November 30, 2007

Food as Medicine: Olive Leaf - Alternative to Antibiotics

Want to avoid taking antibiotics? Try Olive Leaf Extract.

Not only has it been proven to be effective against viruses and bacteria (along with fungus and yeast), a recent Australian study has shown its potential as a cancer-fighting agent. It's also shown to be effective against high blood pressure, to lower cholesterol, and to help fight AIDS/HIV.

You can buy it in capsule or pill form, or you can purchase the liquid and take it by drops (best in water or juice). Smaller dosages are sold for dogs and cats, it works for them, too.

It's not expensive. A bottle of pills can be had for $5.00 - human or pet form. Plus, there aren't any huge side effects. It will lower blood sugar and blood pressure, which may or may not be an issue for you.

And, it's been around for awhile. It's been used medicinally for centuries.

For more information:
Science Direct
Advance Health (long link list - research studies)
University of Queensland/Southern Cross University Study-July 2006

November 28, 2007

New Food Ranking System: Overall Nutritional Quality Index

Soon, all the food at the grocery store will have a single-number ranking, somewhere between 1 and 100. It's called the Overall Nutritional Quality Index ("ONQI") and it's been developed by a group of nutritional experts, with a Yale PhD at the helm.

I haven't seen the actual rankings yet, but I'm assuming that organic cabbage gets something like a 97 and cotton candy gets a 2. Something like that.

November 26, 2007

15 Tips for Maximizing Your Food Budget

This month, the Center for Nutrition Policy issued a new pdf: "Low Cost, Medium Cost and Liberal Food Plans - 2007," revising a previous version of alternative food budgets. (The low cost plan is designed to work with someone feeding a family on food stamps.)

It's too hard to read, and I'm not sure what to think about all its data, anyway. So, I've compiled this list of 15 tips for maximizing your food budget:

1. Buy store brands - they're cheaper.

2. Use coupons - take an hour a week to track them down in the newspaper, mailbox, and online. Organize them according to area of the store (dairy, meat, etc.) and within that category, by expiration date. (If you're lucky, your store has its own promotional coupons, too - here in San Antonio, HEB has lots of promos plus a coupon kiosk near the customer service area). It doesn't take that long, and you can use the rest of the time to plan meals.

3. Shop on double coupon day. (Here in SA, that means Sun Harvest; HEB doesn't offer double coupon days.)

4. Plan your weekly menu to maximize the coupons.

5. Shop with a grocery list and stick to that list.

6. Do not buy junk just because you have a coupon. If the kids hate powdered donuts, don't buy them just because they're on sale. If you are into eating organic, then don't compromise just because Cocoa Puffs are 3 for a dollar. Rule the coupons, don't let them rule you!

7. Compare the unit price. Something on sale with a coupon may still cost more than the store brand.

8. Cook from scratch as much as possible: the more preparation in the item, the higher the price.

9. Organize your kitchen (freezer, fridge, pantry) as well as a little storage area elsewhere. A big sale on toilet paper may be worth stocking up - but you will need the extra space. Similarly, cooking a big batch of chili or stew may mean you freeze half for later: it's better to have an organzed freezer (not only to have a place for the item, but to remember it's there and not have it hidden for archeologists in the back right corner ...).

10. Eat your leftovers. Rework them if your family is picky about this - Food Network's Robin Miller (contributing editor for Health and Cooking Light ) has an entire show dedicated on revamping a food item in 3-4 ways for use during the week. Chicken breasts one night become shredded bbq chicken sammies the next, etc.

11. Keep a Food Journal. Yes, this sounds hokey -- but it can be a simple spiral notebook and it's purpose is to keep track of what's working and what's not. It doesn't have to be pretty. If the family loved your Organic Mac and Cheese Bake, then make a note of this. If they hated the 12 grain bread, note it. Slowly, you'll build a list of recipes that the family likes and this will make menu planning a lot easier. The Journal should also keep track of big sales -- stores tend to put things on sale on a schedule and as you gain control of this info, you'll be able to plan ahead for the sale items. I also take my journal with me to Sam's, HEB, etc. and write down prices for things that I buy a lot. It's helped me discover that the paper towels at Walmart are a better deal than Sam's, and I was just assuming that Sam's had the best deal.

12. Cook in batches. Buying in bulk (like at Sam's or CostCo) can get you a better unit price. You can break these apart and freeze parts. You can also stretch these buys through cooking a big batch and then freezing part of the entree for later. Examples: a big pot of chili, freeze half; a huge meatloaf, freeze half; broccoli-rice casserole, freeze half. You get the idea.

