4 Simple Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half

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Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half With These 4 Strategies It’s expensive to feed your family! The cost of food is a large portion of most household budgets, and the price continues to climb. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone say that the cost of food at the grocery store is just right (and […]

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Keeping a Pantry: 8 Reasons That Will Convince You

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Keeping a pantry – who does that anymore? Well, you have a convenience store in your home that you didn’t even realize. It’s your pantry! A lesson I learned from my Grandmother who grew up during the depression was to always keep your pantry well stocked. I’m Kim and you can find me sharing at Homestead Acres. […]

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Drying Food – Everything You Wanted to Know

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You have wondered about drying food, haven’t you? Otherwise you wouldn’t be here. Get ready because this 5000+ word post should answer all of your questions and get you well on your way to dehydrating like a champion. I’m not kidding – this is the ultimate guide to dehydrating your own food at home. We’re going […]

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Do You Eat More Processed Food Than You Think?

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How much junk food – highly processed food that is convenient but unhealthy – do you eat each day? Probably more than you think. No, I’m not judging you. It is so easy to slip into eating the “Standard American Diet” and I completely understand.

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If you’re like the average American, almost 60% of your calories are coming from extremely processed food loaded with excess sugar, salt, and fat, according to a recent study by Tufts University and the University of Sao Paulo.

Most experts agree that an occasional treat causes little harm in an otherwise balanced diet, but these numbers are concerning. Large amounts of processed food can lead to weight gain, as well as increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions.

Confession time here – when I’m not feeling well, it is far too easy to say “You’re going in town to do banking? Pick up something for supper.” And of course anything “picked up” for supper is going to be overly processed with ingredients we just don’t want to be eating.

It is not that hard to make serious changes to your diet. Follow these guidelines for making smarter choices about what you eat and drink.

Cutting Back on Sugar

  1. Switch to water. Soda consumption is declining, but sugary drinks are still the single largest source of calories for the average American. Drink water with a slice of lime or brew a cup of tea. I have talked elsewhere about the importance of drinking water and ways to get more into you.
  2. Rethink your coffee. How much sugar are you putting in your coffee or tea? Cut the amount in half each week. After a while, you probably won’t even notice the difference. For most of my adult life, I’ve taken my coffee very sweet. One lump or two? Oh, how about three … maybe four? About six months ago, I started slowly decreasing and now I take it with one scant teaspoon of sugar in an eight ounce mug. Recently, I took a sip of the mister’s very sweet coffee (the traditional Canadian “double double”) and immediately handed it back. Too sweet!!!
  3. Read your cereal box. A lot of breakfast cereals don’t live up to their healthy names. Don’t start your day, or your children’s day, with a huge dose of highly processed food. Check the labels for how much added sugar they contain. You might find that the ones you like all contain terribly high levels of sugar, making them dessert more than breakfast! Making your own granola ahead of time, or cooking up oatmeal, takes very little extra work and will save you a lot of money as a nice bonus.
  4. Serve fruit. You can satisfy your sweet tooth without candy and cookies. Snack on apples and peanut butter. Enjoy figs and cheese for dessert. With a dehydrator, you can even make homemade fruit rollups and other dried snacks.
  5. Plan ahead. It’s easier to resist sweets if you’re already full. Eat balanced meals, and carry nutritious snacks around with you. Decide in advance which treats you enjoy most so you can save up your sugar calories for something you really love – like a nice piece of dark chocolate.
  6. Go cold turkey. Maybe you want to give up refined sugar entirely. Experts say the cravings pass in about 72 hours, so you’ll be in good shape if you can outlast the temporary discomfort. (Full disclosure here – I’ve tried and can’t do it!)

Eating Fewer Processed Foods

  1. potato chipsShop the perimeter. The inner aisles of most supermarkets are full of chips, frozen pizzas, and all of the other pre-packaged convenience foods that, while often tasty, are far less nutritious (and more expensive!). Fill your cart with produce and low-fat dairy and meat products instead.
  2. Skip diet foods. Beware of low-fat and no-fat versions of junk foods. They often add more sugar and salt to restore the flavor. And that goes for many of the gluten-free products, too!
  3. Learn new recipes.  Get a copy of A Cabin Full of Food and learn the recipes that let Grandma put unprocessed food on the table every day.  How do I know it’s great? Well, I wrote it. But if you don’t believe me, check out the Amazon reviews and let those who use the cookbook convince you.
  4. Experiment more. If you’ve been eating instant macaroni and cheese for years, you may not realize all the alternatives available. Sample a wholesome new food each week like quinoa or tempeh. If you’re not that adventurous, try using barley instead of white rice for a few meals. It will fill you up more and keep you full longer.
  5. Fill your freezer. Not just that, but make use of stackable meal-planning dishes that let you make a week’s worth of food for the fridge. I love these stackable Bento boxes. Stock your pantry with home-canned jars of soup and chili, ready for quick meals and take note of the recipes that you can make no matter how tired and sore you are. Spaghetti without meat sauce, for example, requires nothing more than pre-made spaghetti sauce and a box of pasta.

