Striving for Homemaking

My journey through parenting, homeschooling, money saving, and home management

Cheap & Healthier Alternative to Coffee Creamer

Admittingly, I am one of those who likes a little coffee with my creamer. I love coffee, but if I had to drink it black I just wouldn’t drink it. I never thought I liked coffee until I discovered flavored coffee creamer, and then I was hooked. Recently though I have been working on cutting back on processed foods and sugars from out diet, and a major area I needed to address was my addiction to coffee creamer, and all of it’s sugar and chemicals. I had started buying the “natural” real dairy creamer made with real cream and sugar, but sugar is sugar and it still falls into the  “processed food” category.

So, with that being said, the alternative I have found that works for me is evaporated milk and either honey or agave nectar for the sweetener. Yes, it’s probably not the most perfectly healthy solution, but for now it’s a step in the right direction. I’ve found, also, that the fat free evaporated milk is just as creamy as the whole milk version. Pour it into a pretty glass jar, because everything looks better in pretty glass jars. I also use evaporated milk when I make oatmeal or cream of wheat and macaroni and cheese. If you mix evaporated milk 50/50 with water you can use it in any recipe that calls for milk, and it’s a lot cheaper.

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*FREE* Vitacost: $10 Worth of FREE items + FREE SHIPPING!! Now Through 4/12!

I love Vitacost and have gotten some amazing deals through them, especially for baby products. Here is another one that is happening NOW! Through 4/12, Vitacost is offering FREE shipping on your entire order when you purchase Vitacost Vitamin D3 (200 capsules) for just $4.99 (hurry before they sell out!!). This means after you use your $10 credit, you will still have $5.01 to spend on ANYTHING you want, which means completely FREE items with NO money out of pocket! (or very little out of pocket if you spend a little over $5.01 extra – I ordered the vitamins to get free shipping plus 4 organic baby food pouches plus two free samples, and my total was $.03!)
Here’s how to work your magic and get completely FREE items!

  1. Sign up for a Vitacost account here to get your FREE $10
  2. You will get a FREE $10 credit email sent to you after signing up (will come within a few minutes)
  3. Then, go here and select the cheapest item (which would be the Vitacost Vitamin D3 (200 capsules) priced at $4.99) so you’ll have an additional $5.01 to spend on ANY other products on the site you want totaling less than $10 and they will all ship FREE! THE FREE SHIPPING WILL BE APPLIED AFTER YOU ADD THIS ITEM TO YOUR CART! Just make sure it is the Vitacost Vitamin D3 (200 capsules) and not softgels. 
  4. You can also choose 2 FREE samples with every order! Do a search in the search bar for “free samples” and you can add two different ones to your cart. Your whole order will be FREE + FREE shipping and no money out of pocket!!

Make sure to do step three for it to work! Vitacost sells everything organic or natural . . . baby food, diapers, peanut butter, maple syrup, Annie’s organics . . . you can probably find it here!

After you place your order, go to http://www.vitacostrewards.com and sign up for Vitacost Rewards and then send a referral to your spouse, child, mother, friend, etc. and place another order like the one above through their account and you will get a $10 credit after the order is placed (it takes several days after an order for the credit to show up in your account). Sign up every email address/name in your household and do the above order deal and this becomes an even better deal!

Hurry before the Vitacost Vitamin D3 (200 capsules) sells out because ordering that item is how you get free shipping to make this deal work! 

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Sneakpeeq: 2 Jars of Gourmet Chutneys or Spreads only $2 Shipped! (Regularly $20)

Sneekpeeq is a new shopping site linked through Facebook, and right now if you are a new member and sign up here you get a $10 credit and FREE shipping! Just sign up and then click on “The Gracious Gourmet” sale and select any 2 pack chutneys or spreads priced at $12. Sneakpeeq will automatically apply your $10 credit, making your price only $2 and FREE shipping! I got the mango pineapple chutney and the dried fruit chutney. Those will be great stirred into plain yogurt!

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$4 IKEA Spice Racks Turned Kids Bookshelves

We are a family of 7 living in a 1200 ft2 house, so space is at a premium. I’m always looking for creative ways to organize to maximize space, especially in my toddlers’ room. We have our youngest three, ages 3, almost 2, and7 months sharing one small bedroom.  I saw this pin on Pinterest from Wonderfuljoyahead.com about how to make vertical kids bookshelves out of $4 IKEA spice racks. It looked so cute and saved so much space I just had to figure out a way to do this.

We don’t have an IKEA store anywhere near us, so out went a plea to my Facebook friends to see if anyone lived near an IKEA who would be willing to get me the shelves and ship them to me. One of my best friends from highschool who I haven’t seen in 15 years answered my call! I was so excited to get those shelves in the mail the day they came, I was like a kid on Christmas.

