Greek Tuna Lentil Patties Recipe

Lentils and tuna make a delicious and simple meal  that's packed with protein!

“Party days” are one of the highlights of getting to teach history at our weekly classical academy. The children dress up in period costumes (aka Daddy’s t-shirts, sheets, and ribbons) and learn about the culture of long-distant civilizations. Last week we studied the ancient Greeks.

While I scoured the internet trying to find simple, authentic-ish finger food recipes, I had an idea. I was afraid most of the students probably wouldn’t like them, but since others brought dates, fruit drizzled with honey, and pita bread with olive oil, I wasn’t too worried about pleasing everyone.

Living by the Mediterranean, fish was a staple for ancient Greeks. Often it was mixed with cheese in recipes. Lentils were also a staple. So, how about melding all three staples into tuna lentil patties?

Much to my surprise, almost all the students liked the patties. The fact that we had a mock Olympics earlier that morning might have helped, but I was still pleasantly surprised. Rose liked them so much she asked if we could have them again that night for dinner.

These Greek-inspired tuna lentil patties are super simple, packed with protein, and frugal to boot! Not only did we have them for dinner that night, they are getting added to our revolving monthly menu  for a simple weeknight meal.

Greek Tuna Lentil Patties Recipe

Inspired by the ancient Greeks and Kristen’s delicious salmon rice cakes

Ingredients

  • 2-3 cups cooked lentils
  • 2 cans of tuna, drained (Canned salmon is also delicious in this recipe, though not found in the Mediterranean. I was surprised to find that a type of tuna is.)
  • 1 onion, finely diced (optional)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Garlic powder, optional
  • Butter (or olive oil) for frying
  • Parsley, optional

You can fry these in a pan on the stove, but after Joshua finally convinced me we ought to get an electric skillet, I have used it multiple times every week. This is the one we got and I love how portable it is!

Frying a panful of tuna lentil patties for an easy, healthy lunch.

Sizzling away in butter. Yummy! 

Instructions

  1. Cook the lentils in water according to the instructions on the bag. Sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  2. Combine lentils with the rest of the ingredients except butter and parsley.
  3. Heat frying pan to medium
  4. Lather butter in the pan
  5. Scoop the batter and drop onto the melted butter
  6. Fry the first side until it is golden brown and the egg is mostly set.
  7. Flip and finish frying.
  8. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and parsley, if desired.

Serve hot with salad, sweet potato fries, or pita bread dipped in olive oil.

Inspired by an ancient Greek homeschool study, these tuna lentil patties are easy, delicious, and so healthy!

If you want to be really authentic, don’t serve tomatoes. They were introduced to Greek cuisine from “The New World” only a few centuries ago. They sure pair well though! 

Greek-inspired tuna lentil patties

I never would have guessed that a concoction put together solely for an ancient Greek party would end up a welcome addition to our menu. Not only are these tuna lentil patties a little taste of ancient Greece, they are healthy, filling, and delicious.

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

4 Strategies If the Stomach Bug Threatens

Getting the stomach bug ranks pretty high on most people’s “least favorite things” list. After a terrible three-week-long round of stomach flu, I determined to be much more proactive about avoiding a full-blown family attack in the future.

Impossible, maybe. But there’s always hope, right? Now if we get exposed to the stomach bug, I take these four precautionary steps.

Everyone hates the stomach bug, but if one threatens, it's best to be prepared! Here are four smart things to do if you've been exposed.

Don’t worry. He’s not sick. Just bribed with chocolate to pretend that he is. 

Four smart things to do when the stomach bug threatens

Fight back with herbs

I would take just about anything if it kept me from getting the stomach bug. But thankfully, my very favorite stomach-bug-fighting-herbs are pretty tasty:

Elderberry syrup/tincture: this mildly sweet berry packs a powerful antiviral and antibacterial punch. You can take it regularly as an immune-builder. At the first sign of any illness, up your normal dose to fight off the bug. (Purchase elderberries here.)

Peppermint teaI practically sip peppermint tea not-stop when there’s a stomach bug going around. Not only is it delicious, it’s a great herb to boost the immune system and calm queasy stomachs. (Read more or purchase peppermint tea here.) 

