Would you eat this? Soylent Pink in our schools and supermarket!


Having only recently come out of high school I can still all too clearly remember the ‘healthy’ meals that were served daily.  It only took a tentative poke of the fork to determine the majority of these foods were questionable to say the least. Many of my classmates and I were more inclined to order the more expensive option of just fries, at least they looked safe.  A growing movement of people who usually target food places like McDonalds and Taco Bell have now set their sights  on the school cafeteria who it seems has picked up a potentially hazardous ingredient most fast food chains have tossed.

 

I’m talking about Pink Slime the product created “by gathering waste trimmings, simmering them at low heat so the fat separates easily from the muscle, and spinning the trimmings using a centrifuge to complete the separation. Next, the mixture is sent through pipes where it is sprayed with ammonia gas to kill bacteria. The process is completed by packaging the meat into bricks. Then, it is frozen and shipped to grocery stores and meat packers, where it is added to most ground beef.”

 These trimmings have for some time been deemed inedible for humans and were used in dog and other animal feeds. However, Gerald Zirnstein a former US Department of Agriculture Scientist says that a whopping 70% of the ground beef we purchase in supermarkets contains pink slime.  After protests from consumers many fast food chains like the ones mentioned above claim they have pulled the product from their manufacturing process. Unfortunately it appears to have been redirected to the school cafeterias!

Who would do such a thing? Apparently the US Department of Agriculture has shelled out enough to purchase over 7 million pounds of the stuff which will soon be hitting the plate in front of your child in the form of burgers. Just recently the government passed regulations to provide students with healthier meal options that include more whole grains and fewer fats.  While their intentions may be good (the product is treated to kill bacteria’s such as E. coli and Salmonella) the process uses chemicals like ammonium hydroxide which is a common ingredient in cleaners and fertilizers. Despite their efforts “In 2009, The New York Times reported that despite the added ammonia, tests of Lean Beef Trimmings of schools across the country revealed dozens of instances of E. coli and salmonella pathogens. Between 2005 and 2009, E. coli was found three times and salmonella 48 times, according to the Times, including two contaminated batches of 27,000 pounds of meat.”

The USDA still asserts that its ground beef purchases meet the highest standard for food safety. Which leads me to wonder if ammonia treated beef trimmings once used in pet food is now sold in the meat aisle have those standards lowered or have we been eating “mystery meat” all along.  With the odds stacked against it and public outcry on the rise I wonder how long the pink slime will stay on the menu.   What do you think? Is the public introduction of these meat products a safe food source or are we being duped? Will you start packing your kids lunches or are you ok with what some call a healthy meal?

 

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Guest Blogger & Pick of the Week ~ Fine Frugality


 One of my favorite authors on WordPress and writer for Fine Frugality Living Life to the Fullest ~ Simply has been kind enough to create a wonderful read. More on the topic of organization with simple creative ways to motivate, maintain, and yes enjoy, cleaning!

Hi everyone! I’ve been asked by the wonderful folks here at The Shanty Town to do a guest post that will help cover a current topic, cleaning and organizing our homes. I absolutely loved the post “Women ~ The Quest for the Perfect Excuse”, and agree whole heartedly with the author’s point of view. Bottom line, it all boils down to the fact that we are humans and we drag our feet when it comes time to do something that isn’t “fun”. With that said, I’ll share some of the things that motivate me to stay organized and keep a semi-clean abode.

 

I don’t know about you, but one of the worst questions anyone in my household can ask me is “Do you know where my… is”. I find a huge bit of comfort in knowing what I have, where it is and how much of it is there. I value my time too much to be idly searching for misplaced boots, memory cards or electric bills. So even though it is next to impossible (I’m still giving it the old college try though!) to organize the other members of my household, as long as I can remain organized, I remain relatively sane.

 

Take Notes.

An overall general rule I have is to schedule the larger organizational or cleaning tasks. I like to do that when no one else is home. That way, there is no one coming up to me asking “Do you know where my…is” as I work. So send your spouse and kids somewhere and clean out that closet. Or garage. Or laundry room. Play some dance music loudly to keep you moving. Get rid of anything you no longer use. (I always have a box tucked away under a desk in the office where I put items that will be donated to the local thrift store) You are going to LOVE your new clean space when you’re done. Keep telling yourself that!

 

 I also have a weekly schedule for the routine cleaning processes. For instance: Monday = bedrooms. Tuesday = Living Room, etc. Let’s face it, it’s not time consuming or back-breaking-difficult to dust, run the vacuum and wipe down the window sills.

