Archives for June 2013

10 Tips to Save Money on Your Next Vacation

10 Tips to Save on Your Vacation

Are you taking a vacation this year?

Here are 10 Tips on How You Can Save Money on Your Next Vacation:

We’re doing this Letterman style with a top 10 countdown.

Number 10. Don’t check your bag. If you don’t want to stow your bag in the overhead compartment, allow them to gate check it for you. It doesn’t cost you a thing!

Number 9. Consult the Staycation Guide to find FREE and budget kid-friendly things to do in over 100 cities.

Number 8. Take advantage of discounted gift cards for restaurants and attractions at Costco.

Number 7. Consult Living Social, and Amazon Local for deals in the city you are traveling to. By checking a few months in advance, you could save on attractions and dining.

Number 6. Book a hotel with a fridge in the room or with breakfast included. Skip expensive breakfasts out and try to eat in your room or at the complimentary buffet.

Number 5. Stay with Family or Friends. Just be a good guest. Offer to take them out, do your own dishes, and make sure the sheets are washed when you leave.

Number 4. Drive instead of fly. Download a free audible.com book to save your sanity, load everyone up into the car, and spend significantly less than it would be to fly.

Number 3. Take public transportation or walk at your destination. Try to book your hotel close to local attractions so you can walk or take short bus or metro rides. Most major cities now have good public transport that will cost you significantly less than a rental car.

Number 2. Eat where Kids Eat Free. Do you have kids under the age of 12? Lots of restaurant chains have one night per week where kids can eat free off the kids menu. Do a simple Google search for kids eat free to find them.

And my number 1 Tip on How to Save Money on Your Next Vacation is in this video:

Can’t see the video? Check it out here.

What is your favorite tip to save on a vacation?

4 Healthy (and Simple!) Summer Drinks

The following is a guest post with thanks to Stacy of A Delightful Home.

There’s something about summer that makes me want to reach for a nice, cool drink. It’s not just the heat, it’s the atmosphere.

Summer lends itself to sitting back and sipping something tasty. The problem is, sometimes that tasty drink is not a healthy one. And while there’s nothing wrong with an unhealthy treat every now and then, it’s nice to have some healthy drinks on hand so we can enjoy a delicious beverage more often.

Since summer is also a time for relaxing, we need simple drink recipes that don’t take much effort to prepare. The following four recipes are quick and easy (as well as tasty and healthy):

Orange Strawberry Grape Cooler

Orange strawberry grape cooler

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups red grapes (seedless)
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup frozen strawberries
3/4 cup ice cubes (approximately 6 or 7 regular-sized ice cubes)

Method

Place the grapes and orange juice in the blender and follow with the strawberries and ice cubes. Blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

Citrus Spritzer

Citrus spritzer

Ingredients

1 cup orange juice or grapefruit juice (or a combination of both)
1 cup mineral water

Method

Combine ingredients in a glass and add ice.

Since this recipe is a 1:1 ratio, it is easy to make large amounts to serve more people. Simply fill a pitcher with half juice and half mineral water and serve with ice.

This method works well with other juices, too. Raspberry juice or cranberry juice make great fruit spritzers.

Strawberry Lemon Refresher

strawberry lemon refresher

This drink includes a pinch of sea salt, which helps replace electrolytes, making this a great option for re-hydrating after exercise or other physical summer activities.

Ingredients

2 cups water
3 fresh strawberries, diced
2 thin slices of lemon
Pinch sea salt

Method

Place diced strawberries and lemon in the bottom of a glass, sprinkle salt over the top and pour water to fill the glass.

This drink is best when consumed within a few hours of preparing.

Fruity Water

Summer provides an abundance of delicious fruit. This fruit is not only good for eating, it is also a wonderful way to naturally flavor water. Try adding a few slices of your favorite fruit to a pitcher of water and ice. It looks pretty and tastes great, too.

Single fruits, like lemon or lime work well and are liked by many people, however, a combination of fruit creates a surprising treat. Try including kiwi, berries, or melon, for a drink that is healthy and sweet.

You can also increase the sweetness by adding a few drops of stevia.

If you want to liven up summer drinks, try adding a few rose petal ice cubes.

What are your favorite simple (and healthy) summer drinks?

Stacy is a preacher’s wife and homeschool mom. She loves creating her own natural skin care and herbal remedies and is pretty much obsessed with all things DIY. Stacy is intent on creating a happy, healthy home and strives to encourage other moms through her blog, A Delightful Home.

How to Use Coupons on Amazon

A guest post with thanks to Sherri at Luv a Bargain.

