Self Employed? What Our Family Does for Health Insurance

This post is exactly like the Taco Salad post. Exactly like it.

What I mean is, I’ve had dozens of requests that I share this info and it’s only taken about six years for me to get around to it. (Just like it took me six years to share the taco salad recipe. You see how that makes the posts exactly the same?)  I have nothing to say for myself about this issue. Perhaps there’s a home remedy for this??

Health Insurance for our Self-Employed Family

Our family has qualified as “self-employed” for almost all of our 22 years. Even when my husband worked as an employed minister for churches, we carried our own insurance. So trust me when I say we’ve shopped around for the best type of health insurance to pay for out of our own pocket. We’ve experienced all the good, bad, and ugly. We’ve nearly gone broke in the past from paying monthly premiums, and we haven’t had a co-pay option since 1998.

Lest you think I’m complaining, let me tell you where we’ve landed after all these years of trying to figure out the best way to carry health insurance for our family:

We are so super happy that we get to make the decision for ourselves!

Taking care of our own health insurance means we aren’t stuck with what we don’t need or want, paying money we don’t want to pay. We hear from too many people about how much money comes out of their paycheck to go toward health insurance. We hear many a complaint about poor coverage. Instead of dealing with these frustrations, we get to choose where we want to put our money! We’re thankful for this.

We’ve always chosen a high deductible plan so that we pay less per month and instead put our money toward real food and natural/homeopathic/chiropractic care. But with regular insurance companies, even with a high deductible, our monthly premium payment kept going up and up and up. It was horrible, actually.

The worst of it for us was that we really only kept this insurance for major illnesses or catastrophes. As I’ve shared before, our family doesn’t head to the doctor for every sniffle, and in fact, the only time we’ve taken any of us to a regular doctor in the past 11 years is for stitches.

So it was becoming more and more painful to pay hundreds of dollars each month for what felt like nothing. (Not that we wanted anything major to happen, of course. “Let’s get majorly sick so we can get our money’s worth out of our insurance!” said no one ever.)

We looked into alternative options for health insurance

I’d heard some of my friends talk about Christian Healthcare Ministries, so at the point our regular insurance premium doubled (again!) I decided to see if their price might be better.

Oh my stars and dollar signs.

Their price was shockingly lower. You guys – our family of six pays $135/month for insurance. The price hasn’t gone up for years. I still can’t even believe how good this is. Annnnnd, instead of our money going to who knows where, our monthly payment goes to another Christian family to help them pay their medical bills. It almost makes me want to pay a higher premium. (Except not.)

Now granted, we pay such a low monthly fee because we chose a $5,000 deductible (which is the same deductible we had on the super expensive insurance). We chose the “bronze” level of coverage, which doesn’t cover anything beyond the big stuff because that’s what works best for our needs (since we rarely, if ever, go to a regular doctor).

We’ve saved thousands through the years – putting the money we would have been paying for insurance into savings so we have deductible money if we need it. And here’s the best part:

Instead of paying huge money every month for insurance that covered nothing but catastrophes, we can put money into our natural doctors, chiropractors, and home remedies instead. All that, and we still save money.

I’m not an affiliate for Christian Healthcare Ministries; I don’t get a kick-back for telling you about them. (Actually, I do see that they give incentives for telling your friends. I haven’t yet learned how that works. Hmmm….) I’m just answering people’s questions I get so often about what we do for insurance since we’re self-employed. Just like knowing about home remedies, I believe people should know they have options for health insurance too!

Because they aren’t technically an “insurance company” (though they still meet the government requirements to be considered such) things work a little differently than you might be used to with Blue Cross or whatnot. As a matter of fact, Christian Healthcare Ministries claims, “We are not health insurance. We are a ministry.” I love this! While their system works differently, it’s not complicated and every need and issue we’ve had has been worked out beautifully; every phone call pleasant.

So there you go. Christian Healthcare Ministries. That’s how we handle our health insurance as self-employed family. I can’t believe it took me so many years to finally write this post.

I’d love to hear what you do for health insurance. Do you have it through your employer? Carry your own? Have you tried a Christian ministry option like this one? 

One more quick note

To go along with this subject, I wanted to again give a shout-out to the idea of getting to the root of medical conditions and treating ailments naturally if at all possible. Our family has done it both ways, and continue to land on going the natural route as much as we can. Our experiences have been much, much better this way.