Activated charcoal: Not to be confused with leftovers from grilling. This stuff is quite different. And it’s been used since ancient Egypt to fight poison, stomach bugs, and food poisoning. Your body doesn’t actually absorb it. Instead, the charcoal binds with toxins and flushes them out of the body. (Fine print: Activated charcoal is not for long term use though, because it also flushes out vitamins. So don’t take at the same time as vitamins! And too much can cause constipation.Not for children under 3.)

This last time the stomach bug made its rounds, I handed out prunes (see above) lightly dipped in activated charcoal. You could hardly taste or see the charcoal at all this way and it seemed to keep the bug at bay. (Purchase activated charcoal here.

(I wish I’d known about it when we had our miserable three-week stomach bug marathon two years ago.)

Review the stomach bug protocol

Also known as mommy’s “Don’t throw up on the couch” speech. I used to think telling kids where not to throw up was a bit heartless, but after spending two days scrubbing, and soaking, and polishing vomit from a leather couch, I changed my mind.

Now any time we’re exposed to the stomach bug, I review the stomach bug protocol with the kids: “If you need to throw up, try to make it to the toilet. If you can’t make it, a bowl or tile or hardwood is easier to clean up than carpet. Try NOT to throw up on the couch.”

Not that I can fault a sweet sick little one if they do throw up on the couch, but I’d much rather spend a sick day holding my little people than scrubbing up vomit. So far my speech seems to have helped avoid another terrible couch incident.

Adjust the menu

Getting the stomach bug is bad enough, without having just eaten spaghetti. If the stomach bug is threatening, I do a quick menu adjustment and try to choose simple, healthy, meals without red sauce or lots of spice. Chicken-broth-based soup makes a great choice.

Keep sickness essentials stocked

If the dreaded bug does gain a footing, having enough laundry soap, dishwashing detergent, disinfectant, crackers, paper products (including plates and cups) and extra blankets makes the attack much easier to weather. (Trust me, after those three miserable weeks, I know!)

Since none of these things are likely to spoil, they’re good items to keep well stocked anyway.

Be prepared for the stomach bug

Having a stomach bug tear through the house is horrid, but being prepared makes it easier to handle. Next time the stomach bug threatens, review your stomach bug protocol, fight back with herbs, adjust your menu, and make sure the essentials are covered. It makes weathering the storm much easier.

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

Weighing Frugality

I’m a saver by nature and frugal to the core. Figuring out ways to do things myself, stretch a product, or simply do without gives me a happy adrenaline rush most of the time.

My job doesn’t pay (at least not in dollars), but I like to think of the frugal things I do as stay-at-home mom as “earning” in savings.

But now that I am busy with four little children and homeschooling (and Joshua isn’t in school anymore), I need to weigh frugal choices a bit more carefully. I need to make sure they really are blessing my family and aren’t wearing me thin. So I’ve been asking myself two simple questions

  •  Is this frugal idea worth my time?
  • Do I genuinely enjoy this frugal practice? 

The internet is flooded with frugal ideas. But many of them simply aren't worth the time and effort. Here are two simple questions to ask when choosing your frugal adventures.

photo by Pontus Edenberg

Weigh Frugal Choices

Frugal practices that are worth the time investment

Much as I love being frugal, if I were to follow every single frugal idea out there, I’d wear myself thin. I cannot do it all. And I’ve come to realize that some frugal practices just aren’t worth the time.

To help me mentally balance whether a frugal practice would be worth doing, it’s helpful to establish a rough personal “base savings amount”, of $10 or $20 or X per hour. So in order for a frugal practice to be worth it, it needs to save roughly X dollars.

Once you’ve set your baseline, it’s pretty easy to evaluate frugal practices to see whether they save enough to make your time investment worthwhile.

Let’s look at packing a lunch. Unless it’s fast food, a decent lunch out averages more than $8. Multiply that by 5 weekdays, and you’re looking at $40.

A meat and cheese sandwich with a side costs less than $1.50, or $7.50 per week. It takes less than five minutes to throw together a lunch, but let’s just round up to half an hour for five lunches.

