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Monday, December 6, 2010

Oat Flour

Oat Flour is great to use because it is full of nutritional value, and it's gluten free! Unfortunately it can be pretty pricey since it's considered a specialty item, but I have a quick and inexpensive solution! Make your own oat flour, it couldn't be easier. Just take whole oats and blend until' it turns to a powder.
I tried it in my blender, but my food processor worked much better for me. I've also read that some people have used their coffee grinder as well. Then just store your freshly ground oat flour in an airtight container. This is great to use in meatloaf or bread coating recipes. Since it is gluten free it won't act the same as wheat or other flours would when you bake with it.
Some people claim that by using half oat flour and half wheat flour their recipe turns out fine, however I haven't tried it yet. I will be experimenting with some baking recipes and I'll make sure to share any success I might have. Have you used oat flour in a recipe and were pleased with the outcome? If so, please share in the comments below.



Friday, December 3, 2010

ReUseit Bag Winner!

Congratulations to Terri! Your name was randomly drawn as the winner of the ReUseit Bag giveaway. Thanks for entering, and Congrats!

Monday, November 8, 2010

ReUseit Bag: Review & Giveaway!

Everyone is "Going Green" these days, and I hope it is more than a trend, but rather a lifestyle change. Why not go green in style? I recently received 2 bags from resuseit.com to review, and I absolutely love both of these bags. ReUseit.com is a place where you can find the “best of the best” reusables out there so you can eliminate disposables from every part of your life. Check it out at http://www.reuseit.com/

Like I said, I love these bags, not only are they both made from recycled material, but they are both equally adorable! I also love that they can both fold up into their attached pouch, and you can literally stick it in your pocket! So the next time someone asks if you have a bag... you can say, "Yeah, in my back pocket!"
BA-DUM-CHING! ;) Below is some information about these bags I got to try first hand.

ReUseit™ Recycled PET Mesh Ultra Compact Tote
  • Long handles, easy to carry
  • Folds into tiny, attached pouch
  • Opens to full size bag that holds over 25 lbs
  • Machine washable
  • Milled in Japan, assembled in China with Fair Labor/Fair Wages
  • 1% for the Planet Member
  • Backed by the reuseit™ Lifetime Guarantee

This Mesh Tote is perfect for bringing to the Farmer's Market. I love the long handles, so I can just toss it over my shoulder and still have my other hands free while I shop. The semi-transparent material makes it easy to see what's in my bag, so I don't have to search all over for my keys that I tossed in the bottom. Since the material is so breathable it doesn't smother my delicate produce. This bag would also work great as a last minute diaper bag, to carry towels to the beach, or of course, a trip to the store.

ReUseit™ Workhorse, Eco-Circle 100% Recycled Fabric
  • Made with 100% recycled post-consumer PET (plastic bottles, polyester fibers, etc.) - Same strength and durability of virgin nylon, no petroleum
  • Designed to fit over supermarket checkout frames
  • Opens to full sized bag that holds over 25 lbs.
  • Folds into tiny sack attached to inside of the bag
  • Milled in Japan, assembled in China with Fair Labor/Fair Wage
  • 1% for the Planet Member
  • Backed by the reuseit™ Lifetime Guarantee
The workhorse, seriously, the name says it all. After my trip to the farmer's market I needed to go to the grocery store to get some things left on my list. I kid you not, I stuffed this bag to the brim, and it held up incredibly well. I fit a container of orange juice, a gallon of milk, and 2 containers of apple juice in this one bag! I have a few reusable bags that are just so stiff, but this one is so silky, plus the colors they come in are gorgeous.

Want to Win a Workhorse bag of your own?

I have one ReUseit™ Workhorse bag that will be shipped to one lucky winner!
TO ENTER: Tell me what you'd use your Workhorse bag for, and leave it in the comment area below.
 
ADDITIONAL ENTRIES:
  1. Blog about this giveaway and include a link back to this post.
  2. Subscribe to Creative Crunchy Mama via email
  3. "Like" Creative Crunchy Mama on Facebook
  4. Add our blog’s link to your blog’s sidebar.
  5. Add Creative Crunchy Mama to your blog roll.
*Be sure to leave a separate comment for each method of entry.
Contest ends November 14th at 11:59 pm EST. Winner will be announced here and contacted via email. Open only to residents of the United States ages 18 and over. One entry Per Person per method of entry.
GOOD LUCK!

Monday, October 25, 2010

I'm Baaack!

Now that life is as stable as it can be with 4 kids, I have a bit of time to commit to blogging again. I want to thank everyone for their patience during my break, and I'm excited to be back:) I have so much more to share in the upcoming weeks including a giveaway, healthy recipes, and some of life's experiences. I hope you stick around, and remember to follow me on facebook, or subscribe to my blog via e-mail!
-Crunchy Kelly:)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A New Addition, It's a BOY!

We have been celebrating the newest addition to our family. Our fourth child was born this past Sunday, and it was the most incredible birth I've ever seen or experienced, it was truly amazing. We waited to find out the gender of the baby until' it was born, and WHAT A SURPRISE! It's a BOY! I'm so thankful to have such an incredible support system and I've been on cloud nine just soaking up this special time.

It's wonderful, life changing events, that make me slow down from the hustle and bustle of life. Whether it's the birth of a child, or a few extra minutes snuggling with your child, or a hearty laugh with a good friend, slow down a bit, and truly soak up these precious moments, because this is what truly matters.

