facebook pinterest twitter google instagram rss

March Grocery Audit – our family budget for a real food diet

It’s time for another monthly grocery audit. Last month’s post was hugely popular so I hope you enjoy this month’s post as well. If you’re curious about how a family budget for real food can look, here’s what I bought to feed our family of six in March.

grocery cart full of groceries

March Grocery Audit – Family Budget for a Real Food Diet

Every time I write these posts, I want to start out saying something like, “this month was a little odd.” It seems all our months are odd. March was strange because I was gone at the beginning for almost a week. I was back out at Expo West learning about new organic food products coming to the market. I wasn’t feeling well for most of the trip so it was a hard time.

michelle marine, dr. bill sears, martha sears

I was struck by just how much of the “food” they were debuting just doesn’t seem to be real food to me. So many kinds of processed snacks, meats, and convenience items. I understand there is a time and place for them, but overall, I was not that impressed. The trip ended with dinner at Dr. Sears’ house, talking with him, and meeting Martha Sears (his wife). That was ah-mazing!

March also meant spring break for us. We drove to Florida again to visit with dear friends who were kind enough to take us in and feed us quite a few meals. I’m so thankful for lovely friends. Wish more of them lived closer to us. <3

Anyway, just to recap. I have a family of 6 and my kids are almost 15, 13, 11, and almost 9. I grow a large garden and buy in bulk. I buy most of our meat from local farmers, but I also raise our own meat birds. I have a well stocked pantry and freezer so I don’t account for every single thing I feed my family on this post, but I do include all the food I buy.

3/02 Costco – 101.59

  • bagels – 5.99
  • organic pumpkin flax granola x 2 – 9.98
  • organic frozen blueberries – 8.49
  • organic tortilla chips – 4.59
  • organic strawberries – 9.59
  • organic blueberries – 5.99
  • Alaska sockeye salmon – 32.99
  • organic carrots – 5.99
  • organic half & half – 5.99
  • uncured bacon – 11.99

3/13 Walmart – $14.77 (had to get spring break supplies, so grabbed a couple items)

  • Boneless skinless chicken breast – 8.79
  • Whole Wheat White Flour – 5.98

3/17 Walmart – $24.39 spring break ice cream sundaes

  • sugar cones – 2.33
  • hot fudge – 1.98
  • bananas – 2.04
  • ice cream 6.88 x 2 = 13.76
  • dairy-free ice cream – 4.38

3/25 Trader Joe’s – $90.56

  • hashbrowns – 1.99
  • organic apple sauce pouches  – 2.79 x 2 = 5.58
  • organic blueberries – 3.99
  • olive tapenade – 1.99
  • organic strawberries – 7.99
  • sweet potato fries – 1.99
  • smoked gouda cheese – 3.24
  • comte cheese – 6.70
  • double cream brie – 3.23
  • pork gyoza – 2.99 x 2 = 5.98
  • shelf stable whipping cream – 1.39
  • organic baguette – 1.99
  • organic boneless skinless chicken thighs – 7.34
  • asparagus – 2.49
  • tri pack colored peppers – 3.99
  • 4 lbs organic potatoes – 4.49
  • organic yogurt plain – 3.49
  • salsa verde – 1.99
  • organic sweet potatoes – 4.49
  • organic broccoli – 2.99 x 2 = 5.98
  • 2 lbs organic red onion – 3.29
  • sugar snap peas – 2.99
  • 3 oz garlic – 1.49
  • sliced mushrooms – 1.99

