few chicken necks and chicken feet, along with onions, carrots, and celery, to create a delicious chicken broth to use as a base for soups, sauces, and stir-fries. In an upcoming post, I will share how I use broth to make the perfect stir-fry (one that your kids will eat!!!)

Necks and feet? Where do you get those? I get mine from the farms mentioned above. Kookoolan sells "stock kits" for a very good price; about $2.50 per kiet, and each kit can make up to 2 gallons of stock. What a deal!! Feet add a lot of good gelatin to the broth. I also have gotten feet for $1.00/lb from a local chicken farmer. Just ask around! Sometimes they just throw the feet away!

If neither of the above are options, you can make pretty frugal stock simply by using chicken drumsticks. Trader Joe's sells these for about $0.99/lb.

The process:

1) First I place chicken bones/parts (at least 3 necks, 3 feet) into the crock pot with 1 onion, chopped coursely, 2 carrots and 3 stalks celery, all chopped coursely.

2) Cover with filtered water (to within about an inch of the top) and add 1 TBS vinegar (any kind). Let sit for 1 hour. This step is crucial as the vinegar draws out the minerals from the bones into the water.

3) Turn on the slow cooker, cover, and cook for 6-24 hours.

4) After cooling, strain the broth into mason jars leaving about 1 inch from the top if you will be freezing it. Make sure to label; it all looks the same in your freeer!

Update The Savings:

I apologize for not including this earlier, but I calculated how much this Thrifty Stock actually costs to make. All figures are based on the approximate cost from my receipts.

1# chicken drumsticks/necks/feet = $1.00
2 stalks celery = $0.34
3 carrots = $0.50
1 onion (Costco bag) = $0.25
1.5 gal filtered water from fridge = $0.05 (amortized cost of water/electricity/filter)

Total cost for stock: $2.14 for 1.5 gallons which comes to about $0.35 per quart!
That's a considerable amount of savings for an incredible amount of nutrition!

Now what do I do with all this stock?

For other nourishing bone broth recipes and applications, be sure to check out this week's Real Food Wednesday hosted by Cheeseslave!

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Jennie's Macaroons: A Lower-Sugar Version

Several months ago, Cheeseslave had a discussion on her blog about these amazingly delicious, three-ingredient macaroons. The photo below is hers, as well! Thanks, Ann Marie! For months and months I had many trials (and mostly errors) trying to replicate the deliciously sweet and chewy taste of Jennie's Macaroons using only egg white, honey, and coconut. Finally, just when I gave up trying, I found someone who had already mastered it, and boy did she ever!!

I've written about Chef Rachel before, and her amazing cookbook, The Garden of Eating. I've been crazily cooking recipes from her book as I prepare to write a review of it in upcoming weeks. So far, so good! Included in this amazing resource of delicious recipes is my sought-after perfect replica recipe for Jennie's Macaroons. I hope chef Rachel won't mind if I share these delicous grain-free treats. They are a great way to use up the jars and jars of egg whites I have randomly stowed in the depths of my frige, lonesome for their yolk counterpart which had long ago disappeared into a smoothie.

"My Favorite Macaroons"
by Chef Rachel Matesz

4 large egg whites (or 1/2 cup)
1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar
1/3 cup honey or agave nectar (I used honey)
1/4 tsp pure stevia extract powder (do not substitute liquid)
1 and 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract.
~ 2 and 1/2 cups finely shredded* coconut

1. In an impeccably clean mixer bowl, beat egg whites at highest speed until frothy.

2. Add cream of tartar and blend until so stiff that you can turn the bowl over and the egg whites don't move.

3. Slowly beat in honey, stevia, and vanilla.

4. Turn of mixer and fold in coconut, 1 cup at a time, until well blended. I needed to add more than the recipe called for, so if your mixture seems too wet, add more coconut as needed.

5. Drop by spoonfuls onto oiled parchment-lined cookie sheets.

6. Bake at 400 for about 15-20 minutes, or until edges are brown.

7. Remove immediately, and allow to dry on a wire rack.

*Note: Finely shredded coconut yields the best results. If you only can find medium or large-flaked (unsweetened, of course) coconut, give it a few pulses in your food processor in order to make it finer, like powder. Do NOT use coconut flour, however!

