Yesterday, I received another wonderful reader email regarding the Adventures in Homesteading series I ran in April. Check out what Jennifer decided to do:
I want to thank you for all the time and effort you put into your blog. I have been “couponing” for almost four years and came across your blog through a friend about 2 years ago. I love the variety and how you strive to make sure the deals you post are ethical. I also am thankful for your “Adventures in Homesteading” series! Your homemade soap and candles were my inspiration for the gifts my family will be giving to our mothers. I decided to give spa baskets I made candles, lotion bars, bubble bath, sugar scrub, bath tea, and lip balm all from natural ingredients around my house!!
For the things I did purchase I either had a coupon or they were on great sales. I covered the canning jar lids with scrapbook paper and wrapped the lotion bars with it as well. I made the lip balm in old mint tins and put the bath tea in organza bags. I used two free beauty bags that I have collected from Target the past 2 years and put in nail polish and a nail file. I had stocked up on the Toblerone and had some nice tea sachets that I bagged together. I made all the tags from left over velum paper from my wedding invitations over 5 years ago! I think they turned out really nice and I am so excited to give them something I made with love.
I Included pictures of the finished products. Once again thank you, thank you, thank you!
List of contents:
Grapefruit Bubble Bath made with castille soap, vegetable glycerin and grapefruit essential oil.
Grapefruit Sugar Scrub made with sugar, coconut oil and grapefruit essential oil.
Soy Lavender Candle
Coconut Lotion Bar made with bees wax, coconut oil, vegetable oil.
Grapefruit Lip Balm made with bees wax, coconut oil, grapefruit essential oil and colored with a little lip stick.
Lavender Bath Tea made with Epsom salts, sea salt, lavender flowers and lavender essential oil.
Jennifer, this is very impressive! I love how resourceful you were in putting these together, and I think they will be very well received!
If you missed this series, please feel free to visit my Adventures in Homesteading page for a catalog of all the posts. I’ve also decided to amend the page to include what readers have done in response! If you were inspired by this series and have attempted something new as a result, I’d love to hear about it. Email me at angela @ thecouponproject dot com.
I read your blog every day and love it! I loved your April posts about urban homesteading! I have never canned before, but I decided that with the price of strawberries and the empty jars waiting to be filled in my garage, I had to do it. I have a pretty tight food budget, but I decided to splurge for my birthday. I like to learn something new for each birthday. This year it was canning!
I bought the strawberries from Bountiful Baskets as an add on to my regular basket. I know some people don’t like that the produce isn’t local, but I don’t mind and it really helps our family eat lots of produce. I paid $11 for 8 lbs or $1.38/lb. I had everything else on hand except for the pectin, so I picked that up at Bed Bath and Beyond (per your directions) for $6.
Looks like Clarissa had a cute helper!
Making the jam was pretty terrifying at first, but once I got into the ease of things, it turned out to be really fun! I used the Pioneer Woman’s recipe and she broke it down step by step. It was a long process, but now I have jam coming out of my ears and I know I will feel the rewards every time I open a new jar, or give one as a gift. So after the strawberries and pectin I ended up with 17 jars of jam, more than my family will ever eat in a year! I figured the cost per jar was about $1, of corse I had most of the supplies including jars that I had saved from a friends wedding (she used them as candle holders).
Just thought I would let you know about my experience and how much I love your blog and all that you do! Keep up the good work!
Classica, can I say I might just have to borrow your idea of learning something new for each birthday? What a fabulous idea! Second, I love how this venture ended being both rewarding and cost-effective. Thank you for taking time out to email me your story.
If you tried something new as a result of the homesteading series, I’d love to know about it. Email me at angela @ thecouponproject dot com. I love highlighting the awesome ways you are all working to save your families money!
This book features hundreds of step-by-step, full-color photographs that illustrate exactly how to make cold-process soap. It contains instructions on molding soap, cutting bars, creating original recipes, packaging gifts, and more. It includes a chapter on constructing a soap mold, liner, and cutter at home. Readers will learn the basic four-oil soap recipe, which can then be enhanced with additives such as oatmeal, fragrance oils, colored swirls, two-tone nuggets, and moisturizing butters.
Average 4.5 star rating after 33 customer reviews. Head to Amazon to download yours right away if you’re interested. Remember these freebies can – and do! – jump at any time without warning.
After all, it’s one thing to read and romanticize pioneer life, but it’s another thing to really live the realities that many people have had to experience.
So I packed up the kids and headed to Pioneer Farmout in Eatonville, Washington. While I was stuck on Meridian (pretty much the worst street in the entire state of Washington), I had plenty of time to contemplate how the same journey by covered wagon would’ve likely taken at least 2 or 3 days. (Particularly if there was a log jam of other covered wagons stuck at traffic lights.)
