Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pumpkin Bread Recipe {low sugar}

Contributed by Anna of Not Knowing Where

Happy autumn! It's been over a month since I've posted at The Cheap and Choosy. So many hard things, and so many good things were piled into September and October. I'm happy to be back, with a recipe that I invented last weekend. 

For the last two years, I've been attempting to ease sweets out of my diet. It makes me a happier person and seriously cuts down on the mood swings. I love fall/winter foods, particularly pumpkin. And since pumpkin usually comes in a super sweet form, I wanted to create a lower sugar alternative to satisfy my taste buds. Here it is for you wonderful folks. I hope that you enjoy. In case you're scared by the "low sugar" description, my entire family has happily eaten this bread. Don't worry! It really is good. 

Anna's Low Sugar Pumpkin Bread
Dry ingredients:
3 cup flour (white or whole grain)
1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. ground nutmeg

Wet ingredients:
1/4 cup shortening or softened butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1-15 oz can pumpkin

1 c. Milk + 1 T. Vinegar 

You will need 2 mixing bowls and a liquid measuring cup. In the first (smaller) mixing bowl, add all the dry ingredients and stir together. In the second mixing bowl, put the wet ingredients. In an ideal world, you should pull out your hand mixer and thoroughly whip your wet ingredients together. But in my imperfect world, I stir it around violently with a wooden spoon, and it's never been bad (Who has time to clean a mixer?). 

In the liquid measuring cup, put 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Add milk until you have a total of one cup. If you keep buttermilk in your refrigerator, just use 1 cup of that and forget about the vinegar. 

Go back to your big mixing bowl with the wet ingredients. Alternately add the dry mixture and the milk mixture, stirring between each addition (or beating with a hand mixer if you prefer). 

Grease and flour a large loaf pan. Pour in the batter, and cook at 350 degrees F for about 65 minutes. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Wood Crate Linen Cabinet

By contributing writer: Ginger re-posted from Gingerly Made

Frugality and simplicity can effect so much of our lives. Today I want to talk about decorating our homes.

As a craft blogger, I spend a lot of time making things, but I don't want to spend a lot of money on supplies. I'm sure you are no stranger to the pallet and wood crate craze everyone seems to be on lately. Well, I'm no exception. I love that you can find pallets or crates for free to cheap and they give a rustic charm to your decorating that I personally love.

It took me a long time to find some crates. I was actually a wee bit frustrated about it because I had this project specifically in mind. Finally I found some on found some on craigslist! They were not the size or shape I wanted, but I figured since I couldn't find any elsewhere, I'd get them anyway.

I had to be creative in how to arrange the crates since four of them were this odd L-shape. Which meant that they also needed some restructuring. But we went from these flower display crates to this awesome crate linen cabinet. Or bookshelf. Whatever you want to use it for. I just wanted it for a linen cabinet.

Here's what we did.

Because of the L-shaped crates we had to remove the slats from one side and reattached them to the other opening up the front of the crate. Basically, we had to move the slats around so the correct side would be open once stacked up.

Then we painted the crates, used wood glue and nailed the crates in place as we re-stacked them.

It turned out REALLY good! Then I filled it up with Mason jars for my Q-tips and cotton balls, lotions, and homemade natural soaps, towels, and wash cloths. And most importantly as the linen cabinet is sitting beside the tub, a place to set my book after I'm done taking a bubble bath. Ah, simple bliss.

Friday, September 14, 2012

"No Poo" 30 Day Challenge

Hello again Cheap and Choosy readers! Today I am going to be sharing with you my journey and results with the "No Poo" method! Want a natural and easy way to simplify another aspect of your life...then read on!

Okay, so are you scared already? I am sure that by the title you are. Don't be, I haven't lost my mind...completely.

Ready....I will not use shampoo or conditioner for 30 days!

Wait! Don't leave....keep reading! I know this sounds crazy! I will explain how I came to where I am now with this challenge.

One month ago, I stumbled across this blog post on Simple Mom. She shares that she has not used shampoo or conditioner in three months! (definitely read her post...she explains it all so well!) My first reaction...GROSS! Which I am sure was, and is your reaction to my challenge. (probably that and...Lorissa has gone off the deep end!)

I learned that shampoo is actually a detergent. When you use it, it strips your hair of the healthy oils it needs, resulting in a vicious cycle...

Here is the vicious cycle that happens:
You wash your hair with shampoo.
It strips out the natural oils and creates a barrier.
Your hair over reacts and produces more oils to compensate for what is lost and hair becomes greasy.
You are frustrated with your oily hair so you wash it almost daily.
You keep stripping your hair of the oil it needs and the ends become frizzy, brittle and damaged.
Now you have to use a conditioner.
The top of your head is oily again. The bottom is dry and frizzy. 
And to top it off, you now need a full arsenal of hair care products just to get it to keep a style.

This has been my frustration! My hair is oily on the top, frizzy and dry on the bottom, and lays flat. Sure, I have curly hair but it just lays flat and is frizzy.