costco groceries

3/25 Costco – 257.89

  • bagels – 5.99
  • Mini kind granola bars – 17.99
  • organic chips – 4.59
  • organic spinach – 4.99
  • organic triscuits – 9.59
  • mini babybel – 10.99
  • organic frozen mango – 8.89
  • organic cheese sticks – 6.99
  • mini peppers – 5.99
  • case of organic tomato sauce – 7.79
  • organic romaine lettuce – 4.99
  • organic frozen blueberries – 8.49
  • organic half & half – 5.99
  • cream cheese – 6.89
  • uncured Canadian bacon – 9.59
  • avocados – 5.49
  • organic flour – 6.49
  • garlic kielbasa – 13.61
  • sliced havarti – 7.79
  • organic unsalted butter – 9.98 x 2 = 19.98
  • Alaska sockeye salmon – 32.99
  • bananas – 1.49
  • organic ground beef – 19.99
  • sharp cheddar – 10.79
  • bananas – 1.49
  • kiwis – 6.99
  • grape tomatoes – 5.99

Yearly pork purchase,  – $419.12

  • Reasons Locker – $142.64
  • Holevoet Farm – $276.48

Notes on the bulk pork purchase: I am now stocked on pork for the year. I bought a 1/2 a hog in March – I think it equals about 75 pounds of meat and it cost right around $420 for hams, bacon, sausage, ribs, roasts, and pork chops. $420 sounds like a lot of money – I figure it’s an average of about $5.65 per pound for humanely raised, pastured pork about 30 miles from me. The Red Wattle Heritage Pig Breed results in some of the best pork I’ve had. I’m willing to pay a higher cost for higher quality meat. Last time I bought bulk pork was also last March.

In total, we spent $908.32 in March to feed our family of 6 a mostly real food diet.

We do eat out and I don’t track that on this family budget for groceries. Because we were traveling for Spring Break in March, we ate out a lot more than we normally do.

If you’re curious how this month compared to previous months (it’s the highest it’s been in a while this month), here you go!

January 2019’s Grocery Audit 

February 2019’s Grocery Audit + our top 6 family friendly budget meals

I compared us to the USDA recommendations in Jan 2018’s post

Here’s how we did last March

If you’d like to save money on groceries, these posts might help:

Must know tips for buying organic meat on a budget

15 Things you must know to save money on organic food

Tips for ordering from Azure Standard

 ALDI is not your mother’s grocery store anymore

Top 10 Tips for saving money at the grocery store

How to Place a Beef or Pork Order at Your Local Meat Locker

Holland in Iowa ~ Pella Tulip Time Festival

It’s almost time for the Pella Tulip Time Festival, coming up May 2-5, 2019.  We went several years ago with our homeschool group and had such a fabulous time. The scenery is fantastic and the events are a lot fun. I’m really looking forward to going back soon! Here’s a post I wrote after our first trip and I am rerunning it to convince you that you NEED to go to Tulip Time Pella this year!

pella iowa information windwill

Who knew Holland is only 2 hours away? I have found memories of Girl Scout trips to the Netherlands I took when I was in grade school. We always drove to Holland from Germany on an enormous tour bus. Keukenhof Tulip Gardens, the Anne Frank House, canals cruises in Amsterdam, and of course a visit to an old time village with a windmill, cheese, Delft pottery, and wooden shoes – these were the activities that filled our days. I was in grade school so I haven’t experienced Netherlands as an adult, but I have a lot of great memories of trips there.

pella tulip festival

Holland in Iowa ~ Pella Tulip Time Festival

We’ve been living in Iowa for 6 years now (NINE YEARS NOW!) and I’ve heard about the Pella Tulip Festival  – but we’ve never been before. I mean, how could it compare the real, live deal? I guess I can be kind of a snot sometimes… If it’s not as good as the real thing, why go? Sometimes I’m sad that I can’t provide my own children the experiences I had when I was little. Exploring Europe as a child is something I really treasure but isn’t exactly feasible right now.

tractors at Pella Tulip Time

But when our home school group organized a trip to Tulip Time in Pella, I jumped at the chance. And this past Thursday, our whole family loaded up and made the two hour trek to Pella to see what all the hub-bub was about. I’m so glad we went! It might not have been the real deal, but it was awesome and we all had a great time.

pella tulip festival

The Vermeer Mill was built in in 2002 by Dutch craftsmen.

