Tag: Simple Living

How “A Simple Life Too” Almost Became A Beast

A_Simple_Life_Too_Almost_Became_Beast

I have lost my way.

Somehow, over the past year, my blog went from being about how I can help others’ live a simpler life, sharing what my journey to simplify has been like, and what God is doing in my life, to being about how to make money with my blog.

A Simple Life Too became a “Beast” when I stopped blogging about my heart and what I wanted to write about and it became about “how can I make some money.”

I am sorry.

So, I am sort of starting over again.

No, I won’t get rid of the content I currently have, as some of it really is useful. But I am going back to why I am writing in the first place – by making sure everything I post is because I want to post it, because I hope it really is something that might be useful to others, and / or it is something that truly brings me joy.

I also am not going to fight my life to post more often.

I have a baby. I have three other children. I homeschool, nurse the baby, clean the house, spend time with my husband, and have quality time and  conversation with the folks in my church community.

I live, then I write. I can not continue to live to write.

I will write about our homeschool experience, from the humble perspective of what I have learned so far and what God is showing me WE should do.

I will write about what God is doing in my life and speaking truth. I will probably write about the Biblical holidays.

I might write about how I am working with my children and trying to encourage them. I might also write about our issues with food and how we are trying to eat healthier… and sometimes failing miserably.

I might write about how I really want to go to Disneyland / Disneyworld or some other aspect of my desire to travel. I might still write about trying to work from home… and what has worked and hasn’t worked for us there so far.

I might even come up with something new. We will see…

I would love to hear from you. What did you like and/or did not like from A Simple Life Too this year.

A Simple Life: A Little Shift In Perspective

Menu

Menu

What is on the “menu” for A Simple Life in this new season of blog writing? 

I am going to make the blog more about the reality of my life and the life of my family, and a little less about trying to come up with snazzy blog posts that I think people want to read… and that I think 1000’s of other Christian Homeschooling moms are writing about.

There will be more about the missions, relief organizations, and ministries that I really am supporting and praying for. 

There will be more about working from home and how to make some supplemental income – legitimately and without feeling sleazy or like you are just trying to sell to your friends all the time. 

There will be more about food and natural living, natural healing – and the reality of the need for western meds on occasion:-)

There might be a bit or two about travel – frugal travel, of course. 

And there should be more than I have currently written about homeschooling and home life. 

But what I want most is interaction. How did you come to this blog? What do you want to know more about? What can I do for you? 

Blessings on this new season of life. 

Tips And Tricks From Richard Syrop’s Effortless Savings – Part 1

 

effortless_savings

I was given the opportunity recently to review Richard’s Syrop’s frugal living / simple living book: Effortless Savings: A Step-by-Step Guidebook to Saving Money Without Sacrifice. Instead of just a basic review, I thought I would share some tips from his book, along with some tips and commentary of my own and turn this into a Saving Money 101 series. This might sound cliché, but following just one tip from this book would be worth more than the purchase price!

Richard starts his book business with a very smart move, not only does he write a book with tips that can save you $1000’s per year, but he ties the book into the Effortless Savings Website, which includes links to many of the money-saving programs he mentions.  Please note that this review is not an endorsement of the businesses in the book and on the site, since I have not take the time to research them individually. Therefore, it is recommended that you research the companies before purchasing anything through them.

On To the Tips

We are going to start at the beginning, Chapter 1 – Telcom Services, and share a couple of great tips (but certainly not all – you have to get the book for that):

  1. You can save up to 40% on your mobile / cell phone plans by going with a MVNO (a Mobile Virtual Network Operator), which is basically a wholesaler for mobile phone services. Each major carrier has someone wholesaling their service, including Verizon (Page Plus Cellular). There is also a pre-paid wireless version for most of the major mobile carriers.
  2. You can usually negotiate your telephone/internet/TV bills down, especially after the end of a promotional package. Although Richard suggests having a “poker match” with phone / utility company and take the route of trying to cancel the service to get the rate, I found that up-front honesty worked for me – maybe this is the difference between a male and female approach. About two months ago, I called our phone company as our intro rate had ended and our bill had gone up about $20 per month.  I just told them that this was more than we could afford and that I had shopped around and seen that I could get phone and internet for $20 – $30 less per month, but I didn’t really want to go through the hassle of changing companies. The rep was very helpful and our bill dropped by nearly $20 a month going forward.