These shelves are $4 each at IKEA, so including the shipping cost, this project cost $40. I have six shelves, but we ended up only having enough room for five. These do not come assembled and are unfinished wood, so out went the plea to my husband to help me in this endeavor.  My sweet husband spent a Sunday afternoon putting three coats of white paint on these and putting them together. We used paint left over from remodeling our house, so we didn’t have any added expense in paint or paint supplies.  It took until the next weekend to get them hung, but the finished project was very worth it. I put them in a space that was just wasted space and would never be used for anything else, in between their window and their closet door. The closet door is a standard accordion door and it opens all the way without hitting the shelves. The kids can even get behind there to get books even if the closet door is all the way open, which it usually is because that’s where all their toys are kept.

After they were hung I needed some alone time in my toddlers’ bedroom to organize all their books and make it look pretty. I love to organize things; there is just about nothing that makes me happier than some kind of organizing project and seeing the results. My three year old can reach up to the third shelf, so the bottom three shelves hold all their board books. On the top two shelves I put all their nice hard back books, books I don’t want to get ripped up. My two year old has a fetish for ripping up books. She loves books, but she likes to rip the pages. Her brother got a Little People flip-a-flap book for Christmas and within a month she had ever flap ripped out of that book. Needless to say we won’t be getting any more of those type books for awhile.

My kids are pretty rough on things, so I was concerned about them ripping the shelves off the wall or trying to climb them, and sure enough within a week that bottom shelf had been pulled down. So, my sweet husband rehung the shelf, and this time used a better screw anchor. About a month later the same thing happened to the second shelf from the bottom, so he again rehung it with a better screw anchor. Since then we have not had any more problems. My 7 month old now likes to try to use the bottom shelf as a bench press to pull himself up on, so I have to watch him close and make sure he doesn’t pull too hard. There were no studs to use to hand these in the area we put them, unfortunately.

I think this was the first Pinterest idea that I actually completed, so I am very proud of it. The kids love being able to see all their books displayed and being able to put them away themselves. The shelve also add a nice decorative touch to the room. What a cute way to re-purpose $4 IKEA spice racks!

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Fizzy Fun with Kids

 

Take vinegar tinted with food coloring and use a dropper to drop it in a pan filled with baking soda. It makes a chemical reaction and fizzes up and makes little craters. It looks really cool. I decided to try this tonight while we were coloring Easter eggs. My three year old liked doing it but had trouble using the dropper, so I had to help (we need to work on this skill). I was also a bit too paranoid with the bowl of food colored vinegar so near our carpet, so we didn’t do this very long, but it’s a good idea, probably for an older child though.

I tried using the vinegar/water mixture from the egg dye, but since it was diluted it didn’t make as much fizz as the straight vinegar and food coloring, but it still worked. Again, I think my kids (ages 3 and almost 2) are a bit too young for activities involving food coloring and liquid, but it was a fun experiment.

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Quick and Easy Hummus

My husband and I love Greek/Mediterranean food, and we love this local Greek deli in our town. When we were dating we’d have lunch there at least once a week. Three babies later we don’t get to make it there anymore, so my husband learned how to make our favorite dishes at home. After much tweaking of a Joy of Cooking hummus recipe, he came up with his version that tastes just how we remember it. It is a favorite with our toddlers too, who can eat it with a spoon. Our favorite thing to eat it with is Olympia brand Greek Pita Bread (really a flat bread), which I buy at our Greek deli. Whenever I go to buy pita I get 4 (10 in a package) and put one in the refrigerator and the rest in the freezer. It also makes amazing pizza crust. You can also find it for sale on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Original-Greek-Pita-Bread-count/dp/B000271GV8

So, here it is, our favorite Hummus recipe:

ANDREW’S HUMMUS

INGREDIENTS:

• 2 CANS OF CHICKPEAS (DRAIN 1 CAN)

• 6 TABLESPOONS OF TAHINI

• 1 TABLESPOON OF MINCED GARLIC

• 2 TEASPOONS OF GROUND CUMIN

• 1 TEASPOON ONION POWDER

• PINCH OF GROUND RED PEPPER

• FRESH CRACKED PEPPER

• JUICE OF ½ LEMON (SQUEEZE BY HAND – WITH A JUICER YOU GET TOO MUCH JUICE)

COMBINE ALL INGREDIENTS INTO FOOD PROCCESSOR AND BLEND
FOR 2-3 MIN OR UNTILL DESIRED CONSISTANCY. ADD THE REMAINING BEAN WATER WHILE BLENDING TO GET A SMOOTH TEXTURE. TO SERVE, DRIZZLE WITH A LITTLE OLIVE OIL (I LIKE A LOT OF OLIVE OIL!)  AND SPRINKLE WITH
GROUND PAPRIKA.

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