The Vermeer Mill is a working flour mill and it was a lot of fun talking to the millers who were as interested to hear about how I grind my flour as I was to learn how they grind theirs!

pella tulip festival

Huge Klompen

The kids had a great time trying on the Klompen – or wooden clogs. We also watched craftsmen making them ~ an amazing sight! And these pictures of my kids three years ago make me smile. I have a fourth child who needs to try on these Klompen now too!

pella tulip festival

Wyatt Earp House

We toured the Wyatt Earp house – boyhood home of none other than Wyatt Earp. And later we met “him” on the street. I had no idea he lived in Iowa and Ben was thrilled to meet him and pose for a picture.

horse drawn carriage Pella Tulip Time

Dutch Volks Parade

But my favorite part of the day was the Dutch Volks Parade. It looked like most of the “Pella-cans” donned traditional Dutch dress and came out for the parade. It was so much fun to see such a very well orchestrated parade with all ages of people dressed in traditional Dutch clothing. I loved watching the kids especially. No expense was spared for this parade, let me tell you! We loved it.

kids pushing old fashioned strollers pella tulip time

I highly recommend Pella Tulip Days. The only sad thing was the lack of tulips. Our non-existent winter coupled with a very early spring meant tulips in March instead of May {2015 tulips are blooming now, in mid April}. I would have loved to see all of the tulips. Oh well ~ it gives us an excuse to go back next year! 🙂

washing the street pella tulip time

Have you been to Pella Tulip Time? What are you waiting for?

Looking for more fun places to visit in Iowa? Here are a few places to consider:

Wild Cat Den

Figge Art Museum

I-80 Trucking Museum

American Gothic House Museum

dutch float

5 Must Know Tips for Transplanting Tomato Plants

Homegrown tomatoes are the best!! And it’s not that hard to grow them, but you can do a few things that make a big difference in growing successful tomatoes from the very beginning. To get your tomato seedlings off to the best possible start, you must know these five tips for transplanting tomatoes! It all starts with the transplanting.Must know tips for planting tomato seedlings

*This post contains affiliate links which means I earn a small commission on your purchase.*

Welcome back to Tuesdays in the Garden! Today, you’re in for a treat. Not only do we have lots of great gardening tips to help you get your spring planting right, but we also have a few homemade gifts you can quickly put together, just in time for Mother’s Day! Make sure to read to the end of the post and check out all the great ideas from my dear gardening friends.

5 Must Know Tips for Transplanting Tomato Plants

Have you planted your tomatoes yet? It’s generally safe to plant them around your frost free date.  Our official frost free date (May 15) is right around the corner, but I always check the long range weather forecast before deciding when to tansplant my tomato plants. Fro the last three years, we have had a killing frost after May 15, so quite often, transplanting tomato plants has to wait. If you’re looking forward to transplanting tomato plants, too, make sure you read these must know tips!

pinch off bottom leaves
1 .Dig a deep hole and pinch off the tomato plants’ lower leaves.

I like to plant my tomatoes deep for a couple reasons. First, it’s super windy out here in the Iowa Prairie and planting them deeply gives them better support from the wind. It  allows roots to develop all along the tomato stem which helps make the plant stronger. So, dig a hole deep enough that only the top leaves will be showing on the ground. Pinching off the lower leaves also encourages roots to develop too, so carefully pinch off the leaves before you put the seedling in the hole.

Make sure to support the stem as you cover it with dirt. Be careful when you’re covering the plant with dirt so you don’t accidentally harm the little seedling. I like to support the stem with one had and fill the hole with dirt with the other hand. You don’t want to break the stem as you cover it – I’ve done it and it makes me very sad. Make sure you cover the seedling up to the top leaves.

2. Wondering how far apart to plant tomatoes?

Make sure you give your tomatoes enough space to grow.