Eating More Whole Foods

  1. Watch portion sizes. Most of us underestimate the portion size on our pasta and other starchy or sweet foods – “another scoop of that fettucine alfredo, please” – and underestimate the portion size on our vegetables – “oh, I can’t eat that much salad!” Find out what you should be eating and measure what you really are taking in to see the difference. Did you know that a serving of Oreo cookies is … just two little cookies? Wouldn’t it be better to have a larger – and healthier – homemade cookie?
  2. Focus on vegetables and fruit. Most produce is high in nutrients and low in calories, so aim for at least 5 servings a day. And don’t drink your produce! Eating whole fruit rather than juice will provide more fiber and fewer calories.
  3. Be selective. You may be surprised by how processed or unprocessed some foods really are. Shop carefully, and stay informed. For example, if you eat soy products, realize that frozen edamame typically has far more natural ingredients than frozen soy burgers.

What you eat most of the time has a big impact on your overall health and well-being. Make whole foods that are low in processed sugar the mainstay of your diet.

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5 Things You Need to Know About Debt

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Welcome! It’s so wonderful to see you. 

These days everyone is looking for ways to reduce debt and save money, and you are likely just like the rest of us – wondering how you can make that happen in your life. It is certainly possible to wipe out your existing debt and learn how to live your life within your means.

If you want to get out of debt, you need to know your enemy. Here are five things that you need to know about dealing with debt.

Here are five tips that will help you on your way to debt free living

Stop using credit cards

One of the leading factors in the current economic crisis is people buying things on credit they cannot afford. The next thing they know, they find themselves unable to do anything more than make minimum monthly payments.

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 Minimum payments will keep you in debt because every month interest continues to accrue on your original balance. A $1,000 balance on a typical credit card can take 22 years to pay off if you make only the minimum monthly payments!
·Don’t fall into the trap of credit card debt. Instead, avoid the hassle and expense by paying cash for the things you buy. If you want a big-ticket item, save the cash before you make the purchase. Only buy when you can afford to pay for the item in full before you bring it home.

Credit cards have their uses and I use one. It is extremely difficult to run an online business without one. But if you cannot pay your credit card off in full each month, set it aside and use cash at least until you have your finances under control.

Need to learn more about Saving, Making and Managing Money? You need Common Cents!

It's possible to get rid of debt and live within your means, but first you must know what you're dealing with. Here are five things that you need to know about debt.

Buy luxury items with cash

We all have extras and luxuries we want, but using credit to get them is a dangerous path to take. You’ll get much greater enjoyment from the extras in your life when you pay cash, rather than ongoing monthly payments.
Nothing takes the excitement out of a new toy or nice vacation more than the large payments that strain your budget month after month.

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Create a realistic budget that includes debt repayment

The first step in gaining control over your debt is creating a workable budget. Rather than stifling you, a budget can bring you freedom! You’ll know where your money goes and you’ll set a spending plan so you can continue buying the most important things in your life.
Your budget should take into consideration all facets of your lifestyle, including housing, food and household items, utilities, savings, recreation and debt repayment.
If your budget doesn’t include room for debt repayment, there will never be enough money to pay off your debt. Take control of your financial reality by working with a realistic budget every month. Before long, you’ll see your debt diminishing while your savings grow.

Need to learn more about Saving, Making and Managing Money? You need Common Cents!

Seek the help of a professional credit counselor, accountant or financial planner

The best way to be sure you’re making sound financial decisions is to seek out the help of a financial professional.
Credit counselors, financial planners and accountants are experts in the areas of savings, debt repayment, investments and tax deductions.
Implement each of these areas into your finances to eliminate financial strain and secure a stable financial future.

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Negotiate better rates with the banks or credit card companies

Many people assume they have no choice but to accept the interest and finance rates offered by their banks and credit card companies, but that isn’t always the case!
Talk to the people at your financial institutions. You may be surprised at how willing they are to budge.
If your credit is in good shape or you’ve made steady, progressive strides to improve it, you may be able to get lower interest rates on your debts.
You might also receive higher interest rates on your savings, giving you a double shot at eliminating your debt entirely and moving forward with your finances in a positive direction.
You can repair your debt problems and learn to avoid creating them in the future. These five steps will point you in the right direction and get you started on a new path to financial freedom and prosperity!

