the perfect pot rack


We did a partial update of our kitchen a couple years ago, but still had some projects that got put on the back burner. And we still have a few things to take care of before we officially declare the kitchen “done.”

Since we actually lost some storage space with the redo, I felt like we needed a pot rack, but was looking for something cost-effective and unique.

Pinterest to the rescue! I found an idea for repurposing an old ladder as a pot rack. 


I’ve had the ladder for a while and got it either free or dirt cheap…I can’t remember exactly because it’s been that long.

The only thing it really needed was to be cut to the size we wanted, varnished, add a few hooks and hang it up. This last part is the reason it took so long. 

Since we have an almost century old home with aging plaster ceilings, my husband wanted to be confident the whole thing wouldn’t fall down or cause the plaster to crumble. His solution was to secure two parallel links of wood to the ceiling (painting them to match the ceiling color) and make sure they were firmly in the joists. That way when he bolted the hooks for the ladder in place, he knew it would be secured into a piece of wood and not just some plaster and thin lathe.


Originally, I envisioned using S hooks for the pot storage itself. However, my husband used sturdy J bolts instead (the same kind he used for hanging the ladder). I actually like this solution better since the S hooks probably would have slid back and forth as we tried to hang the pots up or retrieve them.

I think this entire project cost us less than $20, if that.  

If you don’t have a ladder (with round rungs) that you can repurpose, try getting one for free. Facebook groups, craigslist for free groups are all great resources. Then all you need are the hooks, chain and varnish. Plus scrap wood if you want to use the same approach as my husband for attaching it to the ceiling.

I love the way this project turned out. Not only does it free up storage space in our cabinets, but the ladder goes with the style of our home, it is a savvy use of materials and fills in the dead space that was above the stove. 

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fridge, freezer and pantry apps

How many times have you gone to the grocery store, made your purchases and returned home only to find you already had one (or more than one!!) of those items already in your fridge, freezer or pantry?

Or stored leftovers from a meal in the freezer only to forget you had them there in the first place… until many months later when they are covered in the freezer fuzz?

I’ve been there way too many times myself and a conversation with a friend today prompted me to search for apps that can help with that.

Here are a few free apps I found that let you track what is in your fridge, freezer or pantry. I’ve included my comments on the apps as well.

Pantry Check


I like how this one has pictures to go along with the items and enables you to add your own products with pictures too. Especially key when storing leftovers. 

However, it doesn’t allow you to categorize where the item is stored: fridge, freezer or pantry.

 

Fridge Pal 


This app does allow you to categorize your items based on where they are stored. Since I have more than one fridge and freezer, this is extremely helpful. I also like that it allows you to record the price so when you are comparison shopping, it can help you save money.

If you are a visual person, however, this one does not have pictures of your items.
 

Cloud Freezer


This appears to be the more sophisticated of the three. While you can’t snapshot your items, you can take a picture of your receipt and it will list out the items for you. Then you simply indicate where it’s going to be stored along with the expiration date and other info you want to add. It includes a video tutorial on how to do this. 

If you like to comparison shop, it has a notes section for you to do that.

While the free version doesn’t allow you to indicate where things are stored if you have more than one fridge or freezer, there are two upgrade options you can purchase for $5 or less which would allow you to do this and it increases the number of items that can be stored on your lists.

One last thing…the free version only allows you to have 15 items per list, so unless you don’t eat very much, you will want the upgrades.

So tell me… have you tried any of these apps before? Are there any I should consider including on this list? Which one do you think you would try?

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brown bag mondays: saving greens

brownbagmondayI’ve lost track of the dollars I’ve wasted in throwing out fresh greens that ended up spoiling before I used them up. Frustrating especially when I need them for a recipe.

So to save some green and some greens, here is today’s tip:

storing greensHere’s how:

Asparagus: store upright in a jar that has a little water in the bottom. Change the water every few days when it starts to get cloudy.

Cilantro, Parsley: Can also be stored upright in a jar that has a little water in the bottom. Change the water every few days when it starts to get cloudy. You also can pesto the herbs with a little water or oil and freeze them to use in recipes.

Basil: Fresh basil turns black after only a short time of being exposed to air. Best way to make it last is to pesto what you can’t use. I like to freeze mine in 1 T quantities so they are recipe ready.

Lettuce/kale: Buying the whole bunch instead of the pre-bagged and washed kind is a great place to start. I also found that removing any elastic bands or ties from around the leaves keeps them from getting slimy. Mine usually keep for a week like this in the plastic bag I place them in from the grocery store.

 

 

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coco’nuts’ about these products

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blueberry banana bread bars featuring fair trade coconut oil

Who else likes to check these boxes?

