This past week I was going to focus on finding ways to cut down on overall water consumption.  Some areas were obvious - take shorter showers, run the dishwasher when it is full, and don't water the lawn.  I think the area that I am the most wasteful of water is when I clean the kitchen (a neverending task!).  I figured out that if I put warm water in the sink, I can use that water to wash the counters, rinse dishes, and then finally use the water to mop the floor.   I also tried brushing my teeth with a small amount of water - this one was easy - I find that I am just lazy on this one! 
This week:

11)  Fill the bird feeder - with the weather changing, it is fun to watch the birds coming and going.  Yes - this is an extra expense, but it also simplifies life a bit.

12)  Quiet - this one is tricky in a house with teenagers.  It seems that there is always a television or iPod going somewhere in the house.  I am going to make sure to have at least an hour a day at home without extra noise distractions. 

13)  Cleaning house - I am actually better at doing a fall cleaning than a spring cleaning for some reason.  My goal this year is to only use all natural cleaning supplies.  I also add Thieve's oil to my cleaning water which is a great natural disinfectant.  I use baking soda on my carpets to freshen them up.  Vinegar and water is a great all around cleaner.  This can be used to freshen the dishwasher and washing machine, also.  Have a great fall day!
In Minnesota, this seems to be the last week of farmer's markets.  I was amazed by how much produce was still available.  As an update as to how I am doing with past changes, pretty well!  I made applesauce, froze some peppers, bought spaghetti squash, and I am using farmer's market honey, lip gloss and maple syrup.  The one thing I haven't attempted is baking with fresh pumpkin.  There is still time! 

7.  One thing I thought of with the farmer's markets, is that it is a great place to make connections for grass fed, organic meat and eggs.  I found someone who delivers eggs weekly to my school at a very reasonable price.  It is worth asking at the farmer's market if they do any deliveries.  I am slowly moving into finding options for organic meat, as well as actually cutting down on our meat consumption. 

8.  A great option for a meatless dish is to make a big serving of rice and beans.  I use a wok, and make it a one pan meal.  I start with coconut oil, and then cook the rice.  When it is almost done, I start adding beans and any vegetables I have on hand.  I love spinach, broccoli, lots of onions and garlic, peppers, celery, and anything else I can find.  A big batch can provide a few meals at a reasonable price, and I don't even miss the meat, because the rice and beans provide the protein.  I add different seasonings each time.

9.  I am trying to think of changes that I don't do on a regular basis that I can incorporate into my routine.  This week I cam going to be more conscience of the water that I use.  I know that I am using more than is necessary.  I am going to keep track of my water use this week, and see where I can cut back.

10.  This is my all time favorite recommendation.  I follow this one completely.  I go to the library a couple of times a month.  This saves me thousands of dollars a year on book purchases, because I love to read.  I like to go online and request books that I see at stores, or that have been recommended to me.  I also do searches on nonfiction topics I am interested in to request.  The great part of this is that I get an email when the books have arrived at the library.  I usually have over twenty books checked out a time.  They usually can be renewed up to nine weeks.  Many times I will scan through books, and decide to just return them to the library.  This is a great money saver.  How many times in the past that I would buy a book, and end up not reading it.  It also cuts down on clutter to not keep books around the house.  If I really like a book, I tend to check it out numerous times from the library, rather than buy the book.  I also get books on tape to listen to in the car.  There are also DVDs and CDs available for check out.  This tip is also great for the environment - save a tree - use the library!  Have a great day!  Shanna
Apple orchards and pumpkin patches are a popular destination in the fall.  They are also a great place to stock up on fall produce. 

5) I like to buy a couple small pumpkins early to roast the seeds, and then get more later for seeds and carving.  This year I would like to get a baking pumpkin, and make an attempt at muffins or fresh pumpkin cookies.  Stay tuned on that one, my baking skills are legendary for being bad!  One thing that even I can't mess up is homemade applesauce.  If the apples are organic, I just core and slice them, otherwise you can peel them.  Throw them in a sauce pan with a half cup water and a small amount of brown sugar (1/4 cup for about 10 apples), and then let them simmer in medium heat until soft.  If you mash them part way through it goes faster.  I like to add a couple of handfuls of strawberries for an even better flavor.  Another popular item in fall is squash. My family loves squash, and I am a little lukewarm about it. I do like cooking spaghetti squash upside down in water on a baking sheet (slice in half first).  When it is tender, you can take a spoon to shred the meat.  We use it like pasta, just put sauce over the top!
6) Pop my own popcorn - I know that this doesn't sound like any great change, but it actually is for me.  In the past I have bought organic microwave popcorn for convenience, but I am not a big fan of the microwave or the extra ingredients in the bags of popcorn.  At the apple orchard, I purchased fresh grain popcorn, and what a flavor difference it makes.  I popped it in sunflower oil from the farmer's market, so I didn't have to put butter on it.  I like to try different spices besides salt - garlic and Cajun flavors are my favorite. 

