Sacrificing– a way (and means) to better health

Every winter both my husband and I get asked at least a dozen times why we don’t get colds or flu. We just don’t. This past winter was my 11th year of good health–no cold and no flu at all. Do I get sick? Well, I do have days where my allergies kick my butt. Currently, we live near an area filled with ragweed and I am deathly allergic to ragweed. For years I thought it was all the goldenrod growing around here, turns out goldenrod is innocent. In fact, ragweed is the big culprit and I guess purposely grows near goldenrod to confuse allergy sufferers. The plants look distinctly different, but you may not find much on the internet about goldenrod’s innocence. Believe me, if you see goldenrod, ragweed is close by and it’s the one causing you to suffer. I use a lot of cold compresses and drink warm teas to help with them. My husband takes Claritin, but still suffers allergy symptoms. The ragweed is out of control I tell you. There are also a lot of trees around this area and trees (birch & cottonwood) and grass gives me sinus headaches. I was diagnosed with facial migraines in 2004 which can be associated with sinus issues. I’ve probably had these for almost twenty years now.  So yes, I’m not a perfectly healthy person by any means. That said I do everything in my power to increase my odds to live a life of good health.

In 2003 I went through a pretty intense period in my life. I lost a job I really loved that put me on a path that I’m still on to this day. First off I quit drinking for the second time, and I stopped smoking after smoking for almost 25 years. I did both cold turkey within 6 months of one another. I also quit drinking soda pop. My only beverage was water– good water (Evian).

Around 2004 I began to experience some weird symptoms hot feet, urinary problems, sore muscles and extreme fatigue. I had always had back and muscle problems from working in healthcare and injuring both my back, shoulders, and neck numerous times. First I went to my physician who ran a bunch of tests, some for hormones and basically gave me a clean bill of health. Second I was referred to a urologist for my urinary issue. After eating a good amount of strawberries summer of 2004 I noticed I was urinating scant amounts of blood and having to urinate multiple times a day. When I told the urologist this he informed me what I had would go away on its own, not to worry, and dismissed me. Turns out after some investigation what I have is interstitial cystitis–ulcers on my bladder lining. There is no cure. So depending on what I eat and drink, my bladder will act up. Over the years I have had flares that last a week or two at a time but then subside. Everything I eat can affect this issue. There is a special diet to follow, but I do not follow it. I do however drink a lot of water and have found that the flares last fewer and fewer days each time.

As for my muscle problems and extreme fatigue and sore painful points on my body issue– It was finally discovered by a different doctor that I have Fibromyalgia and have had it for quite a long time. Maybe close to 35 years? Fibromyalgia has a whole host of symptoms and I’ve run the gamut on each and every one of them. At the time mine was discovered there weren’t any medications to be prescribed. I was told to rest more and eat a better diet and exercise regularly.  Again I felt modern medicine had dropped the ball.

So instead of just giving up and crawling into a hole, I decided to research and research and find ways to better health. There had to be something more than eating a better diet. My diet had improved, but I could still do more. I researched organic food, homegrown and local and once I’d read everything out there on the interwebs about it (not much out there in 2004) my husband and I started on a path to a changed lifestyle that has included on the way- eating organic, living a more sustainable, chemical free, low in sugar, low to no preservative life. Believe me when I tell you it hasn’t been easy. All throughout my blog, I have posted about how hard it was and still is to source organic food. We’ve spent a fortune, that by the way, we didn’t always have, to ensure once we started we didn’t have to stop just because sourcing it was inconvenient. Back in the day I called stores and had them send product down with their salesperson for me to pickup because the local grocery stores didn’t carry it. We’ve put a ton of miles on our only vehicle to drive to CSA pickups and Farmer’s markets in order to get good homegrown produce. We’ve even gone as far as buying a new refrigerator and freezer so that our produce stays fresher and so that I can preserve some for over winter. Most of the changes in our lifestyle were made when we had only one income, and I was going to school full-time.  Not easy to do. Here are some other things I changed in my life to keep the odds in my favor:

