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8/24/2015

In the early years of my marriage, when months were longer than money, I had to learn how to save money, especially on groceries. Living with my parents, I hadn’t realized how much food actually costs when it didn't come from your backyard! That first trip through the canned foods aisle and meat department was truly an eye opener, let me tell you. Here are some of the ways I learned how to save money.

grocery shopping

Early on, I researched how I could save money on our grocery bill. Finding the day old bread store was amazing. I had no idea you could buy bread so inexpensively—and to me it still tasted great. As our family expanded, and we invested in a chest freezer, I would buy marked-down bread to store in order to avoid multiple trips to the store. Making your own bread is great, but when you don't have time, finding a bread store near you helps you keep bread, rolls, buns and more on hand.

I also discovered salvage stores or "scratch and dent" groceries. These were like a treasure hunt; you never knew what you would find when you went to the store—cheap pasta, inexpensive flour, even cereal. Every trip helped to stock our pantry and allowed our family to eat better than we could have otherwise. The local salvage store we go to now is amazing, and I start my shopping trips there each week to keep our grocery budget in line. I can find coffee for half price, canned fruit at a third of the price, cleaning supplies at less than half price—even shampoo, toothpaste and dog food. Check Google to see if you have a salvage grocery near you that might yield some unexpected great deals.

Where we live, there’s a local grocery store that has a markdown area for every section, such as dairy and meat. I’ve found great deals on quite a few things, and will sometimes buy all of a markdown item if it's a really great deal. Get to know the managers of each department. In talking to each of them, I have learned the best times to go during the week to find marked down items. Check around your grocery stores locally—see if they have a markdown rack or if they would be willing to sell you items that would otherwise been thrown out.

The marked down produce has supplied our family with great fresh fruit, like apples, oranges, and bananas. Sometimes I find grapes, strawberries and peaches. Even the vegetables, such as green peppers, onions and mushrooms, can be used right away, or frozen and dehydrated to use later. I discovered a jelly recipe that makes some great jelly from whatever fruit you might find at a reduced price, either at a grocery store or a farmers market. I like to use my steam juicer to juice the fruit for jelly, but you can make juice however you like (the steam juicer just happens to be easier for me).

fruit juice jelly

Multi-Fruit Jelly Recipe

Ingredients:
• 3 cups of fruit juice (I used peach, apple, grape and nectarine)
• 1/2 teaspoon butter
• 1 box pectin (can use bulk pectin)
• 4-1/2 cups of sugar

Instructions

1. Wash half-pint jars in hot soapy water. Place in 200 degree oven to keep warm and to dry. Put lids in small pot of simmering water. Prepare rings.

2. Put fruit juice in large stock pot. Add pectin (if using bulk pectin, follow measurements on jar for equivalent amount). Add butter to reduce foaming. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, stirring constantly.

3. Stir in sugar. Return to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Remove from heat and skim off foam, if necessary.

4. Ladle immediately into warm, dry jars, through a funnel, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Wipe rims of jars. Cover with lid and add ring, tightening hand tight.

5. Place jars in water bath canner, and add water to cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Process half-pints for 5 minutes, 10 minutes for pints, in a gentle boil. Remove from heat and place on towel upright. Cover and allow to seal.

You can make this jelly with any combination of fruit juice that you think would taste good together. I've even used 100 percent, no-sugar-added juice that was found reduced at the salvage store.

Let me know how your jelly turns out and what your family thinks! And if you have recipes or ideas for jelly, or ways to save money on food, leave them in the comments below.


Amy GreeneAmy lives in North Carolina, where she is working towards learning all areas of self-sufficiency. Amy, along with her husband, four kids and three dogs, but has aspirations to own chickens, goats, pigs, cows, bees and more! Their current steps toward homesteading include a large garden from which they can the produce, along with freezing and dehydrating other fruits and vegetables. Amy's hobbies including trying new homesteading ventures, sewing, cooking, crocheting and learning how to "make her own" anything. Eventually, she and her family want to move to the country where to fulfill their wildest homesteading dreams!