$40 minus $7.50 equals $32.50. That’s a savings of $32.50 per half hour or $65 per hour! Joshua often has lunch meetings, but the rest of the time I think it’s worth $65 an hour to pack him a lunch!

So for me, packing a lunch is worthwhile. But something like couponing is not. I tried couponing for a while when Joshua was in school, but once I factored in the time spent looking online for deals, printing coupons, and going to extra stores, I was saving way less than $10 per hour compared to just shopping at Aldi (my favorite store for many reasons).

There are so many choices we have to make: ironing vs. dry-cleaning, reuse vs. buy new, line-drying vs. dryer, homeschool vs. private school, DIY vs. hiring a professional, etc. Having a baseline savings amount and a rough estimate of what things save, helps me decide whether a frugal practice is worth my time in this busy stage of life.

Frugal practices that are just plain fun

Even if we were millionaires, there are some frugal things that I love doing so much that I’d want to do them anyway, like gardening, making homemade tortillas, and hanging sheets and blankets out to dry.

Technically, all of these things save some money, but based on savings alone, they may or may not be worthwhile. But I literally dream about gardening, think the taste of homemade tortillas is totally worth the effort, and adore the intoxicatingly fresh scent of line-dried linens.

The fact that these things happen to be frugal is just a side bonus. Each of these things are worthwhile to me because I love doing them.

If you try to implement every single frugal idea, you're going to be one worn-out Mom. Weigh your frugal choices to make sure they are worth your time and effort with these two simple questions.

Choose the frugal things that are worthwhile for your family

As Lisa Terkeurst said, doing everything doesn’t make us “wonder woman, it makes us a worn-out woman.” We can’t say yes to every frugal idea, because we’d be completely worn out. (And besides, one of the purposes of money is enjoyment).

Weigh your frugal choices and make sure that they are worth your time… or that you really love doing them.

Cuban Bread Recipe

Whip up this delicious no-knead Cuban bread and have it on the table in just over an hour!

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral posts.]

Back when I was tutoring a Western Civilization class, I came across this random tidbit that about made my head spin. Especially with the whole gluten-free diets that have swept the country.

The daily ration for monks in Carolingian society was 3.7 pounds of bread! (from Spielvogel’s Western Civilization)

3.7 pounds. Can you imagine? That’s like several loaves of whole wheat bread every single day! 

When my friend Candace introduced me to this Cuban bread recipe I thought, hmmmmm, I probably couldn’t eat 3.7 pounds of this bread, but I probably could polish off a whole loaf on my own. 

Don’t worry, I didn’t. But it is awfully tasty. It doesn’t need to be kneaded and it only takes about an hour from start to finish, including baking time! Talk about easy!

Cuban Bread Recipe

Modified from the Tightwad Gazette (I almost always modify any new recipe using these simple strategies to make it healthier.)

Ingredients

Quick and delicious, this {almost} whole-wheat cuban bread is a must-try recipe!

Instructions

Grease a cookie sheet.

Combine the first five ingredients. Add enough white flour to make a soft dough. Let the dough rise for 15 minutes. Divide and shape it into two round loaves, brush with water, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Place a pan of hot water on the lowest rack of a cold oven.

Place the loaves on the middle rack and then turn the oven on to 375. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until a light golden brown. Once it’s done, lightly spray with cold water for a nice soft crust. Serve warm with butter.

See, isn’t that easy?!

Easy and delicious, this Cuban bread recipe only takes about an hour from start to finish!

Make some Cuban Bread

As you can see, this is one of the easiest bread recipes ever, and it’s ever so moist and delicious. Whip up a batch and have it on the table in just over an hour!

DIY Wool Dryer Balls

Save energy and reduce static with these simple DIY wool dryer balls. Here's how to make them from an old woolen sweater or wool year.

Looking for a fun, simple, and practical DIY project? These homemade dryer balls only take about 15 minutes to make!

So what exactly is a wool dryer ball? It’s a felted wool ball that you put in your dryer that works as an all natural alternative to dryer sheets. The wool absorbs and redistributes moisture to reduce drying time and static. I haven’t run any official experiments to see exactly how much energy they save, but I’d guess between 10 and 20%. With how much laundry we do, that will add up quickly!

