Cooking is one of the most important skills for literally every single person to learn. The days of hoping you marry someone who can cook are over; even if you do, there will be periods of your life where you’ll need to cook for yourself.
Eating takeout all the time is hard on your wallet and your waistline, and cooking for yourself (or your family) has the benefit of allowing you to know exactly what is going into your meals. Additionally, for people with intolerances or allergies to certain foods, cooking for yourself might be literally lifesaving.
Saving Money by Cooking at Home
Particularly at the time of this writing, quarantine across most of the globe due to COVID-19 has us stuck in our houses, so there’s never been a better time to learn how to cook. Let’s take a look at some ways in which home cooking can benefit you, your wallet and your weight.
Cooking is a must for weight loss
If you’re trying to lose weight, cooking for yourself is the right way to go. Even though most restaurants have calorie and macronutrient breakdowns (fat, protein and carbs), those are still dependent on a chef that goes by exact measurements. A heavy hand with the sauce ladle can tip the calorie count 200 or more, and nobody wants that.
Since weight loss is based mostly on what you put into your body – mainly calories – knowing how many you’re taking in per day can be far more easily measured when you’re cooking for yourself.
Home cooking saves you money
While it’s a great thing to support local restaurants, particularly during these difficult times, you can’t reasonably do it every single day. Cooking is far cheaper than eating out, and it’s not difficult to see why.
When you map out a meal plan – you do make a meal plan each week I hope – you can usually ballpark how much it’s going to cost you. For a family of four, a frugal meal plan can be $100 or less, but to eat out for a family of four might cost upwards of $50 for one meal. The math is plainly obvious; $100 for an entire week of meals, or $50 for one single meal of takeout.
Cooking is so easy to learn
Despite what you may think, cooking isn’t incredibly difficult to learn. There are plenty of places online where you can learn basics of home cooking, even if you’re a complete novice. Youtube is a great place to find beginner recipes, cooking steps, tips and basic information.
For a new cook, one of the most daunting tasks is figuring out how to convert measurements – how many tablespoons in a cup, ounces in a gallon, etc. Having a reliable website to convert measurements is hugely helpful, even for a seasoned cook (or if you’re trying to make cooking fun but educational for the kids!)
The conversion tools at Culinary Schools.org are fantastic for quick conversions, no matter how new to cooking you are. I’ve been cooking for years but there’s times where I’m in the middle of a recipe and simply don’t know how to measure out an ingredient, especially when the directions are using metric versus imperial units.
They’ve also got a handful of weight loss calculators that are perfect for figuring out your macros, your body fat percentage and the amount you can expect to burn from working out. If you’re learning to cook to lose weight, they’ve got all the tools you could possibly need to scientifically progress towards your goal.
No matter what reason you have for embarking on the noble pursuit of learning how to cook, it’s not nearly as hard as you think, and the benefits are enormous. Cooking at home is a powerful, noble life skill, it can save you money and help you become the healthiest version of you. There’s never been a better time to learn how to cook for yourself.
Healthcare and medical supplies for the most economically vulnerable often represent one part of a difficult choice. Choosing between critical medicines and eating, for instance, requires sacrifices that nobody should have to make. There are resources out there for people who are in low-or-fixed income situations to obtain their medical supplies cheap or free, but it’s a matter of the resources and the people being linked up.
Now before we go any further, I do want to say that this article in no way represents legal or medical advice. It’s merely my own thoughts and experience.
With that said, medical supplies, as defined under Medicaid, are typically disposable items for incontinence, diabetes or other chronic conditions that require testing or management. The constant resupplying of these items requires not only monthly payments but also a reputable and reliable provider.
There are, thankfully, a number of programs to help disabled, elderly and low-income families get their medical supplies for free or at the very least, drastically reduced in cost. We’re going to go over some options and help you determine the easiest, cheapest method for you to take care of your ongoing medical needs.
Healthcare Options When You’re Low Income
Qualifying for Programs
The first thing to do is to understand that budgeting for your medical supplies isn’t likely necessary, depending on what your income status looks like. For disabled and elderly people, the first step is to determine your Medicare eligibility. If you qualify, you can dramatically lower what you pay out of pocket every year for health services and supplies.