This home remedies collection of resources has been a huge help to me, taking me to the next level as I learn more about how to care for our needs without always having to resort to meds or doctor visits.

I encourage you to look into this great package deal. It’s only being offered through Monday, June 27!

Some of these links are my affiliate links.

Here’s the a quick view of all the items included in this $30 package. Once I saw this, that’s when I knew I should buy it. I don’t regret my purchase one bit! What a great pack of practical learning tools!

You can click below to read all the details of each item and learn about an additional 50% off coupon that comes with this package too!



Great for Your Kitchen and Home Remedies! Win a Stainless Steel Zester/Grater!

For some reason that we shall never understand, it took me until recently to grate the zest of a lemon, lime, or orange into recipes that called for this delicious addition.

Actually, I can attempt to offer some reasons – such as:

  • I don’t like recipes that take too many steps.
  • I only had a big stand up grater for a while, which actually did make zesting quite tedious.
  • That’s it. There are no other reasons.

Then I got a hand-held zester. Suddenly the job of rubbing a lemon rind across a grater to utilize that natural and delicious flavor was easy and quick. I think it goes without saying that my Low Sugar Cookies taste much more amazing when I take the few extra seconds to zest. Here, you need those recipes:

Low Sugar Lemon Melt-away Cookies

If you haven’t been a zester for all the reasons mentioned above, I’m happy to share that this little gadget can be a game changer in your kitchen.

zester grater

This, my friends, is a ECALOO Classic Stainless Steel Zester/Grater. I like the nice non-slip handle, but mostly I like the versatility in that you can use it to grate or zest cheese, lemon, citrus, ginger, garlic, onions, nutmeg, cinnamon, chocolate and much more (even veggies). That it’s stainless steel means it’s safe for our food and easy to clean.

Today, they are giving one away to five different winners. Sign up below!

In addition, they are offering a 35% discount to everyone! Use the code H7WAL8BT to receive your discount from now to  7/30/2016.

As I’m learning more about making home remedies and trying new recipes, I’m finding that this zester/grater is fantastic for fresh ginger to use in the recipes. Ginger is a staple in home remedies, so I love that this gadget makes grating it so easy!

Here’s your chance to win one! Sign up here, then watch for an email on Wednesday, June 29 sharing the five winners.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Easy Taco Salad Recipe

I sort of shared this “recipe” back in 2010 when I first posted my Homemade French Dressing recipe. Since then I’ve had several people tell me that they’d prefer me to write out an actual recipe. It’s only taken me 6 years to do it. Therefore, if you have any requests, ask now. First come, first served – I shall answer your requests by 2022.

I hope I’m kidding.

taco salad1

A key player in this salad is the French Dressing. I used to toss this with bottled Catalina Dressing, but the homemade variety is easy and better for us. If I don’t happen to have time to make the French Dressing, we just dump in a little salsa. It changes the taste of this salad, but it’s still a great meal!

I shall now attempt to write down measurable quantities of salad fixin’s to provide an actual Taco Salad recipe. If in fact you don’t follow this recipe precisely, you will still turn out a fabulous Taco Salad. For that matter, since everyone in my family has specific preferences (some like tomatoes, some don’t; some like beans, some don’t) I often lay out all the salad makings and let everyone build their own bowl however they like!

Easy Taco SaladYum

Easy Taco Salad Recipe
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound hamburger
  • 2 Tablespoons taco seasoning mix
  • 1 head lettuce, any variety (we prefer red leaf, green leaf or romaine)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or Colby jack cheese
  • 15 ounces (or 2 cups) of pinto, chili, or black beans
  • 1 cup diced fresh tomatoes
  • 1-2 cups crushed tortilla chips
  • 1 cup French Dressing (give or take)
Instructions
  1. Brown hamburger meat and season with taco seasoning mix (recipe link below)
  2. Chop or tear lettuce into a large serving bowl.
  3. Add cooked meat (cooled), shredded cheese, beans, tomatoes, and chips.
  4. Toss with French Dressing.
  5. Serve.

Other fun Taco Salad toss-in options are:

  • Black olives
  • Guacamole
  • Salsa
  • Onions
  • Peppers

I recommend making this Taco Seasoning Mix to have on hand for recipes like this. Easy and delicious!