Want to know more about how to get the best rate on telephone, mobile phone, internet and other services? Purchase a copy of: Effortless Savings: A Step-by-Step Guidebook to Saving Money Without Sacrifice today!

 

Disclosure: I was given this eBook for free. I was under no obligation to do a review, but chose to do so.

Three Injera Recipes

Image

Based on my $25 weekly menu, I have had some requests for some of the recipes.

Here is a link to a traditional, Ethiopian Injera Recipe using teff flour:

http://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/bread/recipe-injera.html

If you forget to start your Injera one or more days before you want to cook and eat it, you can use this quick version. This is one I have used a few times and it is good, although I wouldn’t call it traditional or as healthy:

http://www.aspicyperspective.com/2012/03/ethiopian-recipes-injera-doro-wat.html

The following is my “Americanized” version of Injera. I still ferment it for a day:

Americanized Injera Recipe with variations

Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat flour

2 cups rice flour

4 cups water

2 tsp salt

oil for cooking (grape-seed, coconut, olive)

Instructions:

  1. Mix the whole wheat flour, the rice flour and the water in a non-metal bowl. It should be thin like crepe batter.

  2. Let stand in bowl for 1 day (24 hours or close) with a cover over the bowl.

  3. Add and stir in the 2 tsp salt before cooking.

  4. Add a small amount of oil to a fry pan or wok on medium heat (just to coat the bottom).

  5. Pour in enough Injera batter to cover the bottom of the pan.

  6. Cook for a couple of minutes. Flip and cook for another minute or two.

  7. Remove from pan.

  8. Serve while warm or keep warm in oven until all are finished.

Variations:

Other flours that can be used besides rice flour: buckwheat, millet, lentil, garbanzo.

Holiday flair: Add two cups mashed pumpkin or squash right before cooking.

Spices: Try cardamom, gram masala, or cumin, depending on what you serve it with.

We have enjoyed this bread with lentil curry stew and chutney and just by itself.

Let me know if you have any favorite variations of it!

 

Simple, Healthy, Cheap! A Healthy, Delicious Dessert for $.40 per Serving!

English: Coconut oil in solid state
English: Coconut oil in solid state (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Leave it to the Mennonites and Amish to have a repertoire of tasty, fairly healthy and very simple and inexpensive foods. Many of their cultural dishes are worth learning to make and then improving upon by substituting healthier ingredients.

This classic dessert is called: Shoo-fly Pie. It is especially good to make if you are wanting a sweet treat and are needing an iron boost. Using organic molasses in the dish provides 20 – 30% of your daily iron value, depending on how large of a piece you eat (1 Tbs of organic molasses contains approx. 15% of your daily iron value plus 730mg potassium).

Cost Per:

Family of 5 – $2.05

Serving – $.40

*prices are approximate and will vary by where one lives and other factors.

Shopping List:

Pie Shell

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour – Fresh ground flour from white wheat berries is best.

½ tsp salt – Sea salt.

¼ cup butter or coconut oil – Coconut oil is one of the healthiest oils available and if kept at less than 77 degrees, will be solid and act similar to butter in making the pie crust. Coconut oil can sometimes be found with other oils or in specialty and health food markets.

1/8 cup water

½ Tbs rice or apple cider vinegar – White vinegar is good for cleaning, but not so good for cooking. Find rice or apple cider vinegar near the white vinegar.

Filling

¾ cup organic molasses – Organic molasses can be found in specialty and health food markets or ordered online (try Vitacost ). Using regular molasses greatly reduces the nutritional content of the desert.