  • I stopped using store bought sanitary items and started purchasing Luna pads in 2004.  This is a great article  recently written that explains my logic. I love Luna pads and using them while still having a period in my 50’s is a blessing.
  • I stopped wearing all make-up in 2004. Even without make-up I’ve gone on interviews, traveled, and worked in upper management positions. I know this may be a step that most women cannot or will not take, but I truly believe no make-up is one of the reasons I have almost no wrinkles. I mean like I have 1-2 wrinkles and I’m almost 53. I use Oil of Olay on my face and wash my face with Dove soap and warm water. That’s it. People look genuinely shocked when I tell them I am in my 50’s. It isn’t genetics I promise you that. I owe it all to no make-up!
  • No eating out in almost 90% of the restaurants out there- I gave up Taco Bell, Taco John’s, Chinese take-out, Indian/Thai take-out, McDonald’s, Burger King, buffets, Applebees, Pizza Hut really everything except two places. We still stop at our favorite high-end place for every special occasion- home grown food, and Panera. We started this ban on no eating out in 2004, but it took until 2010 or so to stop altogether. We don’t miss it or crave it and we’re saving a lot of $.
  • We grocery shop on the outer aisles, for the most part, only entering the inner aisles for cereal and baking products. We don’t buy food kits, mixes or canned or jar sauces. We don’t buy toppings, or canned cheeses, or packaged processed food of any kind. I had to give up Mac and Cheese and Cheez Whiz and Lipton Noodle soup and so much more. My husband’s list is even longer, including most of the food we import from Holland. If the product has more than 5 ingredients we don’t buy it.
  • No chemicals- all of our cleaning supplies are homemade/natural- lemon, vinegar, and essential oils. No sprays or candles or plug-ins are allowed in our house. No laundry soaps that are scented or colored. No fabric softeners or other smelly floral or perfume smelling cleaners or detergents. None. I changed almost everything over to chemical free by 2010. We don’t use body sprays, or smelly lotions or chemical laden soaps. I buy Dove soap and we purchase homemade soaps from local homesteaders or our co-op.
  • Almost all our food comes from our local co-op, Whole Foods, or Woodman’s grocery.  At least 90% of what we buy goes directly into the refrigerator or freezer. We have two big shelving units in our house for baking goods-bulk. Other than that condiments and bulk rice and bulk pasta, peanut butter and honey are the only dry goods we have in our home. Pizza is homemade, cakes and pies are homemade, jam is homemade, sauces are homemade and we freeze a ton of fruits and vegetable for overwintering.
  • Last but never least we eat produce when its in season. When peaches are in season I eat a lot of peaches. Same with strawberries and pears and raspberries and melons. When tomatoes are a plenty I eat 1-2 tomatoes a day for weeks. Same with fresh lettuce, beans, and squash. Sweet corn doesn’t agree with me much anymore, unfortunately, it is hard to find Non-GMO and/or organic corn. I do eat a dozen or so pieces each summer for nostalgia sake. In fall we eat a lot of squash -acorn and zucchini and new potatoes and beets. Spring– kale, spinach, early carrots, and peas. We follow the simple guideline of eating according to the season’s harvest.

In 2008 when the swine flu was knocking everyone out around these parts I sat in a classroom surrounded by students each in a different phase of the swine flu. Even the instructor was sick as were members of his family. Eventually, the school closed for a few days to let people recover. I didn’t get sick.  Nothing. This kind of immunity really remains a mystery to me to this day. As does my ability to continue to hike, walk several miles while out on an excursion with my husband, even bike ride Wisconsin trails without issue. I work, I volunteer and do a lot of outside activities never calling into work, never getting what most people consider sick. My husband has gone almost twenty years at his work with no sick days. I know it’s not because we are genetically healthy people with strong immune systems. I can promise you very little about how healthy we are today is associated with our genetics.