You can purchase wool yarn or ransack your closet (or the thrift store) for old 100% wool sweaters to use. Both work equally well.

DIY Wool Dryer Balls

Make wool dryer balls from old woolen sweaters!

Two options for wool: buy wool roving/yarn or cut up an old wool sweater. [Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

Supplies you’ll need:

How to make wool dryer balls

Cut an olden wool sweater into strips to turn into energy-saving dryer balls.

Before you get started: If you are using a sweater, you can either unravel the yarn (if you’re up for that!) or just cut the sweater into thin strips, like I did. It worked great and went really fast.

Step 1: Tightly roll the yarn/strips into an orange-sized ball. (It will shrink a lot!)

An unfelted wool dryer ball. It's almost ready to toss into the dryer!

Step 2: Weave the end under several strands.

Putting my wool dryer balls in nylon tights to felt.

Step 3: Put the dryer ball in a nylon hose to keep it from coming unraveled when it’s felting. Secure with a knot. You can add multiple balls, just make sure to keep them separated.

Step 4: Wash the dryer balls in a warm/hot load of laundry (OR, just soak them in really hot water and gently ring most of the water out.)

Step 5: Dry them on your dryer’s hottest setting, with a load of laundry.

Step 6: Repeat step 4 & 5 till the balls are felted. You can tell your dryer balls are done when you can gently run your finger over the yarn and it doesn’t separate. It’s become one solid ball.

Step 7: Remove from the nylon.

Reduce drying time and static with these all-natural wool dryer balls. Easily make them yourself from an old woolen sweater or wool yarn!

You’re finished! Toss four to six dryer balls into your dryer with each load of wet laundry to reduce dry time and static. They can be used hundreds of time!

DIY projects I’d like to try this year:

Last year I tried a few DIY projects, like delicious homemade vanilla extract and super practical anti-bacterial green salve, but I want to be more intentional about it this year. Especially because Rose is getting to the age where she’s dying to learn new crafts and skills. She really wants to knit socks. I’m not sure if I’ll get talented enough to learn and teach sock-making, but I definitely plan to teach her to make scarves!

  • DIY Wool Dryer Balls (done, woot!)
  • DIY rustic wall-hanging (kind of like this)
  • DIY picture wall (once we can get all the study stuff out of our bedroom, I really need to get some things up on the wall. Isn’t this picture wall cute?)
  • DIY hand soap (my first attempt was a disaster. I’m hoping with an accurate scale things turn out better!)
  • Homemade candles (we’ve made them once before, but I loved them so much we ran out quickly)
  • Teach Rose how to knit a scarf (I’m not a huge knitting fan, but she’s dying to learn. Knitting with her sounds like a blast!)
  • DIY owl rice packs. 
  • DIY Christmas-scented jar (wouldn’t this make an awesome gift? And it looks incredibly easy and I would get to feel craftsy! )

Winter Travel Emergency Kit

Winter is almost upon us. It's time to build a winter travel emergency kit.

Winter weather is in the air. When there is snow on the ground, I like to turn on the fire and get cozy or go outside and enjoy the snow.

Driving on frozen roads though? That’s not my favorite thing. But being prepared with a winter travel emergency kit makes me feel a little better about braving the frozen world.

So this week I stocked our van with emergency essentials. I hope we never need to use them in an emergency, but it’s always best to be prepared for any adventure!

Be prepared for any adventure on the road with these 8 essential winter travel items.

Be prepared for any winter adventure on the road!   (photo credit 1/ photo credit 2)

Winter Travel Emergency Kit

Water

It’s totally obvious, and totally important.

The kids and I have Lifefactory glass water bottles that we take with us try to take with us everywhere we go. (I totally love them!) We also keep bottled water in the trunk.

Food

If you are traveling with children, it is a good idea to have food in the car. Emergency or no emergency. A simple snack is amazing at averting melt-downs…and distracting kids in the face of real emergencies..