Easy Taco Salad

We will likely enjoy this Taco Salad every week until the end of summer. How about you? Are you a Taco Salad fan?



Are Home Remedies the Be All and End All? (I Bought Something For You!)

We’re going to have a Home Remedies discussion, then we’re going to have a giveaway. Excuse me a moment while I first rub on some peppermint oil to get rid of the last of my headache. But you should know that yesterday I had to break down and take an over-the-counter migraine med – so don’t think I am closed looking at all the options. I mean, a migraine will make a girl desperate. ;)

First let’s talk about conventional doctors.

I am grateful for them and so very amazed by the investments they have made toward their career of serving people. I am constantly impressed by the sacrifices they make daily and the long hours they put in. I could go on and on in gratitude about the doctors who delivered my babies, performed surgeries on my husband, stitched up my sons, and on it goes.

Except for times we get late night phone calls about our son who fell and bit through his upper lip and needs stitches (his scar healed perfectly, thanks to one of our fav local doctors!), heading to our conventional doctors is no longer our first choice when we or our kids aren’t feeling well. Typically, we now look at other options like simple home remedies, chiropractic, or our natural doctor in a city nearby who looks at the root of problems instead of only treating the symptoms.

People should know they have options.

Before our youngest son was born with chronic eczema, I didn’t know. The kids got sick, I took them to the doctor. I got sick, I went to the doctor. It’s the thing to do, right?

Maybe. Sometimes. But I’m so grateful to know that that is just one option of many.

I hear from frustrated people all the time who have gone to their doctor with miserable symptoms – only to be given the same medication, or a stronger medication over and over to no avail.

That’s exactly what we experienced with Malachi. When he first broke out from head to toe with eczema (when he was about 4 months old), he was given steroids and cortisone. The rash went away. I was so relieved! But then the meds wore off and the rash reappeared. Back to the doctor. Again, he was offered steroids and cortisone. We were taken aback. Really? That’s our only option? Should we really keep giving this stuff to our baby?

That’s when we first realized we’d better look into other options.

So we went to specialists. To allergists. To dermatologists. Every time the answer was the same: steroids and cortisone.

This was heartbreaking (because our son was suffering) and more than frustrating (because the answers we were being given weren’t helping).

This is when we moved on to alternative forms of care. This is when we learned that it is best to get to the root of the problem instead of simply trying to treat the symptoms. This is when we learned that eczema isn’t even a skin condition, but rather an internal issue manifesting itself through the skin. This is when our lives and home turned upside-down as we changed our diet, our detergents and cleaners, and our medicine cabinet.

My Home Remedy Knowledge Quest

This has been a journey, and not one I’ll likely ever feel as though I’ve arrived. I’ve swung from one extreme to another in an effort to do what’s best for my family. But I’ve landed peacefully at the place of knowing that I have a lot to learn and I’ll never do it all perfectly. After all, is there actually a “perfect” way to do it?

For all major illnesses, I contact our natural doctor (about an hour away from us) who has been amazing at helping us become and stay healthy. But for minor illnesses like colds, stomach aches, low fevers, or even bug bites – we first try simple home remedies. This has saved us wads of money on what I consider to be unnecessary doctor visits. Why spend $100+ on a doc appointment when a few simple ingredients at home will give us comfort and a boost to help our bodies heal?

One of my goals this summer is to learn more about home remedies and natural care. I want to sharpen my knowledge and continue to build up our “medicine cabinet.” Through the years, we have been accumulating a nice supply of basic essential oils, vitamins, minerals, and herbal tinctures. But what else? There’s so much to learn!

How I’m Learning Right Now

A few weeks ago, I received an email about this set of herbs, essential oils, and natural care resources. I immediately went to hit the delete button because it looked like just one more thing someone wanted me to buy or promote. (You should see my overloaded inbox!!) But because the focus is on home remedies, I decided I should at least glance at it to see if it was something that would help me learn.

I took a couple days to look over it and chew on it before I realized that I really should invest. The price was amazing, but it doesn’t matter how much money I’ll “save” if I’m not going to use something, right?!

Getting this was a great idea! During the two weeks I’ve had the resources, I have learned a so much, and I really like having the quick go-to references. Since this is a topic many of you also want to learn more about, I decided I wanted to share the opportunity with you, too. In fact, I’ve been enjoying it so much that I went back and bought a second set to give to one of you! (See rafflecopter below.)

