Saturday, January 23, 2010

Living Naturally and Saving Money Part 1

During this past Christmas season, I was talking to a coworker of mine about the benefits of farm fresh eggs. I admitted that they cost a little more than a typical dozen from the store but that the flavor and health benefits were well worth it. After listening graciously, he said something that really got me thinking. He said something to the effect of, "Emily, show me the ways that living more naturally can also save me money; those are the things I want to learn about!" I completely understand this sentiment! After all, living more naturally is a journey, and if you can start that journey with changes that actually save you money, than by golly, why don't we start there? So, in light of this conversation, I wanted to take a moment to share one way that I saved money over the Christmas season...homemade vanilla extract.

I would have never thought to make my own vanilla extract, but I happened to read a blog post about it on Passionate Homemaking. All you need to make your own homemade delicious vanilla extract are three things: whole vanilla beans, glass jars, and vodka. I ordered my vanilla beans and bottles from Mountain Rose Herbs (A local distributor in Eugene, OR) and bought a cheap bottle of vodka from the local liquor store. The process for actually making the vanilla extract was so easy, you just have to take the effort to order the supplies and try something new.

To make the extract, use one bean per 4oz jar, cut the whole bean in half lengthwise then into inch-long pieces, put the pieces into the jar, and fill the jar with vodka. Oh, and one final step, let the vanilla extract sit for 8 weeks before using :). This lets the vanilla fully saturate the vodka.

I made six 4oz bottles, gave five away as Christmas presents and saved one for myself. The total cost of each bottle was well under $5...comparable to most vanilla extract, but half as cheap as good quality vanilla. After you've used half the bottle, you can fill it up with vodka again to make your jar last longer. What a deal!
After finishing the extract, I took little chunks of beeswax, softened it with a blowdryer, and formed it around the cork top to secure the seal.

That's one way I plan on saving money naturally in the about you? What are some ways you've cut your spending by making natural choices?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Food in the Dead of Winter

A simple meal brings such joy. Especially when hard work from earlier seasons makes for easy nights in the kitchen now.

Sunday, I roasted an acorn squash from my brother Jesse's garden and a pumpkin from Uncle Paul's Produce Market down on Hawthorne... On the stove top, I added coconut cream and red spice paste (that Spice Night last fall is still paying dividends!), simmered and blended with the roast squash...added a little water, and soup = done.

A recent lasagna held more edible treasures from earlier efforts...blanched, frozen spinach put up a while back, spicy tomato sauce from the end of summer, failproof ground beef from our 1/8 cow purchased last March...a quick trip for cheese and a raid of pasta noodles in the back of the pantry, and dinner = served. (And lunch the next day. And the next.) Repetition suits me when it's a quality repeat.

I'm amazed that the seed catalogs are already piling up again. This past string of seasons brought so much bounty, and here we are, on the cusp of another round. I noticed bulbs peeking through the soil. And the Edgeworthia is beginning its showstopping act in the hellstrip out front of the house. Promise is in the air...and, for a little longer, payoff is in the kitchen.



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