#DIY: Growing (Organic) Gardens and Canning Month

Putting forth the effort into a garden and reaping the rewards through canning.

Dear Readers –

This month is all about DIY gardening and canning. This is my second year of experimenting with a small garden. Last year, I was able to reap the leftovers of my neighbors’ gardens, but I missed my lesson on canning. However, this year, I’m prepared with canning jars, lids, and two ladies who volunteered to help me!

I hope you are looking forward to simple garden ideas, growing and harvesting your own garden as well as how to preserve your toils of the earth. We’ll also be including a couple other DIY recipes to save you money throughout the year – not just summer – things I have tried and actually work.

So let’s get started….

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Simple organic garden Bell peppers were planted at the end of May.

Pros and Cons of Living Off the Grid

land-for-sale-off-grid-living

Many people have romantic notions about what it means to live off of the power grid. Here are a few pros and cons for alternative living.

Living Off Of The Grid Pros

1. No building codes. Building codes are based on decision by a community’s government  protect the health and safety of people from the environment. However, problems  arise when the building codes interfere with the rights of individual citizens.

The government may not be as concerned about the effects of construction on the planet’s environment. If building codes aren’t an issue, a greener, more frugal, experimental housing plan
may be used. And no building codes mean you  are free to use your land to raise animals and to grow a garden.

2. No dependency on the power grid. If the power goes out in a city, the citizens are at the mercy of repair crews. However, living off of the grid (as in power grid) may use alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind energy, and often can be accomplished as a DIY project. Thus reducing your dependency on the frail power grid.

You may say, “Sign me up for that!” But what are you really agreeing to?

Living Off Of The Grid Cons

1. Sewage regulations. Even in areas without building codes, you’ll probably run into sewage regulations. Allowable off grid options include septic tanks with buried leach fields and open-­air lagoon pits. Composting toilets are acceptable in many regions. Personal septic systems require ongoing maintenance and inspections to keep them functioning correctly.

Going off­ grid can be an expensive proposition if you try to replace all the modern amenities (running water, flushable toilets, washer/dryer) and most people prefer their amenities.

2. Clean water source. A site with a reliable water supply is essential to off ­grid living, and prospective landowners. If you’re buying land, you’ll still need a reliable water source. Can a stipulation to include the use of potable water?

3. Property taxes. I don’t know of any vicinity that doesn’t collect property taxes, unless you rent the land from someone else. Make sure you know what the property taxes are and the permits necessary to build a home, if that is permissible.

Consider this, will you have the legal right to use any existing roads, paths or waterways to reach your land? If you do not have access to water or road ways, then consider another plot of land.

Is living off the grid for you? What could you live with or without? Could you sacrifice those
things you take for granted everyday such as running water, electricity for all your electronics,
electric lights?

We want to hear your comments below!

What is Living Off the Grid?

Living off the grid is defined as having a home that could conceivably survive in the event that our civilization collapses. This may sound a bit apocalyptic, but it’s not just conspiracy theorists who choose homesteading as a way of life.

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Cam and Heather Mather live off the grid in Ontario, CA on Sunflower Farm. Courtesy of MotherEarthNews.com

Many people are interested in “living off the grid” or homesteading as a greener way of life. Homesteading is broadly defined as a lifestyle of self­-sufficiency.

It may include any of the following:

  • Hobby farming,

  • Home preservation of foodstuffs,

  • Small scale production of textiles or clothing, and

  • Craft work for household use or sale.

Living off the grid is defined as having a home that could conceivably survive in the event that our civilization collapses. This may sound a bit apocalyptic, but it’s not just conspiracy theorists who choose homesteading as a way of life.

Who would choose to live off the grid?

  • Environmentalists,

  • Farmers,

  • Those with an independent mindset and

  • Other people who want to have a simple lifestyle.

Living off the grid means having a home that does not rely on public utilities. This sounds like an attractive option to people who love to homestead or do not want to rely on the high cost of gas and electricity.  It is a choice to reduce energy consumption and live in a more natural setting.

Where could one live off the grid?

The most likely places to live off the grid are homes in the country due to fewer zoning laws and more space. A plot of land is needed that can conceivably allow for alternative wind and solar energy. You may need to purchase a home unless a home is inherited or you buy a more affordable and portable living space (mobile home or shipping container home).