The thing is, just like over-the-counter meds like Advil or Sudafed, essential oils and natural remedies aren’t something to mess with unless you understand just how to use them. That’s why I’m thankful to come across these well-studied resources. What I love most about going the natural route is that I can know exactly what I’m putting in or on my body (unlike meds where I have no idea what ingredients are or why I should trust them).

I’ve already taken a few hours to really dig into these books and courses. I’ll have them forever as resources to revisit at any time, but I also found that I wanted to take notes as I read and learned. I thought it would be nice to have a “Home Remedies Notebook” where I jotted some go-to information for easy access.

So I had a little fun and I made this:

home remedies notebook2

home remedies notebook1

Home Remedies Notebook
This Home Remedies Notebook is free to all!!
Find download instructions here.

I printed the pages and put them into a binder. I also printed several of my favorite reference pages from the books and sources in this package so I would have them handy for quick help as needed. Beyond that, I created a new “Home Remedies” file on my computer so I could easily find these books and courses whenever I need them.

I’m pretty excited about all of this and happy about what I’m learning! I started ordering a few supplies so I could make some bath baths and teas. After all, I’ll want to have these on hand when we need them, and I can’t buy most of these in my small town. (I’ll try to share more soon about where I’m finding these. But take note that the purchase of this package includes an amazing 50% off coupon for unlimited essential oils and herbs at Golden Poppy Herbal Apothocary. I’m planning to ask Matt if I can buy one of everything. Reasonable request? Of course.)

You can look into the Herbs and Essential Oils Resources here. The set is discounted from $400 down to just under $30 right now. This is the biggest reason I didn’t feel I could pass it up, especially since many of the resources would be $20 or more by themselves. (Actually, one of them costs $197 at full price. We’d all probably rather pay $30 though, right?)

Want to win a free copy of all these resources? It’s worth $400!

Since this discounted resource package is only available for 6 days, this giveaway will only be open until midnight Thursday, June 23. Sign up fast!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday morning, I’ll send out an email to all who sign up to let you know who won the prize.

After you sign up, be sure to grab the FREE Natural Remedies Notebook printable!

Some of the links in this post are my affiliate links. 



How to Make Peach Sweet (or Unsweet) Tea

If I like the Iced Mango Tea (which I do), I think like this Peach Tea even more. Talk about refreshment on a hot day!

Peach Tea

The trick I learned since starting to play with fruity tea recipes is that it works best if we add just a tiny bit of honey or sugar to the fruit and water while we bring it to a boil. This brings out the natural sweetness and great flavor of the fruit. I wondered if this might make the tea too sweet for my liking (I’m an unsweet tea girl). But I find it to be just right. On the other hand, my husband (who likes sweet tea), doesn’t mind drinking this tea as-is, without any added sugar beyond the tiny bit of honey I add to the fruit during the boiling process.

Experiment with this and see if you can also cut down on the sugar by letting the fruit do the job naturally!

Peach Sweet (or Unsweet) TeaYum

5.0 from 1 reviews
How to Make Peach Sweet (or Unsweet) Tea
 
Author:
Serves: ½ gallon
Ingredients
  • 2 quarts of water, divided
  • 4-5 ripe peaches, sliced
  • 4-8 tea bags of your favorite black or green tea, depending on how strong you like your tea
  • Liquid stevia, honey, or sugar to taste
Instructions
  1. In a medium-sized pot, heat 1 quart of water and the peaches to boiling. Add a teaspoon of sugar or honey if you like. This will help make a "peach syrup."
  2. Simmer for about five minutes.
  3. Mush the peaches in the water and add the tea bags.
  4. Allow tea to steep for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Strain tea into a ½ gallon jar or pitcher.
  6. Add a quart of water.
  7. Stir in stevia or sugar if you want your tea sweetened.
  8. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
  9. Serve over ice.

How to Make Peach Tea

Be sure to also try the Mango Sweet (or Unsweet) Tea along with this Peach Tea. See which you like best. Up next, Raspberry Sweet (or Unsweet) Tea!