8/18/2015

It’s easy to think green while you’re at home. But when you’re on the road and on vacation, it’s an entirely different story. If you’re planning a summer road trip use these four simple tips to reduce your carbon footprint.

Packed for road trip
Photo courtesy Deposit Photos.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

We’ve all heard the phrase reduce, reuse, recycle, but how many of us actually practice this eco-conscious motto? According to The Water Project, the bottles that are used to package water take more than 100,000 years to naturally biodegrade and , if incinerated they release toxic fumes. Valley Water estimates that more than 80 percent of the bottles used in the U.S. become litter. Shockingly, it takes more than 1.5 million barrels of oil to satisfy the demand for bottle manufacturing in the United States, according to the Sun Times. The truth is…bottled water is wasteful.

On your next road trip, instead of buying a case of bottled water, bring along a reusable bottle instead. From insulated metal styles and plastic varieties to compact bottles and sippy-cup styles for kids, there’s a water bottle available to fit your lifestyle. REI offers a selection of water bottles both online and in store. Make it a habit to carry your bottle to work, school and on errands, not just on your road trip.

Drive on Eco-Friendly Tires

Tires aren’t known as the most eco-friendly product on the market today, but one tire manufacturer is trying to change that. Continental Tires has launched a new type of tire, called ProContact ECOPlus, that are more eco-friendly than other traditional tires. Additionally, Continental Tires support a zero landfill policy, meaning that 100 percent of the company's waste is either recycled or reused in some way. If you’re in need of a new set of tires, or if you’d simply like to support a company that supports the environment, check out TireBuyer.com and browse their selection of Continental Tires to find the right tires for your next road trip and beyond.

Store Your Gear in the Right Place

Roadtrippers setting off on an adventure with bikes and lots of camping gear in tow can consider storing their items on a hitch-mounted cargo rack rather than a roof rack. According to Carbon Offsets to Alleviate Poverty (COTAP), hitch cargo racks are more efficient than rooftop styles that create drag. Additionally, storing your gear on the back of your vehicle increases your fuel economy and doesn’t create a drag while driving. The Swedish cargo manufacturer, Thule, offers hitch-mounted bike carriers that are easy to install and use. The durable racks mount to your vehicle’s receiver hitch, so there’s no base rack required for transport. Thule offers multiple options to carry from just one or up to five bikes.

Plan Ahead & Skip Traffic

Planning your road trip ahead of time with an app like Roadtrippers can help you avoid wasting time in traffic. COTAP reports that sitting in traffic creates CO2 and wastes gas. If you live in a populated city with a lot of traffic, try not to leave during peak travel times, that way you can avoid traffic chaos. The Roadtrippers app also lets users plan stops along the way while calculating fuel costs and time spent in the car. The Roadtrippers app is currently available via Apple’s App Store and it’s also available for Android devices from Google Play.


Lauren Topor is a lifestyle writer based in the Southwest who spends her days writing about food and health, fashion, fitness and entertainment.



8/5/2015

Farm Sanctuary

WHY THEY’RE CRUCIAL: It’s an unfortunate reality that’s hard to face: Today’s factory farms engage in the abuse of thousands of animals every day. If we hope to improve the healthfulness of our own food, we must also work to change the industrialization of farm life. Farm Sanctuary does just that: Brings awareness to the abuses suffered by cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys and sheep in industrialized farms, and works to bring about systemic change to this unhealthy, inhumane system. They also rescue farm animals, such as when they took in 60 broiler chickens that were abandoned on the side of a highway on their way to a Brooklyn live market. Since 1986, Farm Sanctuary has worked to protect farm animals by encouraging a new awareness and understanding about farm animals.