I will be taking a break from blogging while I enjoy these sweet moments, and adjust to life with 4 precious kids. And remember, slow down a bit, and don't forget to enjoy life's little miracles.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Silly Sayings: Baby Bump

Kids always say the funniest things, and I love to share these moments that make me giggle.

So my youngest son, (who is 2) is starting to grasp the idea that there is a baby in mommy's belly. (Honestly, it's hard to overlook this evergrowing belly that I've been sporting.) I'll ask him where the baby is, and he'll point proudly to my belly with a grin. It's so incredible to see that even at such a young age, children really do understand what's going on in the world around them. However it certainly makes you realize how much more they have to learn when they do something like this...

A few days ago we were just hanging out watching a bit of cartoons together, and he pointed to my ankle and in a matter-of-fact voice says, "Baby!" I.about.died. Hopefully the next lesson in life he will learn is, not every bump on mommy's body has a baby in it. :)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Favorite Things: Real Salt

Salt. Seems simple enough right? But just like many are discovering that whole wheat flour is healthier than it's stripped down version of white flour, I've found that Sea salt it better, than table salt...

I was recently introduced to this new salt, well new to me, thanks to my awesome Sis. It's called REAL Salt. Now doesn't that sound good? Talk about being real, it is an all-natural sea salt taken from an ancient sea bed in Central Utah. It also contains 60 naturally occurring trace minerals. And did I mention it is SO.good. I love to sprinkle a touch of Real Salt onto simple snacks like tomatos, and cucumber slices, it makes all the difference.

Since it isn't refined like most salts, it isn't just a plain white substance, instead it has lots of character. Recently my husband saw a small bowl of it and asked why I had sand in the kitchen, ha! It has many different colored specks, but does resemble a sand. It's because it's in a natural state, and not heavily proccessed. It really does put other salts to shame.

I bought a 26 oz. pouch of it about a month ago, and it seems that it will last for several more months easily. They do sell smaller portions as well, and can be found at many health food stores and online at https://shop.redmondtrading.com/shop/ .

Go on, take a taste test! Taste Real Salt, then another salt, it is crazy how much better it is.

Sources:
http://realsalt.com/
http://www.naturalnews.com/029212_sea_salt_sodium.html

Friday, September 17, 2010

Homeschooling: What to Teach?

There is a huge amount of homeschool curriculum out there, and it's beyond overwhelming. But with all the selection, it can be a good thing. That just means you are sure to find something that is a perfect fit for you and your child. When it comes to homeschooling you can spend hundreds or homeschool on a shoestring budget. It's totally up to you. For me, I did a bit of research, but in the end, used recommendations from other homeschoolers, and just tried it. The great thing is you can always change things up if you want to. For example, last year we used Saxon Math, but decided to try out Horizons Math this year, they both have their benefits, but my daughter seems to really love the workbook that comes with the Horizons Math curriculum.
The curriculum I've chosen to use over the years includes the following:

For Preschool:
We used The Letter of The Week, http://www.letteroftheweek.com/  This is a WONDERFUL free curriculum that can be printed out. I love all the fun ideas, especially the activities for the preschool and kindergarten years. I did a lesson about cats over 2 1/2 years ago, and my daughter will still talk about it anytime she sees a ball of yarn;)

For Kindergarten:
Handwriting Without Tears
Hooked on Phonics
Saxon Math
For 1st Grade:
Handwriting Without Tears
Hooked on Phonics
Horizon Math
Science- Living Learning Books
Hooked on Spanish

As you can see for the first few years, I really just focused on Reading, Writing and Math, and we get to experience the other subjects in different forms. For example, we have our homeschool co-op, where each mom will teach a specific subject each week and we rotate. I teach art, another teaches science, another literature/music, and of course we have to have our field trips for hands on experience;) We go on alot of field trips to the nature museum, and science center, I feel when the kids get to go to these places they really are engaged in the learning experience. I still remember the things I learned as a kid from going on field trips over what I learned in the classroom, it is a much more memorable learning experience.

So, if you are still wondering, "What curriculum should I use?" Here are a few good starting points:
A great site for homeschool curriculum reviews can be found here: http://www.homeschoolreviews.com/
This website has reviews from real people that have actually used the different kinds of curriculum.

If you're looking for more curriculum info. check out, "100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum". This book offers alot of great information about different teaching styles as well as some great curriculum reviews. If you don't want to purchase it, check out your local library, they may carry it.



Plus, check out these other great free websites:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Save on what you LOVE to eat

I know that many people think eating healthy is expensive, but there are definitly ways to save. I also know that the majority of coupons that are out there (especially the ones that come in the Sunday paper) seem to be mainly for junk food. But here is a great way to save on the items you love to buy. Contact the manufacturer directly! Go to their website, and fill out a contact form letting them know how much you like their product. Or you can look on the package of food, and get the contact info from there, and give them a call. They love to hear our feedback, it's what keeps them going. 9 times out of 10 I get some really great coupons in the mail. If there is a product that you have been wanting to try, you can contact the manufacturer directly also, and ask for a coupon so you can try out the product without having to pay full price. I try to contact at least a few manufacturer's every few weeks. It only takes a few minutes, and you'll be surprised what a few minutes of your time can translate into. The savings really adds up!

Plus, to stretch your savings even more, save these coupons until' your stores have a double or triple coupon event. Many stores will have coupon events where they will double or triple your coupon's face value! My local Harris Teeter seems to have a super double/ triples every few months, (in fact they are having a super doubles event now until'Sept. 21, and will double coupons up to $1.98 face value, meaning if you have a $1.50 coupon they will take off an additional $1.50, so a savings of $3total!) and often other stores in the area will as well to keep up with the competition.