I believe 100% it has to do with our lifestyle and while I know that some of the changes I’ve made or we’ve made are extreme they are worth every year we go without colds and flu, worth the fact we don’t have ER visits or stand in long lines at the pharmacy. We worry about everything going on with insurance — we pay about $1600 a year for the both of us (which is pretty good all things considered), yet we have rarely used our insurance. We have annual preventative care physicals, but short of that my husband saw a doctor for a minor issue 10 years ago and I had surgery on my feet- arthritis, ingrown nails and bone spurs twice after surgery. That’s been almost 3-4 years ago, otherwise for me nothing since 2004. It works for us this I know.   It goes without saying before making any changes to your lifestyle and diet please be sure to talk them over with your trusted family physician first.  Until next time- be well!

“The Greatest Wealth is Health”

Links :

Food preservatives that are bad for your health- article here

Candles and Sprays and clean air- article here

Dangers of eating Fast Food- article here

Hormonal disruptors in make-up- article here

Summer Meal Planning–7 day meal plan

Tired of having to pay subscription prices for a meal plan? or sign up for tips and tricks and end up inundated with spam emails? Here’s a 7-day meal plan without a catch–no hassles, no subs, and definitely no hidden costs. Summer time is a time where meal planning can get a little hectic. School’s out, and there’s vacation time to plan for and meals tend to be quick meals with little cleanup. Nowadays with all the meal plans available, some right to your front door, why choose to make meals yourself? In my case, for my family’s needs, it came down to saving money and eating local homegrown whole foods. Maybe you don’t have that option available to you, or you don’t have the time to make meals from prep to finish? If you cannot source local homegrown then use what you have–supermarket produce works fine. I’m a big fan of T & A produce and it’s sold in most grocery stores. We eat T & A’s romaine hearts, broccoli, and hydroponic butter lettuce.

Most of the meals in my 7-day meal plan can be prepped the night before. So when you have a little bit of free time, prep the next meal. Also when you cook up ground beef make extra and freeze the extra portion for another meal. I double most recipes and freeze the rest. We have at least 3 meals frozen on hand at any given time that we can grab if time is tight.

Monday-Grilled Hamburgers with Napa cabbage slaw and slowly roasted potato wedges. Prep time-20 minutes. Total cooking time 35-45 minutes depending on how done you want your burgers.

Tuesday– Sausage, red cabbage and roasted sweet potato. Prep time 25 minutes–total time is 1 hour (includes bake time).

Wednesday-Everything but the kitchen sink salad-lettuce, cucumbers, green onions, sliced beets (I use Nellie’s sliced pickled beets vs. fresh beets), avocado, leftover red cabbage slaw and sliced boiled egg with homemade salad dressing. Prep time is 10-15 minutes- chop everything up, boil egg (5 minutes) wash and rinse lettuce & green onions.  You can add cooked chicken, steak or even tuna from tuna packs to make this a heartier salad.

Thursday-Roasted veggie taco with creamy cilantro dressing–recipe here. Total time- 45 minutes.

Friday– Pork Roast in the slow cooker, carrots, and new red potatoes. Prep 10-15 minutes. Total cooking time depends on the size of roast (minimum 4 hours on a low setting) add new red potatoes which are smaller than reg. potatoes during the last 2 hours of slow cooking so that they won’t get mushy before the roast is done.

Saturday-Pulled pork over baked sweet potatoes.  Prep time 5-10 minutes, total cooking time 1 -1/2 hours at 350 degrees for medium-large sweet potatoes.