What I use on a daily basis...

I use a volumizing shampoo and conditioner, silk drop, a leave in conditioner, curl shaping spray, mousse, or straightening cream.

All that, and my hair still doesn't look how I wish it would! It is still frizzy, dry, brittle, and falls out like crazy!!!! Seriously...it is amazing I still have hair left with the rate that it falls out! Oh, did I also mention I battle with dandruff. This post is quickly becoming embarrassing.

You might just tell me to switch to a more expensive shampoo, conditioner, or hair care product...but really?! I do not want to, nor will I, spend $15 on a small bottle of shampoo just to get the "results" I think it may give me. Maybe you are one of the lucky ones that has gorgeous hair with out even trying. To you I say...I hate you....I mean...wow, I am so happy for you, that is awesome!  But for me, I am at the desperate...I will try anything point! And that is where this challenge came from. From desperation!

Okay,  enough of how I got to this crazy place...what to do now?!

Drop the bottle of shampoo, put away the bottle of conditioner, and hide the 300 bottles of hair care products you currently have. Go to your kitchen and grab a box of baking soda and a bottle of apple cider vinegar. Yes, you heard that right! Hang in there...keep reading!

Here is the recipe I am currently using:

"Shampoo" : 1 Cup Water
                      1 Tablespoon Baking soda

"Conditioner": 1 Cup Water
                        1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar

I simply mix up the solution and pour into a squirt bottle that I keep in the shower. From what I have read, you may have to tweak the recipe a bit to what suits your needs. If you have super dry hair you will need to use more vinegar to soften it. Super oily hair, increase the amount of baking soda. You may have to experiment for the first week to find what works for you. I have found that a little does in fact go a long way!

It will take some adjusting and getting used to. For me, getting used to not having a soapy, lathery feeling when I shampoo has been the hardest. I found out pretty quickly, that just because it isn't lathering doesn't mean it isn't getting clean! All of the other bloggers I have read also say, there is a period in which your hair re-adjusts how much oil it makes. After all, it is used to you stripping it out every day with washing it. Because of this, it will over produce oil for a time. This takes about two-four weeks (possibly as long as eight)...hang in there because your hair will adjust!

I have decided to keep a daily record of how my hair looks and is changing. I will update every week to let you know how my hair is progressing...both good and bad!(Remember this is one of the "transition" weeks so my hair will be more oily than usual while it is adjusting)

Week 1 

Day 1- First time to wash with baking soda and vinegar. I was worried the vinegar would make my hair smell funny, but it rinses completely clean- no smell! Hair feels soft and clean! Top doesn't look oily at all! I think I used too much baking soda, the top looks a little dry for once.

Day 2- No wash needed. Hair doesn't look oily yet. Still kind of dry. Must remember to use less baking soda mixture.

Day 3- Top of hair looking oily, time to wash! Hair feels clean and smells clean. Once again, I think I used too much baking soda.

Day 4-No wash. Hair looks a little oily. Put it in a pony tail. No big deal.

Day 5- Washed Hair. Getting used to not lathering. Used a little more vinegar on the ends than the last two times. Hair looks clean and feels clean.

Day 6- Top of hair looks oily. Washed hair. Didn't use enough baking soda. Hair looks and feels oily still. Washed hair again. Much better.  Hair looks, feels, and smells clean this time. I am starting to notice a change in my hair's texture. I also noticed that when I combed my hair only a few strands fell out rather than a huge amount. I wonder if that is at all related?

Day 7- Hair slightly oily but pretty normal for me even when using shampoo. Pulled it back into a pony tail.

So far I am pretty pleased with it. I wonder what my hair will be like when the transition period is over. If it is anything like the other blogger's results, I will be thrilled!

What do you think? Are you brave enough? Desperate enough? Crazy enough to give this challenge a try?

If you are still not convinced take a look at these posts: 

MSNBC.com actually wrote an article on this! Read it here!

Simple Mom gives you a hair update after using this method for two years! Read it here!

Great information from The Hair Pin on switching from shampoo and why...read here!

On Just A Couple Acres has a very encouraging post about her transition with curly hair...here! and some great "No Poo FAQ" here

Think about it...what if you could have beautiful hair and it not cost you a small fortune?! Forget about all of the money, chemicals, waste, and frustration that go with shampooing your gorgeous locks!

On top of that ...why not? Why not give it a try? If you hate it, you can always go back to shampoo. But if you love it, you have found the cheapest and easiest way to achieve beautiful hair.

If you are brave, desperate, crazy, or hippie enough (I think this may be why I am pretty open to the idea...my mom secretly wanted to name one of us girls Moonbeam when we were born...no joke!) to give this challenge a try with me, leave a comment below and let me know you are in! Then each week I will share my progress with you, and you all can let me know how you are doing!