So do a quick search for your favorite manufacturer's and contact them directly, and let them know how you feel about their products. Hopefully the savings will start rolling in:)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Veggie and Hummus Snack

The kids and I LOVE hummus, it makes veggies so craveable, and hummus is a healthy dip. Here is a little veggie and hummus bowl I put together. I used small skewers to put the little tomatoes and cucumber slices on. Then added carrot, celery and red pepper slices and a dollop of hummus. If you serve food that is colorful, and with fun shapes, it's so much more attractive to kids. Especially when the snack is interactive, my kids love to "dip" their foods.
Most stores carry hummus, or you can make your own. All you need is chick peas (garbanzo beans) a bit of tahini (sesame seed paste), lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and salt. When I'm really lazy, I'll skip the tahini and it still turns out pretty good. If you want to get fancy you can try a roasted red pepper hummus too. I once found a chocolate hummus recipe... I know it doesn't sound like it'd be that great, but it.was.incredible, just wish I could find a recipe for it.
If you haven't made hummus before, give it a try. Here is a link to a basic hummus recipe:

Do you have a tasty hummus recipe to share? Leave a comment below.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Win a REUSEIT Bag! COMING SOON:)

How cute is this bag? It's a great reusable bag by Reusit that's made from 100% recycled post-consumer PET (plastic bottles, polyester fibers, etc.), it's super strong, and can fold up small enough to put in your pocket. Best of all...you could win one! The giveaway will start soon so...
sign up for my blog e-mails, or "like" Creative Crunchy Mama on Facebook so you can be the first to know when the giveaway starts! Tell you're friends too;)


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Klean Kanteen: Enter for a chance to WIN!

Grist.org is giving you the chance to win a Klean Kanteen with the Grist.org logo on it! Test your knowledge of non-toxic cleaning supplies then enter your email address to be entered.

Click on the link below, and play "Toxic Trivia" sponsored by Klean Kanteen
http://www.grist.org/

I have a Klean Kanteen that my awesome sister had gotten me, and I absolutely LOVE it. It keeps my water ice cold for hours, even in the hot van. I definitly love that I don't waste tons of plastic water bottles, and that the Klean Kanteen is free of BPA and other nasties.

For more information about Klean Kanteen, or if you'd like to purchase one, check out their site at:
http://www.kleankanteen.com/

Friday, September 3, 2010

Keep Your Cash Out the Trash: Bread

Like I mentioned in a previous post, I loathe throwing out food, so instead of letting it go to waste, I try to find  new use for it before it goes bad.

I had some bread that was nearing the end, so I decided to give it a makeover. Turn this bread into breadcrumbs! These homemade breadcrumbs are so simple to make, and so much better than storebought.

Homemade Breadcrumbs:
  • Just toast the bread lightly to help remove the moisture. I like to put myn in the oven on low for about 10 minutes on each side, You could also use a toaster, or toaster oven too.
  • When the bread is nicely toasted, toss it in a food processor and whirl until' desired texture. Put in a freezer storage bag and store in your freezer until' ready to use.

A few more tips: I know many don't use their end pieces of bread, so this is a great way to put them to use. If you don't have time to make breadcrumbs right away but don't want your bread to go bad before you get to it, stick it in the freezer until' you have a few minutes. Or even toss your end pieces in a freezer bag until' you have enough to make a batch of breadcrumbs. Plus, don't be afraid to combine different types of bread together, whether it's wheat bread or a few pieces of sour dough bread mix them all up.

Enjoy!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

How to Save with: EVIC Deals

Harris Teeter Grocery Store has something called EVIC. Basically you can sign up on their website and they will send the weekly ad directly to your email.
Sign up here: http://www.harristeeter.com/promotions/e-vic/e-vic_benefits.aspx

They also will run special evic sales. This week my evic deal is a free loaf of Nature's Own bread. I would love to just use Ezekial Bread all the time (it's a sprouted bread http://www.foodforlife.com/ ) but it's not always the most budget friendly option. So, I often get Nature's Own Bread especially since it no longer contains High Fructose Corn Syrup.

Please note: EVIC deals vary by location, and not everyone will get the same deals. Check your evic email, or bottom of your Harris Teeter reciept to find out YOUR specific evic deal.

Most weeks the evic deals are pretty good, but lately I seem to be getting really good deals, like the free item I mentioned above. A few weeks ago, the evic deal was a free jar of almond butter! Gotta love some free almond butter:)

Just another quick way to save some green:)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Homemade Yogurt, SO easy

We have all heard about the benefits of yogurt. Even the yogurt section in the store seems to be ever expanding and we are constantly slammed with commercials making all these promises to make you healthier.
But what's really in all that store bought yogurt? Aside from all the things I can't even begin to pronounce, there is also TONS of sugar. There is also the organic yogurt, which is a much better choice, but with 3 kids, you can imagine we go through alot of yogurt, and that isn't exactly the most budget friendly option.

So what then? Is there a less expensive alternative with all the great benefits but without all the yucky ingredients and sugar?

Why yes! ... You can make your own!