How to Use Coupons on Amazon

Did you know that you can use coupons on Amazon.com?  Learning how to use coupons on Amazon can save you even more money at one of the best places to save in the first place (in my opinion).

There are 2 easy ways to find coupons on to use on Amazon.

1. Go to the  Amazon Coupon Center where you can find loads of coupons quickly.  It includes the following categories for easy searching:

  • Automotive
  • Baby
  • Books
  • Electronics
  • Home
  • Industrial & Scientific
  • Kitchen
  • Movies & Television
  • Toys

To use a coupon, click on it where it says “Clip This Coupon.”

Next, click on the product image itself to be taken to the products on which you can use your coupon.  When you add that item to your cart, the coupon amount will automatically be deducted from your total at checkout.

How to use coupons on amazon

2. As you are doing your searches on Amazon, be on the lookout for a coupon to “CLIP” just below the product description.  It would look like the picture below.  Simply click on the “Clip It” button, and that coupon will be deducted automatically at checkout.

amazon coupon during search

3. A third, very special feature on Amazon is the Amazon Subscribe & Save program.  When you choose this feature you will receive an additional 5-15% off those items PLUS free shipping!   AND if there is coupon available on Amazon, you can STACK it with your Subscribe & Save savings.

When you choose to sign up with Subscribe & Save, you will select how often you what your item automatically shipped to you.  I always select “Every 4 months” myself.    There is no obligation to buy it every 4 months. They will send you a reminder a couple of weeks in advance and you can just skip any delivery you wish.  Or you can cancel and ANY time with no obligation either.  The price does change often so if it happens to increase you just skip it.

Here are a few categories that are very popular:

Subscribe & Save: Grocery and Gourmet items (including Organic and Natural items)

Subscribe & Save — Health & Personal Care

Subscribe & Save – Household Items

Subscribe & Save — Baby Care

Questions about Amazon shopping? Leave a comment. Looking for Amazon deals? Check out the Daily Deals and Green Steals.

Sherri is a mom of 2 and a homeschooling mom of one blogging at Luv a Bargain. She is dedicated to finding you loads of great coupons and deals every day to save everywhere you can.

Kitchen Tip: How to Evenly Dice an Onion

How to Evenly Dice an Onion

I love this kitchen tip for How to Evenly Dice an Onion. It makes quick work out of a kitchen chore that literally leaves a cook in tears.

Have you ever noticed how many recipes start with onion? I buy them in bulk at Costco we go through so many. Stored in a cool, dark place, an onion can last for quite a while.

Onions are also easy to freeze. Dice your onions per the video, lay them out on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and flash freeze them for about an hour. Then transfer the onions to a tightly sealed container and keep in the freezer for months.

Here’s how I evenly dice an onion:

Can’t see the video? Click here.

So that’s how I get evenly diced onions. Is this how you do it too?

Recipe for Herbal Tea: Iced Meadow Tea

Here’s a new recipe with thanks to Katie of Nourishing Simplicity

Herbal Tea: Meadow Tea

You are sitting on your front porch chatting with good friends while watching your kids play in the back yard as dusk moves in. The lightning bugs are just starting to come out, small hands try to grasp the little bugs and watch them glow. You reach for a glass of iced tea. What kind of tea you might ask? Meadow Tea.

Meadow Tea? What’s that?

I first learned about this herbal iced tea when reading a book about the Amish, with whom this tea is generally associated. Each version differs a bit but the most common version seems to be mint.

Generally Meadow Teas are extremely sweet; mint leaves are naturally sweet on their own so I have kept this version low in sugar.

Mints2
Iced mint teas are the perfect way to cool and refresh your body on a hot summer day. They are also   known to ease digestive problems, calm nausea, sooth muscle spasms, and promote relaxation. Wether you a have been working hard, exercising or just wanting a way to relax, Meadow Tea is just what you need.

The mint leaves of choice are peppermint and spearmint. If you have chocolate mint that is also a good option.

This recipe calls for palm sugar. What I like about palm sugar is it’s light flavor and that it is low on the glycemic index. Other sweetener options are: unrefined sugar or sucanat. Or, you could use two tablespoons of raw honey or add agave nectar to taste if you prefer.

MintTea

Meadow Tea

1/2 cup Fresh Spearmint Leaves
1/2 cup Fresh Peppermint Leaves
1/4 cup Palm Sugar
2 cups hot water
8 cups of cold water

1. Gently wash your mint leaves in cool water to remove any dirt or bugs.
2. Add the mint leaves and palm sugar to a large pitcher. Pour in the hot water, stir in the sugar and allow to steep for 20 minutes.
3. If desired remove the leaves after the tea has steeped. Leaving them in will allow the flavor of the tea to continue to develop and add a splash of color.
4. Add the cold water and put in the fridge until completely cool. Serve over ice.