½ cup hot water

½ tsp baking soda – Baking soda is usually found with other baking products.

1 egg – Brown, free range eggs if you can.

¾ cup whole wheat flour – Fresh ground flour from white wheat berries is best.

½ cup cane sugar – Look for sugar in the raw, demerara, sucanat, or cane sugar. They can usually be found near white sugar. White, refined sugar is one of the least healthiest foods on the market and there are so many better options. You could also try making this pie with honey, but would need to cut back on the molasses and water by ¼ cup each.

¼ cup butter or coconut oil – Coconut oil is one of the healthiest oils available and if kept at less than 76 degrees, will be solid and act similar to butter in making the pie crust. Coconut oil can sometimes be found with other oils or in specialty and health food markets.

¼ tsp salt – Sea salt.

Instructions:

  1. Make the pie crust 1 hour before making the filling and baking the pie.
  2. Mix 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour with the ½ tsp of salt.
  3. Measure the ¼ cup butter or coconut oil into a bowl and mix it together with your hands. It should seem like crumbs when you are done, although the coconut oil variation may be a little smoother, depending on how warm the room and your hands are.
  4. Fill a liquid measuring cup with 1/8 cup water, add the ½ Tbs vinegar to it and stir. Then add this liquid combination to the flour and butter / oil mixture. Mix with a spoon or your hands and form into a ball.
  5. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  6. After 1 hour, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  7. Make the bottom layer of the pie: measure ¾ cup molasses and pour into a large bowl, measure ½ cup hot water into the bowl, and then stir in ½ tsp baking soda. Be sure you have a large bowl, as the baking soda will cause the whole bowl of molasses and water to foam up quite a bit. Fun to watch, not fun to clean up if using too small a bowl.
  8. Beat the egg in a small bowl, then beat or whisk it into the molasses mixture.
  9. For the top layer of the pie: measure ¾ cup flour and pour into a medium bowl, measure ½ cup cane sugar and pour into the bowl, then mix in the butter or coconut oil with hands. It should seem like crumbs when mixed.
  10. Bring out the pie crust dough ball from the refrigerator.
  11. Press or roll it out flat between two sheets of wax or parchment paper and put it into a 9 inch pie pan.
  12. Pour the molasses mixture into the pie pan on top of the crust.
  13. Gently crumble the topping layer over the molasses mixture in the pie pan. Don’t press it down / don’t press on it.
  14. Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees, then drop to 350 degrees and cook for another 30 to 40 minutes. Knife test the pie at 30 minutes to see if set (knife should come out clean, not wet).

Do you like what you see here? Did you try the recipe? Would you like more healthy, simple and cheap recipes for your family?

My eBook: Simple, Healthy, Cheap! A Simple Life’s Guide To Home Economics: Beginning Cooking, will be available in a few weeks. This recipe is from the Intermediate Cooking book, which will follow it up a few months later.

Want a healthy cookbook now? I have found a great eBook, Eat Good For Life that is worth a try for only $4.95!

Saving Money 101: Saving By Moving

Saving 101 Save By Moving

If you are just starting out on how to simplify your life and save money, or even if you have been living a frugal life for awhile, the tips in the Saving 101 series are foundational tips meant to help you think about how to save money, and give practical examples, in each area of life.

#1 – Move to a Less Expensive Area – Housing

Savings: $100’s to 1000’s

By moving just 30 to 60 miles / minutes from a major city, one may be able to save $100’s of dollars a month for rent or $1000’s of dollars off of the price for a house.

Example 1: A family moved from an upscale suburb of a major city to a lower scale suburb of the same city, about 30 minutes further from the city. The rent there is $300 a month less on average. The commute cost increase was $60 to $80 per month

Example 2: Another family moved from a very large metropolitan area to a smaller, but still metro area. The commute is about the same (cost wise) and the wage is about the same. However, a comparative house is about $300,000 less in the smaller metro area. This is our example from moving from Seattle to Boise. You can purchase a good house in Boise suburbs for $100,00 / $150,000. Houses in Seattle don’t come under $300,000.

