“The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread”

My husband and I just recently discovered what has become one of our favorite tips ever…like the best thing since sliced bread.

Ever get produce and promise yourself that – this time – you will use it all before it goes bad? Been there; done that; wasted the money. Just yesterday I was throwing out cilantro that went bad. Cilantro. I love cilantro!! Really, I couldn’t have taken the time to do something with it before it went bad?

Maybe you’ve heard of the term blanching, the process of boiling a vegetable and then immersing it in ice cold water and drying it so that you can properly freeze it. This is super helpful for stocking up on a veggie sale!

This trick, however, not only saves you from throwing out produce that went bad before you could use it, but it is also so incredibly simple. No blanching required. Additionally, you will want to get this from the freezer regularly; it’s not something you stick in the freezer (to help you feel better about not throwing it out!) and then forget about it because it’s just not a favorite item. No, on the contrary, you may not even need to freeze it, but if it’s hot outside, it will serve a dual purpose: fruit flavor and an “ice” cube of sorts.

The trick I’m referring to is…wait for it… washing and slicing lemons and limes and freezing them for infused water!!! Sheer brilliance. We have tried to do infused water in the past, only to forget about it, get lazy, and not want to fuss with washing and slicing it (because if you slice it all at once and leave it in the fridge, they might get soggy and gross before you can use them all, right?). This trick, however, means that the lemons and/or limes are already washed, sliced, and frozen so that we even need less ice in our water!

If nothing else, this trick has helped us drink much more water than we were previously getting because we enjoy flavored water SO much more than plain water. Use as many or as few slices as you like, depending on how strong you like your infused water to taste and also depending on how juicy and flavorful your citrus fruits were. Then refill with more water as often as you’d like until you don’t taste the citrus anymore – then you know it’s time to get new slices from the freezer! How easy is that?

Do you like infused water? What’s stopping you from having it at the ready whenever you want it? Maybe it’s time to stock up on lemons and limes and store them for the upcoming months to ensure proper water intake as the seasons start to change. Let me know what you think!

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Essential Oils – from Skeptic to Sold

Although I have not figured out all the tips and tricks for them (but really who has?), I find them so useful that I wonder what I did before I had them! I used to be so skeptical of essential oils, thinking they were just the new rage or someone’s scheme to make some money. Not anymore! I’ve seen and experienced some serious benefits, and I’m a believer!

Am I the only one who used to think that essential oils were overrated? I would see many great uses for essential oils, and then I’d look at the price of one bottle, and think to myself “Are they crazy? Surely this is just a fad.” What made the difference for me was not buying it for myself. (I am entirely too frugal to buy a $30 bottle of oil that I don’t know how to use and don’t feel I have a need for, just to see how I like it or just to see what everyone is talking about. That is just not me.)

What made the difference was a friend. Although the doctors are still uncertain what’s wrong, my friend has changed dramatically in the last year. Maybe one day I can share her story with you. I couldn’t tell you the different oils she’s tried or what specific oils have helped her (nor will I elaborate anymore on this friend than what’s already been stated), but I do know that there is an amount of healing power that is untapped and unknown to much of our modern world through these oils.

My husband bought me some oils for my birthday the year before last, and I got to work figuring out how to make the best return on this investment. I began Googling oils, experimenting, doing some more searching, then some more experimenting, and before I knew it, I was hooked! My husband took a little longer to come around (though putting lavender on his sunburn definitely helped him see the benefits of oils faster!). Disclaimer: we both realize that these are not some magical potion to replace medications or doctors order or anything. 

I’d love to take a class or two on natural health, but so far I’d say I’ve learned the most from Dr. Josh Axe. What a great resource he is for so many people!

On my quest to live frugally, I’m learning that natural health and preventative medicine will save so much money – among other benefits – in the long run. My husband and I have already saved ourselves a couple trips to the doctor, and I’m endeavoring to learn more and to keep that number as low as possible.

This is in no way a comprehensive list, but a few  ways I’ve incorporated some basic oils into our lives are (these all came in my original Starter Kit):

Lavender – allergies, stress relief, sleep aid, gifts

Lemon – cleaning, allergies, mood

Peppermint – allergies, muscle pain relief, headaches, gifts, energy

Because our pure, therapeutic grade essential oils are potent, a normal “dose” for allergies, pain, stress, and sleeping just requires a few drops! And at $.04-$.10 per drop (for the aforementioned oils), we can definitely afford to go natural in this way!

If you’d like to know more about how oils can help you, feel free to let me know. I’m not an expert by any means, but I find great pleasure in helping others find oils that work well for them.