When we got there, the place was eerily empty. So seriously guys, if you’re local and looking for a non-crowded place to visit on a Saturday with the kids, head to Pioneer Farm.
Our tour guide was dressed in full pioneer garb including boots, apron, and bonnet. She explained to us what life was really like for the first homesteaders. Most of their lives consisted of growing, cooking, and preserving food. Life was hard – for instance, did you know that the childhood mortality rate was about 50%? The nearest doctors were usually a three days’ journey away and many of their “medicines” were laced with such fun stuff as cocaine.
Talk about a hard life, imagine about 5-6 people living in a cabin this big:
Honestly, I think that’d be enough to drive me stir crazy.
The kids back then had lots of chores to do. But first, of course, they had to dress up in pioneer clothes to do them in. That goes for both boys….
They had to churn butter…
and also knead the dough into essentials, like doughnuts (of course).
But of course, little children would be expected to walk 5 miles in the snow uphill both ways to attend school, too.
Meanwhile, Ma would set the laundry out to dry. This would be a precarious chore in the Northwest given our frequently rainy weather. I think the long underwear is also overdue for mending.
Of course, pioneers would have had animals to care for too. The cow would have to be milked every morning.
If there was time, pioneer children had to find stuff to amuse themselves with such as jumping in hay.
And riding a horse.
In all seriousness, we talk about self reliance more than I think we actually consider what it really means. For instance, you might proudly say, “I made this pie all from scratch!” But did you, really? Is making a pie from butter, flour, and apples truly baking it from scratch? Did you grow the wheat and grind it? Did you harvest and store those apples? Did you grate cinnamon sticks into powder?
That’s not to say our efforts to learn to do things for ourselves are in vain. There is value in learning how to can your own food, grow a garden, or make your own soap. But I don’t think all conveniences are bad, either. (Need I remind you that if you’re reading this post you have a phone or computer or such device and some sort of internet connection.) I also don’t think it’s bad to rely on others – such as relying on local farms for fresh produce or butcher for good quality meat. Taking the time to learn to do some things for yourself will instill a sense of pride that you are capable of doing more than you once thought as well as give you a new-found sense of appreciation for the everyday conveniences you enjoy. (If I could sum up this entire series in a sentence, that’d be it!)
I also think there is this feeling that you need to go whole-hog with this modern-day homesteading thing. That you’re not actually “doing it right” unless you move to the country, off the grid, only eat what you grow, and shoot your own bear (or whatever). I’d like to encourage you today that anyone can draw inspiration from this movement even by starting small. Maybe you can grow some food in containers on your porch or can a batch of tomatoes from your CSA. Maybe you learn to fix it yourself versus paying someone else, or you brainstorm ways to get the item you need for free instead of going to the store and buying it (or better yet, upcycle using materials you already have at home).
It’s my sincere desire that you found some benefit from this Adventures in Homesteading series and that I’ve encouraged and inspired you to do something you hadn’t considered before. If so, I’d love to hear about it! I’d also love to hear what you thought of this series – was it helpful? Did you look forward to reading the installments? Did you have a favorite?
Thank you for sharing this journey with me, friends. In case you’re wondering, yes, we’ve already started working on the next series. (And ideas for future series are always welcome and appreciated!)
PS Locals, I highly recommend a visit to Pioneer Farm to learn what early pioneer life was really like. There are lots of hands-on activities for the kids. For more information, please visit their website.
Oh, I’ve had intentions of canning. I have a decent-sized garden and I even bought a couple books about canning. But quite frankly, I was a little overwhelmed. So many steps, so many things I needed (or so I thought), so many warnings such as “follow instructions exactly or your food could be contaminated and you could DIE and everyone who eats your food could DIE.” (Well, maybe not that bad, but you get the gist.)
I had one more post I needed to fill in for this series and deep down I knew I needed a post on canning. After all, this whole series is called Adventures in Homesteading, is it not? So I put on my big girl pants (er, apron?) and got down to business. And I was delightfully surprised to find I’d made the thing way more complicated in my head than it ever turned out to be.
I dusted off the canning book I bought on Amazon last year:
Now this seemed particularly fortuitous, but Tacoma Boys just so happened to have Fuji apples on sale for $0.50/lb this week or $10 for a half bushel. I’ve never purchased apples by the half bushel, but it sure sounds like a good amount to can, doesn’t it?
What a half bushel looks like....I think
As far as equipment goes, for some reason I had it in my head that I’d have to spend at least $100 on stuff to get set up. There again, I was so wrong!
Here’s what I discovered: there are high-acid foods (fruits, tomatoes) and low-acid foods (think meats, vegetables). The high-acid foods? They only need what’s called a boiling-water canner. This is basically just a large pot with a rack inside. In some instances, a pot you have at home could work. You would just want to make sure that about 3-4 inches of water could cover the tops of the jars. (The low-acid foods do need a pressure canner, but that’s another post for another day.)