13. Learn to cook great vegetables that are cheap. Cabbage, greens, turnips, beets, yams, these are great foods, they are cheap foods, and you need to take advantage of them. A big pot of greens on a cold winter day, with cornbread and sweet butter? There's nothing better. Like Chinese food or Thai? Lots of cabbage potential there. Explore.

14. Find alternatives to meat. Beans and rice together make a complete protein. Cajun recipes and TexMex recipes combine them both. A favorite in my house are bean cakes - they can be crispy and spicy and very delicious as an entree and again as a sammie. Lots of variety here, lots of nutrition, and soooo cheap.

15. Reward yourself for a job well done. This whole thing should be fun, not a chore. Find the joy in all this ... it's there. Great food, great nutrition, and great savings.

November 19, 2007

How to Clean 3: Cooking Grease

Apparently, lots of folk are flummoxed by the grease that's left after frying or roasting or broiling or whatever ... so much so, that here in San Antonio, the water company has posted billboards and notices asking that grease not be poured down pipes. I'm guessing lots of folks were never taught how to deal with the messy stuff.

Grease isn't that hard to deal with -- here's a couple of tips:

1. Pour the hot grease into leftover metal cans (think coffee cans or tin cans) or milk cartons. Let it cool, and toss. Used coffee cans are good, because they have plastic lids. You can fill these over time, storing the sealed can under the sink, and when the can is full, you toss it. No, there's not a bad smell. Put it in the fridge or freezer if you're really worried about a stench.

2. If the pan has sat around so the grease (e.g., fat) is not in liquid form any longer, the easiest thing to do is put the pan in the oven at 250 until it becomes liquid again, and do the pour thing.

You want to avoid getting grease into the sink, or the pipes -- and it's much easier to deal with the grease as a liquid than in its gel form.

3. Now, bacon grease is different. It's special. Keep it separate and make sure your container has a lid. When I was little, my mother would store bacon fat left over from breakfast on the stove top, because she used it as a flavoring -- she would fry onions and garlic in the bacon fat as a basis for lots of things, to fry potatoes, pinto beans, beef tips, even green beans. She'd use it to make cornbread. She'd make a roux with it for gravy, put a tad of it in mashed potatoes, well - you get the idea.

For a nice trip down Bacon Grease Lane, check out this list of comments at

FYI, did you know that in WWII, housewives were asked to save their cooking grease and turn it in to their local grocery stores, where it was collected to be used in making explosives?

November 16, 2007

Food as Medicine: 10 Tips For Lowering Cholesterol With Food

You can significantly lower your cholesterol just by diet. Here are some tips:

1. Eat several small meals a day. Think 3 meals, and then 3 snacks, if this helps - and then make the meals smaller than before. This keeps your blood sugar steady and prevents insulin spikes that up the production of cholesterol.

2. Eat a handful of walnuts or almonds each day. (Just doing this will lower your cholesterol by approximately 10%.) Better yet, do both. You can always add them to salads, top casseroles with them, put them in your oatmeal (I love this), or just have them as a snack. Keep a jar or small can of them on the table, within easy reach, and they'll get eaten.

3. Spice up your food with cayenne powder. Cayenne powder contains capsacin, which lowers cholesterol. Not that hard, if you're eating lots of different bean recipes (uses up lots of garlic this way, too).

4. Add garlic to your recipes. It lowers cholesterol and blood pressure.

5. Eat lots of beans. 1.5 cups of beans a day in your diet can lower your cholesterol by 19%. There's lots of ways to cook beans (soups, beancakes, stews, salads, beans & rice dishes, dips, etc.). There's lots of beans to choose from, too. Beancakes are great -- they can be made into sandwiches, eaten as a meal -- mush the beans up, put in lots of spices as well as garlic and onion, maybe some shredded carrot, and bake or fry these babies. Roll them in cornmeal or bread crumbs for a crispy crust.

6. Eat carrots and apples. They both have pectin, which lowers cholesterol.

7. Eat lots of fiber -- raw veggies and fruits are best. If you're eating the beans, the apples, the carrots, and the oatmeal, you're probably okay here.

8. Add cinnamon to your diet. 1-2 T/day. It helps lower cholesterol. Add it to your coffee, put it in your oatmeal, bake apples or yams with cinnamon, some make cinnamon tea but I'm not into the flavor that much. Pills are also available, Natural Valley has a good product - one month's supply for under 10 bucks.

9. Eat lots of oatmeal -- but make sure you use a good quality oatmeal in order to maximize the benefit. Say, 1.5 cups a day. (My favorite is Silver Palate's Thick and Rough Oatmeal.)

10. Stop eating margarine and other Saturated Fats. Check the Nutritional Labels of everything you buy and just don't buy products that are high in saturated fat or that have any trans-fats in them.

American Heart Association

November 14, 2007

Miracle Tea for Diabetes? You Decide.

