Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cool Laundry Soap Trick

Earlier this week I posted about the benefits and instructions for making your own laundry soap. Today I stumbled upon the most amazing time shaving tip to help speed along the process. I, and I'm sure many others out there, was hand grating my Fels-Naptha (or your favorite laundry sutible bar soap [Dr. Bronners and Ivory work as well]) by hand on my cheese grater. Today I learned that you can microwave 1/2 a bar at a time for 30 seconds and blend it in your blender with a 1/4 cup regular baking soda. It literally cut my time preparing from 15 mins (with frequent breaks to help children) to 2 mins in the blender. Talk about amazing!!

Today's batch I skipped out on our scented Epsom salt so that may be on tomorrow's agenda! 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Eating healthier and the grocery store.

I'm not even sure how to begin this one as it's still a work in progress at our house. We are slowly moving from being a family that sustains itself nutritionally from the freezer and carbonated cans of soda to one who eats whole, healthy foods.

My first tip in eating healthier is make a meal plan! I spend a large percentage less at the store if I have a meal plan and a list.

Second tip is never, ever, ever go hungry or stressed. The later of the two effects my shopping trips more. This is how my cart ends up with mostly produce and a box of twinkies (there's something to be said when the nation goes into withdrawal at the removal of this off the shelves but that is a different story), two cases of soda, a bag of chips, the lovely dip to accompany it, and frozen pizzas.

Third, actually read the labels. Though somethings this doesn't always help because nutritional labeling in the United States is a farce. "Natural" doesn't mean ingredients that only grow in nature. It can mean proteins and fillers derived from natural growing things by processing them. Organic doesn't mean it is 100% organic either. It's only "organic" up to a certain percent. This means that the produce or product wasn't completely grown or made without man made chemicals or genetic intervention. You can only be certain that it is what it is if it says 100% USDA Certified Organic or if you physically meet with the farmer or gardener that is producing the product.

Fourth, look at the numbers on your produce. Produce that begins with a 4 is conventionally grown with man made intervention such as synthetic or natural fertilizers and pesticides. If it starts with an 8, buyer beware, it is a Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs. This means that the genes of the plant have been modified to make them resistant to certain strains or bacteria, ward off certain bugs, and assist them to sustain themselves in the mono culture environment they are unnaturally put in. They don't only use the genes from other produce to genetically modify the GMO produce, they also use animal genes. In high school our science teacher thought us our lesson on GMO's by giving an example about tomatoes being genetically modified with the genes of a wild Alaskan fish so they they would not freeze during transport. Most of our produce in the super market travels over 1,000 miles before it hits our stores. Only if it starts with a 9 is it grown Organically without any synthetic, chemical, chromosomal alternations.

Fifth, I try to only shop the perimeter of our grocery store. Minus the ice cream section, this is the healthier part of the store. It's your fruits, veggies, nuts, rice cakes, popcorn, dried fruits, 100% juices, dairy, and meat. The only exceptions that I go into the center isles of the store for are, casein free, gluten free, sugar free fruit snacks for the boys, and grain flours, pastas, oils, and spices. This helps me completely bypass all the processed products that can live on the shelves for upwards of decades past the "sell by" date. After educating myself on food and our body, it completely disgusts me thinking about food that can sit out on a shelf for years because of chemicals and synthetic fillers that persevere it. I do however have no problem with homegrown and canned foods. This is an entirely different entity and nothing synthetic is used in the process. There is just something disgusting about altering things that aren't supposed to go into your body to make a food taste "good" or to be "low fat," "low sugar," "cholesterol free."

We try to buy fresh, fresh, fresh, whole, unprocessed ingredients.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Reducing waste in the house

As the second bag of trash, for the day, needs to go out, I am sitting here contemplating our need to cut down our trash out put. We made a semi-attempt to recycle until the fruit flies infested so bad they about carried away the bins with their tiny annoying wings. But I think it may be time to revisit this issue. With our four boys, the man of the house, myself, and my two year old nephew I watch daily, our trash seems to have a mind and body of its own in our kitchen.

