Cooking up a hill of beans

I cooked 8 pounds of dried beans the other day.  That’s a lot of beans!

thiscrunchylife_beans

As a busy mom who wants to feed her family whole, unprocessed food as much as possible, cooking beans from scratch has never been high on my list of priorities.  That being said, it does save money.  Canned beans are cheap, but dried ones are cheaper.  Also, beans cooked at home avoid the ickiness of canned beans, namely BPA lids, added salt, and unknown cooking methods.

Although I’ve been cooking beans at home on and off for a few years, it was after reading Nourishing Traditions that I began to cook beans in earnest to enjoy not only the money savings, but also to insure the methods used to cook the beans.  I believe that beans cooked this way are easier to digest and give up more of their nutrition than conventional canned beans.  If you have extra time or freezer space, give it a try and see if it makes a difference for your family.

Here’s how:

  1. Soak beans for up to 24 hours in large pot with 2-4 tablespoons whey per pound and enough water to cover by a few inches.  No whey? You can get whey by straining yogurt, or you can choose to soak beans in water only.
  2. Drain and rinse beans, then return to pot with enough water to cover.
  3. Bring to boil.
  4. When pot begins to boil, skim off and discard foam.
  5. Lower heat and simmer, partially covered for up to 3-4 hours.
  6. Drain beans, then use within a few days or freeze for later.

Tips

  • If you are going to be watching the stove, try making 2-3 different kinds of beans in different pots.  I usually make chickpeas and another type of bean, like black, kidney, or pinto. By cooking this way, I only cook beans about 4 times a year.  
  • Make sure you leave plenty of room in the pot for the beans to bubble up with they boil.  2-3 pounds are all that can comfortably fit in a 16 quart stockpot.
  • Consider freezing the beans in 3 cup amounts.  This is roughly equivalent to 2 cans of beans.  Use it to make recipes calling for 2 cans, or just double recipes calling for 1 can.
  • Forget to thaw beans you need for dinner in a few hours?  Place your freezer bags or other containers into a bowl of hot or warm water.  The beans will thaw in a jiffy.
  • Beans are pretty forgiving, if you cook them too long, they’ll be a little softer.  I haven’t screwed them up too bad yet.
  • If you like refried beans, try this vegetarian recipe that requires no refrying and is priced out at 19 cents per cup.  You can make it in a slow cooker as described, or modify with my instructions above to make it on the stove.

Do you cook your beans at home?  Why or why not?

15 reasons my clothes are hanging around

Spring is in the air and that means it is time to begin hanging my laundry outside to dry again.  Here are my favorite reasons for relying on my clothesline all spring, summer, and fall-long.

  1. Everything hung outside smells like fresh air and sunshine.
  2. Gets me (and often the boys with me) outside for more time.
  3. I get to enjoy early morning sounds like birds singing to start the day.
  4. More sustainable because it uses zero electricity.
  5. Saves me about 40 cents per load.
  6. Saves some wear and tear on my clothes because they don’t shed all that lint.
  7. Sheets hung to dry outside feel amazing to sleep on.
  8. Sunshine removes stains and odors from cloth diapers.
  9. Makes towels feel more absorbent.
  10. Socks are matched in the hanging process.
  11. Causes me to be more aware of the weather and when it will rain.
  12. Often gives me a chance to see my neighbor on her way to work and have a chat.
  13. Hanging clothes is a very relaxing chore for me.
  14. I quickly notice if the washing machine did not remove some dirt or stain.
  15. Hanging laundry reminds me of my grandmother.

What about you?  Do you have a favorite reason for hanging laundry inside or outside?

thiscrunchylife_clothesline
NapaneeGal via Compfight cc

Digital Diet: update 3.

Week 2 was the hardest so far and now all is calm again in week 3. I’m not sure why but I really started to create excuses and reasons to why we would need the Internet at home. What if I need to complete a business need? What if my wife needs it to work from home? I have a global company, I can’t be disconnected at all? These are a few of the reasons I concocted in week 2 but have settled into week 3 comfortable with the idea of no home Internet. In fact, I’ve begun to look at this as another step in my minimalist lifestyle. Un-wiring my house from the digital world. Here’s what’s been done thus far.

1. Internet disconnected.
2. Apple TV swapped for an iPod Touch with a composite cable.
3. Apple Time Capsule moved to my office to backup my iMac.
4. Sold 3 extra iPhones. I had a backup device for myself to use while my everyday iPhone would be charging. Didn’t want to miss an iMessage.
5. Our iPad Mini does not see as much use nowadays.
6. I’ve been playing more Legos with Porter.

Last thing I need to do is swap out my Nest thermostat for a none networking device and then our house is back to analog. It’s really weird to have a disconnected house but it feels good. This move has sparked some ideas for home products for those of us without Internet. I’m currently gathering a team to construct a prototype.

All in all, I’m happy with the change and my wife could care less. I was the one who was all geeked out about not having Internet. We’re saving nearly $800 a year and we made some decent cash to put towards a deep freezer for this seasons wonderful harvest of fruits and vegetables.

Now that I’m not distracted by pixels I’ll be out back making mud pies with Porter.

Bike Trailer Time!!

Ready to roll!

Ready to roll!

So, I have been waiting and waiting to be able write this post:  The weather is finally nice enough to break out the bike trailer!  I’ve mentioned before how much I love commuting to work on a bicycle, and Jen has mentioned why we love being a one-car family, so my enthusiasm for the bike trailer should come as no surprise.  This weekend, the weather in central PA was beautiful, and as if that weren’t enough, Jen took the one car on a trip to visit a friend in VA for the weekend, so if Pete and I wanted to go anywhere, we were going to have to either walk or go by bike.  (We don’t have a second child’s helmet for John yet, so it was also convenient that it was just me and Pete this weekend).