Trail mix, granola bars, crackers, and beef jerky are good choices that don’t spoil easily.

A good-quality phone charger

What’s worse than being stranded in the middle of nowhere? Being stranded in the middle of nowhere with a dead phone.

Since, ahem, I’m not the best at managing my cell battery life, I have both a car charger and an awesome “anywhere” charger. (Thanks, darling!) Having at least one would be a good idea!

Basic (Herbal) Emergency Kit

It seems like anytime we leave the house, at least one child has a mini “emergency”, like a scraped knee or bruised hand. With band-aids and a few basic herbs, you can be prepared for the many mini emergencies you are likely to face…and even be ready for more major events. ‘

(If you’d like a free copy of my simple and concise “Build Your Own Herbal Emergency Kit” guide—complete with instructions and printables for on the road— sign up here.)

I also printed off CPR guides to keep handy in the van: infant CPR, toddler CPR, and CPR. No matter how many times I read through the guide, I’m positive I would want a reminder in the stress of the moment.

Blankets

Come fall, we start keeping a few cozy blankets in the van. They get used while the van heats up, and are there if we ever need them during an emergency.

A change of clothes (for the kids, at least)

Whether you’re stranded in an ice storm or a child couldn’t quite make it to the bathroom, being prepared with a fresh change of clothes is always a good idea!

Warm gloves

My hands get so cold, so fast. Driving with stiff hands, especially in bad weather conditions, is just not very smart. Keep a special pair in the van in case you need them.

Entertainment of some sort

This one isn’t strictly essential, I suppose. But it is a very good idea to keep an assortment of entertainment in the car, for you and the kids! Books, coloring books, and car games make good choices.

Build your own winter travel emergency kit and be prepared for any icy adventure that comes your way!

Assemble your winter travel emergency kit

Since getting married, Joshua and I have had trees fall on our house in an ice storm and survived a terrible tornado.

Being prepared for mishaps makes them much easier to handle. If you have to travel on frozen roads, make sure to assemble a winter travel kit to take with you!

What do you keep in your vehicle? (Do you like driving in winter weather?) 

How to Make ANY Recipe More Healthy

You don’t have to buy the latest health food cookbook to serve your family high-quality foods. Transforming your own favorite recipes to make them as nourishing as possible (without compromising on taste) is an adventurous kitchen challenge.

Practically any recipe can be make more healthy just by reducing the sugar, using higher quality ingredients, adding hidden vegetables, and making your own staples.

Want to make your favorite recipes more healthy, without compromising on taste? Here are four smart and simple strategies to healthify any recipe.

photo credit

Decrease the Sugar & Increase the Flavor

If a recipe was created in America, chances are it calls for too much sugar. As a culture we’re addicted to the stuff. Sugar (or corn syrup) makes it onto the grocery store shelves in all sorts of hidden ways and helps mask cheap ingredients.

If you want to healthify a regular recipe, begin by decreasing the sugar/sweetener by a fourth and adding more flavor.

So if your pumpkin muffin recipe calls for two cups of sugar and 1 1/2 cups of pumpkin, reduce the sugar to 1 1/2 cups and add extra pumpkin puree or a nice dash of homemade vanilla extract.

[This pumpkin muffin recipe is pre-healthified, just for you!]

Each time you make the recipe, gradually reduce the sugar even more until you find the perfect balance of flavor and sweetness. I usually end up decreasing the sweetener by a third to a half.

The goal is delicious, rich flavor and not just sugar overload.

Substitute Better Ingredients

One of the simplest ways to “healthify” any recipe is to swap out the standard ingredients for higher quality ones. Many times there is no affect at all on the taste, but better ingredients often cost more. To avoid budget-overload, pick one or two items at a time to “upgrade” and find the things that seem most worthwhile for your family.

A few weeks into our marriage, I arrived home from shopping with a pound of margarine. When Joshua got home, he asked, “Where did you get that stuff babe?!” I read the label and agreed with him that we’d be a butter-only family from then on.

Depending on what I have in the pantry or fridge, sometimes my substitutions get pretty crazy. When a recipe calls for canola oil, I might substitute part homemade yogurt, part olive oil, and part coconut oil.