Have you been a skeptic to oils? Thinking about giving them a try? What ways have oils helped you live a more healthy and/or frugal lifestyle?

PS – if you’re in the market for oils, I use Young Living and believe they are some of the best – if not the best – oils out there. If you feel Young Living is right for you as well (and I can help you learn why it might be;), I’d love for you to check out what the Starter Kit can do for you and then let me know if you have any questions. My member number is 3874390.

Photo credit: Abi Porter, no changes made

How We’ve Had a Debt-Free Vacation 


It is time for vacations all around! Summertime just screams vacation, doesn’t it? We once thought we would start taking our vacation time in January, due to the nature of our jobs. That was quite a difficult adjustment to my way of thinking. You go from having all this extra time at Christmas with family and friends, relaxing, shopping, eating, paid vacation days for Christmas and New Years…and a couple weeks later you’re supposed to take your vacation for the whole year? Additionally I grew up taking family and/or church trips just about every summer. Again, summertime screams vacation!

Last year we decided we would go to Ohio for Jesse’s grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary. More details on that to come. Suffice it to say, this trip to the Cleveland area was absolutely worth the saving and scheduling in order to celebrate such an occasion and to be with family that we so rarely see.

I’m not saying that this is a savings plan to follow in order to get to an incredible international or far away destination vacation. This was a more simple vacation, but we still made it across the country for a little over a week and have relaxed and enjoyed our time without going into debt. Some basic ways we accomplished that include:

We made the savings of the plane ticket cost a line item in our budget for months. This is the most obvious and worthy way of not going into debt (the rest are mostly practical ways of keeping costs low). Each month, we would save a particular amount because we budgeted to “pay ourselves.” Instead of looking at it as if we had saved $200 in a month or two for just anything, we knew we had that money specifically for the time to pay for our flights, and in our budget, it looked as if it were already spent. (More on why a budget is important here and how to keep track of a budget here.)

We are lodging with family. Though we might stay a night in a hotel (and have saved to do such a thing), we are with family for about 7 nights. That most certainly adds up into major savings for us!

We have not had to rent a car because we have had so many different people to ride around with, as well as an extra car available should we need it. We might rent a car for a day or two, but ride sharing has still kept our cost down tremendously.

We have rarely had to pay for food. We have eaten out and can afford to eat out more, but for the most part, we’ve been eating together as a family at home, and we prefer home-cooked food anyway!

We packed a lot of snacks for the plane ride; this particularly came in handy for our 7 hour layover through the night.

We don’t need any souvenirs. Since this isn’t a “destination vacation,” we don’t really feel compelled to buy a bunch of mementos of our trip.

Of course, vacations to see family are not always possible or practical, but when or if we can work it out, it can certainly result in great savings as well as great memories! If you’re looking for some easy ways to relax this summer without spending any money, here are some ideas.

Photo credit: Scott J WaldronJGrace Photography, and Joel Jones

Happy 60th Anniversary to Grandma and Grandpa Jones!


And these parents are celebrating their 35th anniversary this month!


Don’t we look so relaxed?

4 Reasons I Love Lavender Oil…and How to Use it

Have you ever smelled pure lavender oil? Not the plant, not the stuff that’s in commercial products, and not even cheap lavender oil. Pure therapeutic grade lavender is simply unbeatable.

Of all the essential oils, I think lavender is my favorite right now. It’s helped me immensely in so many different ways – ways I never would’ve imagined before I started using oils. Just know that essential oils work differently for everybody; what works perfectly for one might not work for another, and still for another person, it might only work partially. But hey, there’s no side affects, so try away!
And just a side note to the frugal readers, one bottle of good quality essential oil might look pricey, but 1. essential oils are powerful, so even one drop can do a lot of good! and 2. essential oils can easily replace several other products in your home (some ideas are below) and 3. your health is worth it! I’ve had a 15mL bottle of peppermint for over 6 months, and I have been very generous with it, diffusing it, rubbing it on aches and pains, using it in gifts, letting friends use it for allergies daily, etc., and I still have 25-30% of the bottle left! So a little really does go a long way, and it’s worth the price, I promise!