Here in San Antonio, we've got reports of a miracle tea for diabetes, with lots of folk raving about the results. The Mexican company has a local office here as well as a website.

They're selling 90 tea bags for $49.95.

November 13, 2007

Skeery Economy? Yes. Is it Smart to be Scared? No.

If you want to get skeered and all shivery about the economy, just go read these guys for awhile and then start panic-plotting how you, too, can move to Asia, or start stockpiling gold, or become self-sustaining, off the grid in the outback somewhere:

The Daily Reckoning
The Rude Awakening
The Housing Bubble 2
Desidooru Saloon
Economist's View

These guys sound savvy and on the mark, and they've been proven right over time. You should know what's happening here. And, yep, it's sounding bad.

Of course, you can read all this and choose not to fear, but instead to figure out what is best for you to DO.

One thing that's obvious when you just look at the foreclosure rates alone is that a lot of folk are having to tighten their budgets and live a different lifestyle because of events that have been thrust upon them. They're going to have to deal with grief and loss and probably shame -- that's a lot already without a big bunch of fear thrown on top.

They've been forced to simplify their lives, without the accompanying value and lifestyle choices that others have done in advance, like those who label themselves "Voluntary Simplifiers," for example.

People that are forced to live simply are very different from those of us who have chosen to live Simple Lives as a positive, proactive choice.

If you've chosen Simplicity, don't change now, just keep moving forward.

You already know how not to be a lemming, and you already know how to appreciate what you have, and you know how to implement change and not stay stuck.

If you've had Simplicity thrust upon you, there's lots of negative emotions to fight -- but it's isn't a bad thing to live a simple life. For lots of us, it's the best life ever.

Abundance and material wealth are two very different things.

Hang in there.

Everything is going to be alright.

You've got you, remember?

November 11, 2007

Rising Oil Prices - What They Mean to Your Family

There's a great post over at SmartMoney about oil prices rising to $100 a barrel -- expect:

1. Rising Gas Prices -- it will cost more to drive your car

2. Rising Heating Cost -- it will cost more to heat your home (less if you heat with natural gas)

3. Rising Cost to Fly -- airline tickets will rise

4. Rising Shipping Costs -- transportation costs will also impact the cost of groceries, clothes, etc. because it will cost more to get the product onto the shelf.

Go read the article
for details, as well as links for things like cutting energy costs.

If you want to learn more about oil - especially the peak oil issue - then I recommending reading this post over at Mighty Bargain Hunter. As always, MBH gives lots and lots of good info.

November 10, 2007

Dog Behavior and Training: Great Site

There's a great site with lots of info on why dogs behave the way that they do, as well as how to train them like a Good Pack Leader over at Paw Persuasion. Written by Rena Murray, it's filled with great stuff for dog owners, such as:

Remember your dog is a dog, not a "fur person" (to borrow from Susan Conant in Gaits of Heaven);

your dog must respect you and this is shown in specific canine behaviors; and

the top three reasons that humans cater to dogs.

November 9, 2007

Weight Loss That's Simple? Jon Gabriel and Lee Haney

John Gabriel has just made a deal to have his book, The Gabriel Method, published in the US. You can already buy it online at his Australian website, along with an accompanying CD. What's the big deal about this one?

Well, he lost over 220 pounds without surgery or some strange diet methods - and he didn't need any plastic surgery for loose skin afterwards. Check out the photos and be amazed.

Jon Gabriel's approach addresses the fight vs flight body response, visualization techniques, and a slow weight loss. For more details, read this discussion.

Another newbie on the weight loss market is Lee Haney's new website, LeeHaney.Com, where he promotes 4 simple keys to getting fit:

1. Detox your body
2. Exercise 30 minutes a day - moving and weights
3. Take supplements that help your metabolism
4. Decrease your daily caloric intake by 250 calories a day.

Now, of course there are zillions of diet and fitness and weight loss products out on the market. What I like about both of these approaches is that they keep it simple; they are directed to an overall lifestyle change; and they recommend a slow weight loss. Plus, that Lee Haney seems like such a nice guy.

November 8, 2007

Example of Excess 4: Zany Prices

This morning, The Drudge Report has three links to news reports on unbelievable prices --

1. $150,000,000 for an apartment in New York City's Upper East Side. That's right - an apartment. Not even one tree is included in the purchase - you still gotta walk the dog. (Or, assumedly, have someone to do it.) One-hundred fifty MILLION, folks.

2. A $25,000 chocolate sundae being sold by New York's Serendipity 3, which includes La Madeline au Truffle from Knipschildt Chocolatier on the side ($2,600/lb.) as well as 5 grams of edible gold and a gold spoon encrusted with chocolate and white diamonds. And, yes, you get to take the spoon home with you.