If you’ve ever served in the military, you likely qualify for veteran’s benefits through the VA. In some cases, these benefits can cover home health supplies.
Finally, check with local hospitals to see if they have clinics for low income families. Many will provide basic medical care and possibly some supplies, depending on where you live. These programs also partner with other local support for lower income individuals as well, so you can find a network of assistance when you need it most.
Once you qualify, find a reputable supplier
Once you have insurance or some other form of health cost coverage like what we detailed above, you can find a retailer that sells and ships medical supplies. For instance, incontinence has a variety of tools and supplies necessary to keep it managed. Finding a supplier that accepts your coverage and will ship directly to you can save you a large amount of money and worry.
One primary concern of people in low income situations is that they will reuse medical supplies because they don’t have the money to use fresh ones all the time when necessary. This exposes you to increased risk of infection or other complications, so having a constant supply of clean, disposable incontinence supplies is critical to maintain your health.
Don’t make unnecessary choices
There is no reason to pay more money than necessary for your medical supplies. Likewise, don’t put yourself in danger by reusing supplies you shouldn’t be. If you qualify for Medicare, Medicaid or veteran’s benefits, you can find a reputable medical supplies retailer who will ship fresh products directly to your door. There is help out there to keep you from having to make difficult decisions about your health, so please check into these programs today and start down the path to better health.
Anything that helps make a task easier is always welcome. One of the best modern wonders in the kitchen is the Instant Pot. It is a small kitchen appliance that is purported to be able to do any kind of cooking: slow cooking, steaming, and stewing, just to name a few.
You can create perfectly cooked food using its different functions and have a convenient gadget that, theoretically, replaces others. The all-in-one cooker saves you the hassle of pulling out all the appliances from the hard-to-teach cupboards. While the Instant Pot has had glowing reviews over the years and works perfectly with all sorts of food, what else can you put in it?
How about a scientifically backed superfood that everyone should try? Matcha is a finely ground powder made from special green tea leaves. It has a ton of antioxidants and other nutritional benefits and has blown up the internet as one of the most popular flavors enjoyed today. Authentic matcha powder comes only from Japan, and if you want to get your fix, you need to buy from legit sellers only.
If you already enjoy matcha but want to know recipes that use an instapot, refer to the list below.
Instapot Recipes for Matcha
Matcha Cheesecake with Blackberry Compote
Who doesn’t love cheesecake? This recipe is easily doable, and with the Instant Pot, you have the advantage of making this in the comfort of your own home. The handy little gadget, which is a hybrid between pressure cookers and slow cookers, can make a rich and moist cheesecake.
Another benefit is that the cheesecake doesn’t need a water bath when you use the Instant Pot. Water baths can be clunky and messy and take up quite some time. You’ll be surprised that, once you’ve made this cheesecake, it will taste just like the usual oven-baked version does.
Matcha Crème Brûlée
This is another dessert that you can make using the oven or stovetop. However, you can make this finicky dessert easier and with less room for error, using the pressure-cooker setting in the Instant Pot. Crème brûlée is a smooth, creamy, fancy custard that is characterized by its torched caramelized top.
This recipe has the same ingredients but has matcha powder as a delicious variant. The secret to making green tea matcha brûlée smooth is to sieve the mixture through a fine mesh strainer to ensure that there are no lumps. You can also substitute dairy for an alternative like coconut milk.
Mango Matcha Oats
Who doesn’t want oats in the morning or, if you love it enough, any time of the day? This quick and simple recipe yields two servings. Using the pressure-cooker option of the Instant Pot guarantees that the steel-cut oats are cooked to perfection.
Mango is good on its own, but the addition of other nutritious ingredients like matcha, banana, and coconut milk will take the oats to the next level. You can also add toppings such as cinnamon, brown sugar, toasted coconuts, and nuts.