People who are most likely to live well off the grid don’t mind hard work and sacrifice. Homesteading requires a spirit of independence.  Also, commitment to lifelong learning is essential.  One day you are fixing your power source, the next day the plumbing, another day might include tending to a sick animal. A willingness to learn as you go is needed unless money is no object.

Why would you want to live off the grid?

For many, living off the grid is a sustainable way of life. It is their own, personal commitment to a greener way of life.  When solar and wind energy are used, it decreases the dependence on fossil fuels and reduces your carbon footprint.

A lot of people love the idea of the challenges that living off the grid offers.  Every day there’s something new to learn:

  • How to grow a garden,

  • How to preserve food,

  • How to care for livestock,

  • How to generate and store energy, water, heat, etc.

Many people grow enough of their own food and rarely go to a grocery store.

For many people, homesteading is a good way to be friendly to the environment and it’s a relief not to rely on overworked utility companies to meet their needs.

But it’s not for everyone.

In the next article, I’ll explain the pros and cons of living off the grid.

Frugal Living: Creating a Coupon Organizer

Save money, live with less, create your own coupon binder. Frugal living tips from Just About Greener Living.

It’s time you organized your coupons so you can find them when you need them and you won’t have to worry about reaching for a coupon that has expired. You have options!

There are a few places online you can buy a coupon binder, labels, instructions, etc such as MomSaves.com, which is where my coupon binder system came from (as a gift too). However, you can create your own or use different methods.

Here are a few suggested ideas and places that are also economical (and you might be able to use a coupon too!)

Organize coupons with a coupon binder sysetem like this one.

Zippered Binder – Order an entire binder system that includes your choice of binder color (I chose hot pink/fuchsia), pre-printed labels, custom coupon inserts (several of each style to fit all sizes of coupons, & I can’t find these anywhere else), templates for coupon dividers, welcome kit & instructions, 10 file dividers and a coupon to purchase additional coupon inserts.

You can also buy your own zippered (or nonzippered) binder, they are on sale now at several locations as well as other school supplies; tabbed file dividers (ensure these fit inside your binder first) – you’ll need at least 20 of these so buy them in packages of 8 or 10 & labels are included too; baseball card inserts for 3 ring binders, school size scissors (for cutting coupons), permanent marker/marker, pen and zippered 3 ring pencil holder.

Reclosable index card holder/recipe box – Not as convenient as a coupon binder, but if you need something small & efficient this will do! Use larger index cards to separate & label the various types of coupons you have, organize coupons in alphabetical or store aisle order, and file coupons within their category according to expiration date. Be sure to purge coupons every Sunday/Monday before you insert new ones.

Coupon organization systems online

CouponMountain.com – check out this blog for ideas and how to organize too.

MomSaves.com – I think the original place to buy those All-in-One coupon binder system.

PennyPinchingDiva.com – Found this while looking for a coupon binder picture. Fabulous site for coupon tips and coupons. Check it out!

 

 

 

 

A Simple Hot Cocoa Recipe to Keep you Warm

It’s snowing and cold in the Northeast, and one of my favorite drinks during winter is Hot Chocolate. Every time I return from walking the dog, I like to warm up with a cup of a delightful cup of creamy cocoa. However those envelopes you buy in the store are just too sweet and fattening for my diet.

I also delight in receiving a jar of homemade hot cocoa from a faraway friend or neighbor during the holidays, which always makes me think of how easy this would be to make for myself. But I never did.

I made my first cup of homemade hot cocoa this year after watching my mom experiment with a cup of her own during Thanksgiving. I’ve been making a small experimental batch everyday since, and let me tell you…those steaming mugs of hot chocolate have been the best tasting hot drink I’ve had since the snow started falling a week ago!

Here’s my recipe for 1 cup of homemade hot cocoa (adjust as needed):

1-2 teaspoons of cocoa (the kind without the sugar) I buy mine in bulk from a Mennonite store or you can find this in a bulk foods store too.

1-2 teaspoons of sugar – I think powdered sugar works best, but white or raw sugar will work just as well too.

Powdered milk or powdered creamer – adjust the amount as needed to your taste. I eye-ball the amount so that I have about 1/4 cup of the entire mix in my cup.

Heat a cup of water or milk and then add your

Being Frugal is not Being Cheap, It’s Simple Living

For those of us who aren’t in the uppermost income bracket, we sometimes have to make choices about how we spend our money. Being frugal is not being “cheap,” it’s about making choices so that you have more of something else.