This was my first post ever on going "NO POO"...You can see all of my updates here:

 No Poo Week 2 Update
No Poo Week 3 Update
No Poo Week 4 Update
My Curly Hair Post 30 Day No Poo

Monday, September 3, 2012

Laurel Finds Her Forever Family {A Passion Post}

Contributed Post by Martha of The Little Red House

132 Million. What does that number make you think about? The National Debt? We wish! How much a professional athlete makes? Probably pretty close. No, this is the latest statistic on the number of orphans in the world. Now, people quibble about what the word “orphan” means. Is it losing one parent? Or both? It doesn’t really matter. What it does mean is, at the least, 132 million children in the world are hurting.

My name is Martha and I was asked to do a guest post on The Cheap & Choosy. My first thought was “not me”. Writing is not my gift. But, the more I thought about it, the more I believed that this was actually something small that I could do to shed a light on the orphan crisis. You see, The Orphan is my passion. A little background here so bear with me. My husband and I knew while we were dating that we wanted to adopt a child when we got married, whether or not we could have biological children or not. We had the privilege to help with an orphan from Belarus while he was here on a summer program and fell in love with him. Another American family adopted him and we got married and had our son. About a year and a half after he was born, I felt the itch, the “I’m ready for another child” itch. It was time to look into adoption.

We started the process with a local adoption agency and after a good number of months, things were going nowhere fast. Through much prayer and counsel we decided to wait a while to see what direction we should go in. We felt the Lord was directing us to Ukraine but things were not working out. During this waiting period to see which direction we should go in, I was looking at a website that helps special needs children in other countries find home called www.reecesrainbow.org. I had seen thousands of children’s pictures over a period of months and would say “I could love that child” “I could be her Mommy!” However, one day a new picture popped up: a picture of a little 15 month old with a crossed eye, wearing a pink turtle neck. Something grabbed me right then and there. She was deaf and possibly had some more severe issues. Her picture wouldn’t get out of my mind. For months I had been looking for my child and I had a sneaky suspicion I had just found her. However, she was DEAF. That scared the pants off of me! Could I do that? For the first time, I found myself talking myself OUT of a child. I can’t do that God. It’s going to be too hard!

So, God found me in the shower. Literally. I found myself crying in the shower, knowing what he was asking of me but saying “I can’t do this God!” So, he whispered back in my ear “I know you can’t, but I CAN!” People who know me, know I am down to earth and don’t usually have these types of experiences but I will tell you here and now, it was real and life changing. I felt a peace that passed all understanding. The next day, the Lord confirmed the same thing to my husband and we committed to my daughter who just happened to be in Ukraine.

Laurel – August 2012

The next 3 months were a blur but long story short, we went to Ukraine, stayed 6 weeks and came home with a very cute, very hearing impaired, very smart little girl. The conditions we saw in her orphanage were not horrible like some people have seen but rather poor and rundown from lack of funds. They washed, hung up and reused DISPOSABLE diapers. All of the playground equipment was broken. The children we saw looked well fed but my daughter ate and drank until she would throw it back up. These children would run up to us saying “Mama”? “Papa”? And we’d have to shake our heads “No”. They were so starved for love and affection. The special needs ones are the most heartbreaking. In Eastern Europe, there are really no programs set up for these children. No place for them in society. They are seen as outcasts and better off in institutions than out on the streets with other children. Special needs children are transferred from the baby house at around 4-6 years old into an institution (sometimes an adult mental institution). The trauma of this is dramatic! I could tell you a thousand stories but I won’t here, yet. Investigate for yourself. It’s very real. These children are children just like the ones in our own houses, but they won’t get a chance to live. They will rarely be allowed out of their cribs (if at all). They are without a chance for having a mommy & a daddy.

So was adoption easy? Nope. I’m completely honest about that when people ask me. We had an easier transition than most but I think most would agree that raising ANY child isn’t easy. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Seeing my deaf daughter learn to speak and hear is unbelievable! She has a chance to learn and grow and be loved and that is all the difference.

I challenge you, look for yourself. Visit www.reecesrainbow.org. Pick a child to pray for or even support. A verse from the Bible that really challenged us was this:

James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
We may not be all called to adopt but we can all do something. We can pray, support a family in the process, give money or time to the orphan cause.
“Adopting a child will not change the world. But for that child, the world is changed!” – Author Unknown
Take the challenge….ask God what he would have YOU do! It just might surprise you.

Laurel (1 month home) with brother Noah- 2009

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Natural and Frugal Bathroom Cleaning

Contributed by Lorissa of Beautiful Somehow

Clorox Wipes, Windex, Scrubbing Bubbles, Tilex, Pine Sol, Lysol, and Clorox Toilet Bowl cleaner. This is just a small list of all the cleaners we are made to believe we need in order to have a clean and sanitary bathroom. If you don't use every cleaner above then you have a nasty and germ filled bathroom. This is what I believed. I loved using Clorox wipes and Lysol. It killed the germs. Clorox Toilet Bowl cleaner and scrubbing bubbles were toilet necessities! Windex...well that is a no brainer...you get a streak free shine! Mop the floor with Pine Sol and spray the room with febreeze. Squeaky clean and smell good bathroom!

