Little Changes for a Natural Lifestyle

When an issue of MaryJanesFarm arrives, I can’t wait to read it! I’ll browse, go back, and finally devour it page-by-page. One favorite feature is MaryJane’s column “Seven Wonders”.  This post has seven little changes I’ve done that are often overlooked.

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I’ve always been a gardener, crafter, and homemade foodie, but going organic was inspired by MaryJane. I’ve expanded my home to be as natural as possible. Blogging here since 2010, I’ve chronicled changing to a simpler, organic lifestyle.The most important lesson learned on my journey is to read labels! There’s everyday things with hidden dangers or ingredients. I didn’t realize these right away.

1. Make homemade bread crumbs.  I collect vintage cookbooks and love homemade comfort food from time-to-time.  Many favorite recipes call for bread crumbs, like Sauce-Topped Meatloaf, Fried Green Tomatoes (a summer treat) or Oven-Fried Chicken.  I always kept a canister of store-bought bread crumbs in the pantry.  Have you ever read the ingredients?

This was one of the least preservative-filled commercial bread crumbs we found at the store.

This was one of the least preservative-filled commercial bread crumbs we found at the store.

Even some marked “all natural” start out with “Enriched Bleached Flour”. Making them homemade is easy. First I throw the heels of (organic) bread loaves into the freezer. When I have several, I defrost the slices and toast in the toaster until crisp. Afterwards, I grind the toast into fine crumbs with my food processor, then spread the crumbs on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. The crumbs then go under my oven’s broiler for a minute on each side, (watching so they don’t burn).  After cooling, I store the crispy crumbs in a glass canister with an airtight lid in my pantry. Tasty and economical, too.

If you don't think you will use your homemade crumbs fast enough, they can go into the freezer.

If you don’t think you will use your homemade crumbs fast enough, they can go into the freezer.

2. Buy fresh lemons.  In the eighties, Mom always had a refrigerated bottle of lemon juice in a convenient squirt bottle. I’m not sure if they added preservatives to those bottles back then, but if you’ve one in your fridge now, read the fine print. I noticed even ones marked “100% real juice” have something added to “preserve freshness”.  Lemon juice is a staple in my kitchen…used to toss salads and pasta with olive oil, to marinate chicken, and in iced tea. I’ve found preservative-free organic lemon juice in glass bottles, but I usually buy a bag of fresh, organic lemons inexpensively. Those squeeze bottles of lemon juice aren’t worth the convenience. The acid in lemons can break down plastic, as well.  A  bowl of washed, fresh lemons is functional and pretty.

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3. Stop eating microwave popcorn!  Back in the eighties, my dad wouldn’t let us get an Atari or a microwave. Whenever we’d lament we were the-very-last-household-on-the-entire-planet without either technology, his answer was it’d be harmful to our health. Turns out Daddy was on to something. Don’t get me started on kids and smartphones (at least eighties kids still made eye and verbal contact with our friends at the arcade).

Microwave popcorn was a convenient invention. I love popcorn and it’s aroma. I worked in several offices where microwave popcorn was shared everyday, but ever hear of Popcorn Lung? It’s a disease that can’t be reversed. It’s from inhaling diacetyl, the chemical giving microwave popcorn it’s taste and smell. The bags are also made with chemicals. It contains unhealthy oils. My microwave popped popcorn in under three minutes. Popcorn on my stove takes about five, with only one pot to wash! Popcorn’s a filling snack. Anyone with growing tween-agers knows having one is like having human-sized termites invade. Stove-top popcorn isn’t such an inconvenience, and it’s cheaper, too.

I found this bag of organic popcorn for under $3.00.

I found this bag of organic popcorn for under $3.00.

After-school snack.  Pop with organic coconut oil and flavor with sea salt, parmesan cheese, or as a reader here once suggested in the comments, nutritional yeast.

After-school snack. Pop with organic coconut oil and flavor with sea salt, parmesan cheese, or as a reader here once suggested in the comments, nutritional yeast.

4. Watch for hidden BPA.  One danger of microwaving is BPA leached from warmed plastics. I switched to glass long ago, and avoid plastic as much as possible. A hidden source of absorbed BPA is from receipts, so if you don’t need a receipt, don’t take one. When you do, handle it as little as possible. (As for microwaves, that’s long been a debate. Since I never used mine much anyway, it isn’t an issue for us).

5. I’m using natural toothpaste. If I find one more friend, loved one, or acquaintance with some form of thyroid or endocrine issue, I’ll scream! Compared to other countries, it’s an epidemic here. There’s many theories how these problems are caused, but one theory is from fluoride. “Google” fluoride and you’ll find dozens of articles on the argument. Also in conventional toothpaste is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. If companies are removing it from shampoo and soap, why on earth would I want it in my mouth? I’ve gotten canker sores since I was a kid; I’ve had none since switching to natural toothpaste.

 

Natural toothpastes are now found in mainstream stores.  We even use a store brand and are very pleased.

Natural toothpastes are now found in mainstream stores. We even use a store brand and are very pleased.

