Use the “Dirty Dozen” & “Clean Fifteen” to Eat Better and Save

“Approximately 5.1 billion pounds of pesticides are used each year in the United States,” admit the folks who regulate pesticide use, the EPA.

That’s a whole lot of pesticides!

Many of the pesticides are removed from the time our food is harvested to the time it reaches our tables, but many fresh fruits and vegetables, even after being washed, still contain residues of pesticides. That we end up eating.

Peas, one of the Clean Fifteen (photo credit)

Most of us don’t have the ability to grow all our own food or purchase it organically. Eating fresh foods with pesticides on them is still much better than not eating fresh foods at all.

But, the EWG’s (Environmental Watch Group) handy Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists make it easier for us busy moms to decrease the amounts of pesticide residue we and our munchkins consume, while still getting our daily dose of fresh fruits and vegetables.

If you don’t already use their lists, here is how I use them to keep my grocery budget low and our pesticide intake low.

Focus on the Clean Fifteen

It is discouraging that 98% of apples test positive for pesticide residue and that one sample of grapes had 15 different pesticides on it, even after being washed.

Don’t focus on that. Focus on foods that are low in pesticides. Onions, cabbage, sweet potatoes, avocados, and peas are delicious, packed with nutrition, and low in pesticides. Do your best to incorporate them and the rest of the Clean Fifteen into your diet.

Here’s a sample day’s menu using just fruits and veggies from the Clean Fifteen:

Breakfast: Oatmeal with grapefruit on the side

Snack: Homemade yogurt shake sweetened with frozen pineapple

Lunch: Bean dip with guacamole, cheese, and sautéed onions and mushrooms

Snack: Cantaloup or watermelon slices

Dinner: Grilled chicken with baked sweet potato (or sweet potato fries!) and frozen peas or fresh asparagus

There are so many possibilities using just those fifteen fruits and vegetables. (I’d wager a guess that most women in history haven’t had even fifteen fruits and vegetables to work with at any given time!) Even if you can’t just use those fifteen, replacing even one or two vegetable servings from the Dirty Dozen list with ones from the Clean Fifteen is a good start!

Want to avoid pesticides while keeping your budget in check? Here's how to use the dirty dozen & clean fifteen lists to eat better and save money!

Grow your own peppers! (photo credit)

Grow Your Favorites from the Dirty Dozen List

Many garden favorites, like lettuce, bell peppers, and cucumbers, make it onto the dirty dozen list. Thankfully, many of them are fairly easy to grow yourself, even with limited space. If you are planning a garden, focus on growing your family favorites from the dirty dozen list. (I’m really tempted to try planting an apple tree!)

Look for Bulk & Organic Deals on Dirty Dozen Foods

Places like Azure Standard and Country Life Natural Foods  offer many good deals on organic and bulk purchases.

For example, grapes are on the dirty dozen list so naturally raisins have been tested positive for quite a few pesticide residues. However, you can get organic raisins from Country Life for just 10¢ more a pound (when you buy them in bulk ) than you can purchase regular raisins at Aldi. Speaking of Aldi, they are rolling out more and more organic products. (Another reason I love Aldi!)

Given how many raisins my kids eat, I’m quite happy to be able to find organic raisins for just a few cents more than regular!

We used to eat apples all the time, but since they’re number #1 on the Dirty Dozen list I’ve cut way back on the amount of regular apples I buy. However, the local health food store frequently runs sales on organic apples. Check to see if yours does too.

Choose Gratitude and Don’t Stress

People have been looking for the elixer of life, that will grant them long life, for ages. They’ve yet to find it. You’re not a bad mom if you serve your kids non-organic apples.

Sin and death are part of this world. No amount of organic food is going to give you or your children eternal life. The fact that we have food to put on the table is a huge blessing that many women throughout history have not had. Choose to be grateful, even if your apples aren’t organic!

After all, “a cheerful heart does good like a medicine!”

We Don’t Have a Budget (and Why I’m Okay with That!)

“Have a written budget, and stick to it.”

You have probably read this advice at least a hundred times. I have. It is good financial advice. If you have a budget, that’s wonderful. Stick to it and enjoy it!

We do not budget and never have.

That used to really bug me.