Low Sugar Coffee Milkshake Recipe

If you’re wondering what I’m up to every single afternoon of every day during the entire summer – and obviously, you surely do wonder – you can be certain that I am making myself a smooth and creamy coffee shake and sipping it slowly. This, at about 1:30 each afternoon, CST. Set your clock by it. At 1:30 each day, you can think to yourself, Laura is most certainly enjoying her coffee milkshake right about now. We are so happy for her.

Thank you for your support.

Coffee Milkshake

I would love for you to also have the option of beginning your afternoon in this way, so please, allow me to share this recipe so you can indulge and love your treat right down to the last drop. The good news is that this is very low in sugar (though you can add more if you like!) and includes all real food ingredients. I suppose the other good news is that the coffee will perk us all up for the afternoon so that we can rock on with whatever it is we need to do. Hi-yah! Glory, hallelujah.

Perhaps the one draw back to making this milkshake is that you must think and plan ahead. Hot coffee ruins the moment. All key ingredients must be cold or even frozen. And then there’s the homemade ice cream issue. The ice cream amazing and easy, but too hard to scoop if not set out a few minutes ahead of your milkshake making endeavors. So here’s the breakdown so that you can achieve Low Sugar Coffee Milkshake perfection:

  1. Cold brew some coffee, or make regular hot brew and chill it thoroughly.
  2. Make yourself some coffee iced cubes. This isn’t a must, but almost.
  3. Be sure to have Homemade Low Sugar Ice Cream in the freezer (it’s easier than you think).
  4. Set your ice cream out on the counter about ten minutes before making your shake so that it will be soft enough to scoop.

Don’t get the impression that this is a high maintenance recipe. It really is not. I typically have coffee in my fridge and coffee cubes in my freezer. It takes 2 minutes to whip up a batch of this Homemade Low Sugar Ice Cream. Then it’s just a matter of pulling it all together. At 1:30 every single afternoon.

Low Sugar Coffee MilkshakeYum

Low Sugar Coffee Milkshake Recipe
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1-2 scoops Homemade Low Sugar Vanilla Ice Cream
  • 4-6 coffee ice cubes
  • 1-2 cups cold coffee
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a blender.
  2. Serve right away.

low sugar coffee milkshake

Take note that this is not a super-sweet treat as is, so you’ll want to adjust the sweetness level by adding maple syrup according to your taste. I personally love it with a strong coffee flavor and only a tiny bit of sweetness and creaminess. But the beauty of this recipe and the Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream recipe is that you can make it sweet or less sweet without messing anything up!

Get your ingredients ready! 1:30 will be here before you know it.



Does Azure Standard Deliver To You?

As many of you know, I’ve been a member of the Azure Standard food co-op for many years. They played a huge part in gently transitioning our family from processed food to real food, and still play a big role in our daily life. Here’s why:

  • Their prices are very reasonable (much less than a typical “whole food” grocery store).
  • I can shop their online site and place my order easily.
  • Their delivery truck drives right to our town every month.
  • Their food is top quality.

See, I went from buying poptarts with coupons and doing everything I possibly could to get cheapo groceries to learning that we needed to revamp our entire diet. The financial burden of this felt enormous to me. Plus, I live in a small town where there are very few organic options. So when my friend told me about Azure Standard, I felt I’d been given a gift.

HH Ad 1 2016

Through the years, I’ve saved oodles of money and time by shopping Azure Standard. Their healthy options are abundant! Matt and I are even buddies with our truck driver. Ultimately, we feel that Azure is family. They are great in every way.

Where does Azure Standard deliver?

There are hundreds of routes all over the U.S. Check here to see if there is a route near you. More than that, I recommend you read over this page to learn all about how Azure Standard works. It’s the least complicated co-op I’ve been a part of, which is why I’ve stuck with it for so long!

azure_standard

Here’s a picture of one of my Azure orders from a few years ago.

Azure Standard keeps expanding!

I’ve loved watching Azure Standard grow through the years. They continue to add routes to reach more and more states and communities across the U.S. Just recently, they added routes to Florida – so if that’s where you’re from, check to see if there’s a drop point near you. If there’s not one, you can easily get one started. (There wasn’t one in my town until I called and set one up. Easy peasy!)

What’s more is that if you don’t see your state or area on the delivery route list, you can contact Azure Standard to let them know of your interest (routecare@azurestandard.com). They want to hear from you so they know how they can serve best. If there is enough interest in a particular area, they may try to add a route that comes to you!

Have questions?