What is your favorite healthy summer drink?

Katie is a dorm “mama” to 12 amazing girls ages 10 to 18 at a home and school for the Deaf in Baja California, Mexico. She is happiest in the kitchen creating nourishing meals and home remedies or outside with at least one of her girls at her side. She grew up using herbal supplements but didn’t discover the joy of making her own until 2008. Katie is passionate about real food, herbs and simple living. You can find her blogging about all these things and more on her blog, Nourishing Simplicity where she is living simply by God’s grace.

How to Wash Your Hair with Vinegar

Here’s a Works for Me post with thanks to Becca Stallings of The Earthling’s Handbook

Check out the list of ingredients on a bottle of shampoo. What are all those weird chemicals? Are they really safe for you? Do they damage the environment? Even if the front of your shampoo bottle talks about being natural, the fine print on the back probably lists a whole paragraph of unfamiliar substances. Manufacturing all that stuff must use a lot of energy and resources.

What if you could just wash your hair with a simple household substance, one that’s made from plants and is safe enough to drink? That’s what I’ve been doing for the past nine years. This handy substance also costs less than shampoo, eliminates my “need” for conditioner to prevent frizz, and keeps my hair clean longer so that I can wash it less often!

It’s vinegar. Ordinary white vinegar. Apple cider vinegar works, too.

There’s also a more popular shampoo-free hairwashing method, much discussed on the Internet: using baking soda to scrub your scalp, rinsing it out, and then spraying diluted vinegar on the lower part of your hair. I tried that at one point, but it seemed to me that the baking soda didn’t make any difference–and it’s an extra step! So, yes, I’m aware of that method, but what I do uses vinegar only and uses it differently.

What kind of hair do I have?

Hair Washed with Vinegar

That’s a fair question, since I’ve tested this method only on myself. My hair is wavy, kind of thick, and well past shoulder-length. It’s somewhat oily; I used to shampoo it every 1-3 days. I don’t dye my hair, which is beginning to turn gray. I don’t use hairspray, gel, or other styling products. I hardly ever blow-dry my hair because it makes better waves if I let it air-dry.

Most days I French-braid the front part of my hair to get it out of my eyes, and leave the rest loose. My hair is much easier to braid and looks nicer braided, now that I wash with vinegar. When I was using shampoo, it was difficult to get my hair to hold together without stray strands going the wrong way, and then the surface of the braid would frizz almost as much as the surface of my loose hair. I used to use a heavy leave-in conditioner to make my hair manageable, but vinegar conditions it better!

My skin is not an especially sensitive type. The vinegar running off my hair in the shower doesn’t irritate the rest of my body unless I have a cut or scrape or–let me put this strongly: Do not shave your legs before rinsing vinegar out of your hair!! It will really sting on freshly-shaved skin!

By coincidence, I started washing my hair with vinegar at almost exactly the same time I became pregnant. I have no idea how hormonal changes may have affected my transition from shampoo to vinegar. What I can tell you is that the same method kept working for me throughout pregnancy, breastfeeding, and ever since. Like most women, I lost a lot of hair within a few months after giving birth, but then my hair volume gradually returned to normal. I have not noticed any difference in hair loss from washing with vinegar instead of shampoo–I’ve always shed lots of hair when I wash or brush it, and that’s still true, but somehow I still have plenty of hair anyway.

First, rinse your hair.

Not only is rinsing the first step before washing, it’s an alternative to washing so frequently. I mentioned that I wash my hair less often than I did with shampoo, but I still rinse it every day or two. This removes dust and lint and such, and it loosens oil from the scalp and spreads it down the hair shaft.

Remove any tangles from your hair before you get into the shower. Rinse with the hottest water you can stand. First, use your fingers to lift your hair and rub your scalp until it’s all wet. Then run your fingers down through the full length of the hair.

You can use just your fingers, a wide-toothed comb, or a ventilated brush intended for blow-drying. I use a ventilated brush, which has slots between rows of bristles so that water runs through the brush. I’ve often heard that brushing wet hair will break it, but it doesn’t seem to be a problem for my hair.

Using a brush or comb: Place brush firmly against scalp at front of head and, keeping your head under the shower, pull the brush all the way back over your head to the back edge of the scalp, then down the hair to the ends. Repeat in front-to-back “stripes” until you’ve done your whole head.