  1. Dwarf tomato varieties only need to be about 1′ apart, with 2′ – 3′ between rows.
  2. If you’re staking your tomato plants, they’ll need about 2′ of separation to grow, with 2′ – 3′ between rows.
  3. Using large cages? They’ll need to be about 3′ apart, and probably 4′-5′ between rows.
  4. Want to let your tomatoes grow without support? You’ll need a lot of room! About 3-4′ between plants, and 4′-5′ between rows.

water the tomatoes after planting

3. Water tomato plants generously after planting.

Newly planted seedlings need a nice drink of water immediately after planting so make sure you water right away. I like to make an indent in the dirt around the plant so the water stays near the seedling instead of running away. You’ll want to continue watering for a few days if you don’t get a rain pretty quickly after planting.

mulch tomatoes

4. Mulch right away.

Since you’ve gone through the effort of planting tomatoes, just go ahead and mulch them right away. I’m often tempting to skip this step and get to it later, but I’ve found later sometimes never comes. Mulching right away is a great way to keep down the weeds and it also helps keep them moist. I used old hay we got for free in this picture, but a better mulch is straw because it’s weed free. My hay is very, very old, so I hope nothing will sprout from it. I could be wrong though, and end up seriously regretting the use of this old hay. I’ll let you know if that’s the case!

support tomatoes with homemade tomato cages

5. Add a support trellis or basket immediately.

Another key to tomato success,  is to add support right away. Tomatoes like to be supported and I know from experience that if I don’t support them right after planting, I won’t ever get back to it. Pretty soon I end up with a huge tomato jungle – and while I don’t think that’s a terrible thing, it does make picking the beautiful fruits more difficult and a lot of them end of smashed by my big feet. In years past, I used these homemade tomato baskets last year. They are easy to make and easy to use, but they take up a lot of space so you need a large growing area if you want to use homemade tomato baskets.

tomato trellis from moss mountain farm

This year I am hoping to use these homemade support systems I saw a Moss Mountain Farms. I love that this tomato system takes up less room than my huge cages and I think it’s awfully pretty too! Also, it’s a way to grow more tomatoes in less space since you don’t have to set the tomatoes so far apart. Do you have a favorite tomato trellis you like to use?

And that’s the start to a successful tomato season! Have you planted your tomatoes yet? I’d love to hear your ideas for success too. 

tuesdays in the garden

Tuesdays in the Garden

Want more garden tips from my friends from around the web. Make sure you click over to everyone’s posts and check out what’s going on in different parts of the country! We’ve got a couple homemade gift ideas that might be perfect for Mother’s Day this weekend, as well as growing tips too!

frugal family home

Shelly from Frugal Family Home is sharing a mini green house idea for small spaces!

hearth and vine

Patti from Hearth and Vine is sharing a cute DIY Gazing Ball – what a great gift is this?

an oregon cottageJami at An Oregon Cottage is sharing her homemade Salad Dressing Gift Basket

homemade food junkie

Diane from Homemade Food Junkie is sharing tips for growing strawberries in DIY towers

angie freckled rose

Angie the Freckled Rose is sharing tips for adding visual interest in your garden!

If you liked this post with tips for transplanting tomatoes, you might like these post too.

7 Methods of Natural Weed Control for a Weed-Free Garden

Companion plants you must have in your vegetable garden

How to grow a three sisters garden

How to kill cucumber beetles organically

How to Prepare for Mail Order Chicks (of the feathered variety)

Ordering baby chicks through the mail is a lot of fun, but there are a few things you need to do ahead of time to get your chicks off to the best start. Here’s how to prepare for your mail order chicks so they get off to the best possible start!

How to prepare for mail order chicks

Many thanks to Hoover’s Hatchery for sending me chicks via the US mail to facilitate this post.