 

The smaller stuff…well, that should be taken care of as it happens. Don’t procrastinate doing the dishes. Do them immediately after the meal. You’re standing up anyway to walk away from the dinner table. It will only take you 5 more minutes. Teach the children to do the same. As soon as they’re done playing video games, the game system should get tucked away back into it’s home before they head for the next activity.

 

One of the main reasons that I love organization is that I believe organization IS frugal. Take for instance…well, my husband. Despite the fact that he is the most wonderful husband ever, he does not have the best brain when it comes to planning, methodology or composition. He is more like “Wet towel. Must put down. First available surface”. So yes, I have found wet towels on the bed, hanging over the door and even on the kitchen table. (Don’t ask) So, the time spent seeking out the wet towel of the day and then returning said towel to its rightful spot may only be three minutes, but if you do that ten times a day…well, that’s a half hour of your time completely wasted. (Unless you count the calories you burned walking from room to room looking for the lost objects)

 

Organization not only saves time, but saves money as well. Trust me. How many times have you bought something, knowing that you already have another one “somewhere”, but you just can’t find it? Or you go to the grocery store and you buy a jar of cumin for a recipe. You get the cumin home and put it away, only to find three more jars of cumin. Now come on. There is NO way you are going to use four jars of cumin. Ever. Money wasted. Keep a sheet of paper taped to the inside of cupboards and a pen on one of the shelves. When you are getting low on something, write it down. Before grocery shopping, check the cupboard doors and add the items to your list.

 

My last trick to staying organized is keeping a small notebook in your purse. Whenever I think of something that is needed or a project that I’d like to complete, I write it into my notebook. When I’m out shopping, I can take out the notebook and look through the pages, telling me exactly what I need. All of the important measurements for the house are in there such as window sizes, hallway lengths, etc because you never know when you’re going to run across those perfect curtains. This way, you won’t bring them home to find they only cover 3/4 of the window.

 

Anyone can be organized. And once you are, you’ll wonder how you ever got along in your prior chaos. Imagine it. Grabbing your keys, purse, coffee cup, umbrella and jacket all in one swift motion in the mornings without one second of “Where is my….”. It relaxes me just thinking about it. 

 

I urge you to stop by the Fine Frugality page which was recently featured on Passionate & Creative Homemaking for more on frugal living.

 

Women – The quest for the perfect excuse


I get a lot of my ideas for blogs from things I run across online and I’ve noticed a growing trend in articles about women and their growing need and desire to be ‘perfect’.  I will often skim the article and head down to the comment section, where the meat is and see what others who I assume are everyday people like myself have to say.  With those people in mind I’ve written todays blog in the interest of Women – the quest for the perfect excuse.

 

Women. Ah, where to begin. Men have tried to understand us for centuries with little success. But I wonder do we really even know ourselves?  It seems the people of today have very different and complex ideals of what it means to really be a woman.  Most of us have an image in our minds of course of a stepford wife type who is always just so cleaning the house, cooking and keeping up with the kids. Which is a wonderful fantasy but in today’s world achieving this type of lifestyle can be a bit daunting. Especially since studies show that a majority of the states have both partners working full-time.

 

I’d like to tell you  Don’t Worry. Just take a minute relax and enjoy a cup of coffee. Here.

 

 

Now. Time for the tough love you knew it was coming right? Or did you think this was another one of those clichéd women are treated so badly articles. Some of you might want to stop reading now go ahead, I understand. Not everyone can handle what I have to say.  I’ve compiled a top five list of excuses we use to lie to ourselves everyday to avoid what is to be out new mantra. Say it with me  “Personal Responsibility.”   Thank you dad for that little pearl of wisdom. Personal Responsibility is something we all like to forget about. Lets sweep it under the rug and pile the boxes of “But so and so never helps me.”  “But I work.” “It will just get messy again” “I’m to unorganised.” and my all time favorite “I don’t have time.”

 

You have heard it a thousand times I’m sure, “But I do everything and (husband, wife, kids, ect) never do anything!”  This is where I’m going to start. First of all if you are a stay at home anything you have no right to use this excuse or the I don’t have time excuse.  You do. Stop whining you’re just lazy.  And even if they don’t how are you going to justify living in filth because someone else doesn’t help you clean it? If nothing else have enough respect for yourself not to live that way. You don’t want to be in the next season of Hoarders do you?

 

You work. That’s great! So does the majority of the country and you’re not any better than they are. Why can’t come home and do a load of laundry that takes maybe five minutes? Then you can go sit on the couch until its time to switch it to the dryer! It’s not like we are still using washboards! Every home appliance is designed for you the user to have to put in as little as possible effort. They do the work for you. Your argument is invalid.