To keep it simple, here are a few very basic substitutes:

Salt —————-> Sea Salt

Cornstarch ————> arrowroot powder

White sugar —————-> raw sugar, honey, or even ripe bananas (like in these mocha muffins)

Vegetable oil —————> olive oil or coconut oil or part yogurt

Margarine ——————–> butter

Bleached white flour ————-> unbleached flour and/or freshly ground wheat flour

Part of the fun of homemaking is getting to experiment and find what works in your kitchen. There’s a substitute for practically every food under the sun!

(Of course, what qualifies as the healthiest food one generation often gets demoted in the next. Which is just one more reason to use wisdom and humility when making food choices.)

Add Hidden Vegetables

Camouflaged vegetables are a great way to “healthify” recipes and get more nutrients into your family.

The key is to start small.

  • Add a half cup of pureed vegetables to your cream sauces, soups, and smoothies.
  • Use fresh garlic and onions to increase the flavor in your favorite savory foods. (Read more ideas here)
  • Toss a teaspoon of chia seeds into smoothies, energy bites, or cookies.

If your family likes vegetables, openly add them in small quantities to your favorite meals. Turn Chicken Alfredo into Chicken & Spinach Alfredo or toss a small handful of spinach into your lasagna.

Make Your Own Staples

Staples like cream soups, seasoning mixes, and condensed milk make their way into many recipes. The trouble is, the prepackaged variety often includes unwanted ingredients too.

Start with just one or two base ingredients that you normally by pre-packaged and try making your own. Many are super simple and can be made in huge batches for later. (Here’s a Pinterest board of ideas.)

Just remember to start small. Even if most ideas aren’t worth the added effort, chances are you’ll find one or two items that are easy and enjoyable to make yourself.

Make ANY Recipe More Healthy

I’d be lying if I told you my cupboard is free of junk food. Nutella has a prominent (and permanent) place in my kitchen. I firmly believe you can serve your family Twinkies and still be a wonderful mother.

But trying to tweak your family’s recipes to make them as nutritious as possible is a fun and worthwhile challenge.

Thankfully, it’s pretty simple. You can make almost any recipe more healthy if you just reduce the sweetener (and increase the flavor!), use high-quality ingredients, sneak more vegetables in, and make your own base staples.

What are your favorite ways to make meals more nutritious? (And are you a fellow Nutella fan?) 

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post contain my referral links.]

How to Make Meals for Others (When the Thought is Totally Overwhelming)

A few months ago, I stood in my kitchen feeling totally overwhelmed.

I had offered to bring a meal to a friend, but couldn’t come up with a good dinner idea. All morning I’d stewed over what to make, and still hadn’t pinned down an idea.

Something needed to change.

That’s when I realized I was going about the whole thing wrong. Instead of focusing on the reason for making a meal in the first place (to bless a friend with dinner) I was stressed out because I just knew it wouldn’t be good enough.

Over the course of the afternoon, I realized that my heart needed to change.

  • I needed to STOP worrying that my friend might think I wasn’t a good cook.
  • I needed to STOP stressing over having it look like the meal from Pinterest.
  • I needed to START seeking to serve my friend in love.

If you have ever stood in the middle of your kitchen wishing you hadn’t signed up to bring that meal because the thought it totally overwhelming, here are a few things that helped me.

Embrace the WHY

Why did you sign up to bring that meal in the first place?

Jesus serves His church with food: by making food spring from the earth & giving us of His body at the Lord’s supper. Sharing food is one way we can serve others too.

This is why we bring one another meals: to serve, to love, and to support. When serving others as we’ve been served by Jesus is the focus, a lot of the stress melts away.

Select Go-To Meals

The hard part for me isn’t actually making the meal, its’s deciding what to make in the first place. Select a handful of meals that you like to prepare, get generally good reviews, and freeze well as your go-to meals. Think back on the meals that you’ve received. Which ones did your family love the most?