How to Prepare for Mail Order Chicks (of the feathered variety)

There are several things you need to do to be ready for mail order chicks (feathered friends, of course). Because let’s be real. I’m not giving advice on any other type of mail order chicks. 😀

Make sure you have the right supplies

a box of baby chicks that has been mailed

Of course, it’s always better to have these items before your birds arrive – so write out your shopping list and go get them!

    • Brooder Box
    • Bedding
    • Heat Lamp with guard and bulb
    • Electrolytes & vitamins
    • Chick starter food
    • Feeding and water containers

Set up the Brooder Box

This can really be anything you want. I use a rectangular wooden box my husband actually built to be a dog bed. I like that it has higher sides to keep the chicks from jumping out for at least a few weeks. Your box needs to be big enough to give the chicks room to run around, keeping in mind that the chicks will grow quite quickly. My box is about 3 ft x 4 ft with 1 ft sides. It easily fits 25 chicks at a time, and I would have no qualms about housing a few more in there. I’ve also seen people use plastic tote boxes successfully but they work only for a smaller number of chicks.

You’ll need some sort of bedding for the brooder box.I use wood shavings that I get for free from a local cabinet building shop. Pine shavings are ok, but cedar shavings are toxic to chickens. You can use paper towels for the first day or so, but get some type of bedding very quickly for your chicks.

How to Prepare for Mail Order Chicks (of the feathered variety) - put the water up

Prepare their food and water

I have found it helpful to lift it up the food and water off the brooder box floor an inch or two to keep bedding out of it. Little pieces of styrofoam work well. I left them like this so you can see better in the picture, but I hide them a better underneath the water container a bit better to keep them from pecking the styrofoam.

Food should be specially formulated for chicks and is called chick starter crumble or mash. Don’t feed baby chicks layer food for older chickens as the protein composition is not right for the babies. I feed my chickens an organic chick starter that I order from my local feed store and use a galvanized chick feeder.

box of 50 mailed baby chicks

For the first week or so, I make sure my chicks get vitamins and electrolytes in their water. I use Save-a-Chick Electrolyte and just mix a little packet in a gallon of water that I keep near the brooder for easy refills. The vitamins and electrolytes help them recover after their time in the mail and give them a healthy start

Set up a heat lamp and bulb

Chicks need to be kept in a very warm area until they are feathered out. When the chicks first arrive, the heat lamp should be quite close to them – hanging 5-6 inches from the box. A good heat lamp has a clamp for easier securing as well as a cage around it for safety reasons. A 250 watt, bulb, {red or white} is a good choice for chicken brooders.

The temperature should be around 90-95 degrees for the first week. As you watch your chicks, you’ll know when it’s time to raise the heat lamp as the chicks will start moving to the edge of the box and hanging out away from the heat source. I bought my supplies from the local farm store, but you can also order all of these supplies directly on Amazon and have them sent directly to your house.

How to Prepare for Mail Order Chicks (of the feathered variety) early morning pickup

Prepare for an early morning pick-up

Since my phone is usually on silent, this really means I need to turn on my ringer so that I get the call! The chicks usually arrive at the post office first thing in the morning, so be prepared to get them before the post office even opens. My phone rang a little after 7 am and we left shortly thereafter. On arriving at the post office, we had to ring the bell on the locked door to pick up the chicks.

How to Prepare for Mail Order Chicks (of the feathered variety) dunk the beaks

Encourage your chicks to drink water

They’ll be thirsty when they arrive. As soon as you get the chicks home, dunk each chick’s beak in the water prepared with the Save-A-Chick Electrolyte. This shows them where their water is and helps keep them from getting dehydrated.

How to Prepare for Mail Order Chicks (of the feathered variety) baby cornish cross meat bird

The last thing to be aware of is poopy butt! Read more about that here. Now sit back and watch your chicks. I dare you to get much else done the day they arrive. 