Look over this page to learn the basics about what Azure offers and how it works. They’ve served our family well for many years. How great that they are continuing to provide great service and grocery options to many more families!



Low Sugar Vanilla Ice Cream ~ 3 Ingredients ~ No Machine

I just ate a bowl of vanilla ice cream. This hasn’t happened in over three years because my body gets mad at me now when I eat much sugar. But let me say it again: I just ate a bowl of ice cream. Happy, happy, happy, happy!!

Low Sugar Ice Cream

I’ve been wanting to figure out how to make low sugar ice cream (for three years), but I had two hang-ups:

  1. I was feeling pretty lazy about pulling out my ice cream freezer.
  2. I wasn’t confident that cutting the sugar in ice cream would taste good and I didn’t want to waste ingredients.

So I started doing some looking online. There are plenty of recipes for “no churn” ice cream so I could avoid the trouble of getting out my ice cream machine, but they all call for sweetened condensed milk. Nope. That wouldn’t make it low sugar.

Other recipes took way too many steps, at which point I figured I might as well suck it up and get out my ice cream freezer.

Finally, I decided to try the “no-churn” method I’d read about – but with healthier ingredients I feel good about instead of condensed milk – and just see what would happen. I decided if it didn’t turn out – at the very least I could re-purpose the cream mixture into a smoothie.

When you see this recipe you will wonder (like I am wondering) why it took me so much research and time to figure this out.

Three ingredients. Three. They are so obvious. (Cream, maple syrup, vanilla. See? Why did I make this so hard?)

The trick is to whip the ingredients together just long enough that they thicken, but don’t turn into whipped cream. This isn’t hard as long as you’re watching carefully. I put the ingredients into my Blendtec, whipped for 15-20 seconds, poured the mixture into a dish, froze it, and boom. I had Low Sugar Vanilla Ice Cream.

Low Sugar Vanilla Ice CreamYum

5.0 from 3 reviews
Low Sugar Vanilla Ice Cream ~ 3 Ingredients ~ No Machine
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup whole milk (optional)
  • 3 Tablespoons real maple syrup (more or less to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Blend ingredients together with a hand mixer or in a high power blender until they have thickened - but have not yet turned into stiff whipped cream. (The mixture should still be runny.)
  2. Pour mixture into a small casserole dish.
  3. Cover and freeze for about three hours.
  4. Scoop and serve right away.

Low Sugar Vanilla Ice Cream

A key player in this recipe is Homemade Vanilla Extract. I decided “why just add one teaspoon when I could add two?” This, of course, makes the ice cream much, much better tasting. (Ironic, isn’t it, since I was just saying that you can use half the amount called for in recipes since this vanilla is so potent? Use less vanilla in this if you like, but I am loving the strong vanilla punch of two teaspoons in this vanilla ice cream!)

I learned that if you freeze this for less than 3 hours, the ice cream will be too liquidy. But if you freeze it for more than 3 hours it becomes a bit hard. The solution for “too hard” ice cream? Simply pull it out of the freezer and let it sit on the counter for about 10 minutes before serving. It’ll soften just enough for you to scoop it out.

low sugar icecream5low sugar icecream4

Want your ice cream to be not-so-low in sugar?

My kids agree. Simply add a little more maple syrup until you have reached your desired sweetness level. You might also try adding a few drops of liquid stevia.

Because we have the whole summer ahead of us, I will now spend time creating variations of this Low Sugar Homemade Ice Cream. I’m thinking peach, strawberry, chocolate, mint, chocolate mint, and whatever other ideas you have for me.

Go make yourself some ice cream!!



Answering Your Vanilla Bean Questions

Since I shared about the 20% Vanilla Bean discount going on right now (today’s the last day, by the way!), I’ve received several questions I wanted to address while the discount code is still valid.

vanilla_beans

1. Have the prices of vanilla beans gone up??

Unfortunately, yes. The owner of Olive Nation let me know several months ago that the price of beans was really skyrocketing. He still has the lowest prices for the best quality in my experience and research, but prices are definitely higher than they used to be – for everyone.

2. Does it actually save money to make homemade vanilla extract?

I had done the math several years ago when vanilla bean prices were lower and found that it did save money to make this extract at home. One of my readers was kind enough to do the math yesterday with current vanilla bean prices. Her findings are that it doesn’t actually save money to make it yourself right now.