#2 – Move to a Less Expensive Area – Utilities

Savings: $10’s

One lessor know way to save money in utilities is to simply move to a sub-burb from a major city or to move to a less expensive state. There are maps available (just Google or Bing) that show the average cost of utilities by major metropolitan areas.

Example 1: The family that moved from the upscale suburb to the lower-scale suburb saw about a 50% decrease in Water, Sewer, and Garbage. They also saw about a 25% decrease in Power & Heating.

#3 – Move to a Less Expensive Area – Food, Gas, Necessities

Savings: $100’s

Generally, the cost of food, gas and necessities goes down as one moves farther from the city centers and moves more into the rural parts of the country. However, savings can also be achieved, for those who want to stay in the major cities, by making planned day trips to the further out areas and stocking up at the markets in the rural areas. Also, there are many things that may also be purchased online for less than found in the stores in the cities.

Example 1: While still living in a major city on the coast, plan a day trip to do the bulk of the shopping for the month. This could include driving two hours to the local farming community to pick up meat, grains, produce, honey, etc… then driving back towards town 1 hour and stopping at a Costco, Walmart, Discount Grocery Stores, etc… for the needed non-perishable items for the month.

Have you ever moved to save money? Share your story with us!

Subscribe to: A Simple Life Too (see the bar at the top or on the right) to get the next installment in the Saving 101 series.


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A Simple Truth: Simple Pleasures

Simple Truth Simple PleasuresWhat has happened to us?

I walk around my part of the world and I see so many of the youth there… but not really there. They are like the zombies they so like to watch in the movies. Occasionally, they will wake up for a second as they look at their Iphone, Android, etc… Then they go back to sleep, standing up. I even see adults like this.

How many people spend their days looking to devices, technology, and media to fulfill them? If it does, it only does it for a minute, and then it is done and gone.

How many times have I checked my email, waiting for something special, something amazing, but nothing comes? I am guilty of looking for life in technology, but technology is not alive and it can not give life.

I know what I really need to be doing and where I really need to be going to get life – to the Life-giver, Yahweh / Yeshua. I need to be spending time with Him, not reading another email or watching another movie. I need to plug into what He has given me to get life from, His Spirit, His Word, and the good remnants of His World.

I also need to look at the simple pleasures of my time here, the simple, beautiful things that God has given me, and gain my life from them. If you are wondering what that looks like, I share some here with you :

  • Watching my girls twirl and dance to a worship song, full of music and life.

  • Seeing the first flowers of Spring bloom and bringing a few into the house to decorate our table.

  • A lovely homemade chicken curry dinner, after three days of eating beans and rice.

  • Sitting with my church group and talking honestly about where we are at in our walk and where God is taking us.

  • Sitting outside and feeling the sun sink into my body.

  • Feeling the Spirit of God speak to me, during prayer, worship, bible reading or meditation.

  • Watching my girls explore the simple backyard world full of plants and bugs.

  • The view of the mountains from my back window, snow-capped one day, brown and barren the next.

This is what a simple life is about. Getting rid of everything that distracts us. I haven’t perfected this yet, but I know it is where I want to be heading.

What are the simple pleasures in your life? What keeps you from time with God? What do you find yourself putting before God?

Super Simple Recipes: Best Meal Ever

Super Simple Recipes Best Meal Ever

I don’t use this title lightly.

I recently made one of the simplest dinners and it was one of the best meals our family has ever had. Everyone liked it, including our three small children.

We acquired a fresh caught salmon.

Foolishly, I tried to fillet it. I thought after watching a video about how to do it, that it would be a breeze. Hah. I gave up after 15 minutes

My husband, currently into the Paleo Diet / Primal Blueprint (I don’t agree with the evolutionary precept behind it), sent me a link on how to grill (or broil) a whole fish. http://www.marksdailyapple.com/how-to-grill-a-whole-fish/#axzz1zCZz0Lc4 .