Since many of our friends prefer gluten-free, two of my options cater to that. These are my meal options:

  • Creamy Spinach & Chicken Alfredo
  • GF Southwestern Chicken & Black Beans (it’s one of my favorite meals ever. Recipe coming soon!)
  • GF Lentil Rice Casserole (this one was a favorite from our law school days. I like to dress it up now by cooking it in beef broth and adding shredded beef. My kids and I still love it as a vegetarian dish too though.)
  • Lasagna

Preparing breakfast is always a challenge for me when we’re sick or have a new baby, and the breakfast foods we’ve been given were such a huge blessing. When I can, I try to include a breakfast-y food, like hearty protein barswhole wheat pumpkin muffins, or a jar of homemade granola.

Work the Go-To Meals into your Menu

I use a revolving monthly menu. It has made life SO much easier for me. Each week’s menu includes one of my go-to meals that I can easily double to bring to a new mom or sick friend.

I highly recommend working out a revolving menu, but even if you don’t have one, you can still incorporate one of your go-to meals into what you have planned for your family to eat that week.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed after offering to make a meal for a friend? Here are a few simple ways to make it a blessing (to both of you!)

Let Go of Perfectionism

A perfect meal for a friend includes a delicious main course, healthy green side, homemade bread of some sort, and a tasty dessert, delivered with a darling Pinterest-inspired presentation. Right?

Sometimes.

And sometimes the “perfect” meal is a simple pasta dish thrown into a foil pan with the heating instructions scrawled on the top.

The point is serving a friend. Sometimes that might mean pouring your creativity into making it beautiful. Sometimes that might mean cheerfully welcoming a toddler’s help and smiling when your last egg cracks on the floor and all hope of dessert is lost.

Go Make Those Meals

As my heart has changed, making meals for others ceased to be a cause of stress and anxiety. Many of my friends are also young moms with lots of little ones in their homes. You know what I’ve realized? They’re not expecting perfection.

Making meals for each other is simply one more way of sharing this journey of life together. So stop stressing, make a plan,and serve your sisters.

What’s your favorite meal to share with a friend? Or that a friend has shared with you? 

 photo credit 

Why You Should Start a Compost Pile NOW (& how to do it)

Summer’s soaring temperatures have plummeted and autumn leaves are beginning to litter the ground. Now is the perfect time to start your compost pile.

Approximately 90 billion pounds of food is wasted in America every single year. That’s roughly 30 percent of the food that is sold. (Source)

Why You Should Start a Compost Pile Now

Not only does a compost pile cut down on your household waste, it turns that “waste” into rich and beautiful soil to grow fresh fruits and vegetables in.

Even if you don’t garden, starting a compost pile is worth it. I promise you that the avid gardeners in your life would consider a few loads of fresh compost an awesome present.

So why should you start your compost pile NOW? Because a good compost pile needs two types of materials: greens (like kitchen scraps) and browns (like, you guessed it, dried leaves). Plus, if you start in autumn, your pile will be at least partially composted come spring planting time.

How to Start a Compost Pile

Select a Site for Your Compost: 

Pinterest is full of ideas for cute composters. Me? I opted for a plain old-fashioned pile, hidden behind the shed. I’d suggest tucking the pile in a hidden, but easily accessible, spot. If you have to dodge an obstacle course to get to it, the compost pile is likely to get neglected.

Also make sure it is a spot that doesn’t stay soggy for days after a downpour. A pile that’s too wet starts to smell bad quickly.

To compost properly, the pile should be at least 3′ wide by 3′ long and (eventually) 3′ tall. That size will help it generate enough heat to compost properly.

Build Your Compost Pile: 

Compost piles are not like puffed pastries. You do not have to measure exactly to get rich crumbly results. The general rule of thumb though is 1 part “green” materials to 3 parts “brown” materials.