3. A $1000 bagel at New York's Westin Hotel -- it comes with white truffle cream cheese (according to the article, only caviar is more rare than this stuff) and something that just sounds like it was written for comedians out there: "goji berry infused Riesling jelly with golden leaves."

No word on who has actually bought the sundae or the bagel. These are being offered for sale, the bagel's profits are going to charity.

But the apartment? That's a done deal, baby.

November 7, 2007

Free GOOD Grocery Coupons Online - List 4 U

After watching Jon & Kate Plus 8, and this amazing woman maximizing her food budget while not compromising on food quality, well -- first of all, I'm waiting to hear about when her book's coming out -- and second, it made me go and check out online coupons -- printable and otherwise.

Here's a list of sites offering free online coupons -- I haven't test-driven them yet, but I have culled thru them for the ones that look good:


This one looks good -- had coupons for hummus and low-fat mozzarela string cheese on the home page when I took a look. Which is great -- lots of coupons in the paper (and at some sites) offer food I won't buy.

Coupon Mom

Coupon Mom has collected lots of sites and info -- her page with printable grocery coupons had 72 when I tried it, and boy -- it had lots of stuff I already use. Wish I had this before I went to the grocery last week! And, this list was available to me without registration and without entering my zip code ....


This is a great site, too. Like Coupon Mom, it also provides somewhat of a hub - and it covers both the US and the UK - and things besides groceries: it has restaurants, travel, etc.. Big site.

But it also has its own coupons -- and there's lots of healthy, organic stuff to be had here. Plus, links to free coupons at places like Living Naturally and Organic Valley. These are good coupons, too -- $1 off 1/2 gallon of soy milk, things like that.

Thanks so much to Kate Gosselin -- I wouldn't have done this investigation if I had not watched her shop for her family of 10 in what appeared to be a Whole Foods .... For her list of household tips, check out the show's site here.

November 5, 2007

Detoxification Lite

If you are pondering a detox program -- liver, kidneys, etc. -- but are concerned about being incapacitated for a couple of days, maybe you should try Sunny Greens' Total Greens for a gentle detoxification. You'll experience some of the same detox dilemmas - flu-like symptoms, etc. - but they won't be as intense as the more serious detoxification formulas. Of course, it's probably not as thorough either.

Me? I did this and while the flu-like symptoms did not make for a fun weekend, the increase in energy and clarity of thought sure sold me. Detoxification is a good thing.

November 4, 2007 -Saving Energy One Search at a Time is an energy-saving search engine offered by the Australian group, Heap Media. From their site:

"Blackle saves energy because the screen is predominantly black.... In January 2007 a blog post titled Black Google Would Save 750 Megawatt-hours a Year proposed the theory that a black version of the Google search engine would save a fair bit of energy due to the popularity of the search engine. Since then there has been skepticism about the significance of the energy savings that can be achieved and the cost in terms of readability of black web pages.

"We believe that there is value in the concept because even if the energy savings are small, they all add up. Secondly we feel that seeing Blackle every time we load our web browser reminds us that we need to keep taking small steps to save energy."

Blackle encourages you to use their site as your home page, for energy saving, and also offers a nice list of energy-saving tips, too.

November 3, 2007

Freebies: Washington Mutual Checking Account

Clever advertising is just a good choice in agencies. How good is the WaMu offer? Well, it's true: you get a checking and a savings account for free. This includes free checks, free online banking (including bill pay) and a free ATM card (gold). Branches are popping up everywhere, so convenience shouldn't be an issue.

There are drawbacks, tho: it may work a little differently than your other bank. For instance, make a deposit and you get a confirmation sheet that could easily be confused with your Starbucks invoice. No formal banking slip here.

Go inside to get some cash, and you see kiosks with tellers standing there. There's not any long bar, with windows, separating the two of you. Cash withdrawals here get you a paper slip, which you take over to a withdrawal machine in the corner - near the guard - and get your own cash. When I asked the bank clerk what she thought about this, she said she felt safer with this system. Me? I'd prefer the long bar and the big windows ....

As for customer reviews, there's a lot of bad juju online. Surf through, EOpinions, and RateItAll.

Can't tell you any more than that. I opened one out of curiosity, really -- and I'm not sure how much trust I really have in WaMu, frankly. That kiosk business is strange, and I like a standard deposit slip, somehow.

November 2, 2007

Daylight Savings Time is THIS Sunday

Yes, finally. Daylight Savings Time hits this Sunday. We move our clocks back one hour - remember "Spring Forward, Fall Back" from years past?

The history of Daylight Savings Time is pretty interesting. Did you know that during his stay in Paris, Benjamin Franklin suggested that the French could save money on candles by getting up earlier, and taking advantage of the morning sun?
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