How to wash your hair with vinegar

The amount of vinegar, and whether you use white vinegar or apple cider vinegar, will take some experimentation to decide. I suggest starting with white vinegar because it costs less, and in my experience it does not leave any lingering odor in hair once it dries. I use about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of vinegar plus about 3 cups of hot water.

Do not mix your vinegar with water in advance. You want to use hot water. Not only is this more comfortable, but in my experience it works better.

Put vinegar in a container that has enough space for the water you’re going to add–I use a quart plastic bucket that yogurt came in–and put it within reach of the shower.

Rinse hair as described above. Then remove loose hair from your brush (or comb or fingers) and rinse it. If you see any white film on the brush or it feels oily, wash it with soap.

Add hot water to the container. Now you can turn down the shower, but leave it going a trickle in case you get vinegar in your eyes.

Tip head back and close eyes tightly. Hold up some hair with fingers, pour a little of the mixture onto your scalp, and rub it in. Do the same with each area of your head. Massage scalp and run fingers or brush through hair to distribute oils down the hair shaft.

Your hair will feel very slippery and oily. If your scalp had a crusty feeling, you’ll feel this dissolve. A lot of the oil will come off onto the shower floor (it’s slippery, so watch your step!!) and the rest will coat and condition your hair. Do not expect to feel “squeaky clean”; this is different.

Let the vinegar soak into your hair for a few minutes while you wash other body parts. I wash with soap along my hairline, around my face and ears, because feeling oily there really bothers me–but by doing this before rinsing out the vinegar, I avoid making this area too dry and frizzy or flaky.

Rinse as described above. Your hair will still feel slippery. Don’t worry!

Arrange damp hair and let it air-dry. The smell of vinegar will fade as it dries.

How to make the transition to vinegar washing

This is what worked for me: I alternated vinegar washings with shampoo washings for several months. Right away, I began to feel that my hair didn’t get dirty as quickly, so I started to wash less often and sometimes just rinsed my hair. After about 5 months, a shampoo washing made my hair very dry and frizzy, so after that I washed with vinegar every time. Your timing may vary, but I recommend starting with your normal washing schedule and using vinegar every other time; be alert to how your hair feels, and don’t wash it until it feels dirty. (See below.)

I’ve noticed that in discussions about washing hair with baking soda, using vinegar only in small amounts to condition the hair shafts, most people mention a difficult transition period in which the scalp feels waxy and sticky while the hair shafts feel extremely dry. I did not experience anything like that with my recently washed hair–to me, those sensations indicate that hair needs washing!

How often to wash your hair

Vinegar-washed hair feels a little different from shampoo-washed hair both when it’s clean and when it’s dirty, so it takes practice to learn when to wash it again. Here are some signs that your hair needs washing:
• Hair feels sticky and gummy. It gets difficult to brush and style.
• Hair won’t lie down. It frizzes, or pieces keep sticking out straight at odd angles.
• Hair feels wiry instead of silky.
• If you scratch your head, you get gray stuff under your nails.

You’ll also need to wash your hair if you’ve been swimming in a chlorinated pool. I don’t swim often, but when I do it makes my hair horribly sticky! Washing with vinegar makes it better, though. I’ve never tried doing this day after day for any extended period–but the one time I swam two days in a row and therefore washed with vinegar two days in a row, my hair was frizzy and felt dry afterward. I just rubbed some hotel hand lotion on my palms and then rubbed them over my hair, and that helped a lot. (If I’d been at home, I would have used coconut oil or olive oil.) You can reduce the effects of chlorine by getting your hair soaking wet in the shower before you swim; it will absorb less chlorine.

I used to wash my hair with shampoo 2 out of 3 days in summer and 1 out of 3 in winter. I now wash with vinegar every 4-7 days in summer and every 7-14 days in winter. This saves a lot of time and water! (I wash more often in summer because hot, humid weather makes my hair more oily, while the dry air from winter heating means my hair needs more oil to prevent frizz.)

Once or twice a year, I’ll have a time when my hair doesn’t seem clean after vinegar washing and then feels worse for a couple of days. Then I wash with diluted shampoo (I mix it with water in my hand, or if we happen to have an almost-empty shampoo bottle, I put in some water and shake it) to strip off the oil so that my scalp can “reset” and be less gooey. Usually my hair then feels better, but somewhat dry and awkward, until after the next vinegar washing.

What’s that white stuff on my hairbrush?

If you’ve used some kind of styling product within the past few months, that’s probably what it is. I’ve heard tales of people whose product build-up came off with vinegar much more noticeably than it had with shampoo.