The Frugal Goddess explains the meaning of being frugal…

I have heard from a number of people that they just don’t like the word “frugal”. It seems to conjure up images of reusing tea bags and saving hundreds of empty boxes. But neither of these things are what frugality is really about. It is not cheapness or hoarding. Or even clipping coupons necessarily, though that would be frugal if you were going to buy that item anyhow and the coupon price really was the best deal.

The opposite of frugality is waste, not luxury. It is about getting the maximum out of available resources. For the poor frugality is a necessity. But that doesn’t mean it is only for the poor. In fact, being wasteful can make us poorer, and conserving our resources (frugality) can make us richer. Except for the new high tech millionaires every rich person you can name is either frugal or has an ancestor that was. The one who made the fortune.

The best model for frugality is nature herself. She wastes nothing, and yet is exquisitely abundant. And considering the shape the environment is in the new frugality is essential to restoring the balance of nature with the least pain to humankind.

Frugal is the new green.

So are you living a simple life and practicing frugality – not being wasteful of your resources?

Dollar Dinners – Pumpkin Pancakes

It’s Thursday evening and just before payday. My cupboards are bare except for the absolute essentials – flour, sugar, salt, spices and oil….and a couple cans of pumpkin and canned fruit.

I have 1 dollar in my pocketbook….what could I possibly purchase for 1 dollar, so I can make dinner?

Pumpkin Pancakes…yes, my mind was turning out homemade recipes while I briefly walked the aisles of Aldi’s food store this evening. Eggs, only 95 cents and they come from a regional egg farm too. Perfect flavor for a cool evening in the Midwest.

Nothing in my Betty Crocker cookbook told me how to make pumpkin pancakes, but I figured it would be the same as “1/4 cup of fresh or frozen berries.” I used real canned pumpkin not the pumpkin pie filling and added my own pumpkin spice mix to a traditional pancake recipe. I had to add extra flour to make up for the moisture of the pumpkin (I also omitted the oil).

If you ever have had sweet potatoe pancakes….mmmmm…., you know that these orange colored pancakes were oh sooo delicious too! Not such a strong flavor as pumpkin pie or even pumpkin bread, but just as light as regular pancakes.

I’d have a picture, if my kid didn’t eat the last of the stack!

Simple Living 101: Non-essential Kitchen Appliances

Simple living means not having ALL or MANY modern conveniences or non essentials for living a fruitful and prosperous life. There are many kitchen appliances you don’t really need.

My kitchen looks very similar to this one; living without small kitchen appliances.

Simple living means not having ALL or MANY modern conveniences or nonessentials for living a fruitful and prosperous life. While some items and appliances may seem unnecessary to some, there are still many who think “I just can’t live without a…. or …” I really try to embrace more simple living ideals, which helps with lowering my monthly utilities and the environment too.

This morning I was making waffles, with my electric waffle maker, but I thought of all the other kitchen appliances I have given up or have given out and I never replaced throughout the last several years. I have to confess, I love kitchen gadgets! I love perusing kitchen and cooking shops at the many little and not so little gadgets one could use in the kitchen. But a reduced income has kept me away, so I realize that is probably for the best.

I don’t have the following kitchen appliances, and have learned to live without them and still feel productive in the kitchen:

> Toaster – had one about 10 years ago, but it didn’t survive a cross-country move. I don’t really have a need for one anymore. If I must toast bread for breakfast, I turn the broiler in my oven on for 5 minutes.

> Electric Can Opener – also had one of these at one time until it became too problematic to use. I gave it to my Mom and she used it until it died. Now we both only use the handheld type. I really like the smooth-edge handheld can opener from Pampered Chef, which is now found on Amazon (it’s also number 1 on my Amazon list!); it doesn’t leave any sharp edges and you can use it on any size can. Remember to scrub and wash can openers occasionally to remove the grime and keep it cranking smoothly.

> Stand-alone mixer – I have never owned one of these, so the compact hand-held mixer works just fine for the things I need to mix. Although I prefer a well-constructed whisk to a mixer, sometimes a mixer does come in handy.

> Toaster Oven – I had one of these at one time and I did use it often instead of turning on the stove or oven. I loved the low cost features of it, but it didn’t fit into my apartment-sized kitchen when I moved, so I handed it down to my mother, who uses it more.

> Electric Skillet – I do have one of these, but I can’t find the power cord from 2 moves ago. It still sits in a box in my closet. I do like using an electric skillet over turning on the stove, especially during the summer. It saves on electricity/gas usage too. However, I have adapted without it.