If you think you might like to order chicks, take a look at what Hoover’s Hatchery located in Rudd, Iowa, has to offer. They sell not only meat birds and egg layers, but also ducks, geese, turkeys, pheasants, bantams, and guinea keets! All of the birds I’ve received from them arrived in great condition and are growing well.

If you liked this post on preparing for mail order chicks, here are several more posts for you!

Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Chickens – care and feeding from day 1

How to Keep Your Chickens Warm in Winter

Why you might want to raise chickens for eggs

How to Kill the Colorado Potato Beetle, Organically

Are you wondering how to kill the Colorado Potato Beetle organically? If you have Colorado Potato Beetles on your potato plants, you will want to follow this advice to get rid of them before they decimate your potato crop!

The Colorado Potato Beetle – YUCK YUCK YUCK

colorado potato beetle*This post contains affiliate links which means I earn a small commission on your purchase.*

Left unchecked, the Colorado Potato Beetle can be deadly to your potato crop. They also like tomatoes and eggplants so watch for them there, too. Here are a few things I did to kill the Colorado Potato Beetle organically.

How to Kill the Colorado Potato Beetle Organically

I’m having a lot of trouble with bugs in my garden this year. So far, I’m battling the Cucumber Beetle, the Colorado Potato Beetle, and I’m also working on Squash Bugs and Japanese Beetles. It’s a bad, bad year for beetles. I really try hard to maintain organic methods in my garden. I don’t want to smell the chemicals, ingest the chemicals, or feed them to my kids. I also don’t want to kill all the good bugs that are working in my favor. Luckily, it doesn’t seem that hard to kill the Colorado Potato Beetle organically, provided you find them early and strike hard!

  • Mulch heavily
  • Kill them when they’re larvae
  • Plant potatoes as early as possible
  • Release beneficial insects
  • Make sure to rotate your crops

Mulch heavily to control Colorado potato beetle

First, I covered my potatoes with straw mulch – mulch encourages good bugs to move in – bugs that eat the Colorado Potato Beetle. Straw mulch is also good at covering the potatoes and helps to control moisture too!

Colorado potato beetle

Get ’em while they’re larvae

Next, I paid attention! I had never heard of the Colorado Potato Beetle until my friend told me that SOMETHING was eating her potatoes. Once she told me that, I took a long, slow walk through my potato plants and found the beetle larvae. I still have not seen an adult Colorado Potato Beetle, but for days I walked through my potatoes and killed every single larvae I could find.

colorado potato beetleSome were bigger, like the fatter larvae in the pictures above, and some were smaller – like this tiny one pictured here. To kill them, I handpicked them. Some, like this teeny one, I squished between a leaf.

ow to drown colorado potato beetles

Others, I drowned in a bucket of soapy water. Since I didn’t want to touch some of them, I just removed the entire leaf and dropped it all in the water. Then, I made sure to remove the leaf from the bucket, so they would be sure to drown. Aren’t they nasty looking?

Plant potatoes early in the season

Ideally, you want your potato plants as early as possible so that they bloom before June. If you do that, some damage from the beetles won’t be enough to impact the yield of your plants. In Zone 5, potatoes can generally be planted by mid April, sometimes even by late March if the ground can be worked. To speed up the planting, cover your ground with plastic to help it warm up.

Rotate your crops & add good bugs

Next year, I will rotate my potato crop at least 200 feet from its current location. I’m also thinking seriously about introducing some parasitic nematodes to my garden to help with bug control as well. I have read that they will help with all kinds of garden pests – cucumber beetles, Colorado beetles, and even Japanese beetles! I need these nematodes in my garden for sure.

Colorado potato beetles lay their eggs on the underneath of leaves. They are narrow and yellow and they make delicious ladybug food. So another prevention method is to release ladybugs in your garden!