Here are just a few ways I’ve learned to use lavender:
Burn relief – We went to the beaches of the Dominican Republic last summer and lathered up on sunscreen OFTEN but still got burned. When I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep because of the burn, I put on a few drops of lavender oil, and the burning sensation went away in minutes (or less). No joke. It also worked for my burned, skeptical husband. If I had taken coconut oil with us on the trip, I would’ve mixed the lavender and coconut oil so that it would rub on better. So why do we waste our time with store-bought Aloe Vera gel? (Note: somehow when I burn my hand in the kitchen, lavender doesn’t seem to work the same way. It helps – don’t get me wrong! But it doesn’t seem to take the burn completely away as it does with our sunburns. Maybe because of the location, the lavender gets washed off more easily or maybe the degree of burn is greater…? Just a disclaimer, but again, oils work differently for everyone.)

Sleep relief – Lavender helps my semi-insomniac husband. Once he started letting me put the oil on him instead of just diffusing it, it stared working for him a lot better!

Allergy relief – Lavender, in a blend with peppermint and lemon, is probably the most common way to knock out allergy problems. We had a friend over who couldn’t stop coughing due to allergies; I got out the diffuser with peppermint and lavender (I was out of lemon), and poof! He went from coughing incessantly to stopping almost instantaneously! His conclusion: it’s totally worth it!

Stress relief – General relaxation and reduced stress can absolutely be enjoyed by using lavender. Sometimes I smell it midday, and the peacefulness that comes over me is unreal. Seriously.

Of course, I’ve heard of calming babies with it. I don’t have children, so I can’t vouch for that, nor do I know of the safety tips of using oils on infants. (I do know that we use random unknown chemicals from baby lotions and shampoos and don’t think a thing about it, but somehow the natural stuff gets questioned. I’ll save that for another time.) I think it’s safe to say that if you put some lavender on your chest and hold a crying baby, you won’t regret it!

And please be sure to use 100% pure, therapeutic grade oils!

Now what about you? Have you ever used pure lavender oil before? Have you found lavender to be a nice stress reliever? Do you have some awesome uses for lavender that you don’t mind to share?

Best Free Things To Do in Los Angeles

 

Living in or just visiting Southern California can get quite expensive, especially if you don’t know your way around. Not only that, but there are opportunities for fun everywhere! It’s hard to know where to start. If you’re in the LA area and are trying to have some fun on the cheap, you need to cross some of these items off your bucket list! Disclaimer: some of these destinations may require a parking fee. If you get creative about your parking and find a good, free spot, please let us know in the comments!

This list could very well apply to all of SoCal. I can only imagine that some of the best things to do in San Diego would include beautiful beaches, breath-taking mountains to hike, and pleasant shopping and social areas. However, I decided to stick to Los Angeles, at least for this post.

Check out these places and you’ll see why we rarely spend money on entertainment.

The beaches (here are some favorites):

Redondo Beach. Such a beautiful beach area! The vacation homes are so fun to look at and dream about. We actually saw Troy Aikman (famous, former Dallas Cowboys player!) on vacation with his family there! We had fun just looking at the homes and talking about what we liked about each of them. (Sorry, my pictures don’t do it justice!)  Cost: gasoline and parking money

Santa Monica Pier. With their recent enhancements, this is a big tourist attraction now and rightfully so. Come here to experience a care-free fun time, seeing different performers along the pier, just hanging out at the beach, or fishing from the pier. Cost: gasoline and parking money

Photo credit: Pacheco

El Matador Beach. If you’re looking for some scenic beach pictures, this is the place to go! There’s not a lot of room between the cliffs behind you and the water when the tide starts coming in deeper, but the rocks makes for some great pictures! Cost: gasoline and parking money 

 

  • Griffith Observatory. This is a fun place to go to see LA from a higher perspective! Parking is free, and there’s some educational displays and potential hiking (particularly if you don’t get the parking at just the right time). Cost: gasoline

Photo credit: Frank Steele

  • UCLA performing arts. We went to a free symphony and enjoyed their fabulous music, twisted with a little drama. On a separate day, we went and explored their beautiful campus.  Cost: gasoline 

 

  • Hiking trails. If you enjoy the great outdoors at all, the possibilities are endless!!! Here are some of the places we’ve hiked: 

The bridge to nowhere. The waterfalls at the end of the trail make it all worth it. Warning: it’s a 10 mile round trip hike. Please don’t go if you’ve never hiked before or if it’s been a while for you. And take lots of water. There’s a river along the way to help you stay cool and welcoming waterfalls at the end (did I mention I love those?). My husband and I got engaged on the bridge, so it’s somewhat sentimental to me :).

Malibu Beach area. It’s so nice to hike right along the beach!

Vasquez Rocks. A season of 24 was filmed here, as well as several other popular movies and shows. This place will suit all your exploring desires with trails, vast hills, little coves, and rocks that beckon you to climb them.