6. Chew natural gum. I’m an old-fashioned gal: I think there’s a few places neither flip-flops nor gum belong!  Still, sometimes I love a piece of gum, and as a kid, nothing beat bubblegum! Read gum ingredients nowadays, and it’s like a science experiment, full of dyes and artificial ingredients. (My favorite “natural” gum is made by Glee, which I’ve found locally and on the internet, made with real chicle…remember when all gum had that)?

7. Don’t buy antibacterial soap!  Studies are finding what’s in antibacterial soap is harmful and contributes to super-germs. Plain ol’ soap and water’s just fine.

I created a "handwash station" under the deck by the hose. We use it to pre-wash the dirt and grime and chicken, uh, you know, off our hands before coming to the inside sink. It's a good way to use up hotel soap or slivers.

I created a “hand wash station” under the deck by the hose. We use it to prewash the dirt and grime and chicken, uh, you know, off our hands before coming to the inside sink. It’s a good way to use up hotel soap or slivers.

I won’t live worried about constant danger. Reactions can occur to natural stuff, too (think poison ivy), but I believe every bit helps. Think of health and our planet as a credit card: keep overexposing ourselves, and eventually there’s debt to pay. As consumers, we have choices. I choose to limit the chemical exposure I can control as much as possible. I’m angry hearing something marketed as “safe” is later found toxic. Buying organic and natural, I’m using my voice.

Until Next Time…Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

Leave a comment 15 Comments

  1. Sandy says:

    Thank you for sharing. I already ordered the gum

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Sandy! Enjoy! I’ve tried all of the flavors (we like them all, but our favorite is the bubblegum and the berry. Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  2. Angie Gonzalez says:

    Thanks for the great article. Give been slowly trying to use more natural things in my house and reading these types of blogs are so helpful.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Angie! That is exactly how we changed everything. It takes time, but eventually we have found more natural replacements for almost everything. It’s also helpful that more and more companies and stores are taking notice and going back to the basics. Thanks for reading and commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  3. Sippie says:

    Thanks for this great article. One thing I would like to add (my pet peeve): Stop using dryer sheets. Either use the sun to hang your clothes out to dry OR put 4-5 used tennis balls in your dryer with the load of wet clothes. They will bounce around and completely soften your clothes better than those chemical sheets with the toxic perfumes in them. The chemicals in them are disastrous for your health despite their ubiquitous use in the U.S. Some friends didn’t believe that tennis balls could possibly work — until they tried it for themselves, and now they’re hooked. No more chemical dryer sheets.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Sippie, I totally agree! That is such a great idea! I will pick up some tennis balls (that haven’t previously been in my dog’s mouth). I also find vinegar in the rinse cycle helps soften my clothes, won’t disturb the absorbency of my towels (like dryer sheets and chemical softeners do), and keeps dark clothes from fading or running. Thanks for reading, and for adding your great tip! – Nicole

  4. Diana Henretty says:

    Homemade breads, yogurt, pastas, growing our own salad mixes in cold frames all year long,
    toothpaste with baking soda and peroxide, even a glass of apple juice with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar for arthritis are what we are using now days to get out of the
    store bought chemicals and into better health. We try to do everything homemade here at our house in the Ozarks, its so much fun and so much healthier too. Thanks for all the grand ideas this morning, it gives me a little nudge to dig deeper into a healthier lifestyle……~hugs~ Diana, Noel, Mo.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Diana, I so agree, it’s fun. I also think that when we change one thing, we realize it isn’t that hard to keep going and change other, less healthy things. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  5. Adrienne says:

    Good for you! There are vegetarians and vegans in the San Francisco Bay Area who have been promoting natural and organic for years. We’re not aging hippies either, although we do espouse some of the same ideals. Always read the ingredients on the labels of anything you purchase including towels, linens and clothing. Coca Cola recently announced it was removing the chemical flame retardant from their American production by the end of 2014 even though it has been banned in Japan and other countries. Sigh. Keep on being diligent, spread the word, support your local agricultural community and your family’s health. And enjoy nutritional yeast on your homemade popcorn! 😉

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Adrienne! At one point of time, everything anyone ate was natural and organic. I am glad that my daughter’s generation will be more informed and have the opportunity to make (and demand) better choices. Things simply can’t continue the way they have in past years, with companies using more and more unwholesome and chemically treated foods and products. We noticed long ago that some of the same products (with the same labels or company names) have different ingredients here than the ones on the store shelves in Denmark. If other countries can keep some of the bad things out of a product and still offer it for sale, why can’t we? So frustrating. On a happier note, it is always good to hear from you here! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  6. Rebecca says:

    I’m a lot more aware of what’s in my food and other consumables than I used to be, but I still have a long way to go. I grew up on a farm in the 60’s and it seemed that we raised, grew or made everything we used. I would love to get back to that again and I’m trying. Thanks for the nudge to do more.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Rebecca, lucky you, growing up on a farm! It does takes some effort to replace what we use with natural and organic items, but it is possible. Luckily everyday, consumers have more and more choices these days. Thanks for commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  7. Rebecca says:

    And I love your handwashing station…I’m going to make one of those today.

  8. Joan says:

    So many great ideas!! I too read MJF the same way – and then when I am through reading it – I go back through and flag all the ideas that mean something to me.
    Thanks for you message. God Bless.

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