WHAT THEY DO:

• Bring social awareness to the abuses industrial farm animals suffer
• Advocate for laws and policies to prevent animal suffering
• Educate millions about the effects of factory farming on our health and environment
• Reach out to legislators and businesses to bring about institutional reforms
• Rescue thousands of animals, placing them in sanctuaries or permanent adoptive homes

HOW WE CAN HELP: Throughout the duration of this issue, we’re collecting donations for this important charity to help protect farm animals from cruelty. To join our efforts, visit Farm Sanctuary, or mail donations to P.O. Box 150, Watkins Glen, New York, 14891. Include the fundraiser name, Mother Earth Living Gives Back, on the envelope or check, if you wish. It’s our goal to collect $2,500 for Farm Sanctuary.

DID YOU KNOW

• Large manure pits on factory farms are known to release air pollutants such as methane, a major greenhouse gas, and hydrogen sulfide, which is highly flammable and can cause sudden unconsciousness or (in very high concentrations) even death.

• The six growth hormones commonly used by the U.S. dairy industry have been assessed as a potential risk to human health by the European Union’s Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures Relating to Public Health.

• Today, an estimated 70 percent of the antibiotics used in the U.S. are given to farm animals, which can lead to drug-resistant bacteria.

• Poor sanitation and waste management on factory farms can allow E. coli and Salmonella to contaminate the food supply: Each year, 76 million Americans become ill from food-borne illness, and thousands die.



8/4/2015

Scientists have warned of a global warming tipping point for decades. But progress is being made: Renewable energy structures in the U.S. could, with a few tweaks, supply 80 percent of domestic energy needs by 2050. We’re at a point where we can make serious positive strides toward preserving our planet. Solar panel prices are plummeting, and usage is accounting for 36 percent of new electric capacity. Getting to that 80 percent renewable mark would reduce carbon emissions from the power sector by 80 percent and cut water use in the power sector by half. All of the pieces are beginning to fall into place for this to happen.

But despite that, we still have a long way to go. Over the past 60 years, the U.S. has more than doubled its non-renewable energy consumption, and renewable sources still aren’t proliferating at the rate of petroleum and natural gas. Renewable energy can save money and the environment: We just have to take decisive action. Read on to find out the real cost of U.S. energy consumption.

Cost Of Energy Consumption

Vermont Law School Online


Miles YoungMiles Young is a freelance writer, designer and outdoorsman. He’s worked as a roof contractor and part-time engine mechanic. He spends his free time fishing and tinkering in his garage. You can follow him on Twitter @MrMilesYoung. 



7/30/2015

"Going green" makes ample sense from a business perspective. In addition to providing positive PR, a company's green initiative helps the environment by contributing a smaller carbon footprint. Green-friendly initiatives illustrate that a company cares about its community and is willing to prioritize the environment over cutting corners.

While "going green" in previous decades was difficult due to cost and inaccessibility, recent advances in technology, from biodegradable cleaners to affordable CFL/LED lighting, have made it easy and cost-effective for businesses to truly go green. It's so easy in 2015 for a business to be green that the initiative should be considered by all, starting with the simple tips outlined below.

eco-friendly lighting
Image by Public Domain Archive.

Make the Switch to LED

Whereas fluorescent lighting contains harmful toxins like lead and mercury, LED lights are devoid of any harmful toxins. They are also more energy efficient and last longer than most traditional lighting. Switching to LED is one of the easiest green-friendly endeavors a company could pursue. Due to LED's longevity, the switch will even save money in the long run.

Compact-fluorescent lights (CFL) are also worth consideration. Similar to LED, they can save companies up to $200 per bulb over time. Plus, many CFL and LED lights slide right into the standard bulb socket for most fixtures.

Utilize Biodegradable, Green Products

All businesses strive to maintain a clean-looking office, particularly with the use of cleaning supplies. Biodegradable cleaners reduce exposure to chemicals and harsh toxins. They’re also widely available at a fair price in grocery stores and on Amazon.