I haven’t seen a Colorado Potato Beetle or Larvae in a couple of weeks. I am still patrolling daily with eagle eyes to make sure they stay away. I’m pleased that they seemed relatively easy to get rid of and thankful that my friend made me look for them. If they had matured and laid more eggs, I’m sure they would have been much harder to destroy. And who knows, next week, I may be singing a different song, but today, I am happy that I haven’t seen any evidence of these nasty bugs for many days!!

organic potatoes

And look what I harvested from my garden today! Oh yum! I’m looking forward to fried potatoes tonight!

For a more in depth discussion of the Colorado Potato Beetle, head over to the Vegetable Gardener’s website. They discuss other fun methods for destroying this nasty pest.

Fro more gardening and homesteading posts, start here:

The Easiest Way to Grow Potatoes –  No-Dig Method

How to Kill Cucumber Beetles Organically

Where to Find Free Mulch

Companion Plants You Need in Your Garden

Gardening for Beginners Made Easy

Have you dealt with Colorado Potato Beetles? What did you do to kill them?

Grab This Week’s Free Kindle eBooks on Amazon

Looking for kitchen inspiration or a new book to read this weekend? Looking for a new free ebook download list? If you need kitchen inspiration or a new book to read this weekend, you will love this list of free Amazon Kindle ebooks – fiction, nonfiction, cookbooks, and free ebooks for kids too! Check back at the end of each week for a new list.

free Amazon Kindle ebook round up

*This post contains affiliate links which means I earn me a small commission on your purchase.*

If you don’t have a kindle, but have a computer, iPad, or smart phone, head on over to download a Free Kindle App. Or you could go here and buy a Kindle ! Make sure you check the prices as they change quickly on Amazon. While everything was free when I posted, it’s highly likely that they will change!

Grab This Week’s Free Amazon Kindle eBooks

free Amazon Kindle ebook round up

Free Fiction eBooks on Amazon

The Envelope

Three Days In Heaven

Memories of Home

Going Home

A Friend in Paris

free Amazon Kindle ebook round up

Educational Free Non-Fiction eBooks

Filling The Pig

Perfectly Grown Strawberries

Freedom From Clutter

Chihuahua Training

Connect with Animals

free Amazon Kindle ebook round up

Free Delicious Cookbooks on Amazon

Homemade Pizza Cookbook

Meal Prep: 100 Delicious And Simple Meal Prep Recipes

Secrets from the Restaurant

5-Ingredients or Less Air Fryer Recipes

5-Ingredient Ketogenic Air Fryer Cookbook for Dummies

free Amazon Kindle ebook round up

Free eBooks for Kids

The Boy Who Painted the World

Bridget Knotterfield and the Hiccup Fantasy Trees

New Neighbors

Bella’s Dress-Ups

Secret Cove

I’d love to hear from you about this weekly free ebook post. What types of free ebooks do you most like? Is their a category I don’t cover but should? Please let me know how I can improve this post for you!

Many thanks to Shelly from Frugal Family Home for her help compiling this list of free amazon Kindle eBooks. 

This post contains affiliate links which means I may make a small percentage of the sale at NO additional cost to you. Please read my disclosure statement for more information.

Growing Potatoes the No-Dig Method

Growing potatoes does not have to involve back-breaking work. If you want to add potatoes to your garden without all the digging, follow this no-dig growing method! It’s my favorite way to grow potatoes.

planting seed potatoes

Growing Potatoes the No-Dig Method

Potatoes are one of my very favorite crops to grow. Potatoes are found on the Dirty Dozen list which means conventionally grown potatoes contain a lot of pesticides. Since I keep my grocery costs down by buying from Environmental Working Group’s Dirty 12 / Clean 15 List, I try to grow as many of the “dirty” foods as possible. Organic potatoes are hard to find in my area, and when I do find them, they are really expensive. I can save a lot of money by growing my own potatoes.