While all of those cleaners do kill germs, they also contain a ton of chemicals. We all know this, yet we still love to use them. I know I did. I just figured all of the talk about chemicals in our cleaners was just a bunch of hype. It doesn't really affect my health that much. Right?

But...did you know that...

The American Lung Association warns that "Some products release dangerous chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Other harmful ingredients include ammonia and bleach. Even natural fragrances such as citrus can react to produce dangerous pollutants indoors. VOCs and other chemicals released when using cleaning supplies contribute to chronic respiratory problems, allergic reactions and headaches ".

The Organic Consumers Association says "Cleaning ingredients vary in the type of health hazard they pose. Some cause acute, or immediate, hazards such as skin or respiratory irritation, watery eyes, or chemical burns, while others are associated with chronic, or long-term, effects such as cancer."

 If you have little ones at home this can be concerning. Think about if one of your little one's get a hold of that bottle of cleaner. That thought alone was enough to make me throw them out. 

Money was another big reason I decided to switch. Buying all of those cleaners, to achieve my sanitary bathroom, was costing a lot! 

Here is what they usually cost...
Clorox Wipes 150 ct. - $7.74
Windex- $2.87
Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner- $3.76
Pine Sol- $2.97
Scrubbing Bubbles- $2.47
Tilex- $3.78
Febreeze- $4.97

For a grand total of $28.49! That much to clean a bathroom?! Oh..and don't forget the cost for paper towels to wipe it all down. Even if you do decide to go with the cleaners that are "green" you are going to be paying just as much, if not more!

Okay enough of the why  you should ditch those expensive, chemical laden cleaners. What do you do instead? I still want a clean, sanitary, and pleasant smelling bathroom!

Remember the kitchen and floor cleaner I told you about? Grab that, some baking soda, and either your un-paper towels or even better a mircofiber cloth.

To start out, I usually spray down the whole toilet (inside included) with my lemon vinegar solution and sprinkle baking soda on the inside of the toilet. Let that set while you clean the rest.

I mentioned in my first post on getting started with natural cleaners that I eventually wanted to make my own "Windex". I finally figured out the perfect recipe! It is a little complicated to make and contains a lot of ingredients. Ready....grab your lemon vinegar solution and spray it on your mirror. Wipe with a clean microfiber cloth. That is it. Complicated right. ;-)  It is amazing all the things water and vinegar can do!  (Vinegar Tips.com actually shares 1001 ways to use vinegar!)

I do suggest using a microfiber cloth to clean you mirror. It removes lint and works wonderfully. You can buy a pack of 3 at the Dollar Tree! When you first spray this on your mirror and start wiping, don't panic, it may look like it is starting to streak. Be patient, let it dry all the way, and you will have a clean and streak free mirror!

Then I spray down my sink, counter tops and faucet and wipe clean with the same microfiber cloth. Wipe the toilet clean, scrub the toilet with a brush, spray and wipe down the shower with the water and vinegar solution. Finish with spraying the floor and mopping it clean.

You now have a sparkly cleanfresh smelling, and sanitary bathroom using only two cleaners! Amazing! I love to clean my bathroom this way. It smells wonderful, looks great, and I don't have to worry about harmful chemicals!

What does it cost to clean this way? Literally pennies!

Have you already made the switch to more natural cleaners? Any recipes you love to use in your bathroom?

Monday, June 18, 2012

DIY Chemical-Free Homemade Bug Spray

Contributed by Anna of Not Knowing Where

Our garden has been growing at an incredible rate, thanks to the attentions of my husband, and his right-hand toddler man. Here in North Carolina, the mosquitoes are terrible, especially in the garden in the afternoon/evening. I wanted to make some bug spray for my men to use to rescue them from biting insects, and spiders.

I discovered that making your own bug spray is literally as easy as making a cup of tea. The ingredients are incredibly affordable and have a long shelf life before being mixed together.

I went to my favorite natural health store in town to get the essential oils that are most effective. I've found my local natural health store to be an incredible resource - both for ingredients and for advice. These people really love what they sell, and have much more experience than me. The chain stores (of which we have two) will try to point you to the $20 bottle of all natural, herbal, yada, yada, that they have pre-mixed on their shelf. But this little unimposing store was immediately on board with my DIY desire, and helped me pick out the most effective essential oils.

I decided on citronella ($3.50) and lemongrass ($6.00) for the essential oils. Growing in my garden, I have spearmint and lavender. However if I didn't have these plants I could have puchased them dried at a very low cost.

Here is list of ingredients I used:
  • Water
  • Dried lavender flowers
  • Dried spearmint leaves
  • Citronella essential oil
  • Lemongrass essential oil
  • Rubbing alcohol or Witchhazel
At home, I boiled 8 oz (1 cup) of water. I poured the boiling water over 2 tablespoons each of dried spearmint and lavender. I used a mug just like I was making a cup of tea, and covered the mixture to steep. After it cooled to room temperature, I strained out the herbs. To my herbal "tea", I added 14 drops of citronella and 7 drops of lemongrass.