I salted and oiled the salmon and broiled it about 10 minutes per side.

While waiting, I sautéed some fresh green beans in olive oil, chopped garlic, and salt for 15 – 20 minutes.

That is it.

So simple, but it was so delicious. We really enjoyed the salty, crispy fish skin.

To summarize:

1 whole salmon

olive oil

salt

fresh green beans

chopped garlic

Less than 10 minutes of work in the kitchen. There was about 5 minutes of prep time to salt and oil the salmon, one flip of the salmon halfway through the cook time, and another couple of minutes of time stirring the green beans once or twice.

Bonus: We got three meals out of the fish.

Here are some cookbooks that have helped me find and develop our simple cooking:

What Is In My Apothecary: Gallbladder Issues – Or – How I Can’t Eat Chinese Buffet Anymore:-(

Citrus fruit

I haven’t been feeling well lately.

I am nauseous, run down and out of sorts.

I wish the issue was that I was pregnant again, but it is not.

Instead, most likely my gallbladder is not handling fats that well and is very unhappy with me.

I was really, really sick a couple of nights ago, the day after eating a lovely dinner at a Chinese Buffet place. OK, I realize that Chinese Buffet is probably not part of the Simple Living lifestyle, but it is my favorite and it is something we do just a couple of times a year.

But I can’t go anymore… or at least not for a while. I have to cut out bad fats – and Chinese Buffet does have a lot of fat. Yes, I can eat the sushi and hibachi and soups and fruit, but I love some of the fried dishes too. But they are probably just wrong, so I commit to passing them by for now.

The good news is that I appear to be getting to the issue early enough to do something about it naturally. I thought I would take the opportunity to share my process with others. The point of the “What Is In My Apothecary” series is to cut through the hype of natural remedies and see what real people use to stay healthy, treat illnesses, and handle physical issues.

 The Plan:

  • Drink more water and water with lemon in it

  • Cut out bad fats – at least reduce them by 90% – no dairy, no fatty meats like beef, no bad oils

  • Sparingly use good fats

  • Eat four or more servings of fruit per day, especially citrus fruit

  • Actually eat three to four servings of veggies per day

  • Use camomile and peppermint tea when my tummy is nauseous

I still have some test results to get back and a follow-up with the doctor before I know for sure the state of my gallbladder. Until then, I am keeping a food diary and will research more about what can help me. I will report back in a few weeks the best course of treatment and how I am doing in following it.

April Schroader is a freelance writer and blogger. Even though she is experiencing some illness right now, she is still available to guest post on your blog, write a quality article for your magazine, help with a non-fiction book project, or write quality content for your website. To contact her, visit her portfolio and click on the Hire Me link.

 

Super Simple Recipes: Fish & Potatoes

Super Simple Recipes

Our family makes about 90% of our food from scratch. However, we don’t have a lot of time for cooking fancy meals, so I have been learning to make very simple recipes lately.

The recipes in the Super Simple Recipe series should only include a handful or so of ingredients and take 10 minutes or less of prep time. However, they make take an hour or more to cook, but with little or no further work required.

 This week, I made a simple fish and potato recipe:

  • 5 – 7 medium size, local potatoes
  • 1 lb of local caught fish – if possible – otherwise store-bought will do
  • Your favorite seasoning – I used one called Israeli spice
  • Olive Oil – other oils like coconut can work too

Chop up potatoes into chunks and put in 9X13 dish. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle seasoning to your taste. Cook for 50 – 60 minutes @ 400 degrees, give or take a few minutes for the kind of potato. We used Idaho (where we live) Yukon Gold and they take longer to cook than some other varieties.

Take dish out of oven, add fish on top, drizzle with more oil and sprinkle with more seasoning. Cook another 8 to 15 minutes, depending on the type and thickness of the fish. We used store-bought salmon here. Haven’t had time for fishing this year:-o

Serve with a mixed green salad and favorite healthy dressing.

Here are some great cookbooks for simple, healthy, and cheap eating.