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Menu Plan Monday: Grain Free under $30!

This week I did online shopping at New Seasons (which, if you haven't done before and want to try, you can do for free. Mention that I referred you and we'll both get a free delivery! Very cool). I chose the "store pick-up" option which allows me simply to pull up and wait in the car for my bags to arrive. I was able to shop from the comfort of my laptop,cruise the good deals (in peace and quiet!) and even with the pick up fee of $4.99, I still spent under $30 and I resisted a myriad of impulse purchases (not to mention "Mommy can I PUH-LEEEEEASE get a Lara Bar?") and saved a lot of time and energy out of my day!

My menu once again this week is grain-free and GAPS. I want to thank the amazing Baden of the GapsGuide blog for her wonderful inspiration on shredding cauliflower and cooking/flavoring it like rice! And Simple Natural Nourishing has an amazing recipe for Roasted Cauliflower which was literally the most amazing cauliflower ever. Oh, and I'm also sneaking in some beef tongue!

Monday: Breakfast: egg-veggie scramble, beet-apple vitamix juice
Lunch: leftover lamb
Dinner: sloppy joe's with roasted carrot "fries"

Tuesday: Breakfast: Power smoothies w/ coconut muffins
Lunch: Hot dogs, veggies
Dinner: Herbed Meatballs (defrost from freezer) over Italian Roasted Cauliflower

Wednesday: Breakfast: Raw Apple Sauce (from Fit for Life)
Lunch: Miso Soup with Land and Sea Veggies
Dinner: Spaghetti Squash Casserole, salad

Thursday: Breakfast: Eggs, Bacon, Beet Greens
Lunch: Broccoli in Lemon Butter Sauce, leftovers
Dinner: Beef Tongue Tacos, cortido, salsa, raw cheese,etc.

Friday: Breakfast: Banana-Nut Butter Pancakes
Lunch: Cauliflower "Rice" with Mediterranean spices
Dinner: Curried Sprouted Lentil Soup (using Kimi's sprouting methods!)

Saturday: Breakfast: Smoothies
Lunch: leftovers
Dinner: ??? TBA...something romantic!

For more amazing inspiration, visit The Organizing Junkie!!

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The CLO Wars


In case you don't know, CLO stands for Cod Liver Oil, a nutritional supplement our grandmas grew up on and swore by for preventing illness. My family has been taking Cod Liver Oil for some time now (4 plus years for me!) and have enjoyed great benefits. In fact, it's probably the one supplement I would take with me if I was stranded on a desert island. Recently, however, CLO has gotten some bad press. It's all very confusing. I call it the "CLO wars".

Why take CLO? It's a traditional supplement that is a high natural source of Vitamin A and D, along with essential fatty acids that are crucial for brain development. You've probably heard all about the benefits of fish oil, and our need for more Vitamin D, but not too much.....so what are we to do?

Recently, the Vitamin D council came out against Cod Liver Oil and some prominant health writers are now changing their positon on Cod Liver Oil. I was really confused, but I knew that the right information would come to me in order to help me feel more secure one way or another.

Sure enough, Kelly wrote a great post that helped clear things up for me. Even more recently, good friends of ours forwarded this article on to me by our naturopath, Dr. Daniel Chong. Please take the time to read this article. It's so clear, and concise and it makes so much sense!

Here's how he clears up the confusion, in my mind:

What quickly became apparent to me when re-reading the information from the
Vitamin D Council is that they kept referring to "modern cod liver oil" as being
a problem. I would agree whole heartedly with this contention. You see, "modern
cod liver oil" is not fully natural or whole. It is processed, molecularly
distilled, heated, and basically altered in many ways from it's original form.
It's difficult to say just how much all of these actions do to change its
constituents, but one thing is for sure. The processing many cod liver oils go
through significantly reduces their vitamin D levels. In turn we are left with a
product that has much LESS vitamin D than whole, unprocessed cod liver oil

This brings me to my second point. As seems to be the case in other
categories of nutrition and life in general, with vitamin A, vitamin D and cod
liver oil, it's really all about balance. It's pretty well established that both
vitamin A and D are essential nutrients for us. The problem comes when we over
consume one over the other. Typical store bought cod liver oil, having been
through all the processing it has, has less vitamin D than it should, thus
decreasing its ratio in comparison to vitamin A. This is where I along with
other experts I have spoken with feel the problem truly lies. Most cod liver oil
brands are, in fact, unsafe, because they contain too much vitamin A compared to
vitamin D.