Cleaning supplies only one example of eco-friendly products companies can buy to improve their green presence. In general, any product that is biodegradable and/or has low toxicity, reduced packaging and low life-cycle energy use should be considered if it serves the same function as a product that is not. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) summarizes this well:

“Taking steps to reduce exposure can minimize harmful impacts to custodial workers and building occupants, improve indoor air quality, and reduce water and ambient air pollution while also ensuring the effectiveness of cleaning in removing biological and other contaminants from the building's interior.”

business meeting
Photo by Fotolia.

Minimize Paper Use or Skip It Entirely

Any form of communication—from company memos to financial records—can now be securely stored and transmitted electronically. This makes paper a lot less essential than it was decades ago, which is great news for the environment. So many resources are used to make paper; 324 liters of water is required to make 1kg of paper, while paper also accounts for 25 percent of landfill waste and 33 percent of municipal waste. Companies who strive to minimize paper use, or eliminate it entirely, are doing the environment a great favor, while also responsibly adapting to a new form of communication in electronic storage and transmission that will undoubtedly continue to be the norm in business.

Check Your Local Utility Provider for Green Options

The U.S. Department of Energy has a map feature where business owners can check the availability of green power in their state. They should also reach out to their local utility provider for any green options available, such as opting to prioritize renewable energy sources like solar and wind power, hydropower, geothermal and plant matter. Although this may result in a higher monthly cost, it's a small percentage to purchase clean energy and make the environment a better one.

Seek Innovative Ways to Recycle

From employee’s water bottles to stacks of paper, it’s irresponsible for a business not to recycle. Some business managers may feel that their industry offers few options for recycling daily products, but you’d be surprised to learn some of the many creative recycling options out there.

For example, businesses in the construction industry can make use of scrap recycling services, and many cell phone retailers are beginning to offer phone recycling programs. As recycling becomes more important to our society, more and more options are becoming available to meet your specific business needs.

Going green is quite easy and cost-effective, as the above examples show. Businesses can certainly reap the PR benefits, but more importantly they will contribute positively to our environment by using products with no harmful toxins, reducing paper use and considering green alternatives for power and recycling.

What are some other, simple ways that more organizations can go green? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below!

Kayla Matthews is a health and wellness blogger who loves jogging, yoga and hiking. Follow Kayla on Google+ and Twitter to read all of her latest posts.



7/28/2015

The population of Texas will double by 2050 if growth continues at the same pace experienced between 2000 and 2010, according to the state demographer. That booming population would put acute demands on housing, education, infrastructure and potable water supplies.   

Looking ahead, the City of San Marcos, Texas, located 25 miles south of Austin, is offering home and business owners a chance to install a professional rainwater harvesting system and receive a 50-percent rebate—up to $5,000 for homeowners and $20,000 for owners of commercial property.

Jeremy Delost
Jeremy Delost, president and CEO of Acer Water Tanks, examines one of the Pioneer water tanks that the San Marcos, Texas-based company sells in North America.
Photo by Pat Pape

“Despite the recent heavy rains in Central Texas, San Marcos officials know this area is growing rapidly and realizes there may not be enough water for the future population,” says Jeremy Delost, president and CEO of Acer Water Tanks, a San Marcos-based tank distribution company that serves the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean. “Without adequate clean water, growth will be limited, so city officials want residents to collect, store and use rain before it runs into streets and gutters.”

Many municipalities offer benefits to citizens who harvest rain, but the San Marcos rain catchment program is the most generous Delost has seen during his decade in the industry. Despite publicity about water shortages, many Texans are still unaware of the state’s water situation. 

“Most people are accustomed to an unlimited supply of clean water at a cheap price,” said Delost. “They turn on their tap and safe, drinkable water comes out. This is why people don’t adopt rainwater harvesting on a large scale except in areas where water is expensive or no public water supply exists. Of course, water is free once you have a rainwater system.”

