Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The cayenne cure?

One of my jobs involves spending 20 hours a week at Vitamin Cottage. Yesterday, I had the chance to chat with an ayurvedic practitioner who was doing a product demo. She said something that struck me as interesting, and which I’d heard but completely forgotten: Spicy foods are marvelous immune-system boosters. And here I was marveling at the fact that I haven’t gotten sick all winter (knocking on wood!), when it might just be the fact that my black-bean chili turns red from cayenne pepper.

Turns out that cayenne pepper might also help arthritis pain. So eat up, knitters.

It made me think, though. We rely so much either on conventional medicines or on herbal remedies, which can be pricey, to fight or prevent disease; but we can create the same positive outcomes with some easy, simple (and tasty) dietary tweaks. So if you like it hot, do it till it hurts!

What do you think? Have you tried ginger or hot pepper as an immune booster? Do you eat five oranges at the first sign of a cold? Or do you think it’s all hoodoo?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Epsom salt soak

This is going to be quick. I'm working two jobs (a week ago yesterday, I had none) so I need to buckle down. But: A (maybe) illin' friend reminds me to post this recipe for an Epsom salt soak that purports to provide a good detox bath. The idea is, you soak out the toxins (i.e., viruses) that are building and, with luck, the symptoms will disappear. I got this from an herbalist who came to speak to the holistic mamas (oh wise holistic mamas, what was her name?).

1/3 c. Epsom salt
1/3 c. hydrogen peroxide
8 c. chamomile tea (one bag per cup)

Pour all ingredients into a hot tub of water and soak until the water is no longer warm. If you have sensitive skin, don't splash it on your face.

I post this with the caveat that I have not tried it because (knock on wood) I haven't been sick since I got this recipe. What do you guys think of Epsom salt? How about throwing in the hydrogen peroxide? Is it too much? Either way, anything that can stave off illness for relatively little money is worth its weight in gold.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Gettin' Somethin' for Nothin'

Today we installed our new TV. It was a gift – look, if I were to say that my big thrifty trick was, “Have generous relatives,” this would be a pretty lame blog. So I do not have any tricks regarding how to get a free TV.

Or do I?

We already had a TV. It is old and not digital-ready – not a flat screen, nothing fancy whatsoever – but it does the job. So, I’m going to Freecycle it.

If you don’t know about Freecycle (www.freecycle.org -- you’ll see the link to the right as well), get friendly with it. The philosophy behind Freecycle is, you give away things that might otherwise go in the landfill. By giving it away, what you’re really doing is a random act of kindness. And you’re keeping something out of a landfill – especially something like a TV, which I wouldn’t be able to put in the landfill in good conscience anyway. And if you regularly surf Freecycle, you can get some great stuff from it. I got a bed for my son, and all it cost me was a 15-mile car ride.

And this week, somebody is, in fact, getting a free TV out of it.

Have you used Freecycle before? What are your Freecycle stories?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Why? Why? Why?

I’ve long been interested in environmental and health issues – trying to reduce packaging, being concerned about preservatives and other onerous ingredients in my kids’ diets, consumerism, you name it. That’s not new.

What’s been new to us is that, through circumstances not of our making, we have been forced to get by on a shoestring. And we are, to the nation’s collective distress, not alone. Not nearly.

Plus, I know too many people who, even if they are employed (and sadly, I know too many people who are not), work in unhealthy industries and are nervous about how long they’ll be working, or are nervous about the condition of their stock holdings or retirement savings.

There are six of us in my family. There’s my husband and me, and we have four kids, ages 10, 9, 5, and 2. And we have gotten by on $13,000 in the past six months. That includes Christmas. (In the interest of full disclosure, we have incurred some credit-card debt, but it’s in the low four digits.)

Everybody wants to know how we’ve done that. And there are a few ways.

First, we’ve been creative. We’ve researched ways to get the things we want for free or very cheap. We’ve been willing to go to a little more trouble to make these things happen. My husband is the champion in this regard. He will share his findings periodically.
Second, we’ve adopted more of a “back-to-the-land” policy. We’ve made everything from bread to laundry detergent from scratch, we’ve bought almost everything we needed second-hand, and this summer I plan to try to grow as many of our vegetables and fruits as I can. (I’ll let you know how that goes. I’m a notorious brown thumb.)
Third, we’ve been patient and willing to do more work than we used to. It takes more time to get things for less money. But you pay for the convenience of being able to walk into a store and get something you want off the shelves.

So, should you feel inspired by this journey, here’s my first bit of advice: Concentrate on eating healthy foods and reducing your packaging. That’s something we can all do, regardless of our employment status. Also, focus on getting (or staying) out of debt – our lack of debt going into this period is part of what’s really saved us. Live within your means. It’s an old-fashioned concept, but, well, what’s old is new again. Now, will you go to sleep a corporate suit and wake up a bread-baking, vegetable-growing, wood=splitting monster? No. Probably not. And that’s OK. Do what you can, or what you’re willing to do, and you will see that your bottom line will be better – and that your planet is a healthier one in the process.

Now, here’s my second bit of advice: If you are able – you’re working, you can spend a little without incurring debt – go out to eat every once in a while. Buy the occasional gift from a local florist, or a good book. Consumer spending is a huge part of our economy, and if it completely dies, the foundation of our economy is destroyed. Those businesses can’t employ anyone, and they can’t spend money, and so on. So if your bottom line isn’t really hurting, don’t be spooked! Live within your means, with a mind toward your health and the health of your planet. And if your anniversary’s coming up and you want to plan a big date night, enjoy it.