I hope I didn't scare you away...I know it sounds super scary but really it is SO simple.
I found the recipe for homemade crockpot yogurt here:
I've taken the basic idea, but altered it a bit.
Homemade Crockpot Yogurt by Crunchy Kelly
  • What you'll need
  • Half a gallon of whole milk (I use organic, but if I had a raw milk source, I'd be all over that)
  • 1/2 a cup of store bought yogurt, must be plain live/active culture yogurt (I use organic greek yogurt since it seems to keep the yogurt thicker. You will only need this the first time you make homemade yogurt, since you will be able to use yours as a starter next time)
  • crockpot
  • thick towel
  • Directions

  1. Set your crockpot on low, and add 1/2 a gallon of milk. Cover and cook for 2 1/2 hours

  2. Then, turn off your crockpot, and unplug it, let it sit for 3 hours

  3. After 3 hours passed, whisk in 1/2 cup store bought plain live/active culture yogurt

  4. Put the lid back on the crockpot, cover with towel and let sit for 8 hours
I usually start this process around 6pm, and then let is sit for the 8 hours overnight, and in the morning when I wake up my concotion has magically turned to yogurt!

This yogurt does turn out thinner than store bought yogurt, but I like to scrap off the extra liquid before putting it in containers to help with that. You can also drain the yogurt in a few layers of cheese cloth. The liquids will drip out and you will have a much thicker consistency, kind of like greek yogurt.

Make sure to reserve 1/2 a cup of your homemade yogurt, so you can make a new batch within 7-10 days. I make this almost every week, and the I end up spending less than $3, and it makes TONS of yogurt. If you don't like to eat yogurt, try freezing it in popsicle molds (my kids love this) or add some to smoothies. It makes is super creamy and yummy. I don't add anything to the whole batch of yogurt, instead I wait until' right before I serve it and mix in my favorites, local raw honey and frozen blueberries.

ENJOY!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Felt Food Swap

My kids and I have fallen in love with felt food, and decided we wanted to grow our collection of adorable creations. So instead of having to buy 10 different colored pieces of felt, and 10 different colors of thread, and figuring out the patterns to make 10 different kinds of felt food, I had a felt food swap!

It's always nice to connect with other people that enjoy the same things as you, and I really love having a creative outlet.
To organize a felt food swap, you basically just need a handful of participants to commit to making a specific felt food, and a date a few weeks out to have the actual swap.

I organized this with some members of a local mom's group, and had 7 ladies total participate. Everyone chose what they wanted to make, and over the next few weeks everyone sewed together their chosen felt food (I made 7 sugar cookies). I reserved a room at the local library for an hour, so we could meet up, chat, and swap our handmade items. After the swap we all had an array of adorable felt food! It was really exciting to see everyone's hard work pay off, and the kids all loved it!

Look how cute everything turned out!


Handmade felt food items made by:
  • Carrots- Lindsay W.
  • Lettuce- Lisa M.
  • Bowtie Pasta and Pasta Bag- Hope
  • Pink Sugar Cookie- Kelly F.
  • Strawberries- Lauren
  • Fried Eggs- Michelle H.
  • Cinnamon Rolls- Krystin M. 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Keep your cash out the Trash: Bananas

I cringe when I have to throw out food. I might as well be throwing wads of cash in the trash! I've found some great ways to help keep that food from going to waste, so I can get the most out of the not-so-cute looking fruits/veggies that have ripened past their prime.

We love bananas around here, but sometimes we don't eat them soon enough. I know these are to ripe for my liking, and the kids think the brown spots are gross. 

BEFORE:

AFTER:
What kid can't resist these adorable banana pops? Plus they are so simple to make!

Frozen Banana Pops:

  1. Just peel your bananas, then slice them in half.

  2. Insert popsicle sticks in the cut side, lay on cookie sheet/ baking tray and freeze until' firm

  3. Make sure to transfer to a freezer bag within a few hours to preserve.
*If you want to get fancy, dip bananas in a bit of melted chocolate for a real treat, then freeze.


Some other ideas for overipe bananas include using them in banana bread, and smoothies. If you aren't going to use them right away, go ahead and peel them and freeze them on a cookie sheet (to prevent sticking together) then transfer to freezer bag to store for a few months.




Friday, August 27, 2010

FREE Newman's Own Salsa

This week Harris Teeter has Newman's Own Salsa on sale, buy 1 get 1 free. They are normally $2.99, so that makes them $1.49 each (you don't have to buy 2 to get the sale price)

Go to http://www.coupons.com/ to print out a coupon $.75 off Newman's Own Salsa. Harris Teeter doubles coupons everyday up to $.99 so that means with this coupon the salsa is free, you just pay tax!
Enjoy:)

Note: Sale runs August 25-August 31, 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Homeschooling: Where to Start?

So I finally wrapped my brain around the fact that I was going to homeschool my children, but where do I start? I was so lost I couldn't see the light peeking through at the other end of the tunnel. There seemed to be so many unanswered questions, and to much information to understand this from that.

For starters, you should find out what the laws are for your state. Once I found out that NC doesn't require you to register your child with the state until' age 7, it made things a bit easier on me. Just having to deal with the technical stuff up front was a bit daunting. I know in SC you  need to register your child with the state when they are 5, so requirements vary by state.

How do I know what my state requires? Check out the link below to see your states Home School laws:
http://www.hslda.org/laws/default.asp

Once you know your state requirements, you can submit the appropriate information, etc.

Then you're ready for obstacle #2- What to teach.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Out with the Old, In with the New

So I've been busy the past few days tagging clothes for an upcoming consignment sale. I love consignment sales. It's a great way to make a little cash from some of your kids old clothes, and to find some great deals for their new wardrobe. Talk about being green!

If you are wanting to consign some of your kids clothes it can be time consuming but I honestly enjoy the process of sorting through their clothes, hanging them, and tagging. If this isn't for you, you can always look into consigning your clothes in a consignment store (although they usually only offer a 50/50 split instead of 70/30 split, it can be worth it for some though) I've been able to get hangers for free from some stores (ie: kmart and dry cleaners) so check there before buying new. Or sometimes people will post free hangers on craigslist too. Also save the hangers from any clothes you purchase for the next sale.