So take your Cod Liver Oil; the good stuff, like from Green Pastures. (I don't get any money or free product from them for telling you so either). Remember that quality and ratio of A to D matter. And when you're outside on a sunny day in winter, roll up your sleeves for a little bit and take off your gloves and try to soak in some Vitamin D!

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Nutritional Healing for Acne: 4 Simple Steps that Work for Me!

photo credit

In a recent post of mine, a commenter, Laura Jo, asks about simple steps to nutritional healing from acne. Like Laura, I was taking daily doses of antibiotics daily as well as applying a topical Vitamin A cream. Here's what I would have loved to have known back then, as a poor college student with limited access to good quality foods:

First off, I want to basically share my understanding of what acne is. Acne, like all skin rashes and ailments, is the body's attempt at detoxifying. The skin is our largest organ and therefore our largest detoxifying agent. Since the body can "detox" for virtually any reason, be it hormonal imbalances, diet, etc, there are many seemingly diverse "causes" of acne.

The truth about our body is that it's always trying to heal itself. Acne is one of the ways our body communicates those imbalances to us. When treating acne, we need to work with our body's natural systems rather than working against them.

Therefore, the use of probiotics, birth control pills, or heavy drugs like acutane should be avoided at all costs, because while they may in the short term fix the symptom (acne), the drugs are actually creating more imbalance and thus causing an awful cycle which could lead to digestive disorders (from gut dysbiosis) or infertility (due to the use of synthetic hormones).

So, what can be done simply and naturally? I offer below 5 steps that work for me, and would be a generally good starting point for anyone who wishes to battle acne in a natural, inexpensive way.

1) Probiotics: Get off the antibiotics as soon as possible. They are doing more harm than good, and ultimately not curing the acne! Instead, nourish and replenish the good bacteria in your gut with probiotics. You can purchase a supplement at a Natural Food Store for a good price, or if you are so inclined, you can buy or make your own kombucha, beet kvass, or kefir. Personally, if I was a college student, I would probably be overwhelmed at trying to make anything besides class....so this would be a time when investing in a good probiotic would probably be well worth it. Three Lac, BioKult, and Metagenics are good brands for probiotics.

2) Cod Liver Oil: Vitamin A is typically prescribed in a topical form for the treatment of acne and for scar healing. Cod Liver Oil is one of the best, whole food sources of Vitamin A and it's something that everyone needs. Vitamin A is crucial for healthy hormone function, and the omega-3 fatty acids play a role in hormone communication as well. The college lifestyle of stress and lack of sleep can quickly deplete vitamin stores, and Cod Liver Oil has perfect ratios and amounts of Vitamins A and D. I particularly recommend Green Pastures Fermented Cod Liver Oil (in capsule form) and Dave at Green Pastures has a fascinating and informative blog post about Vitamin A where he explains how vital it is for us to get our Vitamin A from animal products rather than vegetables. The article mentions that those with thyroid problems (which is more of the population than are aware) have trouble converting Beta-Carotene to Vitamin A and must take more Vitamin A than "normal" in order to meet their nutritional needs. I know my thyroid and adrenals are weak, and that could be one of the reasons I struggled so much with acne in my adolescence. That and the fact that my diet contained no animal sources of Vitamin A.

Personal story: I did not begin taking Cod Liver Oil until about 5 years ago, and until then still really struggled with off and on bothersome acne. Since taking it acne has not only gone away, but my scars (which were significant at one time) have totally disappeared.