I’ve always been the nerdy-type when it comes to money. I love excel spreadsheets and knowing exactly how much money we have in the bank, down to the last penny.

Joshua is not a money-nerd. If we have money to tithe faithfully, save for our goals, and take care of our needs (and many wants!), it doesn’t bother him if we have $3.58 less left over this month than last month.

It’s taken me a while, but I’ve come to realize that my guilt over not having a budget is misplaced. You can obey the Bible, have a happy marriage, and be a faithful steward without a written budget.

We don't have a budget. That used to really bother me. But I've learned you can be a faithful steward (and happy wife) without one.

You can obey the Bible without a budget.

The Bible has a lot to say about money. Proverbs is full of warnings against the pitfalls of greed, about the dangers of wantonness, about the need to cheerfully give and diligently provide. Not a single verse anywhere says that faithful Christians must have a written budget.

Budgets are never once commanded (or even mentioned) in Scripture.

You can have a solid marriage, financially, without a budget.

An author I admire once wrote (I paraphrase), “If you don’t have a budget, and your spouse refuses to make one with you, you have serious marital problems.”

I’ve thought about this statement a lot, but think she’s wrong (at least about many marriages.)

Budgeting is not a requirement of a good husband or wife. If I were to insist on having a written budget, I would almost certainly be the one writing it and policing it. I would basically be telling my husband when and how he could spend the money he earns.

In my opinion, that would be detrimental to our marriage and contrary to my wedding vows. After all, when we married I promised to trust him (even with our money), and he’s never once proved unfaithful.

You can faithfully use money, without having a budget.

Money has three main purposes. Each of the purposes of money can be fulfilled without a budget. When you get a paycheck, you can set aside money for tithe/giving, pay your bills and put money into savings for future needs, and enjoy the leftovers with a grateful heart.

All without having a budget.

Hope for those without budgets

If you have a budget or are thinking about making a budget (and your husband likes the idea!) that’s wonderful. Budgeting often makes it easier to faithfully use money.

But I’ve talked to moms who are discouraged because they don’t have a budget. Sometimes, budgets get pushed so hard these days that it’s easy to get the idea that “budgeting is next to godliness.”

It isn’t.

Budgeting may be a good and wise thing for your marriage. It might not. And that’s perfectly okay.

You can obey Biblical commands about money, have a strong marriage, and spend your money faithfully, all without a budget.

What about you? Do you have a budget? 

photo credit / photo credit

10 Thrifty (& Thoughtful) Christmas Gifts

Thanks for joining Jenn, from the Purposeful Mom, and me for another Thrifty Thursday! Just in time for Christmas, Jenn compiled a list of ten thrifty and thoughtful homemade Christmas gifts. (Many of these ideas have been shared at Thrifty Thursday over the past couple of weeks.)

[If your intended recipient likes natural and herbal remedies, here’s a list of my top five herbal books that would also make great gifts!]

First off, if your kids like to do crafts, why not have them make an adorable Christmas tree like this from The Chirping Moms! This would make a really nice gift for someone who has a small home or perhaps is in a care facility and isn’t able to have a lot of extra “stuff”. {Also, Barb from A Life in Balance has some good ideas for Christmas gifts you can make in an afternoon!}

Gifts in a jar, like this M&M cookie recipe, are both frugal and thoughtful!
prudent living
Or you could try what’s been one of my favorite gifts to make: Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice Sugar Scrub!
Ivy has some great ideas for homemade gifts that are personal and useful as well as frugal!
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If you like making Christmas mixes and treats to gift to others, try these Peppermint BrowniesBrownies on platter close 300x200 Peppermint Brownies
Or how about Three Ingredient Hot Cocoa Mix? Seriously simple and tastes delicious without all that artificial “yuck”.
Anna’s Nourishing Energy Bites are sweet as well as nutritious. You could wrap them in decorative plastic wrap or put them in a cute Christmas-y bag!
To package your lovely gifts inexpensively, make gift tags and wrap gifts with re-purposed materials that you probably already have in your craft cupboard or junk drawer!
Gift Tags Out of RE-purposed Material @ practical-stewardship.com

Victoria has some great ideas for packaging your homemade treats inexpensively as well!