If you are wanting to shop at a consignment sale, go early if you are looking for something specific. But if you are really frugal, wait until' the 1/2 off sale, that's what I do;) Most consignment sales offer a 1/2 off sale where many of the items are reduced by half! Then I can buy twice as much! ha!

Here is a great resource to find Kid Consignment sales near you:
http://www.kidsconsignmentsales.com/seasonalsales.htm

Do you have any tips about Consignment Sales? Please share:)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Egg Recall... Are you extra cautious?

So we've all heard about the egg recall. It's been all over the news, and it's surely making many extra cautious when buying more eggs. There is a long list of egg brands that were effected, here is a link to more information about the Egg recall:  http://news.yahoo.com/s/ygreen/20100819/sc_ygreen/massiveeggrecallhowtocheckyourcartonforrecalledeggs


So what do I do? My family loves eggs?
The best advice I can give, is to go to your local farmer's market. Many farmer's markets offer fresh, local eggs from range hens. Make sure to ask questions to find out the way the laying hens are raised. The best conditions for laying hens are in a free range setting where they get plenty of sunlight and natural feed. Plus make sure that no antibiotics or growth hormones are given to them. Yes, local  free range eggs will be a more expensive, but the benefits far outweigh the cost. Plus, think of how much more nutritious they are.

You can find a local farmer's market by searching here:
http://www.localharvest.org/
Over the years, I've learned about eggs, and the horrible conditions of laying hens. Especially from companies that sell mass produced eggs, it's truly inhumane. Here is a link to more information...it is the sad truth of mass produced laying hens. Be careful though if you choose to follow the link, it is incredibly sad, but the more we know, the more we can change the future of our food: http://www.vegsoc.org/info/laying.html
Honestly though, after I saw the living conditions of the laying hens, it's no surprise that there was a recall. And if you still want to see more, check out Youtube, they have plenty of videos about the living conditions. This is why I feel buying from a local farmer is so important. They are able to give the hens a much better life.

Just know: You CAN make a difference. Everytime you make a purchase, you are voting. We can change the future of food for the better. So on Saturday, head to your local farmer's market in search of good quality eggs, from hens that were raised humanely;)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"I can't Homeschool"

Those are the words I murmured when my husband first suggested homeschooling the kids.

Really? You want ME to homeschool our kids? I just couldn't believe it. So many questions and thoughts rushed through my head. How am I supposed to do that? Where do I start? But what about me time? What about state regulations? What curriculum am I supposed to use? How much is this going to cost? My kids need to be able to socialize...I can't school them ALL.Day.long... Oh, and I HATE math...

Eventually the idea of homeschooling sunk in. It would be nice to have the kids home with me... they just grow up so quick and I'd get to spend plenty of time with them. I'd rather not put them in public schools... and not really interested in the cost associated with private schools, plus I stay at home anyways, so they might as well stay at home with me. Right?

It wasn't that easy... I was still so nervous and felt like I plunged into an ocean of unfamiliar water. I pushed forward, and read everything related to homeschooling. The more I read, the more confident I became. It honestly took me over a year and a half of homeschooling my oldest to finally feel like I got the hang of homeschooling my children. But believe me when I say... I'm still learning.
Over the next several posts, I will focus on some of these thoughts and concerns that I had about homeschooling. If you have any questions about homeschooling, feel free to ask, I'd be happy to help however I can.

To get you started though, check out:

Plus, a few book recommendations include:
"Teach your own", by John Holt
"The Well Trained Mind", by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise
"So, You Are Thinking of Homeschooling" by Lisa Welchel

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

All this for just...

Here are some items from 2 different trips to Harris Teeter this week during their super doubles event. I was able to get all of these items for just $6.82+tax which is great because that is about the same I'd pay for just 2 of the Almond Milk normally priced!

TLC cookies $2.50- $1 coupon= $.50
Kiss my Face toothpaste $3.49- $1.50coupon= $.49 each
Organic Valley Cream Cheese $2.59-$1 coupon= $.59 each
Organic Valley Whip Cream $2.35- $1 coupon= $.35 each
Oikos greek yogurt $1.89- $1 coupon= Free
Almond Breeze Milk $2.99-$1 coupon= $.99 each

 When you're out shopping, keep your eyes open for coupons throughout the store, you'll be surprised by how many there are. My kids love to help me find "tickets".  The Oikos coupon was on a big board that looks like a penguin that was full of coupons near the dairy section a few months ago. I saved them and used them at the right time to get the yogurt for free!

So what were you able to get during Harris Teeter's super doubles? Post your great finds:)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Handmade Felt Food

About a year ago, I discovered the wonderful world of felt food. It's so adorable and doesn't have alot of the chemicals and toxins that most store bought toys have.

Our bodies are constantly exposed to yucky chemicals, and toxins. Many plastic toys have these yucky chemicals, as some of you mom's may recall the recent pull of plastic bottles that contain BPA (Bispenol A) Definition found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisphenol_A

So for me, it is important to limit the exposure of as many chemicals and toxins as I can from my home, and what better way to do it than with this adorable felt food! This doesn't mean I threw out every toy that my kids own, but I do what I can when I can, ya know?