So, after working in the garden on Saturday morning and eating an early lunch, Pete and I got suited up and performed the necessary safety checks: filled the bike and trailer tires, checked for corrosion in the trailer frame over the past year, and ensured all the straps and harnesses were likewise intact.  It always takes me a little bit longer to assemble the trailer when I haven’t done it in a while, so Pete had to wait a little longer than he wanted, but he was excited to hop in and get his helmet on when the time came.  Naturally, when we headed out, our destinations were all free sources of fun: first, the giant playground, then on to the banks of the scenic Susquehanna River where we shared a snack of cookie bars (home-made, of course) and clementines (bought on sale, of course), and finally over to a smaller playground near our home.  It was a full, exciting day and it didn’t cost anything but time and snack supplies.

But wait–what about the cost of the bike trailer and the bike?  To be fair, the bike did cost a few hundred dollars, but it’s also basically my primary vehicle, and thus at least an order of magnitude cheaper than most other Americans’ primary vehicle.  The bike trailer also was not free; it cost 30 bucks.  I bought it a few years ago from a coworker who was selling it for her neighbor, and I’m pretty sure I haggled it down by 5 or 10 bucks.  Brand new, such trailers can cost at least $100-200 (much more for high-end models), and this one was in great shape (though a bit dusty from being in someone’s basement for a few years).  I have also used it (though not as often as I’d like) to carry things in addition to a child, like groceries from the store.  If I did this more often, I would make the bike and trailer investment stretch even farther, and save even more on gas and insurance.

Hopefully we’ll get that second helmet asap, and I can look forward to cruising around with the boys all summer long!

A new way to save at the grocery store

Every year at this time I find myself visiting the grocery store more than usual.  It is the in between time for my local food options as my winter CSA is finished, but my local farmers markets is not open and the little green stuff that is available from local farmers for purchase is a bit too dear for our family’s food budget.  So, we eat from our pantry and supplement our stores with the sales found in our grocery store circulars.

I was pleasantly surprised when I was able to save 57% off my grocery bill (I know it isn’t really 57% because I wouldn’t have bought this stuff at full price, but it was 57% off retail), by matching the sales items in the circulars with the coupons listed in the coupon database at Surviving the Stores.  All you have to do is search for a product or product type and the search will give you links to printable online coupons, including ones available at the manufacturer’s website, or information about unexpired coupons distributed in local newspapers.

Here are a few tips to get the most out of the database:

  • Save coupon inserts from newspapers with the newspaper date written on them.  This database and other couponing websites always tell you whether the coupon was published in Red Plum (RP), SmartSource (SS), or some other insert and the date it was published.  Now I don’t clip coupons unless I decide to exploit a deal I find online.  You can often get coupons or inserts for free from a library or family member.
  • Use it in conjunction with a sales circular to get the best deals.
  • Only buy things that you need or that will contribute to a healthy meal your family enjoys! Couponing does not need to equal hoarding.
  • Using two coupons on items available for a buy-one-get-one-free sale is an easy way to save a large percentage.

Do you have any other easy ways you save at the grocery store?

Crunchy or weird?

I’m a minimalist. No, not because the term is cool or it’s the latest trend. I’ve always been that way. Before marriage I was able to move my entire life at the drop of a hat and I would. I could literally make one trip with my vehicle to my new abode. Traveling light and keeping my life free of clutter has always been a natural part of my being. It’s a tad more difficult now with a wife and two sons, but as a whole we have far less than the typical consumerist American family and we like it.

It’s so common now days for families to not park in their garage because its packed with overflow. The Self-Storage industry is huge and Americans rent space for stuff. Really? How dumb is that? This though I will save for future a post.

My life of minimalism is still going strong and I’ve taken another step in minimizing my life even more. I find clothing a huge annoyance. Shopping for them, picking out something to wear, keeping up with trends, even though I never really cared about what’s “in”. It’s all just a headache I really don’t want to deal with. So, I no longer will. I’ve gotten rid of every single shirt that either wasn’t a short or long sleeved black t-shirt. Yep, that’s all I have for shirts.

My shirt selection has been reduced to 3 long sleeve and 6 short sleeve shirts for “good.” For work I have 2 long sleeve and 5 short sleeve. I have 2 pairs of khaki’s and 5 pairs of jeans. When the occasion calls for a really dapper look I have my vintage Woolrich Houndstooth sport coat. That’s about it besides my loungewear and I love it. No more thinking about what to wear. I just grab and go.

Of course my family and friends think I’m really weird. That’s fine, I can handle it. As a designer and having spent countless years in college with an art focus this is par for the course. Keep in mind though, there have been some very successful and notable people who wear the same thing everyday. Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerburg and Albert Einstein are a few of those who didn’t want to be weighed down with the mundane task of picking out clothes.

So, am I crunchy or weird? I say minimalist.

Ditching paper towels

Jen’s post a few weeks back about ditching paper towels has inspired me to do the same. This week at the grocery I avoided purchasing them even though my wife had them on the list. I couldn’t help but think about how much of a waste they are. Not only are you tossing money in the garbage but also a lot of unnecessary paper waste. With that, they have been eliminated at this household.

Today I was cleaning out one of my t-shirt drawers, ditching any shirts that were faded or had holes in them. Got out the rotary cutter and board and went to town making rags. I’ve got quite a nice pile out of 4 shirts and now after a rag is used it will go in a bucket of borax solution to soak before washing instead of the trash.

Thanks Jen for the inspiration.

* Here’s a little fact I learned this week. 40% of food purchased in the US goes into the garbage. Sad!