Despite poor well water and limited municipal water services in some areas, the Texas Hill Country lifestyle is extremely desirable, and people continue moving there. Rainwater harvesting has become a reliable source of domestic water, and many families live exclusively on rain that is far superior to water pumped from private wells during this time of water conservation.

“Residents to the area build their dream houses despite the poor well water and lack of city water, and they collect rain coming off their roof and store it in a large tank—maybe 20,000 or 30,000 gallons,” he said. “It becomes their sole water supply. As long as the system is well designed and constructed, they can store water indefinitely and maintain its high quality.”

In 2012, each Texan used an average of 83 gallons of water per day, reports the Texas Water Development Board. A 1-inch rain falling on a 1,000-square-foot roof will produce 600 gallons that can be stored and used as needed. A water-conscious family of four requires about 100,000 gallons of water per year for domestic use. Because San Marcos receives 35 inches of rain in an average year, a 4,500-square-foot collection area would supply the family with its annual water requirement.

“San Marcos and other Central Texas cities are growing fast, so access to plentiful, quality water is extremely important,” he added. “A rainwater harvesting system that collects water every time it rains and at no charge is ideal. Now that the city is subsidizing the cost of the system, residents should jump on board to secure a water supply for the future.”


Pat Pape is a freelance writer, blogger and communications consultant, who lives with her husband and numerous pets on a Texas hobby farm. See her writing portfolio.

 



7/10/2015

Are you ready to make the switch from gas guzzler to something a little more efficient, such as a hybrid or electric vehicle? The U.S. Department of Energy reports that vehicles that rely on alternative fuels produce lower emissions than traditional models that rely on fossil fuels. Data also shows that these types of cars are more affordable. Saving money and helping the environment, why wouldn’t you opt to drive a more efficient vehicle?

eco-friendly car
Photo by shutterstock.

Turn over a new, greener leaf by trading in your conventional car and purchasing a model that benefits the environment. Here are a few tips on how to make the best choices when it comes to finding the perfect eco-friendly car.

Does It Qualify for a Tax Credit?

Driving an efficient vehicle can earn you a pretty hefty tax credit. Before you buy, do some research to make sure your model qualifies. In some cases, electric vehicles are eligible for a federal income tax credit of up to $7,500. The credit is based on the capacity of the car’s battery, which is used to fuel the vehicle. Additionally, plug-in hybrid vehicles purchased during the year 2010 or later also qualify for the $7,500 tax credit. Drivers can claim the credit by filling out tax form 8936. The U.S. Department of Energy website has all the information you need to find out if the car you're interested in is eligible for the tax credit.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Conventional cars comes in all shapes and sizes, and so do hybrid and electric vehicles. However, the most popular styles of energy-efficient vehicles are often much smaller than fossil-fueled models. For example, hybrid sedans lose between three and five feet of cubic trunk space to accommodate the battery.

Although many of the eco-conscious vehicles on the market may be downsized, you don’t have to sacrifice space. Shop around and look for models, such as the 2015 Lexus RX Hybrid or the 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid, that offer the benefits of an energy-efficient vehicle and the space of a traditional SUV. Keep in mind a hybrid SUV may lose some storage space to fit the battery, but you'll have more room overall.

Make a Smart Choice

Dubbed the Energy Star of vehicles by DriveTime, SmartWay is an EPA certification that is awarded to cars and trucks that emit less tailpipe emissions and greenhouse gasses than other conventional vehicles. Since its development in 2004, the SmartWay program has eliminated 51.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

And the certification isn't just limited to consumer vehicles—the SmartWay program extends to freightliners, as well. Dealerships like DriveTime have an ongoing partnership with SmartWay. In fact, 20 percent of the DriveTime inventory is made up of SmartWay certified vehicles. Additionally, DriveTime was the first national dealership to brand eco-friendly cars with the SmartWay logo, which makes it easier for consumers to make a green choice. For more information, visit the DriveTime blog and check out their selection of eco-friendly cars.





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