My kids love it, and the texture of the felt is also nice in comparison to the plastic play foods. Below are a few veggies I made recently. I will be posting a free tutorial soon, so you can learn to make some of your own felt food for your kids to enjoy too:)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Watermelon Fruit Basket

Who says fruit has to be boring? Presentation is everything;)
I remember this fun watermelon fruit basket from when I was a kid. I'd always see it at cookouts, and family get-togethers. There was something so appealing about it, and needless to say, my kids think it's the coolest thing.

We are celebrating my sons birthday and I needed something fun, and easy transport for the pool party. This was the first thing I thought of. It's healthy, festive, and perfect for these hot days.

Watermelon Fruit Basket:
Ingredients:
-watermelon
-cantaloupe
-grapes
(You can add tons of different fruits, I find that blueberries, strawberries, and pineapple work great too.)

First you will need to decide where to cut your watermelon. I made a 2" band down the center for the "handle" of the basket, then made a straight cut horizontally to make the openings in the watermelon, and removed the 2 large chunks. Then it was easier to make the decorative border by cutting small triangle wedges.
Once the watermelon basket is cut, you can use a melon baller (I just used a tablespoon used for measuring and it worked great) Use the melon baller, or tablespoon in my case, to scoop out the cantaloupe. Add the grapes, or other fruit you choose. Cover and refrigerate until' time to dig in. Enjoy:)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

FREE Lunch Tote from Earthfare!

I know I keep posting about Earthfare, but I LOVE Earthfare:) Now until' September 17th, you can signup and redeem a coupon for a free insulated lunch tote!

We all know that bringing your lunch with you is better than going through a fast food restaurant, and it's even better when you can reuse your lunch tote.

Click on the link below, fill out a bit of info, and bring your coupon to Earthfare and redeem for a free lunch tote. Now you just need to decide what to pack for lunch;)

http://www.earthfarechallenge.com/

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Double Your Savings

Yes, it is totally possible to save money and eat natural and organic food too. Occassionally, grocery stores have "double" or "triple" coupon event. Here in the Charlotte area, Harris Teeter will have a double coupon event August 11-August 17, 2010. Harris Teeter will double coupons everyday up to $.99, but this event is really great because they will double the amount of your coupon up to $1.98. So if you have a coupon for a product that is $1.50, then that will double to $3.00 off your item! Double your savings!

Check out Harris Teeter's website for their store policies regarding coupons:
http://www.harristeeter.com/promotions/online_coupons/coupon_policy.aspx

Some places to find coupons:
-Your sunday newspaper
-Earthfare Grocery Store has a coupon booklet at their stores called "Mambo Sprouts", and have tons of great organic/natural food coupons
-Printable coupon websites- coupons.com; smartsource.com
-Also visit your favorite food websites, they will sometimes have printable coupons.

Don't lug all of your coupons to Harris Teeter and do your matchups in the store... trust me, with my kids in tow, it's nearly impossible;) Instead see what the price of an item is easily by visiting Harris Teeter's website, under their Express Lane link. You can search for different items and see if it's on sale or not. Much quicker and easier than trying to locate it at the store.
http://www.harristeeter.com/shopping/express_lane/express_lane.aspx

Below I've matched up some great deals. The link below will bring you to the website that you can print the coupons. You can typically print 2 per computer. Please note, this is in the Charlotte area. Prices and participation may vary.

-Arrowhead Mills Organic Flax Seeds $2.85 - $1.00 coupon= $.85
http://print.coupons.com/couponweb/Offers.aspx?pid=15046&zid=uw18&nid=10

-Blue Diamond Almond Breeze-Almond Milk $2.79- $1.00 coupon= $.79
http://www.earthfare.com/HealthySavings/coupons.aspx

-Grande Tortilla Chips $2.99- $1.00 coupon = $.99
http://www.earthfare.com/HealthySavings/coupons.aspx

-Kind Fruit & Nut Bar $1.67- $1.00 off 2 coupon= $1.34 for 2
http://www.earthfare.com/HealthySavings/coupons.aspx

-Kiss My Face Kids Toothpaste $3.49- $1.49 coupon= just $.51!
http://www.earthfare.com/HealthySavings/coupons.aspx

-Organic Valley Organic Cream Cheese $2.59- $1.00 coupon= $.59
http://www.organicvalley.coop/coupons/

-Organic Valley Organic Heavy Whipping Cream $2.35- $1.00 coupon= $.35!
http://www.organicvalley.coop/coupons/

-Apple & Eve Juice Boxes $2.99- $1.00 off 2= $3.98 for 2
http://www.appleandeve.com/coupon.php

-Stonyfield Farm Yogurt - Yo Kids Organic $3.99- $1.00 coupon= $1.99
http://www.stonyfield.com/coupons_offers/index.jsp?utm_source=msn&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=coupons&utm_campaign=corporate

If you have any great deals to share, or questions, feel free to post in the comment box below. Happy Savings! :)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Banana Zucchini Bread/ Muffins

Do you have an over abundance of zucchini from the summer harvest? Try this tastey Banana Zucchini bread/ muffin recipe, compliments of veganbess at vegweb.com
http://vegweb.com/index.php?topic=28286.0

... yes, their vegan;)

Don't be put off because it's a vegan recipe though. You probably won't even be able to tell, once you taste these muffins. Why try vegan recipes? I like to limit my intake of dairy and animal products when possible... the cost of local eggs can be pricey so why not save them for when you really need them? Go on, give it a try, hopefully you will be just as pleased and me.

Now for the ingredients. I like to use wholewheat flour, and honey in place of sugar... but here are the ingredients from the original recipe:
1 cup grated zucchini
1-1/2 over-ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup oil
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)


Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease 9" bread pan or 6-muffin pan.