I didn’t have a boiling-water canner, so I picked this one up for just $24.95 at Bed, Bath and Beyond. If you head to the store, note that you might not find it or other canning supplies on the shelf. Just ask, they should have some in the back (or phone your location ahead of time). Even better if you have a coupon of some sort – and I noticed on my way out the door that they take competitor’s coupons, too.
I also picked up this Ball Canning Kit for $9.95. I wasn’t sure how essential these items were, but they were all mentioned in my canning book. Turns out, I used EVERY item in this kit today and I highly recommend it!
The jars I ended up paying $12 for 12 quart-size at Fred Meyer. Also note that we are not in the prime of canning season (late summer/early fall), so it’s possible we’ll see better deals and even coupons for these in a few months here.
The first step was to prep my apples. I started by rinsing them out in a bath of cold water.
I then peeled, cored, and quartered them.
Threw them in a deep pot with just enough water to keep them from burning on the bottom (about 1/3 cup) and a healthy splash of lemon juice to prevent them from browning.
I brought to a boil and let them cook until soft, about 20 minutes. Next, I pureed them in small batches using my Vitamix. You could also mash them by hand or use a food processor.
From here, you want to keep the sauce hot while you prep your jars, lids, and rims. I decided to keep my sauce unsweetened as I intend to use a fair amount of it in dairy-free baking recipes. I figure I can always heat, sweeten, and season a batch as I desire. But you could certainly add sugar and cinnamon or whatever else you wish at this point.
Next, you’ll want to process your jars. Separate the jars, lids, and rims and wash in hot soapy water. You don’t need to worry about drying them.
Now you’re going to want to place the jars in the boiling-water canner, fill each jar about 2/3 full of water and bring the level of water up in the canner to match. Simmer on medium heat for about 10 minutes, but don’t boil. This will ready the glass for the processing.
While that’s happening, take the lids (which are just the round parts, not the bands), and simmer them in saucepan of hot water over the stove too. Here again – you don’t need to boil them, but the idea is to have all your elements hot before processing.
Funnel your sauce into the jars leaving just 1/2 inch of space at the top (also known as headspace). My canning kit came with a funnel, or you could pick one up inexpensively to use. I do recommend this!
In my canning kit I also found this fantastic magnetic lid grabber stick (I’m sure that’s the technical name). I used it to pick up a lid after each jar was finished.
From here, put the bands on, and place back in the boiling-water canner for processing. Cover with water. Do follow the instructions for your recipe as different items will require different amounts of time to process. Applesauce only takes 20 minutes of boiling and then you let it sit for 5 minutes before removing.
Now probably the tool that was THE most helpful in my canning kit was this jar grabber tool. I couldn’t imagine how I would’ve otherwise pulled glass jars out of a pot of boiling water! Recommend.
Now you just let them cool. Make sure to just let them sit with plenty of space between them. Remember they’ve just been through a lot, so be gentle. Don’t toss or roll them, place them in a freezer, let your two-year old play with them, or stand them upside down. Not only could these things damage the jars, they could prevent the lids from sealing properly, and that would be sad indeed.
The next morning, test the seal by pressing down on the lid with your finger. If it does not pop back up at you and you cannot lift the lid up, congratulations! You successfully canned!
According to my books, you can safely store home canned food for up to one year. Your jars of yum will be best stored in a cool, dark place.
"I'm kind of impressed, you know."
I know that this is a really long post, so I thought I’d sum up just a few key points for anyone wanting to can something for the first time:
Read the instructions first. As in ALL of them. While canning is easy, there are a few steps and nothing should be omitted for safety’s sake.
Give yourself plenty of time. The day you have several errands to run plus soccer practice and ballet is probably not the best day to can. I’m sure this will not take so much time in the future, but this project took me about three hours from start to finish.
Make sure you have everything you need first. Gather all the supplies, equipment, and food you’ll need ahead of time so you don’t run into unexpected uh-ohs.
Give it a try! Don’t be intimidated by canning. I promise, you CAN do it! I’m so proud of myself for doing this and I can’t wait for my next canning project!
Now I’m a bit bummed but I’d spend extra time and effort making a short video of my process yesterday, but my FlipCamera is erroring out and I have no idea what’s going on. If I can figure it out, I’ll make sure to come back and share it with you….wish me luck.
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Hi. I'm Angela. My goal is to show you that using coupons is easy, fun, and an effective way to save money. I practice ethical, common sense couponing. I also write about frugal living topics including gardening and cooking. I'm blogging out of the greater Seattle/Tacoma area. I'm a proud firefighter's wife and mother of two. New? START HERE.
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