Finally, I poured the whole thing into a spray bottle. For ease of evaporation, I decided to add some rubbing alcohol. Witchhazel is another (but more expensive) option if you want the spray to more quickly evaporate on the skin. I added enough rubbing alcohol to produce 10 oz total of bug spray. This is a minimal amount. Some people double the amount of liquid by adding much more alcohol or witchhazel.

It cost me less than $10, and will make enough bug spray to last many, many, months of summers. No harsh chemicals, inexpensive, and effective!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Because It's Fun, Adventures in Mixing Makeup

Contributed by Anna of Not Knowing Where

Did you know that you can create your own makeup from items that you probably have in your kitchen right now? Recently, Wellness Mama wrote a post about just that. I spent the following weekend scattering a multitudinous amount of colored powders across my kitchen and bathroom, in an attempt to concoct my own blends. I tried most of her suggestions. I made several happy discoveries, and experienced a few disappointing revelations. It was a little trickier than Wellness Mama's simple post made it appear.

"Why in the world," you may ask, "are you mixing your own makeup?"

Three reasons. One - My skin has developed allergies to just about every product that is found at a drug store. Two - I've always disliked the fragrances of cosmetics. Three - Mixing makeup just seemed like a lot of fun. What can I say, I do strange things on Friday nights after the toddler is in bed.

Inspired by an expert, here are my stumblings in creating makeup in my kitchen...
Foundation Powder, Eye Shadow, and Blush
 Here is the initial color pallette of my endeavor:
  • White: corn starch
  • Brown: cocoa powder
  • Orange: cinnamon
  • Red: dried hybiscus
  • Black: activated charcoal
In addition to lightening up the makeup, the corn starch is integral to absorbing the colors and spreading them on your skin. My skin also happens to thrive on the corn starch. Go figure. Whereas makeup I've bought has always made me break out, this stuff actually keeps breakouts at bay. Crazy!

For the foundation powder, I mixed cocoa powder and cinnamon into the corn starch until I was happy with the color. The corn starch and cocoa powder both tend to clump. A tea infuser worked as a sieve to break apart the clumps and help it mix. 
I used the skin on my arm as a guide as I alternately mixed cinnamon and cocoa powder into the corn starch for the best shade. 
For the eye shadow, I started by emptying one capsule of activated charcoal into a small bowl. To the black, I added cocoa powder and cinnamon alternately until I found a brown I was happy with. 
The activated charcoal plays a similar role as the corn starch. It is a smooth base that helps the makeup stick to the skin.

The blush works a little bit differently than the foundation and eye shadow. The red from the hibiscus requires a small amount of moisture to get absorbed into the corn starch. I ground the hibiscus into as fine a powder as I could get. A coffee grinder is perfect for this. I sifted the hibiscus through the tea infuser into a small bowl. It was about 1 tablespoon. Then I added an equal amount of corn starch to the red powder. Next, I added a very small amount of water. No more than 1/4 teaspoon. I mixed well with a spoon, then I started using my fingers to work the hibiscus and corn starch together. 
The result was a bright pink powder. Continuing to use my fingers, I added cocoa powder, more corn starch, more hibiscus... until I was pleased with the shade.

The most expensive part was the activated charcoal. It cost $9 at a health food store. However considering I have enough to make a lifetime of eye shadow, I figure it was $9 well spent. Hibiscus was $2 for an ounce at my local health food store. An ounce of dried flower petals is more volume than you would think. It may make ten batches of blush.

Making makeup in your kitchen is super cheap, and a lot of fun for the artistically minded. Have fun!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Homemade Taco Seasoning {Chicken Taco Soup Recipe}

My friend Rachel passed a recipe on to me for "Chicken Taco Soup" that is delicious and super easy to throw together in the crock pot or prepare in bulk and store in the freezer for multiple crock pot meals.

One of the ingredients on the original recipe is "one packet of taco seasoning," and scribbled out beside is a homemade alternative that I was pleased to find is comprised of ingredients that we keep in our spice cabinet! I love scratching pre-made ingredients off my shopping list! Use this in any recipe calling for a packet of taco seasoning:

Equivalent of One Packet of Taco Seasoning:

1 Tbsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes*
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper

*This is a bit spicy, so if you prefer a milder seasoning, leave out the red pepper flakes.

The possibilities of course are endless with this. It makes delicious "taco meat," and I've even made taco flavored hummus!

Now for the yummy soup recipe:

Chicken Taco Soup:

1 chopped onion
1 each 16 oz. canned chili beans*,
black beans, and corn. (I use frozen corn)
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 cup of chicken stock or broth
2 10 oz cans of diced tomatoes
1 Packet of Taco Seasoning (or above recipe)
2-3 chicken breasts

For topping:
Sour cream (We use plain yogurt and it tastes great!)
Shredded cheddar cheese
Tortilla Chips (or Fritos )

*I stopped using kidney beans and started preparing my own black beans via Trina Holden's instructions in Real {Fast} Food to eliminate canned beans!