2) Stir zucchini, bananas, oil, sugar, and vanilla together. Mix with hands if necessary break up banana chunks.

3) Add the remaining ingredients and stir well.

4) Pour batter into bread pan or muffin tin and bake 50-60 minutes for bread, 30 minutes for muffins.

Serves: 1 loaf or 6 muffins

Preparation time: 30 mins

Voila! Yummy muffins:) Like I mentioned before, you can save tons of time if you double the recipe, and freeze the extra batch. So next time you want a muffin you don't have to start from scratch, just pull it out of the freezer and let it thaw for a bit. Quick and easy.


Time Saving Tip:
If you're like me you have tons of zucchini, thanks to my father's awesome gardening skills;) So I like to shred all of my zucchini at once(in a food processor) and freeze what's left over. Just make sure to defrost the zucchini before use.

Now when the colder months roll around, I still have some zucchini to make more yummy bread. There is nothing like warm bread, and the scent of cinnamon lingering in the air.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

To Market, To Market

Fresh air, and local fresh produce.
There is nothing quite like it. A morning out to your local Farmer's Market. There are so many colors, scents, sounds and tastes to experience. Tables full of delicious fresh produce, homemade soaps, a local duo playing wonderful music, colorful flowers, homemade pastries, and sometimes even live cooking demonstrations.






Not only is it an eventful morning out, but I love being able to support local farmers. Those farmers are some of the hardest working people out there... it takes so much dedication, and I absolutely admire that. Plus, I love to get my family super fresh local produce. Often times the produce was picked within the last 24 hours, sometimes even the morning of. Doesn't get much fresher than that!


When you shop at the grocery store, you don't know where the produce was grown, what pesticides it was sprayed with, or what farm it came from. But when you go to your local farmer's market you are able to ask questions about the food, and often times I've found they follow organic practices, but have chosen not to get organic certification just because it can come with a hefty price tag.

There are some Farmer's Markets that will only sell items made, or produce grown in the area (within x amount of miles) but I've found other markets that don't have those same restrictions, and sell the same produce you'd find at the grocery store. So basically just ask tons of questions so you can find what products you want to buy.

Don't know where a local Farmer's Market is by you? Check out www.localharvest.org There you can search for markets in your area.

I like to bring my own reusable bags to carry my produce in, and the kids even help out;) So, grab your bags, and head out to your local farmer's market and support your local farms while getting the best quality food for your family.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Save $ at Earthfare

I know many believe that eating healthy is expensive... but it doesn't have to be. There are many ways to save, especially with coupons. Earthfare has a great incentive to sign up for their emails. They will often have great promotions, and really great store coupons. Often times the coupon is for a free item, and there is sometimes a minimum purchase. I love it especially when it is for a product that I haven't tried before, that way I can see if I really like it. Especially if I am brand loyal to a product, this is a great way to try something new without breaking the bank. Plus, 9 times out of 10 I end up liking the product so much, I start adding it to my weekly shopping list;)

This week they are giving away a dozen natural eggs with a $5 minimum purchase! Click on the link below to see the coupon, and at the bottom of the page, you can sign up to recieve the Earthfare Newsletter and coupons.
http://www.earthfare.com/HealthySavings/EmailCoupon_3.aspx

Monday, August 2, 2010

Kids Eat FREE at Earthfare

There's nothing better than grabbing a bite to eat while out and about, especially when your kids eat for free. It's even better when you know you are eating high quality food, that's delicious and nutritious.

Did you know that kids can eat for free at Earthfare? Thursday nights from 4pm-8pm and with the purchase of an adult meal of $5 or more. For those of you with large families this is really great because for each adult meal you purchase can get up to 6 free kids meals. It's really a great deal!

I brought my kids there one Thursday night when they first offered this. I picked out a tasty sandwich and blue organic chips and each of my kids picked out a kids meal. So me and 3 kids all had dinner for under $10! That's a steal! My kids enjoyed choosing their sandwiches and sides, and there are plenty of options too.

Earthfare is known for being the first grocery store to totally give the boot to High Fructose Corn Syrup, that means that out of all the hundreds of thousands of items they sell, not one contains high fructose corn syrup! This gives me such peace of mind and I'm so glad to see that they have such high standards for food. Earthfare also offers tons of organic products as well. Their blue organic chips are delish.

So next time you need a break from cooking but don't want to break the bank while trying to feed your family high quality food, bring them by Earthfare on Thursday between 4-8pm and let the kids eat free.

Go here for the details: http://tomatotalk.earthfare.com/2010/05/13/kids-eat-free/

Check out Earthfare.com to find a location near you:)

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Carrot Muffins

So I promised to share my carrot muffin recipe. If you don't want to juice the carrots you could substitute shredded carrots in place of the carrot pulp. In order to have enough carrot pulp for this recipe, I juiced about 8-10 carrots, and 2 apples which makes about 2 tall glasses of juice (enough for me and my kids) and you will end up with about 2 cups of carrot/apple pulp. I just use the apple pulp too, you could use all carrot pulp if you want to. If you can't use your pulp right away, you can stick it in an airtight container for up to about 24 hours, or you can freeze it. Just make sure to defrost before you make these muffins.

I like these muffins because they are very earthy, and the raisins add an extra sweetness to each bite. These are a bit more dense, because of the whole wheat flour. If you want to get creative try adding an ripe banana or 2 to your batter for a bit more sweetness and moisture.