3) Cleanse properly: I used to spend lots of money on fancy "3-step cleansing systems" and they were somewhat effective. The 3-step rule is valid: Exfoliate-Tone-Moisturize. So often, these cleansers are harsh and full of chemicals (at worst) or just plain expensive (at best). I have found a 3-step cleansing system that is cheap and that works.

First of all, I wash my face with a washcloth and about 1/2 a teaspoon of baking soda. I gently use the baking soda, rubbing in a circular motion, around my face. I rinse with water afterward.

Secondly, I use a slightly acidic solution to tone my face. It can easily be made by diluting 2 TBS raw apple cider vinegar in 8 oz of pure, filtered or distilled water. Yeah, I know, the vinegar smell is not appealing for a high schooler or college student. That's why I suggest adding a few drops of Tea Tree Oil and a few drops of Lavender or Lemon Essential Oil (do whatever floats your boat, really!) Add until it masks the ACV smell! I use this on a cotton ball and gently apply it to my face.

Finally, I moisturize with coconut oil. I keep a small recycled cold cream container in the bathroom filled with coconut oil. I also mix essential oils of choice into this and use it for a deodorant as well as a facial moisturizer! Jojoba Oil is also a good choice.

4) Consider going off gluten/grains for a time. I read recently in Rachel Matesz's book The Garden of Eating that societies of hunter-gatherers who eat no grains have zero incidence of acne. I personally believe that my unknown wheat intolerance contributed to my chronic acne all of those years and since going off of wheat in particular (and all grains, to some extent) has helped. Try to stay off gluten for 2-3 months if possible, to allow your body to cleanse and detox. Focus on meats, veggies, and salads. Either way, stay away from processed, refined grains and sugars!

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Real Food Wednesdays: 5 Tips for Transitioning to a Real Food Diet

This week, Kelly is rounding up tips from those of us who've made the transition to a Real Foods diet. What is real food? Basically, it's food that has a source, a face, a name. You know who made it, grew it, milked it, collected it, etc. Besides trying to locate sources for all of this real food, it can be very tricky to actually process it and make it into something appealing that your family will enjoy! Fortunately there are many resources on the web that focus on this very subject. My blog network, Real Food Media is a great place to turn for lots of wonderful information from bloggers from all walks of life, sharing about the practical application of a Traditonal Foods lifestyle. You can also read about how our family came to eating Real Food here. Here are 5 Tips I have for transitioning into a Real Food Diet.

1) The Pantry Purge. If you don't own it, you won't eat it (at home, at least). Donate boxed junk food that contains more than 5 ingredients (or so) to the Food Bank. Clean out your fridge of fake food dressings, sauces, juices, and anything else laden with high fructose corn syrup, rancid vegetable oils, and white flour. A well-stocked, Real Food pantry/fridge should contain these types of items. Note: If there are adults in your household who won't go with it, then this will take great self-discipline. If you are the cook in your home you can have total control in this area. It does depend on your situation, and I come from the perspective of a mother with young children and a generally cooperative husband who doesn't subvert my efforts in this area!

2) Go gradual. Start by taking the foods you love and looking for ways to substitute more traditional foods. If your family loves spaghetti and meatballs, for example, start using Sprouted Wheat Pasta and making the meatballs with grass-fed beef with a little bit of sneaky liver or heart blended in. Replace white flour tortillas with sprouted what or sprouted corn (available at Health Food Stores). Replace boxed cookies and cakes with homemade goodies, made with soaked flour and natural cane sugar such as Sucanat or Rapadura. Instead of potato chips and candy bars for lunches/snacks, try this nourishing green popcorn or these delicious "Lara" bars.

3) Adopt the DIY mindset. Traditional food is rarely about shortcuts. It's about patiently centering your day around meal preparation. Start simple by beginning to set goals for yourself on what you want to eventually make for yourself. Of course you can buy many traditional foods; healthy, plain yogurt, kombucha, lacto-fermented sauerkraut, and others, but you will pay more. A little investment of time and energy can go a long way toward improving your health and saving lots of money. Set a goal for incorporating 1 new home-made item per month. If your family loves yogurt, for example, start making yogurt and cream cheese from the yogurt.