Rice-Cooker Matcha Pancakes
The Instant Pot is versatile, and one of its most important features is the rice cooker. If you don’t regularly make rice in your home, you can easily use the Instant Pot to make rice-cooker matcha pancakes. Those who are not familiar with Japanese cuisine and its ingenuity will think it’s impossible, but a lot of people who have tried rice-cooker pancakes enjoy them.
All you need are the usual pancake ingredients and some matcha. You can dust the finished product with powdered sugar or garnish with toppings of your choice.
Slow-Cooked Matcha Coco Curry
One of the most wholesome variants of curry is made with full-fat coconut milk and vegetable broth base. This recipe uses the slow-cooker feature of the Instant Pot to make this delicious meal. You can eat this curry on its own or serve it with rice.
What other Instant Pot matcha recipes can you think of?
Kitchen cures for colds and the like are a dime a dozen, but that doesn’t mean they don’t work! With sickness season upon us and will soon ramp up into the absolute worst that tiny microbes can throw at us. If you have kids in school – literally any school, even home-school somehow – they’re going to turn into walking, talking petri dishes. You can load them up on medicine, give them three scarves and an overcoat, but they’re going to be sneezing regardless.
If you’re like me, you love science – I think medicine, vaccines, and pizza bagels are all wonderful advances for humankind. Sometimes, however, you might not want to give your kids (or self) 3 different medicines, all filled with items you can’t pronounce. Luckily there are some simple-to-use, cheap and easy home remedies that absolutely work to fight off colds and other nasties.
Some of these you will buy at the store, some you’ll make yourself, but all of them are things I personally do and I very, very rarely get sick. Even when my kids are little germ tornadoes, I weather the storm with these witchy kitchen hacks, and you can, too!
Kitchen Cures for Colds
When I know I’m going to get sick, I feel it at the back of my throat. It starts not as a sore throat but as a tickle, usually, maybe scratchiness, but I still know. That’s when I start taking raw, whole garlic.
Garlic has anti-microbial properties, but it’s especially good for when you’re getting sick in the sinuses. For most people, eating a whole clove at once might be…difficult. Dicing it up, however, makes it easier to take, and has the bonus of being incredibly spicy, which often clears out sinuses.
For colds or influenza, I will mix 1-2 cloves of chopped garlic with a tablespoon of raw honey and take that. It helps with sore throats, coughing, and it shortens the duration of my colds. If I get ahead of getting sick by taking this mixture, I can often completely avoid a full-blown cold entirely.
Kombucha is another thing I’ll start chugging at the first sign of a cold. The probiotics in kombucha bolster the gut microbiome, which in turn makes your immune system more robust. Opt for kombucha with less sugar, however – sugar itself can damage your gut biome and we want to avoid that.
Chicken soup is good for more than a light meal when you feel bad. Actual scientific research shows that hot drinks like soup or tea help thin out mucus, which makes it less gummy in your lungs and easier to get rid of. Chicken soup in particular (when made with bone broth) has anti-inflammatory effects which can reduce nasal swelling, helping you breathe. The collagen in chicken bone broth also boosts the health of your gut lining, which again makes your immune system stronger.
Get a whole chicken from the store and toss it in the crock pot on high for 3-4 hours with some veggies. Strip the meat off the bones and use it in whatever you’d like – we’re here for the skeleton (I told you this was witchy). Drop the crock to low, add 6 cups of water, some salt, 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar and let it cook for about 10 hours. This will draw out the collagen and give you a lovely bone broth. Just make sure you strain it before enjoying this kitchen cure.
Spice Kitchen Cures
Ginger is great for soothing a sore throat and it can suppress a cough as well. You take a few thin slices of fresh ginger and steep it like tea in hot water, adding actual tea bags if you like. The spicy ginger is soothing on your sore throat, and if you add some honey it can be a one-two punch against coughs. It definitely my go-to kitchen cure.
Echinacea root, taken as a tea (around 1-2 grams) a few times a day can help prevent the cold from getting a hold in your body. This is best done when I see my kids or husband’s eyes get that glassy, “I’m getting a cold” look. It’s like those over-the-counter cold preventatives but this actually works.