Just dump everything in the crock pot and make sure the chicken is below the surface of the liquid ingredients. Cook 5 hours on high or until chicken is cooked through. Pull out chicken and shred, and return to soup. That's it!

{Confession: We eat this with Fritos, which I was pleasantly surprised to discover has a refreshingly short ingredient list of only three things! You should check it out. I'm not going as far as to call it a "health food" though! ;) }

To Prepare in Bulk:

 I quadruple the recipe in a large pot on the stove top using the same amount of chicken as the original recipe for more with less. I divide into as many quart size freezer bags as possible and freeze.Then a few hours before serving, I just dump a frozen quart bag of it in the crock pot and put it on high.

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Linking up with Raising Homemakers, Growing Home Blog, and This Chick Cooks

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Citrus Enzyme Cleaner

Hello Cheap and Choosy Readers!

I'm Lorissa from Beautiful Somehow. I am a new contributor to The Cheap and Choosy and I am so excited to be able share tips on Simple, Frugal, and Intentional Living with you!

Not too long ago, I started my journey into the wonderful world of Natural Homemade Cleaners. If you have never made your own homemade cleaners I strongly encourage you to give it a try! They are very simple and frugal to make. Add in the benefit of not worrying about your children or pets around them and you have some pretty awesome reasons to start making your own.

Today I am going to share my newest and favorite natural homemade cleaner, the Citrus Enzyme Cleaner. This cleaner is absolutely fantastic! It can be made for pennies out of items you probably already have at home or are about to throw away.

What you will need...
*7 tablespoons of brown sugar.
*1 1/2-2 cups of fruit peels. I went with Lemon and Orange. You can also do lime, grapefruit, apple, or pineapple. I have read that pineapple actually has the most cleaning power to it.
*1 tsp. Yeast (optional)
*2 liter bottle with cap
*1 liter (approx 4.25 cups) of water
*Permanent Marker

Cut up your fruit peels and put them into the bottle. Using your funnel, add the brown sugar, yeast and water. Screw cap onto bottle and shake vigorously. Now here is why the yeast is optional. (I did not know about this when I first made this cleaner and did not add the yeast.) Without the yeast it will take three months for your cleaner to fully mature. With the yeast, it will only take you two weeks! Wish I would have known that at first....oh well...it works just as great, and was definitely worth the wait. If using yeast, take your permanent marker and write the date that is two weeks from when you made it, so you will know when it is ready. If you are making it without the yeast, write the date that is three months from when you made it. This is especially helpful if you are making new batches that are a few weeks apart, so you do not get them confused. Store in a cool, dry place. I keep mine in my pantry.

When storing, you want to make sure that the cap is not screwed on all the way on. A lot of gas will build up and could actually cause the cleaner to explode. Yike! So make sure to let the bottle breathe. If using yeast, you will want to shake your bottle every day for the first week. If not using yeast you, will want to shake it every day for about the first month. Shake it once a week after that. When you are ready for your first use, strain the sludge/pulp from your cleaner and go to it!

Why is this cleaner so fantastic? Other than the fact that you don't have to buy more vinegar (I go through that stuff like crazy!), it is extremely eco-friendly and allows you to use food scraps to make it. I love that! This cleaner truly is an ALL purpose cleaner! Here are just a few of the things you can use this cleaner for...

-cleaning floors...1 part enzyme to 10 parts water.

-cleaning bathrooms....1 part enzyme to 10 parts water.

-washing dishes...add 1/4 cup of enzyme.

-getting out stains (it is amazing for this!)...use undiluted directly on stain.

-laundry...add 1/4 cup enzyme.

-fertilizer for plants (I am especially excited to try this!)...simply take your left over mop water and pour on your plants!

-cleans and clears drains...use unstrained "sludge" from enzyme cleaner.

-wash your car...1 part enzyme to 20 parts water. (My van desperately needs a bath!)

-cleaning fruits and veggies...1 part enzyme to 10 parts water.

-insect repellent...use undiluted. This is supposed to be amazing for ants, spiders, and roaches.

-skin care product! (This one amazes me. I am trying to get up the courage to try it.)...1 part enzyme to 2 parts water.

My experience with it...
My cleaner is still about two weeks away from the full three months...but I became too excited and too impatient to wait. I tried it out on both my bathroom and my kitchen floors. It is absolutely fantastic! My bathroom and floors looked and smelled wonderful. I am so happy with the result. Next time around I will be trying the yeast to speed things up, as well as trying a pineapple version.

While doing research on the Citrus Enzyme Cleaner here are some other women who have made it and had great success...
Homemade Mamas
Happy Homemaker
Off Beat Home...Thanks to Jillee for the awesome yeast tip to speed up the process! Makes a great thing even more awesome!

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Cheapest Chalkboard Labels and More!