 

It will just get messy again. Yes it will. Why is this even considered a valid excuse?

 

Your to unorganised you say? Well keep reading or skip on down to the bottom because I’m going to give you a few tips and links to ways you can get and yes stay organised. I’m excited about it are you?

 

Finally, “I don’t have time.” I hear this excuse all the time and not just for chores for working out, making dinner, and even for doing something nice for yourself. Well, with 168 hours in week I think we can find time for you!

 

Alright now come here and let me give you a hug. I still like you really. I understand that sometimes things get so piled up that it is overwhelming and you are busy and really no one helps. I know your frustrations but we should not keep using them as excuses to keep ourselves living in a way that makes us unhappy and unhealthy.  So let’s get to work! Here are so tried and proved ways to get those excuses out of our lives and start really living! Your gonna like the results!

 

No one helps out you say? Heres an idea give the kids a chore list! Most of them even the small ones can help with something even if it’s just putting away their own toys or making their bed. Will it look perfect? probably not but their small and learning and its one less thing you have to do yourself. Check out Age Approriate Chores for Kids.  Another idea after dinner have each family member rinse their own plates and stick them in the dishwasher you can run the load while you watch tv and they will be dry ready to put away the next morning! If you don’t have a dishwasher just the act of rinsing the plate before it dries will save you five or ten minutes of scrubbing in itself.

 

Pictured: Not Child Abuse.

So you’re a working woman! Like I said before that’s great. Me to! It doesn’t give you a get out of chores free card though. You can do simple things before and after work that take very little time and keep you house fairly clean. I’m not talking Martha Stewart clean but you won’t have to scurry around frantically when someone calls to say they are popping in. Heres a list of chores you can do in under Twenty Minutes!

Unfortunately yes it will get messy again. That’s just the way it is. But once you have your home under control its easier to spend fifteen or twenty minutes a day and keep it company ready.  Being organised hasn’t always been my strong point either. But with a little help it can become a reality. Some of the easiest ways to get started is by going through your entire house and I mean demolish it and get rid of all the trash and everything you don’t want, need, or havent used in the last year. That way once your ready to clean you’ll have a lot less to sort away. Another good way is to make charts and do certain chores on certain days like vacuum every other day and scrub the bathroom twice a week. This is also a great tool if you’re enlisting the help of your kids and lets face it they need to know how to do this stuff.

 Finding time in a day to do everything is hard but you don’t have to fit everything in one day, spread it out and don’t bog yourself down.  This excuse is the one I am most against. We use it for everything and we need to stop.  Check out these sites to learn about Easy Time Management.

 

 

At the end of the week your done. You’ve finished first place! congratulations! After you’ve achieved so much its time to reward yourself. Take some time for you and don’t feel guilty about it this is your day. You can take two hours for a massage and facial. Dress to the nines and go out to eat with your family! No dishes and quality time!  You are a strong, beautiful person and you need to stop making excuses and realise that Yes you can be the woman you want to be chances are those around already see you that way.

DIY – Herbal Teas


This post was featured on Passionate and Creative Homemaking. Don’t forget to stop by their page and show some love!

 

The amazing health benefits of tea are well-known with more research being done each year.  Searching through the wide variety of available flavors in my local supermarket it dawned on me that the majority of the teas we buy can easily be made at home!  Growing your own ingredients are a fun healthy way to know exactly what it is you are consuming and I imagine fresh made teas keep much more of their nutrients than their mass-produced counterparts.

 

Tea gardens can produce a number of crops each year, offer a fun teaching environment for kids and attract the attentions of butterflies and pollen spreading bees! Many commercially produced teas are made with easy to grow plants that you can harvest from your own backyard or indoor planter. Let’s get started!

Mint – Mint is commonly used to treat stomach aches. During the middle ages it was used to whiten teeth and is a strong diuretic and is sometime used as a decongestant for mild common colds.  I recommend growing mint in a container because it spreads quickly and will take over your entire garden if you allow. Mint plants grow well in moist partially sunny areas and due to their hardiness I would recommend them to even a novice gardener.

Chamomile –  Chamomile is used for sore stomachs, irritable bowel syndrome, and as a mild sleep aide. Its grows well in sandy well-drained soil with lots of sun. Plants should be 15 -30 cm apart and lightly fertilized.