Turmeric mixed into your morning coffee – about a 1.5 tsps – has a potent anti-inflammatory effect. If coffee isn’t your thing, try turmeric tea instead, which you can make the same way as turmeric coffee with black tea bags, or you can buy turmeric tea bags already pre-made.
Especially in fall as mold grows in the damp weather and fields are harvested, allergies are rampant. If not treated, allergies quickly turn into upper respiratory infections and we don’t want that.
Honey has been proven to be as useful if not better than dextromethorphan (cough syrup) at treating, well, coughs. This study showed that 2.5ml of honey at bed time was better at suppressing coughs than over-the-counter cough syrups, and that’s great because cough syrup has a taste that is staggeringly awful. Do remember that you cannot give honey to kids under 1 year old, due to the chances of botulism spores being present.
Black licorice – whether you love it or hate it – can be a powerful medicine. Now, it’s not the candy that people who don’t love you give you as a treat – this is flavored with anise and has no medicinal properties. You want actual licorice root which contains glycyrrhizin, which reduces inflammation in the lungs. With all that said, you should avoid the root in excess of 1 gram a day (you can make a tea with it), as it really is potent and can cause problems in high doses. Best to stick with a lozenge that has licorice root as an active ingredient and stick strictly to the usage limits.
Eucalyptus oil and vaporubs are the smell we might have grown up with, but for a very good reason. These vaporubs can improve cold symptoms in just a few hours of application, opening airways, fighting inflammation and improving coughs. While I like essential oils, I don’t rely on them to fix my family’s sickness BUT eucalyptus oil in a humidifier is great when your family is coughing their lungs out at nighttime.
Nobody wants this but it’s there so let’s talk about it. Woof.
Ginger again, steeped in hot water with peppermint tea will do wonders for nausea. We often break up peppermints into hot water with a slice of ginger and give it to our kids, as sucking on a peppermint is great for tummy troubles but the choking risk of hard candy is a no-no.
While not a remedy exactly, if you’re nauseated, closing your fist around your thumb can suppress the urge to vomit. Massaging point where your thumb is anchored to your hand is another way to ease nausea.
Don’t believe me? Try closing your fist around your thumb (same hand, basically make a fist with your thumb tucked inside) and then test your gag reflex; pretty wild, eh?
Mint is an herb we grow quite a lot of around our house, especially since it’s perfect for gardening on a budget. Since it’s somewhat invasive, make sure you tend to it regularly or it will take over whatever bed it’s growing in. That said, a tea made with 4-5 bruised mint leaves helps reduce nausea and stomach pain when you’ve got gastroenteritis or food poisoning.
Chamomile is another herb we love, as it’s similar to turmeric with its anti-inflammatory benefits. If you don’t grow chamomile, you can buy dried flowers online (or if you have a holistic/health food store nearby, you can probably get them there). Steep 3 dried flowers in hot water for about 10 minutes and then add some honey. This mixture is good for cramping, diarrhea and nausea.
Home remedies for colds are legit
Again, I don’t want to suggest you be afraid of science, but there are traditional medicines that have real, absolute uses in the 21st century. Sometimes letting a fever run its course is better than taking ibuprofen unless it’s keeping you from sleeping. Inflammation is the cause of a lot of the nastiness with almost all illness, and dealing with that using medicine can sometimes hurt just as much as it helps.
For instance, if you’re dealing with stomach pain and cramps, taking aspirin or ibuprofen might make the pain much worse. Soothing herbal teas have scientific validity and real-world applications. Plus, you can grow the necessary herbs yourself!
Do you have any kitchen hacks for colds that you think are worth sharing?
We’d love to read about them in the comments – building up a repertoire of useful home remedies for sickness is essential for any kitchen witch (and even non-witchy moms or dads)!
We bought what I would consider to be a first generation air fryer a few years ago. It was fine, in that it cooked food crispy and but not particularly quickly, AND it was tiny. You could seriously only fit a couple of chicken tenders in it at a time, and it took 20 minutes to cook them, so it wasn’t efficient, either.
For Christmas this year, we tried again, only with a much bigger 5.7 quart fryer and it is a game changer. On busy nights it pairs perfectly with some frozen, not-the-healthiest-but-mama-doesn’t-have-time-for-kale food (lookin’ at you, Lean Cuisine pizza!)