What small kitchen appliances do you use often and ones that you think you couldn’t live without? Could you embrace the simple living lifestyle in your kitchen by only using frugal kitchen appliances. Leave me your opinions!

Purging the Unused: How to Organize & Simplify Your Recipes

Want to purge your recipes? If you haven’t cooked, baked, or tried a recipe in your file in the last couple years, then it’s time to clean out your recipes. Learn what you can do with new and old recipes.

I cleaned out my recipe book today; you probably have one like mine. I have this used 9” x 11” black photo book with several stiff pages that have a clear overlay on each side along with several insertable paper protectors inside. I think I’ve had it now for at least a decade and a half.

I have several recipes that I cut out of magazines, newspapers, copied from a cookbook and also ones that friends wrote on neat 3 x 5 and 4 x 6 “From the Kitchen of…” note cards. I even have a few that I took from my Mother’s recipe box (yes, you remember those don’t you) that are in her Mother’s handwriting, like the cornbread stuffing she made at Thanksgiving and the cornbread biscuits that she made for almost every meal that I remember. These recipes are written on the original notepad paper in faded blue ink and the memorable penmanship that has been passed onto my own Mother.

Then I also have a couple other 3 x 5 “Kitchen” note cards that are in my own youthful printed ink and one is dated from …..1987! Wow! Upon closer examination, I see it is a pretzel recipe from a Single Living class taken in high school. I think I made pretzels at home a couple times while still in high school and maybe a couple more times a few years later, but haven’t touched the card since. I toss this one out too. Some reminders of high school don’t need to stay in my kitchen. Another note card has a recipe of a double batch of lasagna that I wrote down from a cooking show a few years ago. I did make this double batch which lasted for 2 weeks worth of dinners between my son and me. I decide to keep this one.

Other recipes neatly cut from magazines or newspaper inserts that I have never made, and will probably not make in the next year, and even if I did, I could find it again somewhere else. Anything that contains cheesecake, whipped cream and high fat ingredients is pulled out and put in the recycling bin (do recycle paper, even if it’s small as a recipe). I also take out anything that could have been baked for my son’s kindergarten to second grade class such as brownie bites, cupcake cones (or any type of cupcakes) and cookie pizza. My son is now a senior in high school and instead of taking cupcakes to school he bakes his own triple chocolate brownies to appease the girls in his business class.

Now my black binder is less cumbersome and I have several empty acetate free pages that are kept in the back in case I find a recipe that I like and will actually use. Then I do a little reorganizing of the recipes that I have kept in more meaningful sections such as Helpful Tips and How-to’s: how to store vegetables, how to increase fiber in your diet; Soups, Egg Dishes, Meat Dishes, Pastas, Vegetarian, and my favorite, Desserts. I found more dessert recipes in my binder than any other type of dish. And yes, I have made each of them, and those that I haven’t made in the last 5 years were recycled.

What kind of recipes do you have stuffed in your recipe book, binder, or box? Have you taken an inventory of what you’re keeping, using or just saving for memory’s sake? Take a look today, purge those recipes that you haven’t cooked or baked in the last couple years. Recycle these recipes or pass them along to a friend, then pull out a couple that you and your family would like to have this week. Have a dinner party with your family, invite each member to select a recipe that he or she would like to make and bring to the dinner party. I’m sure you’ll be surprised by all the delicious and variety of food that you have. Come back and let me know what you purged, kept and cooked!

Greener Living Blog Feed is Now Active

Thanks to a dedicated reader, I have figured how to fix the feed on the blog. So it looks like things are working okay, at least posts are appearing under the RSS widget.

Thanks to a dedicated reader, I have figured how to fix the feed on the blog. So it looks like things are working okay, at least posts are appearing under the RSS widget.

Please let me know if you are having any other problems. I am not a programmer, but I’m learning some on-the-job coding via friends and programming books.

It seems as if the Adsense code was blocking the RSS feeds, so I had to move them down with the posts. Although I see that these ads are displaying ads relevant to my blog content, which must mean my content is keyword rich & better than before.

Hang in there with me, I’m learning & want to provide the best content about Greener Living, dangers of BPA in plastics, and topics about living a more earth friendly lifestyle (I had to include some kind of green words in this blog!)

Thanks for reading and I would love to hear some topic ideas…give me your nickel’s worth of ideas below!