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Feminine Adventures

Jenn and I would love to have you join us for our weekly Thrifty Thursday Link Up! Posts about living frugally, thrifty tips and tricks, money-saving DIY projects and gardening, frugal recipes, and encouraging posts on financial stewardship are all welcome. Link up to either of our blogs–your post will be displayed in both places.

We’d be very grateful if you’d share only thrifty-themed posts. (Read full guidelines here.) Grab the button or give us a text link back, so others can join in on the fun!

We’re now sharing some of our favorites each week over on our Thrifty Thursday Pinterest board!



Random Thoughts on New Heaters

Last night, just as Joshua was getting ready to read aloud to the family by the fire, he got a call from his brother. (It’s a long story, but his brother rents a house from us. He and his wife take great care of it and the “rent” covers the mortgage so it’s been good for both of us in this real estate market!)

What his brother (and we!) hoped was an easy repair to the heating unit turns out to not be so easy. The repairman said the whole unit would have to be replaced… at a price tag of three to five thousand dollars!

I wish I could say that the first thing that passed through my mind was what a blessing this didn’t happen while we were in law school! 

It wasn’t.

Instead I thought why did this happen just as we were starting to get some good traction with financial goals AND right before Christmas?! There goes the money for the nice presents I wanted to get the kids! 

After we put the kids in bed, Joshua and I sat by the fire and talked. I am so blessed to be married to a man who is much more level-headed when it comes to finances.

He pointed out what a blessing it was that we didn’t have to come up with money to replace the heater when we were in law school. He encouraged me to put it in perspective, to choose gratitude, and to not overreact. [i.e. The kids will still have Christmas presents!]

Is there ever a really great time for a major “unexpected” expense? Broken heaters, broken vehicles, and major repairs are part of life. If they happen to be among the biggest trials we’re facing at the moment, we are very blessed!

I pray that next time I am faced with an unexpected expense my first thought is one of gratitude to God for providing so well for us in the past, and trust that He will always continue to provide!

Feminine Adventures

Jenn and I would love to have you join us for our weekly Thrifty Thursday Link Up! Posts about living frugally, thrifty tips and tricks, money-saving DIY projects and gardening, frugal recipes, and encouraging posts on financial stewardship are all welcome. Link up to either of our blogs–your post will be displayed in both places.

We’d be very grateful if you’d share only thrifty-themed posts. (Read full guidelines here.) Grab the button or give us a text link back, so others can join in on the fun!

We’re now sharing some of our favorites each week over on our Thrifty Thursday Pinterest board!



The Three Purposes of Money

Sometimes when we focus on being thrifty, it’s easy to get so caught up on the nitty-gritty aspects of managing our homes that we lose sight of the purposes of money: provision, generosity, and enjoyment.

At least it is for me. Stepping back and looking at the purposes of money helps me to put my job as the manager of our home in the proper perspective.

As Christians, we're not supposed to be scrooges or profligates. Understanding the three purposes of money helps us wisely use it.

 photo credit

The Three Purposes of Money

Provision

Work is a good thing. One of the primary purposes of work (and a paycheck!) is so men can provide for their families. God said that if a man doesn’t work to provide for his own house, he’s “worse than an infidel.”

What about us stay-at-home moms? As homemakers, it’s our job to manage the household wisely and sometimes, like the Proverbs 31 woman, to actively contribute financially.

Though we’re not supposed to “lay up treasures on earth” it’s pretty clear that providing for the family is not just limited to today’s pressing needs. Proverbs 13:22 says “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” We’re supposed to think multi-generationally, even about money.

Generosity

In the Bible it talks quite a bit about “tithes and offerings.” A tithe is the ten percent God laid down in the Old Testament for His people to give, not because He needs our money, but because all we have comes from Him and giving back a portion of what He gives us acknowledges that fact. The offering was gifts beyond the tithe that God’s people willingly and freely gave.

Christians have differing views on whether we still “have to” tithe. We personally still believe it’s a command, but either way, it’s abundantly clear that Christians are called to be generous. To give to the work of the Church, to support the poor and needy, and to care for the sick and widowed.

(I often wonder if the Federal Government would be so active if Christians faithfully gave and Churches faithfully cared for the poor and widowed.)