However, I’ve had white stuff on my hairbrush as long as I can remember. It was worse in the years when I used all that leave-in conditioner, but it still happens now. I think it’s just hair oil.

Wash your brush when you wash your hair. (If the white stuff builds up slowly, you won’t have to do this every time you wash your hair, but when you do wash your brush you may as well time it so that you have a clean brush for your clean hair.) Soak it in soapy water–I use dish detergent because it cuts grease well–and then rub the bristles with a comb or your fingernails to remove any remaining gunk.

Does my whole family do vinegar hairwashing?

No. I haven’t convinced my partner to try it–although he’s the one who came up with the brushing-while-rinsing technique above, he continues to use shampoo, sparingly.

Our son is only eight years old. Vinegar stings the eyes much more than shampoo–and it’s thinner, so it’s more likely to run into your eyes–so I’ve never tried it on him.

What about dandruff?

I’ve never had long-lasting problems with dandruff, regardless of my hairwashing method–but the few times it’s cropped up since I began vinegar washing, I added a few drops of tea tree essential oil (health-food stores sell it) to my vinegar mixture, and that seemed to help. Tea tree oil is a natural antibacterial.

What about the beautiful fragrance of shampoo?

I don’t miss it! Vinegar leaves hair smelling fresh and clean without smelling like anything. It even gives hair an ability to shed odors–I try to avoid being around cigarette smoke, but if I am, the smell of it completely leaves my hair within a couple of hours!

When I want to smell pretty, though, I can add a few drops of essential oil (sweet orange is nice) to my vinegar mixture, or put it on my hairbrush immediately before brushing.

What about traveling?

The easiest strategy is to wash my hair before the trip so I won’t have to do it while I’m away. However, I’ve sometimes brought vinegar with me, bought some in a supermarket near where I’m staying, or gotten some from my host. Usually it’s easy to find an appropriate container to mix it with water–in a hotel, you can use the ice bucket. If you pack a bottle of vinegar in your bag, make sure the cap seals tightly, and put the bottle inside a plastic bag just in case it leaks.

Will this work for other types of hair or other lifestyles?

I’d love to know! One reason I am writing this guest post is that I hope to hear from other people who try washing their hair with vinegar only and will tell me how it works for them!

Becca Stallings is an environmentalist, mother, and social scientist who works as data manager for a research study and spends her lunch breaks writing The Earthling’s Handbook, a collection of useful information for living, eating, thinking, and parenting on Earth. She has been trying to use resources wisely all her life but finds more habits to change every year.

How to Make Cashew Butter

Here’s a new recipe with thanks to Jaime from Slightly Steady.

How to Make Cashew Butter

Cashew butter is a great multi-purpose product. It can serve as a replacement for peanut butter for people with peanut allergies and sensitivities, for one thing. It’s also used in countless vegan recipes as a replacement for dairy products such as cream, butter, and milk. Mostly, though, it’s just yummy. Just. Plain. Yummy.

I’m *not* allergic to peanuts, but I’m trying to maintain an alkaline diet to help my thyroid heal, and cashews are more alkalizing than peanuts. Sometimes, I admit, if the acidic version tastes better, I’ll still go for it – but cashew butter cups (instead of Reese’s) or cashew butter on pancakes? Um, yum. Just yum! I don’t even miss the peanutty goodness I used to love!

*Buying* cashew butter, though, is a bit of a challenge. It’s more expensive of course – but for those of us who live in rural parts of the country (me), good luck even finding it! It’s much simpler and cheaper to just buy your own raw cashews (or cooked, if you don’t mind the cooking oil, and possibly salt – I just prefer raw). It’s also a quick and easy process. All you need is a blender or food processor, and 2-10 minutes, depending on the strength of your equipment.

How to Make Cashew Butter:

Ingredients:

3 cups raw (or cooked) cashews

Water for soaking (if you’re using raw)

2-3 Tbsp of coconut oil

Optional:

Salt to taste

1 or 2 dates to sweeten

Instructions:

    1. For raw cashews, soak them for six hours in enough water to cover them , then drain and rinse.

Soaking Cashews

  1. Put all ingredients in your blender or food processor, and blend until smooth. This should take about 5-10 minutes (be sure to take breaks to prevent overheating!)

Processing Cashews

That’s it! I hope you enjoy!

Jaime is a Christian, a wife, a mom, a writer, an illustrator, and an aspiring homesteader. She loves trying to find new ways to save money and resources–but also save her time, so she can spend as much as possible with her family!