SundayTeriyaki Chicken and vegetable foil pack for the grill- prep time- 30 minutes..cook time is 1 hour or until chicken is done. **I love this site and you will find several more easy foil pack meals to make plus so many more delicious things to try.**

Recipes-

Homemade Salad Dressing– your best salad dressing ( I use Vegan dressing by Hellman’s), mix 1/4 cup dressing( per 2 people )with a 1/4 teaspoon of salt (or less or not at all) & a tablespoon of granulated sugar and a half cup of milk. Add more milk if you want your dressing thin instead of creamy.  The healthier the salad dressing is that you buy, the healthier your homemade dressing will be. Total time- 5 minutes

Napa Cabbage Slaw– buy a Napa cabbage in the produce department or farmer’s market or local grower that is light green in color. You will also need 2 carrots and ingredients for the homemade salad dressing. I grate the carrots, chop the slaw and mix together with my homemade salad dressing. Use a bit less milk with the dressing because you want the slaw to be able to top your burger! You can add salt and pepper to taste and for extra flavor toss in chopped scallions. Total time- 15 minutes.

Red Cabbage- I use a great recipe from Taste of Home found here.

~~Grocery List~~

Produce department/Farmer’s market/local grower

Napa Cabbage

Red Cabbage

Romaine Hearts Lettuce

Scallions

Green onions

Avocado

Cilantro

Sweet Potatoes

Baking Potatoes

New Red Potatoes

Carrots

Cucumbers

Red Onion

Tomatoes

Yellow & Red Peppers

Zucchini

Lemon

Lime

Meat Department

Pork Roast

Hamburger

Chicken Breast

Sausage

**how much meat you buy will depend on family size**

Dairy

1/2 gallon of milk or 1/2 and 1/2 for salad dressing

Eggs- at least 6 eggs

Butter

Sour Cream

Middle Aisles

Good salad dressing- I’ve used both Just Mayo and Hellman’s Vegan dressing

Hamburger buns

Brown Sugar, soy sauce, cooking rice, sesame oil, chili garlic sauce, 32 oz. chicken broth, ground ginger, olive oil, 15 oz black beans, and Nellie’s sliced pickled beets.

Flour tortillas

I think I’ve remembered to add everything you will need to create these 7 easy meals to the grocery list above. Some meals will work for Paleo diets or even a vegetarian diet. Some can even be made if you are camping. Most take less than 30 minutes prep and there is even a meal that can be made from yesterday’s leftovers.  We eat a lot of meals that are heavy in produce because this is the time of year produce costs the least.  I generally don’t make meals like this in the winter due to not being able to source real fresh produce.  So enjoy these meals now, enjoy the savings, and reap the benefits of these great whole food meals for the next seven days.

Fresh from the garden lettuce & RMO Essential Oils and Pest Control blend

For most of the last three weeks, all we’ve had in Wisconsin is rain, rain, and more rain. Every day is cloudy. Somehow in my fond dreams of yesteryear, I remember spring having some sunny, warm and simply satisfying days before the hot and sticky days of summer arrive. This year I made a solemn promise to take spring slow and enjoy every moment of it. Now all I want is heat and sun–go away rain, the rivers are flooding.  Less than two weeks after planting the last six lettuce plants we’ve had two big salads from those six plants, a lettuce leaf on five sandwiches this week, and lettuce on our hamburgers tonight. Believe it or not, there is still at least one salad left and more to come. This has been my most successful year of growing bibb lettuce.  While harvesting the lettuce I was bitten a total of three times by pesky mosquitos, which reminded me I need to order some Bug off! from Rocky Mountain Oils.

Last year I used a blend made from RMO’s cedarwood, lavender, peppermint, and lemongrass essential oils in purified water in a 4 oz spray bottle. I put in 30 drops of cedarwood, 25 drops of lavender, 15 drops of peppermint and 15 drops of lemongrass. I shake the spray bottle gently before each use.  I use either, it just depends if you want to make up your own batch or buy a blend that has all of the essential oils and more already in it. Either way, you cannot go wrong using Rocky Mountains Oils as your go-to pests go away and stay away from me spray.