I mentioned before that the possibilities of chalkboard contact paper are limitless. That being so, I had a bit more fun with the roll I bought.

First of all, I had not too long ago ordered chalkboard labels for my kitchen canisters. I think they look very cool and are so practical in that they allow you to change the contents of any given canister without peeling off a sticky label.

I bought the cheapest labels I could find on Etsy, but they were still fairly expensive for what they are. I love them except for the fact that they are so small you cannot fit two words on them, like "white flour," "wheat flour," "brown sugar," "white sugar," etc.

 This chalkboard contact paper gave me a MUCH cheaper solution, tailored more to my purpose. I had one canister not yet labeled, so I made a label for it, and will eventually replace the smaller ones on my other canisters as well. (You can see the sheet of smaller ones I bought on the left edge of the picture for size comparison.)


Another simple and fun use of this chalkboard contact paper is to re-purpose any picture frame to make a decorative framed chalkboard for verses, quotes, lists, or whatever you want! I just simply covered the glass with the contact paper! Smaller versions of this would make great economical yet thoughtful Christmas presents. ;)


And finally, I was able to make bigger chalkboards for my children's Bible memory verses by simply plastering a large chunk of chalkboard contact paper on the wall! I just traced a large frame I had for the basic shape and then cut dips out of the corners and done!

Yay for really cheap, easy, yet beautiful things!!!!!!!

Linking with: Growing Home and  Raising Homemakers, and Frugal Friday @Life as Mom.

Tip Junkie handmade projects

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Saving Time in the Kitchen

Good Morning Everyone!

I'm Ginger from Gingerly Made and am thrilled to be a new contributor here at The Cheap and Choosy! Amy is one of my real life friends and yes, she is as thoughtful and Christ-centered in her personal life as she is here as well. I am so honored to be a part of her 'Simple. Frugal. Intentional.' initiative here. Thanks Amy!

Saving Time in the Kitchen.

A while back, I realized that I needed to spend more time being Mom and less time focusing on the household things that need to be done. So, I'm doing my best to find ways to save time in those arenas. I mean let's face it. Being mom is THE BEST, but there are other responsibilities too. I'm just choosing to give less time to those other responsibilities and in so doing needing to be more efficient with the time I have.

So my first task is to save time in food preparation because typically I spend SO MUCH time there.

Image: David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Menu Planning: One Month At A Time
I've been menu planning for a long time now. But I was only doing it for a week at a time. And it was really putting me in a stale-mate on what to cook. I became much less creative and found myself planning many of the same meals week after week. Even spaghetti gets tiring after awhile.

I've now begun putting menu plans in order for a month at a time. It forces me to be more creative and more varied in the meals I choose to provide for my family. At first it was a little difficult, but now I'm loving it.

Freezer Cooking: A Little At A Time
Ok, I'm probably the last stay-at-home mom to jump on this band wagon, but I've finally figured out how awesome freezer cooking is. It took me forever to try it simply because of time. I know, isn't freezer cooking supposed to save you time? So why would time be a deterrent?

Most of what I had seen about freezer cooking meant going to the grocery store and loading up on a ton of food stuffs and then spending an entire day or even half a day prepping and cooking food to put in the freezer. I just don't have the time for that. My kids would never be ok with me spending that kind of time in the kitchen and devoting so little to them.

But, and here's the big but for me, you don't have to do it that way. What has been working for me is to just prepare one freezer meal at a time. Whatever I cook for dinner that night, I'll make one or two extra and toss those in the freezer. Over time my freezer dinner stash has built up and it only took me a few extra minutes each time I made dinner.

More Simple Meals
Sometimes I think us moms feel like we have to provide a culinary masterpiece for dinner. We don't. And they take too long to cook anyway. Sometimes the best meals are the simplest. Tonight we had a salad full of cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, and apples. Topped with some seasoned chicken and a sprinkle of cheese it was a complete and healthy meal. And the best part, it took next to no time to cook.

These are just a few of the things that I have been doing to help me be more responsible with my kitchen time. What types of things are you doing? As always, I love learning from you and would love to hear what little tricks you have up your sleeve.

Thanks again for having me as a part of your Cheap and Choosy community!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Space Saving DIY Toy Stove and Art Easel {Chalkboard Contact Paper}

We have a small home, and I am more than content with that. However, my two and a half year old daughter is getting to an age where a toy kitchen would be an ideal toy for her, but there simply is not room.

My daughter "Peanut", being the creative and imaginative girl that she is, found a solution for that!

We have a small bed side stand type cabinet in her room that I once used for her books (which are now on a book shelf). One day Peanut started opening the door and putting her toy cupcakes in the cabinet to "bake" them, pretending that it was a stove.

I looked at the little cabinet and thought, "I can paint four burners on top and paint the front black so that it looks like the window into a stove!"

Since I have very little experience painting, and very little time right now, I thought it would be a long time before I would get around to such a project.