On relaxing days, I spend hours experimenting with it, frying up all manner of things I wouldn’t have even considered frying.
Why Buy an Air Fryer
What is an air fryer?
At its core, an air fryer is a convection oven, using hot, circulating air to cook your food. The differences are nuanced but important, however.
An air fryer is typically shaped in more of a cone or dome, making the hot air circulate faster. This allows the outside of the food to crisp up while still cooking the inside quickly, preserving the juiciness while adding a perfect crunch. It also cooks faster than a countertop convection oven.
Most of the countertop ovens I looked at cost about twenty percent more than a similarly sized air fryer as well, and I’m not quite sure why. Convection ovens can typically go over the seemingly upper limit of 400 degrees that an air fryer has, but “frying” temperatures are usually between 350 and 400 degrees, so this isn’t surprising.
The best air fryers on the market have broad bottoms, allowing for a maximum amount of food cooked at once while still retaining the “frying” properties they boast. Because of this somewhat conical shape, they tend to take up less space than countertop ovens.
Benefits of Cooking with an Air Fryer
An air fryer cooks food faster than an oven would typically, and because it doesn’t require oil as a cooking medium, the food is lighter calorically and healthier in general.
As I mentioned earlier, you can toss in a layer of frozen chicken tenders, or fries, or whatever else you have on hand and dinner is ready in like 10 minutes.
On the model we have (Magic Chef), the timer is also effectively the “on” switch, so if you set it for 10 minutes, it shuts itself off in 10 minutes. There’s no “oh no I forgot the food” moments where you find that your salmon is blackened a bit more than you’d like; once the timer is up, it shuts off.
Fresh burgers come out juicy on the inside without flipping and splashing grease, and it reheats food more evenly (and pleasantly) than a microwave, though it takes longer.
Consider how microwave-reheated leftovers from a restaurant never taste as good, and you don’t typically want to preheat your oven just to heat up some chicken tenders. An air fryer is like your oven and your microwave had a baby and it was born being better than both of them (in certain applications). Reheating food is one of those applications!
Things to look for in an air fryer
Hands-down the most important attribute – and I cannot overstate this – is the size of the available cooking space. You can really only get the crispy benefits of the air fryer if your food isn’t stacked up on top of itself, so a single layer at a time is what you’re shooting for. This requires a decent sized basket so you’re able to cook quick, large batches. Ours is 5.7 quarts and it’s great for our family of 4, but if you have a bigger family or a party, something even larger might be ideal for you.
Ours is also manual, but there are digital ones out there as well that offer a wide range of preset cooking times and other fun add-ons.
Make sure you get a removable basket as well. Our first one didn’t have a removable basket, just this weird black insert that kinda held the food over the bottom of the fryer but not very well. The one we have now is a removable metal basked that clicks into the base and allows for total air circulation and for drippings to fall completely away from your food.
Finally, consider price when buying one. This isn’t a brand-new technology where higher price commands respect or the latest advancement. At its core, this is a very focused convection oven that fits on your countertop. Our Magic Chef was about $80, and it’s great. The only thing that you really need to pay extra for is a bigger model.
Why does every parent need an air fryer?
You’re still not convinced? Well, let’s recap then:
Cooks food quickly and crispy while retaining juiciness
Economical, especially if you’re considering buying a countertop oven
Heats faster, cooks quicker, and crisps up food better than an oven
Healthier than deep frying by a significant amount
Doesn’t require oil to cook most foods
Obviously consider your needs before picking one up, but if you’re on the fence about buying an air fryer, I hope this helps you see that they’re not a fad kitchen gadget. It saves us time, calories, effort, and money and it will for you, too!
Do you already have an air fryer?
Comment below, I’d love to know YOUR favorite thing to cook in it!
Making your own DIY worm farm is easy, but it’s definitely one of those things that you’ll either be super into…or not at all. I mean, let’s be honest – worms aren’t exactly cute and cuddly.