 

My summer preserving and canning

This past couple of weeks has been BUSY for me. To give you a general idea of what I’ve been up to, I’ve been canning, and freezing produce here.  Lots of produce to be exact. In between canning and freezing is housework, going out and buying the produce I’ve been canning and freezing, summer vacation planning, weekend get-a-ways and more to be honest. During breaks from school, and on the weekends, I like to cram as many things into the time as I can. Sometimes this goes well and other times I feel like we rushed things so much, we weren’t able to fully enjoy ourselves. Luckily even though things seem busy, they do not seem rushed.

I’ve canned:

  • 24 of each -32 oz jars of tomatoes, peaches and tomato sauce
  • 6- pint jars of pickles, pickle relish, and salsa
  • 6- pint jars of peach and blueberry preserves
  • 6- 32 oz jars of peach pie filling
  • 8 gallons of green beans
  • 4 gallons of shredded zucchini
  • 4 gallons of cut up zucchini
  • 4 gallons of sliced beets
  • 8-1/2 gallon bags of multi- colored peppers-green, red, orange
  • 5 gallons sliced strawberries

I still have creamed corn to make and also corn on the cob to freeze, and when fall arrives apple pie filling and applesauce and squash. Our freezer that we bought just for just such an endeavor is half full at this time and our shelves are starting to fill up. Feels good. After preserving the peaches a couple of weeks ago, I made my husband and I breakfast for supper.

DSCN3384

Organic egg, spinach and kale omelet with organic white cheddar cheese served with my own grown organic tomatoes, organic grapes, and organic red potatoes. The total cost of meal per person-$3.25, the total time to make- 15 minutes.

After harvest-preserving vegetables

peas-13

Source

Some of the first things harvested in Wisconsin are strawberries and after several types of tender lettuce, green beans.  My husband and I have enjoyed garlic scapes- we grilled those, leaf lettuce-romaine, in so many salads I can’t count them anymore. We’ve been buying tomatoes thus far for eating, but this next weekend I will be canning tomatoes for sauce and chili.  Sweet corn is just starting to be available, and even though I once was a huge sweet corn eater, I now become ill when I eat it. I ‘m not sure what is causing this but often people who suffer from wheat gluten intolerance have reactions with corn. It’s something I have to accept even though I am not happy about it.

Our goal is to fill up our little freezer as we’ve done the last two years. We drive about 20 miles every week to an organic farm and buy a lot of vegetables. Some for eating every day and others for preserving for eating throughout the winter months.  This means not having to buy any vegetables and very few fruits all winter. As of this time, we have a dozen gallon freezer bags of shredded zucchini for zucchini bread and zucchini cakes. I use this recipe for the cakes, by Sandra Lee. We have several bags of cut-up zucchini for stir-fry, I use this recipe for stir fry by Cooks.com. It’s delicious and perfect rewarmed the next day.  I think we’ve got a total of a dozen full gallon bags of strawberries.  I will use these for breakfast smoothies all winter long.  I remove the stems on the berries and lay them on cookie sheets to freeze them then I empty the cookies sheets into gallon freezer bags, lay flat and remove the air and then freeze flat.  When I pull the strawberries out to eat, I wash and drain them.  I used to make a lot of jam but couldn’t eat it fast enough and didn’t really care for all the sugar in the recipes. So instead, I buy Bonne Maman, which is way better than any jam I’ve ever made or tasted.

So what’s left? Well, let me get back to the topic of this post, green beans. Ah yes, we have a lot of green beans.  So tonight, while trying to watch Noah, I froze 7 -1-gallon freezer bags of green beans.  I wrote a Hub page a few years ago on how to freeze green beans, I’ll have to see if I can find it. Otherwise, I use this recipe here from Better Homes and Gardens.

After the green beans and tomatoes, I’ll be freezing beets and brussels sprouts and then finally green, red and yellow peppers. This fall, which is only a few weeks away, I am going to try canning apples for apple pie. I usually just slice up the apples and freeze them but I want to try something different. The reason I freeze all of our vegetables is because it is easy, I’m not fussing with tight lids and we prefer our veggies not only look fresh but taste fresh- steamed not cooked. Freezing really works well for our tastes and preferences.