✅saving money
✅buying food that’s good for you
✅giving a hand up to those who need it by buying fair trade
✅sharing the secret with others

Today, I was able to do all four when I bought two of my favorite pantry essentials from Vitacost: Coconut Secret’s Coconut Aminos and Dr. Bronner’s Magic All-One Fair Trade & Organic Coconut Oil.

Yes, these are more expensive than similar products, but there are times when I feel it’s important to “vote with my fork” and pay the extra money for a good cause.

Here’s the skinny on why I shell out the few extra pesos:

coconut aminos

coconut oil

So where does the saving money part come in?

Glad you asked. 😉

These two products are available at through Vitacost.com for a better price than I can find them in local stores and are priced better or competitively with other online suppliers.

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Leng’s salad featuring coconut aminos

And here’s where saving you money comes in…if you click on this link which takes you to the Vitacost site, you will receive $10 off your first order of $30 or more. Free shipping happens when you spend $49.

What I usually do is plan in my grocery budget to make a bulk purchase so I can save on shipping. So today I placed an order for six Coconut Aminos and two jars of Coconut Oil which brought be a hair over the $49 mark. Since these are shelf stable, I won’t need to order again for several months.

Want to give it a try to make a difference in someone’s life and fuel your body with better ingredients?

Head on over to Vitacost. Then come back here and tell me what you put in your cart.

*I participate in Vitacost’s Refer-a-Friend program. If you click the link and make a purchase from them, you will get $10 off on your order of $30 or more and I will also get a $10 credit. All my opinions are my own.

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project pare: tracking spending

At heart I’m still a pen-to-paper kind of girl. After there’s no need to “log on,” never any wait time for a page to load and it doesn’t crash. It may burn, but I can’t remember that happening in recent memory.

100_3945Two years ago, I found this little organizer in one of stores I shop out that stocks closeouts as well as groceries. It’s not nationwide so I won’t mention it in this space. Although It took me until last year to start using it, as we’ve continued to become more budget conscious, I’ve found it invaluable for tracking and matching expenses. Especially food-related ones as they are our most frequent.

It also conveniently stores the coupons I occasionally clip and keeps my receipts from becoming mashed at the bottom of my purse.

100_3947If you click this link, it will take you to the page on Mead’s website where you can purchase it if you’re interested. There are only two downsides that I can see to this…they don’t have any refill packs for purchase and it would be great for them to develop a companion product to Organizehim.

So how about you…pen & paper or digital? Have you found any products that help you organize and track your spending? Please share!

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project pare, where I’ve been, where I’m headed

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Yes I’ve been a little MIA here. Summertime, and a season to adjust to all kids in school and a new job for my husband and well, the days quickly add up to months which usher in a new year.

Not that I will rehash the last six months in detail, but generally, I’ve been doing much thinking and praying about this site and where God would use me and the time He’s provided. So in addition to dusting off these pages, I’m also inching toward the goal of applying my life coaching certificate to helping people reach their healthy eating, fitness and financial goals. That’s where I’ve been and where I’m *hopefully* headed, in a nutshell.

Now onto Project Pare.

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I’ve continued to work at streamlining my meal planning and shopping list creation approach. Though I haven’t exactly scrapped this idea, neither have I used it, because I ran out of enthusiasm while waiting to find a cheap, eco-friendly solution to apply it weekly. The inner perfectionist in me rears it’s ugly head once again.

So I opted for a low-tech approach by handwriting my menu and shopping list weekly on scraps of paper. Sometimes low tech just works better. It’s certainly helped me improve on ensuring all the items needed for the week make it onto the grocery week, but I still think I can improve on reducing the time I spend on this task.

Here’s my goal: Take just a few hours one day a month to create a monthly meal plan complete with weekly grocery shopping lists.

So how about you…do you plan out your meals? How far in advance? Do you prefer pen & paper to plan or do you use technology? If you’re a techie meal planner, what apps or websites do you like best?

If you don’t plan meals currently, would you invest in some coaching if you knew it would save you time and money in the long run?

And…share 🙂

 

 

 

 

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friday finds: coconut oil & sunscreen

100_2153Perhaps a bit random, but I just had to share these two items as we head into the weekend…

When I posted my recipe for Calico Brownies last month, I mentioned in the Recipe Notes section where I recently found fair trade coconut oil and fair trade cocoa powder for a better price online than my local natural foods store. And in my inbox this week was an email from Abe’s Market advertising Dr. Bronner Fair Trade Coconut Oil for half price! The only thing better than fair trade coconut oil is fair trade coconut oil on sale. I’m not sure how long the sale will last, so head on over while you can. Tip:  Abe’s offers free shipping on orders over $49, so stock up on your favorite shelf stable products to save on shipping costs.

