Preserving Primer

Canning, and food preservation in general, is finding its way back into busy modern lives. Whether you preserve your own backyard harvest or simply store up the fresh farmer’s market flavor for a colder season, food preservation is both more sustainable and more economical.


Unfortunately, there’s also good reason to can for your family’s health. Many commercial canning companies line cans with an epoxy resin containing the BPA chemical. I’ve known for several years about the potential harm from BPA laced baby bottles, but it was only this past winter that I realized that all my handy tomato cans contained BPA.


This has renewed my motivation to become a confident canner. I’ve only dabbled in canning really, but have fond memories of making blackberry jam. I was eager to do more than just freeze this past summer, but with an infant the learning curve seemed too steep. 


So, I’ve been educating myself lately, well in advance of the harvest peak. A month ago I attended a lunch brown bag at the library, then gleaning some wisdom and recipes from my mom’s group, and an evening class on “preserving the harvest.” The most important thing I’ve learned so far is not to be intimidated! If you preserve in smaller batches it doesn’t take as much time as you’d think. Make it part of your lifestyle and have fun with it!


I also checked a few books out from the library Homemade Living: Canning & Preserving with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Make Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Chutneys & More





There will be more posts throughout the summer on food preservation, and I would love to exchange ideas with other newbies, dabblers and veterans.


What are your favorite foods to preserve for your family?


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Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Simple Savings

While the best savings advice is to simply direct money from each paycheck into your retirement and savings accounts, what about saving up money for fun stuff like travel?


After spending a year in Denmark after high school (Rotary Exchange program where I earned the program fee through community fundraisers), I continued to travel each summer in college. Friends would always ask me how I managed to travel while working just part-time in a low-wage job. My answer was that I simply made travel my financial priority. At the time my heart longed to travel so much that there was little to distract me from saving. Plus, I didn’t have kids to cloth or a house to fix up, but here are some fun and easy saving tips that I put into practice:

  • Be critical of your commute. It may cost you more than you think. In college I wrote my bike everywhere and didn’t own a car, this practically paid for my trips (if I would have been earning enough!) If you have two cars, think about how you could cut down to one. ZipCar is a great urban option for reducing your commuting bill.
  • Mind the bar tab. I don’t recommend not having a social life in the name of saving cash, but when you go out consider whether you really an extra drink. Saving $5-10 each time you go out adds up over time, over $500 in a year without that much effort. Plus, you might enjoy other things more than getting a buzz.
  • Save the change. When my Mom saved up for our first trip to Europe, she managed to save up enough for her and I to visit my Twin Sis in Finland after just a year of saving on a teacher salary. One of her best tricks was only pay in cash. Then each time she broke a $20 bill she would save all the change, dollars actually. It made her think twice before spending and the cash savings did add up.
  • Picture It. I just heard this idea recently, and I’m trying it myself. Print a photo of what you’re saving for and stash it in your wallet so you see it each time you’re ready to spend.

What simple ways do you save money?


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Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Denmark or Bust

With any luck, and a bit of fiscal discipline, our family will be in Denmark this time next year. It’s actually been a goal of ours for some time now, but we’ve been busy with a young family. Even though we are year away, it finally feels like a reality now that I am sharing this goal with you.


Thankfully, I have plenty of host families and friends who are eager to share their homes with us. One of my host sisters has even offered her Copenhagen apartment with views of the Baltic! Another close friend lives about a half hour away from Legoland and has a son just a month younger than our Girly.


I’m obviously excited about this trip and reconnecting with family and friends. I am also looking forward to sharing the adventure with you. I am planning to write about once a month on trip planning and strategies for saving money for family vacations. While we are there I will share about the Danish culture, which is about a generation ahead of the U.S. in terms of sustainable living. If you’re interested in following this topic, just check out the “Denmark” category.


My first travel tip is to use Travel Math to plan your next vacation. It quickly calculates the cost driving in a place like Denmark where gasoline costs $6.92. It also calculates your travel emissions and lots of other handy features.


Do you have a big trip you’re dreaming of?
How you plan to afford it?


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Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Green Giving

I don’t know about you, but I always find it a challenge to buy gifts for adults. There are lots of great green gifts out there for grads and dads, but honestly I’m not sure if they really need any of them. What do you give someone who has everything?


This year I decided to give my Dad and Father each a micro-loan through Kiva. You can give true gift certificates, but I wanted to be thoughtful about it so I chose.


For my Father, I found a woman in El Salvador, Ana Vilma Gomez, who needs funds to support her kitchen that serves traditional meals. I was actually looking for someone with a bee-keeper business since my Grandfather kept bees, but she came up when I searched for honey and seemed like the right recipient for my Father since he traveled through Central America before I was born.


For my Dad I found a mechanic from Bolivia named Luis who is building his business with his wife. I liked is hard-working profile and how he poised to prosper if he can secure a relatively small loan.


I wrote about Kiva and posted a video that you can check out too.


Have you given a loan/gift of Kiva?
Use this link to lend your first $25 for free!


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Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Green News

My Hubby happens to be a news hound, and the Sunday paper is sacred in our household. He religiously culls the ads and shares the comics with our BigGuy. Sadly, anyones who reads the news knows that the atrocious gulf oil spew and need for climate legislation top the headlines.

We are like many “sustainable” families, and  opt to only get the Sunday news in paper form. The rest of the news we read online.


Here are my two favorite places to get green news:

  • Sightline Daily – I’ve received this daily digest in my inbox for almost a decade, and it’s a great quick way to keep up on environmental news from a regional perspective.
  • Grist – They provide a nationally focused environmental news digest, but with a satirical twist. All the news titles have clever/humorous (or really not so funny) titles.
While technically not news, I’m also a fan of several green news blog, like Green from the New York Times and the Huffington PostI find that the fact of the news is most interesting when captured in a cultural context.


Here’s my short personal commentary on recent news: My only hope is that in calamity there can be found opportunity and political will to finally pass national climate legislation. Fiscally conservative skeptics claim that climate policy will have steep economic costs. Yet, the EPA estimates that the climate bill will cost families than than a postage stampThe real question is whether we want to pay the tab today or pass the bill to the next generation at the expense of species, cultures and global stability. 

How do you prefer your news? 
How green do you like it?


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Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.