Enjoyment

A while back we were doing a study on money. When our pastor asked what the purposes of money were, “enjoyment” did not pop into my head. I tend to be rather tight-fisted when it comes to spending money for pleasure. Thankfully, Joshua is much better in this area and reminds me that God has “given us richly all things to enjoy.” God wants His people to enjoy His goodness and bounty to us with gratitude, because He is a good God and a generous Father.

Did you know that in the Old Testament God commands His people to keep a feast in which they set aside money to spend “for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.”  Deut. 14:26

This doesn’t mean charging a new boat to a credit card. It can be as simple as enjoying an ice cream date together or extravagant as a trip to lovely London.

It's easy to fall into the ditch of being to scrooge-like or profligate with our money. Understanding the three purposes of money helps us wisely steward it.

The Christian Purposes of Money

The purpose of thriftiness is not to hang on to every last penny with a clenched fist. God has called us to be wise stewards of the gifts He has given us as we provide faithfully, give generously, and enjoy His goodness to us.

Homemade Pumpkin Purée and Pumpkin Seeds

photo credit

Though I gladly eat pumpkin all year round, I was excited to see fresh pumpkins in the store again.

Not only are pumpkins loaded with nutrition, it’s so easy to make fresh pumpkin purée (and pumpkin seeds!) yourself. Plus, it’s a fun project for little ones to help with.

We past our first fresh pumpkins out shopping recently and Rose begged for me to get one so she could make pumpkin seeds. I obliged.

In order to make good pumpkin puree, select healthy-looking pumpkins and wash the outside thoroughly.

Cut the pumpkin into thick slices and remove all the seeds and string.

Place the pumpkin slices in a large pot. Add a couple cups of water (I like my puree thick, so I don’t completely cover them), bring to a boil and then simmer for 30-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the pumpkin starts to stick to the pan, add more water. Once the pumpkin is soft, remove from heat.

Cool slightly and then scoop the soft flesh into a blender. Blend thoroughly.

Now you have fresh pumpkin puree to use in your favorite recipe. Place extra into freezer bags for use all year long.

While the pumpkin cooked and cooled, let your five-year-old remove every last seed from the strings, rinse the pumpkin seeds, and pat dry.

Place in a large pan, toss very lightly with oil/butter and your seasoning of choice. (I just used sea salt.) Bake at 350 for about 30-45 minutes, stirring regularly until the seeds are golden brown.

Store the seeds “for winter.” Though my children are highly attached to the idea of preserving food for winter, “winter” usually lasts all of three days around here.

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 Feminine Adventures

Now it’s your turn! Jenn and I would love to have you join us for our weekly Thrifty Thursday Blog Hop! Posts about living frugally, thrifty tips and tricks, money-saving DIY projects and gardening, frugal recipes, and encouraging posts on financial stewardship are all welcome. Link up to either of our blogs–your post will be displayed in both places.We’d be very grateful if you’d share only thrifty-themed posts. (Read full guidelines here.)


17 Craigslist Dos and Don’ts

Thanks to woefully overestimating the size of the U-haul pods (which meant selling several pieces of furniture at the very last minute) and moving from a tiny home to an average-sized one, we “needed” lots of furniture after our move.

In the last month I’ve spent hours scouring Craigslist for great deals on furniture.

I’ve found some great deals and some not so great deals, and learned a few Craigslist tricks along the way. (Besides the obvious be safe and don’t accept sketchy sob stories or payment schemes.)

photo credit

17 Craigslist Dos and Don’ts

  1. Buyers- don’t jump into rash purchases, just because the deal seems too good to pass up.
  2. Buyers- find creative ways to do without until the right deal comes along.
  3. Buyers- ask pertinent questions (smoke, pets, etc.) before going out of your way to see an item.
  4. Buyers-  don’t be too trusting. Check to make sure the appliance works or the couch doesn’t smell like smoke, even if the seller vouches for them.
  5. Buyers- bring a copy of the advertisement with you so you can make sure you’re getting exactly what is advertised for the price listed.
  6. Buyers- don’t be afraid to back out and say “no thanks” if the item is not as expected.
  7. Buyers- attempt negotiation if the price seems too high.
  8. Buyers- make sure you have the right amount of cash with you.
  9. Sellers- always, always, always take a picture. Make sure that picture is as good and clear as possible.
  10. Sellers- be upfront about defects. Nothing is quite so irksome as driving to look at an item and then being told “Oh, I forgot to mention the house was vandalized and the washing machine still has splotches of graffiti on it!” (Yep, true story.)
  11. Sellers- if you want to broaden your market for large items considerably, advertise a delivery option for an added fee.
  12. Sellers- take a few minutes to check into the “market” value and don’t way under, or over, price your item.
  13. Sellers- if you get a sob story, kick your spam-alert wheels into high gear.
  14. Sellers- if you have multiple interested buyers, let the potential buyers know and don’t tolerate unnecessary hemming and hawing from the first in line.
  15. Sellers- bring a copy of the advertisement with you in case there’s disagreement about price, accessories, etc.
  16. Sellers- carry change.
  17. Sellers- once your item has sold, remove the ad. Right away. Please!