Lemon grass – The grass is considered a diuretic, tonic, and stimulant. For best growth, Cymbopogon citratus requires anything between bright sunlight and light shade and a damp soil having excellent drainage system.  When the plants are grown in tubs or containers, it is essential to divide them occasionally as the Cymbopogon citratus is known to have a belligerent growth.

Ginger –  Ginger tea is a beverage in many countries, made from ginger root. In China, the tea is made by boiling peeled and sliced ginger to which brown sugar is often added. Sliced orange or lemon fruit may also be added to give a flavour. It is often used to treat nausea and morning sickness. Ginger plants like a cool, sheltered place protected from strong winds and ideally a humid climate but they do grow well in cool climates as well. Soil should be rich and well-drained.

Brewing the Tea

  • Use 1 tablespoon fresh leaves/roots or 1 teaspoon dried you can adjust to suit your tastes.
  • I recommend using a steeping cup to contain the loose ingredients.
  • Pour hot — but not boiling — water in the mug and let steep for five minutes or less. Use sweetener and cream as desired.Note:  Make sure you know the identity of the plant you’re using to make tea, and be watchful for allergic reactions. Finally, don’t use any leaves or flowers that have been treated with pesticides. Do your research!

 

You are now on your way to enjoying a fresh cup of homegrown herbal tea! Do you have a favorite blend?

Eating Organic for less.


  My roommates and I used to say a blessing before our meals the went something like ” May this food nourish our bodies as it failed to do so for our wallets.”  It is no secret that food costs are on the rise especially if you opt for fresh and organic choices but it doesn’t have to. Try out these tips to eating organic for less.

1. Buy in Bulk – Many dry good items are much cheaper bought in bulk and have an amazingly long shelf life if stored properly.  Oatmeal, rice, beans, and flour are all good examples of items to buy in bulk and they are all easily kept.

Beans – Many food experts are of the opinion that dried beans can be kept without losing their nutritional value for up to thirty years.
Flour – The shelf life of flour really depends on what you are using if you use a particular kind not listed here let me know and I will track it down for you. All purpose flour will last in a cabinet sealed for up to eight months and twelve if kept refrigerated. Corn Flour is easily kept for up to a year and once again this is increased with refrigeration.
Rice – Properly sealed and stored, polished white rice will store well for 25 to 30 years after opening it should be used within 18 – 24 months.
Oatmeal – Processed oatmeal has a longer shelf-life than natural oatmeal because enzymes in the grain are destroyed by the heat of steaming and rolling. Processed oatmeal has a shelf life of about 18 months. Natural oatmeal can be stored in an airtight container for months, but once opened, it needs to be used as soon as possible (within weeks) because the enzymes breakdown.

 2. Find a local butcher – You may have to dig around but finding a local butcher and supplier can be a wonderful way to give yourself and your family with fresh organic meat at a fraction of the price. A couple of years ago my family purchased half a cow from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. It was grass-fed, locally butchered, and lasted us through the winter and then some for just a few hundred dollars. Pound for pound we saved money and you can really taste the difference.

3.  Casseroles – Pan dishes are great because you can divide the finished meal into portions to use later. One casserole can feed a family of four two or three times and can be sent to  school or work for a healthy homemade lunch.

4. Grow your own veggies – Starting your own garden may seem like a daunting task but it’s really very simple. There are thousands of articles online to help you get started and with the rise in interest of urban homesteading its easy to find ways to grow in little to no space. Think vertical gardens.

5. Check out your local farmers market – What could be better than supporting your local farmers while eating healthy at a fraction of the cost. Find out where your local farmers market is and take a day to look around. The produce varies with the season and you can usually haggle with the vendors for a price and amount that fits your household and wallet.

6. Raise your own – If its possible raising chickens is a great way to get your own organic eggs and in a pinch meat. Chickens are great composters, bug eaters, and fertilizers. Many areas are now allowing households to keep a limited amount of chickens inside city limits. Another idea is beekeeping if your up to it and I have heard you can get financial help in this area because of their declining numbers in the wild.

What ways do you and your family eat organic for less?

The most underappreciated weed – Dandelions!


I recently read a fellow bloggers article which sparked my childhood memories of this amazing and all to misunderstood plant.  From food to medicine to wine dandelions have myriad uses granting this usually intimidating menace a well-loved spot in the garden.

 If you have a lawn chances are you’ve spent countless hours in the spring and summer trying to rid yourself of these small yellow flowers. Well now you can give up the fight and embrace one of the most versatile and abundant plants thriving in even the most urban settings. 

 Dandelion greens are one of the seasons first arrivals of edible plants best when picked young they give a powerful punch of Vitamin A and C.  The entire plant root, flower, and stem are used.