Green (or nitrogen-rich) materials:

  • Fruit & vegetable scraps
  • Coffee grinds & tea bags
  • Garden trimmings from healthy plants*
  • Eggshells, preferably crushed
  • Farm animal manure, like rabbits or backyard chickens
  • Weeds, that haven’t gone to seed
  • Grass clippings (add in thin layers or stir around so it doesn’t mat)

Brown (or carbon-rich) materials:

  • Leaves, except black walnut leaves
  • Cardboard (even toilet paper tubes, egg cartons, etc)
  • Shredded newspapers, scrap paper, etc (avoid glossy paper though)
  • Straw
  • Corncob husks

Material to AVOID in your Compost Pile

  • Meat, dairy, and oil (you don’t want to attract nasty critters!)
  • Glossy paper
  • Cat & dog (or other carnivore) poop
  • Weeds that have gone to seed (for obvious reasons)
  • Diseased plants (you don’t want to spread plant diseases to your compost pile!)

Speed up the Composting (if you want)

Left to their own, these materials will compost. Eventually. If you want to speed the process up, keep the pile moist and aerated.

Keep the pile moist: If the pile is too dry, it won’t compost well. If it’s too wet it won’t either (and might smell bad). The ideal “wetness” is like a moist sponge. Honestly, when I’m watering the garden in the heat of summer, sometimes I’ll spray the pile down too. I’m not in a huge hurry and don’t worry much about it though.

Keep the pile aerated:  When you first start the pile, it’s usually nice and aerated. As the materials start to break down, use up oxygen, and compress, the pile gets more matted. If you want to speed up the composting, aerated it a bit with a pitchfork. Again, this is optional and something I only do rarely, because I have plenty of other things I’d rather do with my time!

How can you tell when it’s ready? When your compost smells earthy and looks like rich soil not a pile of leaves, eggshells, and potato peels. Sometimes the bottom layer will be ready first and you can just scoop some out to add to your garden soil.

Go Start Your Compost

Starting a compost pile is about as difficult as doing a load of laundry and NOW is the best time to begin. Just pick your site, add your materials, and wait the pile to turn into rich compost.

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Want to start your own garden but don’t know where to begin? Of the stacks of gardening books I’ve read, One Magic Square is hands down my favorite. It’s down-to-earth, informative, upbeat, and inspiring.

 May be linked up at Mama Moments,Works for MeWalking RedeemedGraced Simplicity, & Simple Lives

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

photo credit 

Four Frugal Ways to Build Your Library

Last week, I shared a growing list of our favorite picture storybooks. Stories that are worth reading and re-reading. Stories that I think are worth owning.

Because I’m a frugal minimalist and terribly picky about what books I want to read aloud 157 times, I usually borrow books from a friend, check them out from the library, or take advantage of Amazon’s awesome preview feature before adding them to my wish list.

Once a book is on the wish list though, here are four frugal ways to add them to your personal collection.

Four frugal ways to build your family library

Paperback Swap

Paperback Swap is a huge, online book-trading hub. You list books you no longer want, or you have duplicates of, or you picked up at a yard sale but don’t need, etc…. When another member requests one of your books, mail it, and earn a credit for a book to be mailed to you.

Books we received include Make Way for Ducklings, Chanticleer & the Fox and hardback copies of the Winnie the Pooh series. (I’ve mailed out a lot of good ones too!)

Click here to joinOnce you list ten books to trade, you’ll receive two free book credits to start building your library immediately! (Plus, I’ll get a credit too, so we BOTH get to build our libraries. Win-win, right?) Thanks Bekah

Shop Yard Sales or Thrift Stores

You really never know the treasures you might uncover by glancing through the books when you’re at yard sales or thrift stores.

Even if you don’t find books you want personally, you can often pick up like-new books to list on Paperback Swap to trade for books you do want!

Shop Your Library’s Used Sales

My friend Abigail, who is a queen of children’s books, has scored many great finds at our local library’s bi-annual used sale. When the library receives duplicate books as donations or retires older copies from its system, they get put in the used library sale. The prices are great and the selection is often overwhelming.

Plus, many of the older classics (the books I want my children reading!) end up here.

Give Books as Gifts

As I find books I love, I add them to a running children’s book wish list for birthday and Christmas gift ideas for myself or grandparents. Normally we give each child at least one new book for each holiday. With multiple children, it’s a slow but sure way to build the stock of good books in the home.

What are your favorite ways to build your library? 

  May be linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeHealthy 2Day ,Works for MeWalking RedeemedGraced SimplicityFabulously Frugal & Simple Lives

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]