Seriously, endless possibilities in SoCal. Cost: gasoline (just be sure to plan your drinking water and meals properly)

  • Shakespear plays at the park. This was a neat little experience for us! Take a blanket to sit on and maybe a pillow or two for comfort. The actors did a great job, and the sound quality and staging was pretty good as well! Cost: free

 

  • Snow! I absolutely love the snow in Tehachapi in the winter months. Just wow. There’s also Wrightwood, but I find it quite overwhelmed with tourists, as is Big Bear. My husband found this amazing area of Tehachapi where we saw next to zero snow-deprived Californians, and if there had been many people, there would have been plenty of snow to go around. It started snowing while we were there… I was in heaven!!! We didn’t have to pay for parking, and there were even bathrooms with toilet paper along the snow-covered trails (always a plus, right?). This only required gas and warm clothes, and we made some AMAZING memories!!! Cost: gasoline

 

 

  • Downtown Disney. Parking is free for the first two hours. Walking around and getting the essence of Disney without the price of Disney is great for us. Visit the lego store and other fun shops (this girl has awesome pictures!). Just don’t get so carried away that you forget about your car’s time limit! Cost: gasoline and potentially parking
  • The Grove. This is such a beautiful shopping area to walk around in. They have lots of shops, a nice fountain, and a little bridge. My best friend got engaged on the bridge; her fiancé sang and played his guitar and then proposed. It’s especially romantic at night if that’s what you’re going for. Cost: gasoline and possibly parking

Photo credit: Prayitno

  • The Americana (Glendale). While this place is awesome all year round, I have to say that Christmas time is the best!!! They have a beautiful fountain running through the middle of the outdoor shopping area, and at Christmas time, the lights make it even more inviting. As my husband and I were enjoying the scenery, we hear “Let it Snow” by Michael Buble, and snow starts falling from above!! It was fake of course, but it was still magical! Just magical. Cost: gasoline and possibly parking
    This is certainly not a comprehensive list (and I hope to keep adding to it!), but I hope it helps some locals to figure out inexpensive ways to create family memories! Yes, some of these places may tempt you to spend money. However, the goal is simply to give you some fun destinations that don’t require a huge entrance fee and certainly don’t break the bank. Now, please. Let me in: what are some of your favorite, inexpensive things to do in LA? 

5 Ways to Enjoy Life: Simple and Free

It’s amazing that with so many people in the world, this still remains: Everyone is different! We all require something different to make us “tick.” Maybe you’re not naturally a simple person. My sweet husband isn’t. If the choice is between Best Western and Hilton, you can bet we are going to the Hilton. Does that mean he buys all expensive stuff? Nope. He’s awesome. But no doubt, his natural bent is toward life’s finer things.

Regardless of being naturally practical or high maintenance or whatever, you can enjoy the simple things. It’s all about the mindset. Simply put: determine how you will save money, realize that simple can be fun, and get some sheer grit to stick to it (regardless of complaints from family or friends!). Here are ways you can enjoy the simple life today:

Read books. Books take you places. If you’ve never experienced a book taking you somewhere: don’t knock it till you’ve tried it! And not only does it take you places, you grow as a person. Books are cheap if you look for deals; they are free if you borrow from a friend or become a member of your local library.

Be recreational. Go for walks around the neighborhood, so you don’t have to drive anywhere or pay for a membership. Take your kids and/or pets to the nearest park; play football, basketball, soccer, or create a game using materials around the house. You never know what family memory you are creating! (Just writing this brings back fond memories of packing a PB&J picnic lunch for my younger brother and nephew and walking to the nearby park… those were some GOOD times; I still love driving by that old park!)

Watch only the free/paid for stuff. If Amazon prime is worth the money to you, only watch movies on there. If an extended family member is willing to share their Netflix, only watch that. Then there’s that library again; they have movies as well! I’ve been known to borrow movies from friends. Just be sure to return it promptly so your friend happily lends you movies next time.

Enjoy nature. Get up early to watch the sunrise or enjoy the sunset with friends or go for a hike. There’s something about nature that reminds us that life is bigger than ourselves. Our Creator God would love for you to enjoy nature and become closer to Him through that enjoyment.

Host a potluck. If you’re living on a budget and missing your friends, host a potluck! You’ll have fun with friends without putting out more food than you can afford. If you don’t have games or a TV to offer, ask a friend to bring a game or find a free game online (like Headbands).

I know there’s more out there than just this short list, but I wanted to keep it simple. 🙂 How about you? How do you like to keep life simple and enjoyable? Let me know in the comments!

Photo credit: Unknown