Frugal Food Sources–The Lost Arts of Gleaning and Bartering

The more I dive into real food, especially local real food, the more I find myself “shopping” out of the grocery store. Slowly but surely, I’m building a network of great local farmers, butchers, backyard gardeners, and other folks “in the know” about sourcing local goods–on the cheap.

It’s exciting! After all, we all know how much I love the grocery store, ahem. Instead of hours of brain sucking waiting in the checkout lane, I’m trading it for incredibly helpful conversation with folks who are leaps and bounds ahead of me in homesteading or sourcing local foods. (I hang on every word of wisdom shared by the farmer we buy chickens from. That woman has an impressive garden.)

I buy chickens and beef from local places with regular old cash (or a debit card). But there is another way, once frequently practiced in small agricultural communities and somewhat lost in our current society.

Gleaning and bartering.

What are gleaning and bartering? Well, my simple definition would be something like this. Gleaning would be getting food that is otherwise left behind after the owner or farmer has harvested. Bartering would be getting food in exchange for goods or services that you can provide in exchange.

Lets talk gleaning. I would venture to say that the idea doesn’t resonate well with some. Maybe it’s pride. Maybe we have visions of the destitute poor widow scrapping a few grains together from the wheat field. And we’re too scared to ask. Yeah, I’m over that. So when I saw the neighbor down the road with a LOADED apple tree in his front yard–I asked. The worse he could say was no. But he didn’t. So today the girls and I collected three very full shopping bags full of wonderful, juicy apples. We’ll go back sometime next week to get some more. Home canned apple sauce–yum! And my dear generous neighbor will be receiving a homemade apple crisp this weekend as a thank you.

A pot of apples, ready to be made into sauce!

A pot of apples, ready to be made into sauce!

See, the thing is, most folks don’t have the time or energy to deal with all the food they might be growing. They want enough for their family. And most hate that some of it just rots and goes to waste. So if you’re neighbor has a crazy bumper crop of lettuce, ask if you can pick a little. Some apples or tomatoes that might have a few imperfections or bruises? Offer to take them off their hands.

Sometimes, though, bartering is a better option. Especially if the individual has some hard work or money invested in their food. So if you really want a steady supply of fresh eggs, offer something they really want in return. There have been quite a few times that my husband has helped someone out with some home improvement work, and brings home some frozen venison (or an awesome porch swing–which isn’t food–but still super cool!).

The truth is, if you’re going to try to buy all local, real food from the store, your grocery budget is going to take a hit. Can’t be helped. But if you can break away from the norm a little, start putting the word out there that you’re willing to pick your own, or trade or work for it–you might find a whole new world of great people, with great products, right in your neck of the woods.

It’s only a small-ish portion of our overall food supply (and I still spend my share of time at the grocery stores) but every little bit helps. Plus, and just as valuable, I’m really enjoying the folks I’m meeting, all that I’m learning, and the gratitude I feel for every bit of it.

Have you ever bartered or gleaned before?


Finishing the Day Well–As a Mom

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This my friends, may be even harder for me than finishing the day well as a wifeAfter all, my kids don’t often have the same radar as my husband. They aren’t privy to some of the adult stresses that he already knows about, and let’s face it, sometimes kids just need more. There’s more of them, anyway!

But I admit, with shame and regret, that there have been more than a few nights when I did not finish well. I was grumpy. I ushered everyone into bed as quickly as possible. Sometimes I’ve neglected those important rituals of stories or prayers or tucking in with snuggles.

I could blame the same old things. I’m tired. I’m overwhelmed. Whatever. The truth is, if something is wrong, and it can be remedied, then I need to be a mature, responsible adult and see what I can do about it.

So during moments of clarity, when I’m not letting fatigue or hormones or a pity party run the show, these are some thoughts I’ve had to help us finish the day well.

Plan early in the day for a better ending. If I want my evenings to end in a little peace, time to connect with my kids in a meaningful way, or with some reserves of joy and energy–then I better do what I can to plan ahead. This means knocking a couple things off the to do list so I’m not frazzled and spent. Maybe I choose not to run all over town if I can help it. You might be the kind of person who would really benefit from a little personal time in the afternoons (like exercise, a nap, time in a good book) so that you can recharge for the evenings. Whatever it is that you can do to conserve a little energy and pleasantness–make it a priority to do it. It’s not a selfish thing. It’s for everyone’s benefit.

Will you still have some no good days that are out of your control? Absolutely. But when you have the option to be intentional about your day–use it.