4) Start menu planning. We're talking breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you have a plan, you're likely to stick to it and purchase only the food you know you'll need for your meals. It really helps you avoid buying junk or impulse purchasing! Check out a sample traditional foods menu of mine for ideas, and here are my menu planning tips.

5) Realize that your body needs and wants Real Food. Give yourselves time to adjust. Tastes do change, and soon your body will start to crave the good food and cease to desire what is bad. Kombucha is a powerful aid in fighting bad food cravings, especially for sugar and soda.

For more Rookie Tips on Transitioning to a Real Foods Diet, visit Kelly the Kitchen Kop!

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Of Milk and Mason Jars: My Journey to Real Food

For a long time I've wanted to write about my journey to "Real Food" or Traditional Nutrition. I've hesitated because it seems like a rather long story, and a journey that quite frankly I'm still on. It's been a pretty amazing journey, spiritually speaking, in that it has empowered me as a woman to realize my potential at bringing healing and nourishment to my loved ones. Food preparation has always been a sacrificial act of love across all cultures. Unfortunately, I grew up in a time when the food culture was probably at an all-time low in this country. My journey, like many, began with a deep question and the search for answers.

As a high school student, I had horrible acne. Enough said. I tried everything under the sun to eradicate this seemingly typical adolescent curse. I searched for answers; is it what I put on my face? Is it what I put into my body? Some said greasy foods caused acne. I didn't eat greasy foods. Some said it was chocolate. I didn't eat much of that either....I pretty quickly dismissed the notion that it had anything to do with what I ate. Besides, I did what every good teen in the early 90s did and ate a low fat diet, full of low fat goodies like bagels, pretzels, and diet soda. I weighed a whooping 126 pounds and never had to worry about my weight. I would find out later that the junk I ate went straight to my face!

In an attempt to get real results, I started taking daily doses of Tetracycline my senior year and throughout my freshman year of college. Tetracycline is an antibiotic; the theory is that if the "bad bacteria" that cause acne are destroyed, there will also go the acne. In addition, I would apply a Retinal cream (vitamin A) to my face.

I learned two things from this experience. 1) Antibiotics made me have horrible digestion(and I thought it was the food in the college dining hall....okay it was probably both) and 2) Vitamin A really worked to clear up my face!!! That really began my turn toward nutritional answers, but it would be several years later before I would have the motivation to continue the search more deeply. You see, the drugs and the Retinal worked, so despite my uncomfortable digestion and massive loss of hair, fatigue, and other problems (which I attributed to being a college student), at least my face had cleared up.

Shortly after earning my Master's Degree in 2001, I became engaged to my husband. The whirlwind of grad school, wedding planning, first job, first home, etc. etc. kept me distracted from my health until things finally started to settle down for us. Almost immediately after the wedding my husband and I both got sick, and it seemed like we were sick nearly all the time. It manifested itself differently; for me it was constant colds, sore throats, yeast infections, hair loss, and bad dandruff. I'm fairly positive that I lost a very early-along pregnancy a few years after we were married as well.

For my husband, it was horrible pains all throughout his body and especially after eating. There were major bloating, gas, cramping,etc. Since my husband was in so much pain, I became very focused on researching what was going on in his body. Interestingly enough, our neighbor in our first apartment complex was a recently-diagnosed celiac, and I remember her spending hours talking to me all about it, and she sharing books and resources with me. At the time I kept thinking "why am I so fascinated by this? I don't have celiac and my husband probably doesn't either..." But her story always struck me, and opened the door to a whole world of digestive illnesses that I never knew about before.

Much researching lead us to "leaky gut syndrome" and candida being the main culprits for my husband. I bagged up all the pastas, white flour, and other "junk food" in the house and gave it away to my other poor in-debt recent college grads who happily took it off my hands. I started to research ways of cooking so that my husband would find healing.