I hope everyone is having a great weekend. Even though it sounds like I’ve been stuck in the kitchen the whole time, I actually found time for a long hike in the woods, a delicious fish dinner by the lake (with hubby) and a great documentary on food-The Future of Food as well as Noah w/Russell Crowe, need I say more? Didn’t think so. 🙂 Have a great rest of your weekend.

Invest in yourself-the food you eat

invest in yourself

The real reason behind starting this blog several years ago was to voice my concerns about food safety and to journal about my family’s shift to an organic diet.  The desire to eat more organic food really struck me after reading story after story about all the additives in processed food.

When my husband and I married we had two very different eating styles that came from two entirely different lifestyles. He from a family that ate a lot of sweets and fattening food (and are now paying for it), and I who had been out on my own for many years eating whatever I could afford.  My husband wasn’t about to sit down to a meal of tuna sandwiches or mac and cheese any more than I was going to sit down to bratwurst, mashed potatoes, and gravy.  So, I needed to come up with a compromise. Eventually, I created a menu that included all of the healthiest things from each other’s diets and then as the years went on began to substitute them with the organic versions.

In 2004, after researching organic food, we started purchasing from the Organic Valley (OV) product line. Organic Valley headquarters are located in LaFarge, WI not far from where we live.  We chose OV after reading about their products, their farmers, and their founder.  Some of the first products we tried, and have stayed with for 10 years now, are OV milk, butter, eggs, and cheese.  We stopped buying canned vegetables and fruits at the grocery store and instead purchase fresh or frozen. I also purchase large amounts of green beans, squash, peppers and strawberries to freeze for meals throughout the winter.

In 2005 I noticed, after losing 10#, that I felt better than I had in a long time. I had quit smoking and drinking in 2003, started eating organic food in 2004 and was riding bike and hiking again. The list of foods that we had given up by 2005 was pretty long- some processed foods, sugary cereals, canned goods of any kind, non- organic sauces and gravies and non-organic dairy.

My husband had given up chips, cookies and other sweets for bananas and nuts. For a few years, while the organic food movement was getting started, sourcing food was a major problem. In 2007 we signed up for a CSA outside the area driving a 100 miles round-trip for our veggies. Then the following year we found a local one. But by 2009 the local one decided it was too much work and we were without a CSA again.  Since the spring of 2011, we’ve been buying our fruits and veggies from a local vegetable stand. 

People always ask me, ” how can you afford it?” And I answer “how can we not? it’s a lot safer than eating food that contains chemicals and additives and all those mystery ingredients”.

Sticking to an organic diet can be expensive. My husband and I take a lot of flak for choosing this way of life.  Thankfully we have fairly strong arguments against non-organic diets including the fairly obvious evidence of our health and active lifestyle.  As the years have gone by we’ve dropped other things from our diet- processed cookies, cakes, and non-organic condiments. We don’t eat fast food anymore and just recently I gave up salt.

Ten days after I gave up salt I weighed myself and I had lost 10#. No joke. At the same time, I gave up salt I also gave up red meat. I realized that I used a lot of salt on red meat because I didn’t like the taste of it.

The last seven years have been a struggle, my blog didn’t always report that. It isn’t easy to make changes to one’s diet. Sometimes it is not easy to justify the extra or added expense. I’ve had to do a lot of creative budgeting to afford some of the new food choices we’ve made. It’s easy to afford McDonald’s and easier yet to buy a bunch of processed foods and microwave meals every day. There has never been a time I’ve regretted the changes we’ve made or giving up things we liked because they were bad for us. It’s great to be almost fifty years old and feel like I’m in my 30’s. It’s a dream to see the smile on my husband’s face when he sees the progress he had made and the good health benefits he reaps every day.