Simplify your evenings. It’s pretty common these days for families to be scheduled up to their eyeballs every night of the week. After all, we want to give our kids every opportunity and advantage, right? But I firmly believe that one of the greatest enemies of the family is busyness. We are sold the line that all this is great and important and if we aren’t doing it–then we’re bad parents or our kids will suffer. But the payoff is sometimes far from what is promised. And the cost often very high.

We end up disconnected from our kids and spouses. I find it especially important with a teenager in the house to make sure we have plenty of time on the homefront. Older kids are more independent, they have friends and activities to keep them busy, and if I don’t pay attention, several days can go by without having any sort of deeper connections with him. Evenings are a great place to make this happen.

So make easy suppers. Keep the extra curricular to what’s really important. Family evenings are a sacred thing. Don’t let anyone steal them from you.

Rely on the grace of God. All this planning and intentional living is great. But sometimes (quite often, in fact) the flesh is weak. In our weakness, He is very strong. But if I try to finish in my own strength, I will always come up short. I have to stop and pray and put my reliance not on myself, but on my God.

I think of all the times Jesus served and preached and performed miracles to the point of exhaustion. After those times, he would often be found off by himself, praying to the Father. He is our example. And that means if I need to lock myself in the bathroom while pasta is boiling, just to offer up a desperate prayer for help–then He’ll hear that prayer. He can change my bad attitude if I ask. He can bring peace to my household, give me wisdom to discipline, and refocus my priorities.

I know this to be absolutely true. Because when I finally surrender my pride and ask for His help, He has never failed to be faithful.

Do you ever struggle to end the day well with your kids? What do you do to overcome this?


Make It Yourself–Gingerbread Spice Latte

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Fall is officially upon us. All things pumpkin spice and apple caramel and other tempting goodies call from every corner. I find Starbucks especially hard to resist this time of year.

But I need to cut back on the sugar. And the cash spending. What to do with those awful creamy, sweet, spiced latte cravings?

Make it yourself!

I got to thinking about fall spices. Cinnamon, ginger…yes, ginger–that’s it! A Gingerbread Spice Latte. This is so easy, so yummy, so satisfying–you’ll be making it every afternoon.

The players…

  • About a half a mug of very strong brewed coffee, or a shot or two of espresso
  • 2 cups milk (whatever you like–whole milk, half and half, coconut milk or almond milk would be fine)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • about a 1 inch knob of ginger, peeled
  • 1-2 TB molasses
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • Stevia or honey to taste
  • scant 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

Before brewing the coffee, warm the milk in a small saucepan, stir in the sweeteners and add the remaining ingredients. Keep the milk just below a simmer so it doesn’t scorch. If you’re in a hurry, you can grate the ginger straight into the mixture with a microplane or box grater. (I did this the first time, cause I wanted coffee NOW. But if you’re making it ahead of time, you can just drop the knob of ginger in and let it infuse the milk.)

Simmer for around 30 minutes or so to let all the flavors really come together. Pour all the contents of the pan into a jar and store in the refrigerator. The spices will continue to infuse the milk as it sits. Or if you’re drinking it right now, add the desired amount to your coffee and sink into gingerbread happiness.

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A Note: This is just a starting point. The molasses really is important, because if you’ve ever made gingerbread cookies, you know they get their special kind of sweetness from all that molasses. So I’d probably always use the full 2 tablespoons. I decided to sweeten mine with a few sprinkles of stevia, to cut back on the overall sugar content. But you could also use a little honey if you’d like, or try some additional molasses. I really like the spice that warms your throat, so I’m a fan of the cayenne, but it’s totally not necessary.

As I use up the leftovers, I just warm it on the stove in a small pan or pour some in my steaming pitcher and froth it up while the espresso is brewing.

A warm pick me up with a fraction of the sugar you find at the coffee shop, the warming anti-inflammatory properties of cinnamon, ginger and cayenne, and it’s frugal to boot!

Enjoy!


The Last Golden Days of Summer

Last week was glorious here. Warm, dry. Perfect for long afternoon walks and evenings on the porch. Good days to savor the last golden days of summer.

Puttering in the garden. Hoping this guy has a few more days of warm sunshine to ripen.

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And all the baby peppers get a chance to grow.

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Canning banana peppers. (We love ’em on sandwiches and pizza.)

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Some archery practice. (And a very long search for arrows that never did turn up. Oh well.)

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Ella had to get in on the picture action. Yeah, she doesn’t have a clue.

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And a family trip to Cabela’s. My husband’s toy store.

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Doesn’t every family picture happen in front of a bear ripping an eagle out of the sky?

I know fall officially started yesterday. But I for one plan to squeeze in a few more summer-like afternoons before we’re driven inside. There’s still some work yet to be done in the garden. Herbs to freeze or dry. Fried green tomatoes to eat. Front porch swinging.