Since having kids our kitchen trash can has never been and will never be the small can hidden underneath the sink that is out of sight and out of mind. If we could I would roll the big ol' green can at the curb into the kitchen and use it. We really make that much trash a day. In the attempt to eat fresh I find myself saying I'm going to compost our produce scraps but they always seem to find a way into the ever growing monster of a garbage can everyday along any and everything that gets broken, spilled, dropped, wiped off, and my nephews stinky disposable diapers. I am to a point now that something has to change. My plan for tomorrow is to re-purpose one of the empty Rubbermaid tubs in my basement into a compost bin for our spring garden. I figure if I start now in mid-September, I should have a good stock pile of black gold for the ground by April when early crops can go in.

The plan:

1 empty rubbermaid container from our basement with matching lid
1 electric drill
lots of paper, cardboard, banana peels, egg shells, and leaves from the yard.

I am going to drill holes around the bottom side walls of the bin and start layering my "brown" and "green" materials. Hopefully this will reduce our trash input. Sending these things to the landfill to decompose doesn't bother me as much as them being trapped inside a plastic garbage bag that takes 20 years or whatever to disintegrate.

Homemade Laundry Soap

Laundry detergent was one thing we had to make a change on after we had 4 kids. Between crib sheets, cloth diapers, and regular ol' clothes, I do upwards of 3 loads per day some days! This sure adds up fast when you are buying commercially made name brand laundry soap. Not to mention all the synthetic chemicals that are being absorbed and inhaled from use. Your skin is the largest organ on your body. Because of the skins super absorbent properties it easily allows the toxic chemicals in the soap and dryer sheets to be absorbed into your skin and into your blood stream! I know I personally would never inject these chemicals into any other of my vital organs so why am I rubbing them all over my skin?! With my sons special needs I knew I sure didn't want to make life any harder on their little bodies then I needed too. The big man of the house wasn't a fan at first until we added the scented Epson salt. He felt like the clothes didn't smell "fresh." The addition of scent has made him a total believer in the cause.

In our house we use the following recipe:

1 cup Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
1 cup Borax
1 cup oxygenated bleach
1 bar Fals-Naptha

1/2 cup Epson salt with 20 drops favorite essential oil (or Purex scent crystals are 98% natural for everyone who isn't so die hard about the natural.)

I grate the bar of soap the old fashioned way on our cheese grater, but I know plenty of people who use their food processors as a short cut. Then mix everything together and store in an air tight container, as to not let moisture in. I use about 2 tbs per large load (we only run our washing machine on the heaviest setting full to the top to save energy and save a little off our electric bill), 1 tbs for medium loads, 1/2 tbs for small loads.
I was semi-weirded out by the fact it looks like soap smelling cheese with powder but I am now in love.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Hello there!

Some of you may know me from my blog, which chronicles our day to day life with Irish triplets and our adventure living with special needs twins. I felt it only made sense to make a space to share our triumphs and difficulties living a greener, ecofriendly, more minimalistic life.

Before I had children I would have never been interested in learning about our carbon footprint, looked twice at the label of the prepackaged food I was eating, or the "trusted" commercial cleaners I was using. Once Ethan was born my curiosity was peaked. I thought I was giving him a head start by breastfeeding, baby wearing, and bed sharing. Now it was a start but I never could have imagined it was just the tip of the iceberg. 

It wasn't until our twins were born at 30 weeks old just eleven short months after our oldest made his appearance that I really started making drastic changes. They both developed cerebral palsy as a consequence of oxygen deprivation during our delivery. I promised myself, just like all parents do, that I would give them every possible advantage I could. (We are a family of six (little boys, step son, and dad) living off an annual income of only $15,000 a year so this would be no easy task.) This meant no more prepackaged junk filled with plastic fats and synthetic fillers, removing all chemicals from our personal hygiene products and household cleaners, minimizing and hopefully completely removing screen time in the house, growing our own food supply, car sharing, cloth diapering, line drying, and making from scratch; just to name a few.  

Hopefully this can be a learning experience for us all, allow us to take a step back and really see what truly matters in our own lives.