Worm farming, or vermiculture for the fancy among us, is a great way to reduce waste, but there are many other benefits, depending on how far you want to take it. It may be a weird way to save money, but it’s certainly a fun one!
Benefits of Worm Farming
First, when your wriggly friends break down your kitchen waste, they are eating up stuff that would otherwise take up space at the landfill while decomposing. As minimal as it may be, it all adds up over time!
Your worm farm will also be amazing for those of you are into gardening on a budget. Not only will the castings be great to mix in (no having to actually buy compost!) but the liquid “tea” they generate is one of the best fertilizers you can find…and it’ll cost you nothing to keep it going!
Another benefit is that it’s a great way to teach your children to care about the environment and about those around them. While not all kids will be into worm farming, let’s be real – most will be rather excited about it! Plus worm farming is easy to set up and care for, making it a great project for even the youngest among us.
What You Need for a Worm Farm
There are many (MANY) different wants to DIY a worm farm, but the route we went requires the following:
5 gallon tote with lid
Hot glue gun
X-Acto Knife or box cutter
Heat gun (not completely necessary but will definitely make cutting the tote easier!)
Shredded newspaper – about a Sunday’s edition worth – soaked in water and wrung out
Worms – check your local resale sites on Facebook or Craigslist to find ’em. You’d be surprised how common vermiculture is!
Where to Keep Your Worm Farm
Before you start building your worm habitat, decide on where you’ll keep the critters. Do *NOT* plan to keep them outside!! A warm, dry, dark environment is best – like your basement – but anywhere out of direct sunlight that’ll stay 40 – 80 F (4 – 27 C) will be fine. They tend to generate a lot of their own heat as they break down their food, so it’s exceptionally important you keep them somewhere relatively cool, though obviously not so cold they’ll freeze.
How to DIY a Worm Farm
Once you have your ideal location set, it’s time to get building!
First, if you have a heat gun, use it to warm up the area of your tote lid you’ll be cutting. It really does make a difference in getting that center cut out:
Then use that center cut out to trace and cut out screen material big enough to cover the area you just cut out. From there you’ll hot glue that screen onto the topof the lid. I then used duct tape to secure it all the better – again done on TOP the lid.
Originally I went the route of just drilling holes into the lid and that was fine…until my wriggly friends started to wriggle their way out of the nice home I built them! So rude, right? Supposedly the worms won’t do that if you have a nice environment for them, but uh…no. Heh trust me, the screen is the way to go!
You can also drill and insert a spigot into the bottom to drain some of the liquid that’ll accumulate, but I just make sure to monitor the dampness every few days and will add shredded newspaper or cardboard as needed.
What to Put In Your Worm Farm
When you’re first adding your worms, you can start with whatever dirt they’ve come in and then use wet, shredded newspaper and cardboard – be sure to wring it out first as you want it wet, but no where near dripping. Fill your tote about half full with the shreds and make sure it’s fluffed up enough for the worms to move freely and have plenty of oxygen.
There’s no need to add additional dirt, yard waste, etc. In fact, it’s safer to avoid ever doing that, as you never know what sort of contaminants might be there.
You can then go ahead and add your worms, but wait a couple days before adding in any food.
What to Feed Worms
Fortunately worms aren’t too picky when it comes to food, though mine are certainly big fans of moldy tomatoes (yum…)
You’ll want to avoid meat or highly acidic foods, like onions and citrus. Also try to avoid going overboard on the coffee grounds.
Your worms will thrive best when given a 2:1 ratio of pounds of worms to daily pounds of food, but this may vary a bit. It’s best to start off with food in one corner and then monitor it to see how fast it goes. As that corner starts to dissipate, put another serving in another corner. This helps keeps the worms moving and keeps the waste well circulated.
Should you start seeing gnats or other flying friends, cut back on the food a bit and/or loosely place a piece of dry cardboard in the bin on top of the papers/waste.
As they begin to generate those castings, feel free to scoop it out and add it to your garden or indoor plants. Eventually you may find your worm friends have reproduced so much that they need a new home – this can be a great way to earn some extra cash from home or you can create a second home if your garden is in need!
Do you have any questions about DIY’ing your own worm farm?