Carrot Muffins
Makes 12

Ingredients:

2 Cups whole wheat flour
1 Cup extra virgin olive oil (or you can use vegetable oil)
1/4 cup water
1 Teaspoon sea salt
2 Teaspoons cinnamon
1 Teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
2 Teaspoons baking Soda
2 Teaspoons vanilla
3/4 Cup of brown sugar (I like to use local raw honey instead)
2 Cups carrot pulp

4 medium to large eggs
1 Cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease approximately 12 muffin tins thoroughly. Mix the whole wheat flour, olive oil, water, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, vanilla, sugar, and carrot pulp together. After these ingredients are blended, add in the eggs, nuts, and raisins and mix thoroughly. Scoop mixture into muffin pan:


Bake for about 18-20 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes and enjoy!


When I make breads or muffins I like to double the recipe and freeze half of the batch. This way on those crazy days we can just pull a muffin out the freezer let it thaw and you've got a tasty homemade snack. My kids love these muffins for breakfast, or anytime of day for a snack. Enjoy!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Carrot Juice

Several years ago, my aunt made fresh carrot juice and I have loved it ever since. It was earthy, sweet, and soo delicious. My kids even love it, although they don't care for added ginger in theirs... they say it's to spicy;)
There is nothing like fresh, homemade juices. It is so great to know what is in the juice...and that there are no added preservatives.

Carrots have tons of health benefits, we all know that they are great for your eyesight but also improve the functioning of your immune system. Carrots have tons of beta caratene that converts into vitamin A in our bodies. Some studies have shown Vitamin A to be beneficial in preventing cancer because of it's antioxidant properties.

For homemade carrot juice, you will need a juicer. I've heard great things about the Jack Lalane juicer, but I got my juicer at Target and it works great. Or check out your local craigslist or yardsale, you can usually find them hardly used and at a fraction of the cost.

My favorite way to prepare carrot juice is to add an apple, and a bit of ginger. The apple gives it a bit more sweetness, and the ginger adds a hint of spice.

Step 1- Add 4-5 carrots, and 1 apple to your juicer. Now empty the pulp out of your juicer and save this in an airtight container, you can use it in a recipe. You can add it to muffins, soups, really just about anything, but I will share my muffin recipe later;)

Step 2- Juice about a 1" chunk of ginger, or less to taste. (I like myn "spicy") Then enjoy!

Here's a tip: I like to keep my fruit and veggies in the fridge, not only because they keep longer, but when you juice them, the juice is already nice and cold. You should drink your juice as soon as your done juicing it, otherwise it will begin to separate and just doesn't save well.

Have fun experimenting with different juices you can make, try adding celery and carrots together, or beets and carrots. Juicing is a great way to get tons of nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables in a refreshing way.

If you are curious to try carrot juice, but just don't want to invest in a juicer, then check out your local grocery store. Earthfare, Trader Joe's and Harris Teeter carry carrot juice, look in the refridgerated section, and make sure to check the label shows it's 100% carrot juice.

Cheers! To good eyesight! :)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Great Deal on "Food Inc." DVD


If you haven't seen the movie "Food Inc.", I HIGHLY recommend it. It is an incredible video that makes you wonder... Where does my food really come from? This is a must see video for everyone. Educate yourself about where your food comes from, so you can make informed decisions when you shop.

Buy.com has a great deal on "Food Inc." DVD, it's just $8.99 and FREE shipping! PLUS, to make it an even sweeter deal, sign up with MrRebates (where you can earn a percentage back on all of your online purchases!) to earn 3% back!

First sign up at MrRebates, here is a link:
Mr. Rebates

Once you've signed up, type in buy.com in the search box (top left hand corner)on the MrRebates website. Click on the Buy.com link, and it will automatically direct you to the website. Make sure to do this step so that your MrRebates account will be credited appropriately.

Now that you have been directed to Buy.com, type in "Food Inc DVD" in the search box. Add it to your cart and check out! Enjoy:)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pick-Your-Own Blueberries!

Talk about being frugal, where else can you get organic blueberries for just $2.50 lb? We recently took a trip to a local farm that offers pick-your-own blueberries. I'd been wanting to load up on a bunch of blueberries at a great price so that I could freeze a bunch for future use. It is the end of July and blueberries typically start to shrivel away by now, but I called the local farm, and the lady there said I could come by as long as she was there. It was overcast today, so I decided it was the perfect and possibly last time to get local blueberries this year. It was great, and there were still plenty left... in one hour the kids and I managed to pick 7 lbs of blueberries! Despite the fact that my youngest tripped and spilled about 1/2 lb of blueberries, and the fussing from getting a few ant bites (always make sure to wear sneakers, because ants love blueberries too!) We paid just $16, for local organic blueberries, what a deal, and boy are they tastey.

Now I have plenty of fresh blueberries to enjoy this week, and I rinsed and froze the rest. Rinse them (I did 2 times) then spread one layer of blueberries on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels (so they don't stick to the pan) freeze them, then you can toss them all in a bag. Frozen blueberries are a tastey treat right out of the bag, or you can use them to bake with.

Want to know where to go to find local pick-your-own farms? Check out pickyourown.org






Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Welcome to my blog

Creative Crunchy Mama blog was created to share my creative, frugal and crunchy life with others.

But what's "crunchy"?

"Crunchy Mama"- defined by Urban Dictionary:

"1. crunchy mama: Mother who supports homebirth, breastfeeding, baby wearing, cloth diapering, co-sleeping, gentle discipline, etc. One who questions established medical authority; tends to be vegetarian and/or prepare all-organic foods. See crunchy and hippie."


Yep, that's me, but I also love to be creative and frugal too! So follow along in my blog, and enjoy peeking into my life as a Creative Crunchy Mama:)


 
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