During this time period, we became really close friends with a couple, the wife of which was on her own healing journey. She was always sharing different diets/food philosophies. Early on she introduced me to The Blood Type Diet and for a while we followed that, but it became very difficult as my husband and I have totally different and incompatible blood types. I was feeling overwhelmed at how to actually cook for both of us. This friend of ours later introduced me to the Raw Foods movement a la Ann Wigmore. I began sprouting, making quinoa rejuvalac, and eating a lot of raw fruits and vegetables. I began to really feel alive and full of energy again for the first time. I think the rejuvalac, which is full of enzymes and beneficial bacteria was especially helpful for both of us.

That year, I spent Lent (the 40 day period before the Easter, in which Orthodox Christians basically follow a vegan diet) eating strictly vegan and mostly raw foods. I felt really good, and Karl was slowly improving as well. At that point he had started a colonic regimen that really jump-started the healing process for him. We also worked with an amazing bodywork therapist, Dan Taylor of Tendano, whose love and passion as a gifted healer always brought Karl and I insight into our physical conditions. By Easter, we were both actually feeling pretty good. I had dropped down to 121 pounds, which was an all-time low for me. It was about a week after Easter that I became pregnant with my first child.

Those of you who are veteran real foodies and who know a little bit of my journey with my daughter (and her myriad of health issues) will quickly recognize that my pre-conception diet (being strict vegan) was, while perhaps somewhat healing for me personally, was not at all an ideal pre-pregnancy diet. My pregnancy was pretty typical; awful morning sickness, a decent 2nd trimester, and extreme weight gain in the 3rd trimester.

My pregnancy diet was full of junk. I used pregnancy as a license to eat basically whatever I craved (ask anyone of my family members to recall my constant consumption of fast food during this time period). It's like I didn't take care of myself at all, I did try to eat lots of veggies and salads and "good stuff", but I knew nothing about the Weston Price nutritional protocols, except for something vague I'd heard about cod liver oil, so I faithfully choked some down each day of my pregnancy.

Even though my birth story is another subject entirely, I will mention just a few things pertinent to my journey. My daughter was born traumatically in a crash c-section (hello, more antibiotics for me!) and she was extremely underweight even though she was 2 weeks overdue. I had been under the care of home birth midwives who didn't catch that my fundal heights were not where they should be, and therefore didn't see that my daughter wasn't growing properly. And it was an honest mistake on their part, since I had gained A LOT of weight, almost 50 lbs, for a 5 lb, 6 oz baby!

The aftermath of the c-section was difficult to recover from for me. Constipation, indigestion, and feelings of failure were unbearable early on. To top it off, I had a very low milk supply and had to do the typical pump-feed-pump-feed around the clock drill which didn't really help much. During that time of trial emerged another deep question: Why can't I produce enough milk to feed my baby? At that time, my friend (of whom I spoke earlier) was just getting into the Nourishing Traditions movement and shared with me a kefir grain. I hardly knew what to do with it, but she assured me that it would help my supply so I tried it. At first I thought it was really gross to leave milk sitting out on the counter over a few days and couldn't believe I was actually going to drink it, but when I did I felt so amazing that my body kept craving more. I drank it for several weeks but eventually stopped due to feeling so overwhelmed and I think I killed my starter. Besides, kefir didn't really improve my milk supply like I'd hoped.

At that point I did turn to nutrition for answers, but got the advice to consume lots of whole grain carbohydrates such as oatmeal, breads, beer, etc. to increase my milk supply. So that I did, but to no avail. I only gained weight (I was sitting at about 160 lbs for the longest time) and felt awful.

A year passed by and it started to look like I'd never be back to my original size or energy level. Come spring time, I started to really get serious about diet and exercise and began following fad diets from Women's Day. I totally fell for the "DROP 20 LBS BY VALENTINE'S DAY!!!" headlines and bought those magazines and devoured their content, page by page.

Through these magazines, I found The Sonoma Diet: Trimmer Waist, Better Health in Just 10 Days! and it taught me about portion control, limiting whole grains and starchy veggies, and food combining. I started eating more slowly and enjoying the fine flavors of real food. The Sonoma Diet has some really good concepts and recipes, but I don't like that they include lots of low-fat or fat-free dairy in their menus. The BEST thing about Sonoma is that it finally got me off of my addiction to sugar. I was eating a huge plate of steamed broccoli every day for lunch, along with quality meats and veggies at dinner. The weight really started to fall off!!