And maybe a few more bouquets to pick.

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Get out there and enjoy it, everyone!


When Your Kids Don’t Have Everything

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I would feel pretty secure saying that never before in history have children had so much. Or so many options. Or so much entertainment. Options and opportunities are not bad things. But like anything else, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

It’s all about moderation. Delayed gratification. Learning to be content with what you have. Being thankful for the portion God has given you.

As we interact with different families and children, it strikes me that just as there are different levels of material possessions or wealth among adults, the same is certainly true for kids.

My kids are not poor or deprived by any stretch. At the same time, we try to limit gifts and toys to special occasions like birthdays and holidays, except for the occasional purchase they save up for or seasonal things (like a pool toy). I’m not a huge fan of loads of screen options. (So I may in fact make my kid the last one on earth who doesn’t own a DS–gasp!) And as we’ve been reorganizing closets and shelves, I’m finding it important to lessen the little do-dads that my girls seem to acquire, which inevitably end up in a yard sale or the trash in a matter of months.

So here’s some thoughts to encourage us all in the pursuit of moderation and contentment…

When Your Kids Don’t Have Everything…

…nature is the most wonderful playground.

….rock collections are quite impressive.

…a favorite stuffed animal becomes a treasured friend.

…a walk with mom is way better than TV.

…cardboard boxes hold limitless playing potential.

…there is nothing that can’t be made with paper, popsicle sticks and glue.

…creativity runs in abundance.

…rooms are easier to tidy (theoretically).

…a visit to a friend’s house holds new surprises (cause they probably have something you don’t–that’s half the fun of visiting someplace new!)

…they have the space and time to really invest in the things they enjoy most.

…the newest fad doesn’t rule their choices.

…they learn how fulfilling it is to save up for something special.

…joy isn’t dependent upon new things.

I for one, would love to raise kids that turn away from materialism and consumerism and instead knew the peace that can be found in faith and family.

And maybe, just maybe, we can learn from them and find contentment and satisfaction in the simple pleasures and the everyday blessings along the way.


3 Tips for Organizing the Real Food Kitchen-Guest post at Modern Alternative Momma

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When it comes to home management, an unorganized kitchen can make or break your day. Come visit me over at Modern Alternative Momma today and see what I’ve done to make my kitchen work harder for me.


Finishing the Day Well–As a Wife

evening clock

There is something God has been challenging me on for a while now. And it’s how I finish the day. I’m a morning person. So I can usually start the day strong, all full of plans and goals and energy (though it may be caffeine supplemented).

The other end of the day, though, is another story.

More often than not (and like most of you, I’m sure) I’m spent by the end of the day. I’ve used up whatever strength and reserves that God has graced me with. Some days I get to that point a little sooner than others.

And if I’m completely honest–tired, spent mom/wife is sometimes not the nicest person.

I’ve got two different areas I’m thinking about. Let’s talk about the first today.

The Wife My Husband Comes Home To

There are days that I greet my hubby with a smile and a little energy and enthusiasm. I figure he’s glad to be home those days. Then there are those days when I don’t really make much of an effort to greet him, but instead make it clear by my countenance and my body language that I’m worn and tired and counting the minutes until my head can hit the pillow. Not sure how he feels on those days.

Not that I can’t have a tough day. Not that I have to put on a happy face and fake it. But I know he’s tired too. And deep down, I want home to be a safe place of refuge for him—a place to be refreshed and recharged and a place where he knows he has someone on his side to shoulder the burden.

So I’ve been thinking about the kind of wife he comes home to. And what I need to do on those days when I’m drained and the day is long from done. It all comes down to where my strength comes from. Because I know the same God who gets me through the early parts of the day has more than enough in His reserves to sustain me in the evening.

What I need to avoid is the pity party trap. Let’s face it, ladies, sometimes we want him to know just how hard the day was. We want sympathy. We want a pat on the back. So the temptation is to skulk around as if our burden is SO heavy just to make sure our husbands really get it.

They do get it, by the way. And this isn’t a competition over who’s got it rougher.

So I want to have an attitude adjustment. And I think that the best place to find it is in the place of gratitude. It’s nearly impossible to be thankful and sulk at the same time.

I want to remind myself to go back to my gratitude list that I started when I first read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. (If you’ve never read it—do it. It’s a life transforming book.) Finding the gifts in the everyday moments and reflecting that gratitude even in the tired hours.

Maybe then I can take my eyes off of me and give my attention to welcoming and listening to and affirming the man who’s out there, working hard for us every day. And we’ll both be better for it.

Do you ever struggle with finishing the day well?