The root once harvested is ground and used as a substitute for coffee if you’re in the mood for a change and is similar to chicory. To make this after harvesting the roots you will have to dry, chop, and roast them. After this you grind them and steep in boiling water.  It isn’t your typical cup of joe but when you stumble to the kitchen and find your out of coffee it beats running to the store in your curlers and it is said to be a good tonic for your liver.

The green leaves  boiled with wild onions if your camping makes for a quick easy meal or if you’re at home they are tasty sauted with onion, garlic, and a few chopped peppers. Or you can toss fresh washed greens in with any salad.

Dandelion wine is similarly easy to make using the recipe below variations of which can be found online. 

  • 3 qts dandelion flowers
  • 1 lb golden raisins
  • 1 gallon water
  • 3 lbs granulated sugar
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 orange
  • yeast and nutrientPick the flowers just before starting, so they’re fresh. You do not need to pick the petals off the flower heads, but the heads should be trimmed of any stalk. Put the flowers in a large bowl. Set aside 1 pint of water and bring the rest to a boil. Pour the boiling water over the dandelion flowers and cover tightly with cloth or plastic wrap. Leave for two days, stirring twice daily. Do not exceed this time. Pour flowers and water in large pot and bring to a low boil. Add the sugar and the peels (peel thinly and avoid any of the white pith) of the lemons and orange. Boil for one hour, then pour into a crock or plastic pail. Add the juice and pulp of the lemons and orange. Allow to stand until cool (70-75 degrees F.). Add yeast and yeast nutrient, cover, and put in a warm place for three days. Strain and pour into a secondary fermentation vessel (bottle or jug). Add the raisins and fit a fermentation trap to the vessel. Strain and rack after wine clears, adding reserved pint of water and any more required to top up. Leave until fermentation ceases completely, then rack again. Set aside 2 months and rack and bottle. This wine must age six months in the bottle before tasting, but will improve remarkably if allowed a year.

For more in-depth information read all about the wonderful dandelion at http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/d/dandel08.html  or  http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Dandelion and read why people should be more like dandelions at fellow wordpress blogger anita kellams page.

Eating Healthy on a budget.


Providing healthy nutritious food for ourselves and our families is something that we all strive to do.  With rising food costs it can sometimes feel like an uphill battle.  With that in mind I’ve researched some healthy and low-cost foods that you can feel  proud to set on the table.

 

 1. Bananas – Bananas make the top of my list because they have always been the cheapest good for you food that I can remember. In my area I have never seen them cost more than .89 cents a pound.  They are a great source of potassium, fiber, manganese and vitamin C all of this with only 105 calories!  Whats more is that once they’ve ripened beyond what you would want to eat alone they are in an excellent stage to make Banna Bread one of my childhood favorites. Nutrition Info per serving: 121 calories, 3.5 grams fiber, 14% Daily Value for potassium (487 mg), 20% Daily Value for vitamin C.

 

2. Old Fashioned Oats –  Oatmeal is another cheap healthy food that can be used to make various dishes from breakfast to desert even pet treats!  A 42 oz container usually costs around $4 and holds 30 servings adding up to an inspiring 13 cents a meal!Nutrition info per serving: 150 calories, 4 grams fiber, and 5 grams protein.

 

3. Canned Tuna – This is one of my household staples because it is cheap, quick, will  bulk up many recipes. At less than a dollar a can you really can’t beat this for a cheap reliable source of protein and Omega 3‘s.Nutrition info per serving: About 500 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids (0.5 gram), 60 calories, and 13 grams of protein.

 

4. Potatoes – Russet potatoes can go a long way when your on a budget and you can get a five-pound bag for $4. They are used for breakfast lunch or dinner, are very filling, and can be cooked thousands of different ways.  Nutrition info per serving (one medium-size potato): 168 calories, 3 grams fiber, 5 grams protein, 20% of the Daily Value for vitamin C, 10% Daily Value for iron, and 25% Daily Value for potassium.

 

5. Whole wheat pasta –  Most types of pastas are cheap especially spaghetti or angel hair which I buy for just under a dollar at Harris Teeter.  With one box I feed three adults with  a bit left over so you could stretch a box into two meals. I usually make a traditional italian dinner with pasta $1, ground beef $2-3, canned mushrooms .89, and alfredo sauce $3.  I’m sure it could be done cheaper but it feeds my family twice for just under $10! Nutrition info per serving: About 200 calories, 7 grams protein, and 6 grams fiber.