Have you bought or sold on Craigslist? Do you have any tips (or funny stories) to add?

Linked up at Thriving Thursdays 

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Feminine Adventures

Now it’s your turn! Jenn and I would love to have you join us for our weekly Thrifty Thursday Blog Hop! Posts about living frugally, thrifty tips and tricks, money-saving DIY projects and gardening, frugal recipes, and encouraging posts on financial stewardship are all welcome. Link up to either of our blogs–your post will be displayed in both places.We’d be very grateful if you’d share only thrifty-themed posts. (Read full guidelines here.)



When We’re Not So Thrifty

I was so blessed by all the sweet comments on my picture recap of our trip to England!

Especially since I was kind of afraid to write about it. Yep. Silly me was afraid my dear readers would think, I thought Anna was thrifty. She hosts Thrifty Thursday after all! A trip to England is not thrifty. 

That’s true. Staying home is much more thrifty than going on a vacation. (Though Joshua did find good deals on tickets and amazing deals on lodging!)

However, there are much more important things than saving every last penny all the time. Sometimes it’s so easy for me to get caught up in the nitty-gritty things, like using a fold-top sandwich bag costs 1/3 of a zippered one, that I forget the big picture.

Thriftiness has many facets, but one of them is choosing our own dreams (whether it’s music lessons for the kids, a paid-off house, a vacation, etc.), rather than letting Mrs. Jones tell us how to spend our money. And then not be able to afford the things that really matter to us.

The point of thriftiness is not to be miserly. It’s to manage our resources so we can afford the things that are important to our family.

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Feminine Adventures

(Grab code for the button from the sidebar)
 And now, Jenn and I would love to have you join us for our weekly Thrifty Thursday Blog Hop!Posts about living frugally, thrifty tips and tricks, money-saving DIY projects and gardening, frugal recipes, and encouraging posts on financial stewardship are all welcome. Link up to either of our blogs–your post will be displayed in both places.We’d be very grateful if you’d share only thrifty-themed posts. (Read full guidelines here.)



When Your Income Increases, Stay Put

“When your income increases, stay put,” many a financial advisor has said. It sounds so easy.

It isn’t.

Especially if you’ve been scrimping and saving for years to make ends-meet. When your income finally increases, the temptation to increase your spending right along with it is very strong.

Don’t do it.

Stay put. Continue to make sacrifices. Wait a little longer.

The pay-off is worth it.

photo credit

One year ago, Joshua graduated from law school and started a year-long clerkship with a federal judge. The pay was about average for a family of [almost] five, but it was quite the increase from our law school days!

For three years of law school we had lived in a tiny 650-square-foot duplex. Our third child was due soon. We were highly tempted to move to a bigger house (one that had more than three feet of counter space!)

The more we thought and prayed about it though, the less wise it seemed.

Despite our best efforts (and many tears on my part), my husband graduated law school with student loans. Our savings account could use some attention. His car desperately needed to be replaced.

We decided to stay put another year. The bigger kitchen could wait.

Though it was hard, the sacrifice was definitely worth it.

Not only did our rent (and utilities) remain very low, staying in our little duplex added fuel to our desire to pay off the loans and get established on a better financial footing.

Less than one year after graduation, we sent in the last payment on his student loans. The car fund has grown to the point where we are looking at new-to-us cars. And of course, our savings account thanks us for the sacrifices.

Wherever you are on your financial journey, making sacrifices today is well worth the rewards tomorrow.

Whether your income increases by $50 or $500, stay put. It is worth it!