A Deep Pantry – What It Is and Why You Need One

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Have you been wondering how to gain some control over the craziness of food prices? I know – if you’re like most people, you’re often wondering how to make ends meet, and food is often one of the largest categories in your budget. Well, let me give you one of my best ways to weather […]

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Is It Possible To Can Banana?

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This is a guest post from long-time reader Exile. Before he begins, I need to make it very clear that there is no USDA approved method of canning banana. Use your own judgment. Bananas are a dense, low acid food, which opens up the risk of botulism. Certainly, there is no way to process them […]

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Living Without a Fridge and What You Can Learn

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I’m so glad you’re here! I can’t wait to tell you more about our time living without a fridge. This post may contain affiliate links. Yes, you heard that right. No fridge. With a family of six – four young children and two adults – we spent nearly three years without a fridge, and we ate well throughout […]

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How To Keep House Like A Mennonite

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Hello, my friend, it’s so wonderful to have you here. Have you ever noticed the trend to idealize all of the Plain folk – that is, the Mennonites, Amish and all associated with them? Admit it, you’ve probably done it (at least a little). Am I right? You know how it goes. If a recipe […]

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25 Minute Beef Stew From Food Storage

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One of the best things about having home-preserved food storage is that I can often make a meal with almost no notice, including dishes that typically take hours. Spaghetti and meatballs? I’ve got you covered. Slow cooked chicken soup? Not a problem. Beef Stew? Under half an hour and we’re eating. And that’s with dumplings. […]

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How To Can Meat For Food Storage

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Do you know how to can meat? Many people are used to canning jellies, jams and pickles, but did you know that you can use a pressure canner to put away tasty, tender and convenient jars of meat?  Canning meat with a pressure canner is a fabulous way to store large amounts of food in the […]

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Canning – Get the Basics Right – High Acid vs Low Acid

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Have you ever heard the expression “Oh, no, someone is WRONG on the Internet”? Shocking, of course, but it does happen some times.  That is why it is important to occasionally review the basics of SAFE canning, both pressure canning and boiling water bath canning. This post contains affiliate links. Before I do so, let […]

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Pressure Canner Maintenance

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If you have been canning for any amount of time, and want to do more than jams and pickles, you’re going to need a pressure canner. (Affiliate links ahead) Here in Canada, you have two options, and both are great: a Presto 23-Quart Pressure Canner an All-American Cooker Canner You might have a Mirro, but […]

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Cornbread – Quick, easy, delicious quickbread

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Oh, my goodness, could I write an ode to cornbread!  Have you ever made a new version of an old favourite recipe … and it was better than the one you had been making? This cornbread recipe is like that. It’s good. I mean, really, it GOOD. As I’m telling the mister that “NO, there’s […]

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Canning Basics: Tools of the Trade – Pressure Canning

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Whenever you start something new, there are tools. Canning’s the same. Let’s start with my favorite – Pressure Canning.  I know that plenty of people are scared of pressure canning or feel that it’s harder than Boiling Water Bath canning. It’s not. It’s easy, it’s fun and it’s practical. Practical? Yup. How often do you […]

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Canning Basics: Types of Canning

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Despite what you might have heard, there are only two safe methods of canning food. Neither is better than the other, but both are used only for certain types of food. What foods do you want to can? Pickles, jams and jellies? Meat, vegetables and other low acid foods? The food you want to can […]

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Organic or Processed Junk?

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These days, everyone knows that we should be eating more organic produce and more unprocessed food. But is it a black and white issue? What happens when you have limited funds? Too often, I’ve heard the argument that those on a tight budget must make a choice between “a tiny amount of organic produce” and […]

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Sugar Pie – French Canadian cooking

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The mister’s family is French Canadian, and one of the most amazing things he introduced me to was Sugar Pie. It is easy to make, or at least it was once I deciphered my father-in-law’s directions. Our first attempt was a disaster! The first attempt at making this was from a list of ingredients, in […]

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Cooking From Food Storage: Rosy Meat

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There are times when you plan carefully, making sure you have a menu plan and you know exactly what you are going to do. And then, as the poet says, “the best laid plans of mice and men gang oft astray.” That’s when you find yourself looking at the clock, wondering how dinner time could […]

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Homemade Cranberry and Fruit Sauce

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Cranberry Sauce. Love it or hate, you probably grew up eating it from a tin can and it really was the stuff of jokes. It started, of course, with that schluuurrrrp sound as the cylindrical blob can sliding out of the can.  Homemade cranberry sauce isn’t like that. Well, it could be, but it doesn’t […]

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