In addition, I started reading French Women Don't Get Fat and that is probably by far one of the top 3 most influential books that finally turned me on to real food. I started to savor more, to slow down, to drink more water between meals, to enjoy good quality fats and to dump refined sugars and carbs for good. For me, this was what really helped me turn the corner in my own healing. Looking back, I'm positive that it was the sugar and refined grains (and possibly, in my case, even the whole grains) that wreaked havoc on my system, already compromised from years of antibiotics taken. I am sure that it was those foods that kept my hormones so out of whack in high school and that caused my acne. Since my diet all those years was "low fat" (read: white sugar and white flour), it's no wonder that my face looked so awful! They say that our skin is a reflection of what's going on in our gut. Ick!

As I started losing weight, people began to notice and one person mentioned Coconut Oil as a real weight loss accelerator. I quickly started researching coconut oil and found The Coconut Diet: The Secret Ingredient That Helps You Lose Weight While You Eat Your Favorite Foods which was instrumental as well. We began juicing, consuming coconut oil, and cutting out the carbs.

We finally started feeling (and looking!) better! I had finally (19 months later!) dropped back to my normal pre-pregnancy weight of 126 lbs. Wouldn't you know it was a few days after the above picture was taken that I found out I was pregnant with baby #2! This time, I had a much better preconception diet, and I planned to stay the course, even though the rough first trimester. I stuck to meats and veggies and minimized grains.

A few months into the pregnancy, I received a copy of Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. It was at this time we were blessed to stumble upon a local source for fresh, certified clean, pastured organic milk and I started drinking it regularly. I was feeling so great from the milk and the coconut oil (and probably those feelgood nesting hormones of the 2nd trimester) so I channelled it all into learning about the Traditional Foods lifestyle. I started soaking grains, making my own kefir and yogurt, and making my own kombucha and sourdough bread.

I later started making beet kvass, sauerkraut, and lacto-fermented jam and pickles. By the end of the 2nd trimester I had converted our family over to a strictly Traditional Foods diet. My son's birth, although another c-section (I tried to VBAC!!!! I have some sort of pelvic problem), was peaceful and non-eventful. He came out totally strong and healthy, and I recovered immediately. I attribute this to my boot-legged kombucha brought into the hospital! Although my milk supply still wasn't adequate for my son, I continued (and still to this day) to nurse him and supplement him with farm-fresh, certified clean goat's milk formula (also a subject of an entirely different post!) and watch him grow by leaps and bounds and thrive on the goat's milk and all of the other real foods he's been given.

It has been amazing to watch the healing that has taken place in all of our bodies as we've transitioned to whole foods. I have found such joy and passion in both preparing these delicious foods and eating them. I've felt better than I've felt in a long time, despite lingering structural issues (probably carrying around 30+ lbs of kid throughout the day!). My skin is totally clear and soft, the dandruff is gone, the yeast infections are no longer a problem! My monthly cycles come and go without much of a notice. I have energy and virtually no digestive issues to speak of, unless of course I eat something I shouldn't! Seeing the health and vitality in my children also brings me so much joy and thankfulness to God for His wisdom that he gives us in taking care of our families.

For our family, the transition wasn't difficult because it was our hope. For me, it was more important to find healing for my family than to have the convenience of "easy" food. Feeling better motivated me to do the work involved. I thank God for his grace in allowing us to obtain this wisdom, and I don't take it for granted, nor do I forget His part in leading me here. I don' t assume that diet is the silver bullet for everyone, but I am thankful that it has been a large part of our family's healing.

Of course, the journey continues, as you'll read. We are now eating a gluten-free, grain-free diet for the sake of my daughter's healing (yet another long post!) and quite frankly the rest of us feel great eating this way right now too. I'm sure the paradigm will shift and new insights will be given, and perhaps we'll be able to go back to eating grains, even gluten, again. But for now, this is where we are, and this is where I've come from.

If you've read this far, thank you so much! May God bless you in your journey to health, healing, and wholeness!

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