3. So why make homemade vanilla?

Here’s where I land. First, I take advantage of a 20% off sale when Olive Nation offers it because that takes a nice chunk off the price. (They also always offer free shipping on their vanilla beans, no matter the size of your order.)

Next, I know that the vanilla I make is pure and rich – not watered down like most Vanilla Extracts on the market. Therefore, I know that I can easily use half the amount of vanilla called for in a recipe without compromising taste even a little bit. That right there makes the homemade vanilla go twice as far, which saves money overall.

Last, if the price of vanilla beans is going up everywhere, that means the price of commercial vanilla extract is also going to rise. I think in the long run, homemade vanilla is still going to save us money. And since the flavor is so incredibly amazing, I can no longer go back and use anything but homemade. I love it way too much!

I shared all the details here about how to make Homemade Vanilla Extract. This makes great Christmas gifts and tastes incredible. (You’ll also be surprised how easy it is!)

Last day for the discount

If you would like to try making homemade vanilla, be sure to take advantage of the discount Olive Nation is offering, which expires the end of the day today, June 15. Use the code SAVE20 on any order over $25 – and remember you’ll get free shipping as long as you don’t have anything but vanilla beans in your cart.

Have you made homemade vanilla before? Do you love it?

This posts contains my affiliate links.



How to Make Mango Sweet (or Unsweet) Tea

Y’all. (Because I think it’s a given that sweet tea and y’all must be said simultaneously.) This mango tea is happiness in a glass and yet one more reason to love summertime.

Mango Sweet Tea

Last week when we took a trip to Arkansas, a friend of ours took us to McAlister’s Deli with the claim that their sweet tea was the best, insisting that we must try it. Now, I trust my friend, but I was also skeptical because it’s tea. What was the big deal? How amazing could it really be?

And then I drank some.

Y’all.

We all drank and drank, and sure, maybe it’s just because we were all in vacation mode, enjoying the treat of eating out and enjoying friendship and “the famous tea” – but we all loved the tea and took full advantage of every offer of, “Can I get you a refill?”

(Why yes. We did have to stop several times for potty breaks as we headed further up the road. Thanks for asking. At least it wasn’t just for me every time. That’s a first.)

I agree with my friend and declared it to be the best tea I’ve ever had even though I didn’t even get the sweet tea. I ordered an Unsweet Mango Tea, and I could not get over how much I loved it. I’m certain my family didn’t get tired of me saying, “Wow, this tea is good” after every sip during our next 100 miles of travel as we headed down the road toward our next destination.

It goes without saying that I decided that I would need to try and create a recipe to make this at home. Not surprisingly, I used actual mangos instead of whatever it is that comes out of a squirt pump. I do not want to know.

How to make Mango Tea

As if it’s hard to cut mangos and put them in water with tea bags. C’mon now.

Mango Sweet (or Unsweet) TeaYum

5.0 from 3 reviews
How to Make Mango Sweet (or Unsweet) Tea
 
Author:
Serves: 2 quarts
Ingredients
  • 2 quarts of water, divided
  • 2 ripe mangoes, peeled and sliced
  • 1-3 teaspoons honey or sugar
  • 4-8 tea bags of your favorite black or green tea, depending on how strong you like your tea
  • Liquid stevia or sugar to taste
Instructions
  1. In a medium-sized pot, heat 1 quart of water and the mango to boiling. Add 1-3 teaspoons honey or sugar to draw out sweetness in fruit.
  2. Simmer for about five minutes.
  3. Mush the mango in the water and add the tea bags.
  4. Allow tea to steep for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Strain tea into a ½ gallon jar or pitcher.
  6. Add a quart of water.
  7. Stir in stevia or sugar if you want your tea sweetened.
  8. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
  9. Serve over ice.

If you glance over the instructions quickly, you might think it says to “serve over rice.” But it doesn’t. Ice and rice are different and ice is the obvious better choice for this tea.

Ice Mango Sweet (or Unsweet) Tea

Now of course, I will be experimenting with other varieties such as Peach Tea and Raspberry Tea. Watch for updates as I get these figured out!

Are you a sweet tea drinker or an unsweet tea drinker? 

P.S. My favorite black tea is Newman’s Own Organics Royal Black Tea. My favorite stevia is Nunaturals.

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