Next week I hope to make some changes that I haven't tried before.  As a side note, I always feel good about supporting farmer's markets and orchards - it not only helps small, local business owners, but it also gives a nod to organic living.

I am going to get started on this blogging adventure by incorporating some changes that are timely. Because farmer's markets and apple orchards are nearing the end of their seasons in Minnesota, I am giving ideas that can be used right now.

1) Freeze fresh, local, organic produce:  Now is a great time in Minnesota to freeze items for the winter.  My favorite produce to have on hand is frozen peppers.  Peppers are in the top twelve most pesticide laden crops, according to the Environmental Working Group's web site.  When I find organic peppers at the farmer's market, I clean them in warm water, devein them, chop them up and put them in freezer bags.  They are great to pull out of the freezer and add to stir fry dishes, soups, crock pot meals and more.  I know that plastics are questionable for the chemicals they contain, so I am open to an alternative method for freezing.  I also like to freeze tomatoes, green beans, sweet corn, and beets.  Some vegetables freeze better if they have been blanched, so do a search if you are unsure of how to prep the veggies. This is a great money saver, also.  A green bonus: I reuse the plastic bags to pick up after my dog.

2) Buy all natural lip glosses:  I mention this item now because I was able to buy some at the farmer's market.  The glosses are made with coconut oil, beeswax, essential oils-nothing artificial.  The ones that I found were $2 a tube.  These are worth stocking up on and keeping in the freezer until needed.  I think this one small change can have a significant impact.  Many of us apply lip gloss numerous times during the day.  With a product that contains chemicals, when we put them on our lips, we absorb the chemicals through our skin and ingest them.  You can also find chemical free products at health food stores.

3) Use locally made maple syrup and honey:  many times the lip gloss can be found at the honey booth.  The benefits to buying honey and maple syrup locally are numerous.  Honey from local bees carries the local pollens which can help alleviate seasonal allergies.  Fresh maple syrup has a strong flavor, which allows us to use less.  There are more minerals in fresh maple syrup.  The next time you go to the store, take a look at the ingredient list for manufactured syrup - it can definitely not be considered a health food.

4) Grind your own flax seeds:  The other day I bought whole flax seeds at an apple orchard.  I usually buy ground meal flax at the grocery store, but the whole flax was about a third of the cost, locally grown, and organic.  I put flax on salads for the fiber benefits, fatty acid content, and the good nutty taste.  I recommend storing them in the fridge to retain freshness.  Other ideas for use are putting them on cereal, in smoothies and in stir fry dishes.  It is important to grind the flax to get the health benefits.

Next week- options for fresh fall produce

I have been reading a great book called Sleeping Naked is Green by Vanessa Farquharson. This book has inspired me to change up the format of my blogs. The book is about how Vanessa made one change a day for a year that had a green impact on her environment (and ours, too!)  Once she made the change, she stuck with it for the remainder of the year.  Some examples of the changes she made included, not using her refrigerator - that is a big one- and switching to a mineral based sunscreen.  I am going to put a different spin on my blogging.  I am hoping to make a few changes each week.  The changes have to meet at least one, if not all three of the following criteria: it improves health, simplifies life, and/or benefits our environment.  I also am giving myself an out - if the goal for a particular week isn't as helpful as I thought it would be, I will discontinue it.  The idea is to make lifestyle changes that will work long term.  I will also attempt to get my husband and two daughters on board, but if they choose not to participate, that is ok, too.  When I told my 17 year old daughter that I was reading the Sleeping Naked is Green book and what it is about, her comment was, "Oh no mom, don't even think about it!"  Of course, that got me thinking about it!  Many of the items I am going to incorporate into my life, I already do to some extent. I am hoping this holds me more accountable.  I am not a great pursuer of perfection, so if I find that I am cheating a lot on a particular goal, I will reevaluate it. Please let me know if you have any ideas to make this a more beneficial undertaking.  I will get started on this at the beginning of the week. Have a great weekend - enjoy the journey - Shanna