And not that you can eat it, but I wanted to share EWG’s guide to sunscreens. Because what you put on your body can be just as important as what you put in it. With school winding down and the temperatures heating up, now is the perfect time to consider how to protect your skin.

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one of my favorite pictures from our favorite vacation spot circa 2012

Several years ago, I learned that mainstream sunscreen products can be just as harmful to your health as the sun itself. Since then, I’ve made the switch to better grade suncare products. They can come with a heftier price tag, but in this case, I think it’s worth it. Abe’s Market also sells sunscreens as does Vitacost* (my other go to online source for healthier products).

100_9550*I participate in Vitacost’s Refer-a-Friend program. If you click the link and make a purchase from them, will get $10 off on your order of $30 or more and I will also get a $10 credit.

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project pare: creating a pantry list

I like organize and streamline and simplify. As I shared yesterday, because life is complicated, especially with having four growing children, I look for areas in our lives where we can cut back here so we can spend more there.

However, I’m learning that sometimes simplifying is not so simple, especially when it comes to planning meals.

I thought it would be fun to capture this journey in real time, to share with you my challenges in pruning our grocery expenses and paring back the time I spend thinking about what our family will eat.

And what would a challenge be without a name? I’ll call this series: Project Pare.

Project Pare: Creating a Pantry List

Meal planning, preparation and shopping consume much of my time, so it’s one of the biggest areas where I’m most interested in streamlining. I spent 30 minutes the other evening just looking for the best meal planning strategies and have spent countless more minutes (hours?) thinking about it. I find it ironic that the very area where I’m trying to save time is actually costing me more time.

However, I’m trusting that I will reap the benefits come fall when our busy back-to-school schedule picks up again.

One of the tips I gleaned from Pinterest comes from The Resourceful Gals. I liked their idea of creating a pantry list to help formulate a shopping list. Ultimately, I forget at least one thing at least one time each week. If it’s an essential ingredient, then I head back to the store to pick it up – costing me more time and money.

Thankfully, I had already started a list of sorts for another project so this saved me some time and I can re-use it for other ideas I have for tracking food expenses.

Below are a picture of my list and a PDF so you can copy and paste the text if you’d like to use it to start your own pantry list – modifying it, of course, for your pantry. See below the picture for some notes on this list.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW, PRINT OR COPY A PDF of the pantry list

foodpantrylist

  • I used Word to create the list, setting the margins @ .2″, five columns and using a small typeface.
  • For a plant-based food website, you might be surprised to see meat & dairy on my list. However, my family is a hybrid of a plant-based eater (me) and occasional meat & dairy eaters (my husband and children). While I would love for all of us to eat the same way, that’s not the way it’s worked out and I need to honor that.
  • Items with an asterisk indicates items I choose to buy organically most of the time. If you have specific questions about my other abbreviations, just leave a comment.
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toasting nuts

toasting nuts

I’ve burned many a thing in the kitchen either due to impatience or lack of attention…including my fingers.

And sometimes I forget to account for minor, yet important, details in recipes. Like roasted nuts.

Roasting brings out their flavor, adding new dimension to a recipe which is why it’s  a good idea to use roasted nuts when a recipe calls for them. To save time, you could buy pre-roasted nuts, but it often costs more to do so and it can be hard to find certain roasted nuts which are free of added salt and oil. Sooo…that leaves roasting them yourself.

Traditionally, nuts are roasted in the oven. When I’ve used this method, I found that it either took too long (and I was impatient because I forgot I needed to toast them in the first place) or I forgot about them and they burned.

Clearly, a new method was in order.

Ever since I started using the stove top to toast nuts, I’ve been pleased with the results. It’s quick and I’m less apt to forget about something that I can see. The following method is one I’ve used for almonds, pecans and walnuts and it takes less than five minutes. If you try other nuts or seeds (like pine nuts, sunflower or sesame seeds), you might need to adjust the cooking time.

5 steps for toasting nuts

1. Warm a pot over high heat.

2. Add nuts or seeds.

3. For the first minute or two, stir occasionally.

4. Once the nuts are fragrant, stir constantly until they are very fragrant (about another minute).*

5. Remove from heat and continue to stir for 30 second to 1 minute.

*Notes: If you’ve never toasted nuts before, you might want to stir frequently until you can tell (smell 🙂 ) the difference between slightly and very fragrant nuts. Rely on your eyes and nose more so than on the clock as nuts go very quickly from being delicately toasted to decidedly burnt.

Also, a pan with a thinner bottom will toast the nuts faster than a pan with a heavier bottom, such as a cast iron pan. So depending on the pan you use, cooking time may vary slightly.

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