That was until I discovered Chalkboard Contact Paper.  The little stove is the first thing that came to mind. How easy it would be to just cut out four little circles and stick them on, as well as the front "window" of the stove?

I ordered a roll of the contact paper for less than eight dollars, and as soon as possible after the contact paper arrived, I did just that. It took about 15 minutes, and that because I was doing other things at the same time.

I also ordered a little cooking set, and now my daughter has a little stove to cook on without adding a mite of furniture to our home!

Another toy that I have thought would be ideal for my daughter if there were sufficient space is a toddler art easel. We have a little toddler table for tea parties and artwork, so for both reasons of space and the fact that we really don't need another place for her to draw and color, I had let the idea go completely.

But alas, we have an exposed side to our large old refrigerator in the kitchen and it occurred to me that I could made it into a little chalkboard! Since it's magnetic, we can also use magnets to secure paper there for her to write, color, or paint on too. There you go! The primary functions of an art easel only without a tray for supplies. I am thinking of ways to attach something to hold chalk and markers to the fridge, but for now I prefer to not have them laying about freely anyway.

 The possibilities of this amazing contact paper are endless! I have a few other things I can't wait to do with it!

Super cheap. Super easy. Super fun!


Tip Junkie handmade projects

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Fresh Herbs for the Thoughtless Gardener

Contributed by Anna of Not Knowing Where

Have you ever noticed that many "healthy" recipes look just like your grandmother's recipe, except they call for things like fat-free cheese or egg substitute? When people tell me eating healthy is too expensive, I wonder if it's because they're reading recipes that call for specialty versions of high calorie food - like fat free butter or sugar-free honey.

When I was in college, my grandmother gave me a cookbook that has been a mainstay on my shelf for 15 years. It's a health food book with virtually no substitutes, just good healthy food plus herbs and spicesIt taught me that the secret to great cooking is not more butter or mayonnaise, but more guiltless, honest flavor. 

Eight years ago, I started an herb garden outside my front door. Over the course of a few years, I planted just about everything I liked to cook with, just to see what happened. Freshly picked herbs are incredible!

But here's the thing - I'm a horrible gardener. Maybe half my sprouts survived a season. Very few took hold in the long run. So anything that survived did so despite me, and certainly not because of me. In a strange way, that makes me feel uniquely qualified to make herb garden suggestions. I am here to tell you what herbs to grow that are insanely delicious, and yet have great resilience to the thoughtless gardener.

The ones that make the cut here survived multiple years under my care (or lack thereof). I asked my husband, the gifted gardener, to proof this post and make suggestions. In addition to some careful corrections, he made multiple suggestions of herbs to add. To which I mostly responded, "Nope, I killed that... Can't do that one; I killed it twice... etc." This is not a comprehensive list of herbs that gifted gardeners consider to be easy, but only the humble opinion of one who struggles. Sometimes I feel like too many bloggers only talk about what they are insanely good at. However I'm silly enough to post about my weaknesses, on this, my first contribution to The Cheap and Choosy. Am I crazy? Probably. But here goes!

Mediterranean spices: Rosemary and Culinary Sage
The Mediterranean climate has a rainy season and a dry season. In other words, you can be like me and totally forget to water your sage, then follow this neglect with a period of avidly watering it every day, and then go back to forgetting about it completely. Rosemary, once established, almost never needs to be watered if you live somewhere that experiences periodic rain. The culinary sage gets periodically stressed, but so far has always bounced back. The sage's only problem is bugs. Our rosemary (that I planted!) is large enough to take over the world. Rosemary and sage are both perennials in many zones.

Italian Spices: Oregano and Basil
Oregano will die off to a pile of twigs in the winter, but then generate new growth the next spring. Be warned, there are many varieties of oregano, and they don't all taste awesome. Make sure you know what you're getting, because you will have it forever. Basil is not a perennial in most zones, however it is prolific while it grows. I once decided to hack off the entire plant at its base in June because I was going to travel, and there was no one to water it. When I returned from my trip, it had started growing back. This trick seems to only work in the early summer. If you wait too long, then it will take the hint and die. 

I find garlic to be particularly miraculous. In October, go to the store and buy a few bulbs of garlic from the produce section. Divide it into cloves, and bury each one outside. Water it periodically until the weather starts to freeze. Then do nothing until the following spring. If you like spring garlic, then you can pull some up early to eat. In this case, you eat the entire spring garlic plant. If you want full, mature bulbs, then you wait through the summer until the stalk is almost completely dead. Dig up the bulbs, and you have a year's supply of garlic. Store them in a dry place.

Now is a great time to start planting herbs in your yard! Transplants are often best, as many herbs propagate better from cuttings than from seed. Potted herbs can be tempting because there is less weeding involved. However my experience has been that there is no substitute for the plant being in fertile ground. Potted plants dry out faster and do not over winter well for the thoughtless garden. 

The gardening husband insists that there are many more easy-to-grow herbs. Please share your experience if you have a favorite, hearty herb or spice in your yard. The Cheap and Choosy would love to hear your story.