But beyond that, potatoes are just awesome! I think they are a very pretty plant and digging them up in the fall is like going on a treasure hunt. It’s always fun to see what’s down there, buried in the dirt. {Yes, I know I am a little weird…} But really, I just love to eat potatoes!! So let’s get started growing potatoes. It’s really not hard.

flowering potato plant

How to Plant Seed Potatoes Using the No-Dig Method

Potatoes can be planted early in the spring, as soon as the soil can be worked. Make sure the ground is not too wet and that the ground temperature is above 45 degrees. Potatoes will not sprout if the ground is too cold, and a really wet soil can cause the potatoes to rot before they grow.


The ISU Extension Office advocates planting seed potatoes 3-4 inches under ground, and according to folklore, they should be planted on Good Friday in my zone, Zone 5. I don’t know about you, but digging a 3-4″ trench sounds like an awful lot of work I’d rather not do.


Luckily, you don’t have to dig that much to plant potatoes! The Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening advocates a “no-dig” approach. I love the no-dig approach because it reduces time it takes to plant, makes back breaking digging unnecessary, reduces loss of moisture, and results in fewer weeds being brought to the surface. I’ve been planting potatoes using this method for about 8 years now and love how easy it is to grow potatoes.

cut potato seeds for planting

To plant using the no-dig method, all I do is hoe up a very shallow trench, put in the cut and cured seed potatoes, cover with dirt. Potatoes should be planted 12″ apart in rows that are 3 feet apart. Then, mulch heavily and keep the plants well mulched for their entire growing season. I normally use free wood chips as mulch, but straw works very nicely too.

Before you plant the seed potatoes, make sure to prepare them for planting. Letting the seed potatoes crust over for a couple of days helps prevent them from rotting in cold, wet ground. Read more about preparing seed potatoes for planting here.

mulched potato rows

What kind of seed potatoes to grow

It’s important to buy seed potatoes from a reputable store like Seed Savers Exchange. Conventionally grown potatoes that you buy to eat are dipped a solution to keep them from sprouting too quickly so planting them is generally not an option. You can save your own potatoes from year to year, but make sure to choose the biggest and best disease-free potatoes to use as seeds. I generally grow a mix of different types of potatoes – choosing varieties that store well. My favorite type of potatoes to grow are Yukon Gold, Kennebec, and then a colored potato like All Blue, Red Norland, or Purple Majesty.


Once the potatoes start to grow, replenish the mulch as necessary to keep them covered. The Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening recommends covering the mulch with grass clippings once the plants are big enough to meet across the rows. This keeps the light out of the potatoes to keep the tubers from turning green and that it will also encourage birds to visit and help control pests!

potato patch in June

How Long does it take to Grow Potatoes

Potatoes take anywhere from 90-120 days to mature. Make sure to read the information included with your seed potatoes and note this information in your garden notebook. Since potatoes should be left in the field for 2-3 weeks after the plants die back, it’s pretty obvious when it’s time to harvest. Noting the time to harvest however, will give you an idea of when to expect potatoes to be finished growing.

how to grow potatoes

When to harvest potatoes

Potatoes can be harvested a couple different times. If you’d like to harvest baby potatoes, you can do so 2-3 weeks after the plants have finished flowering. Baby potatoes should be harvested very gently so as to disturb the plant. Take the larger potatoes only and leave the smaller ones behind so they can keep growing!

If you plan to store potatoes over winter, wait until after the plants die back before digging them. You should wait 2-3 weeks and dig them on a dry day during dry weather if possible. Let the potatoes cure in the field for 2-3 dry days. Curing matures the skins and helps them last longer in storage. If the weather is going to be wet, cure them in a covered area where they will stay dry.

If you liked this post on growing potatoes, make sure to read these posts too:

Preparing seed potatoes for planting

200 pounds of potatoes each year

How to kill the Colorado Potato Beetle Organically

How to store garden seeds 

Gardening tips everyone needs to know

And that’s it! How to Plant Potatoes, in a nutshell! How do you plant yours? I’d love to hear your favorite method! 

Linking up: TGP; Tuesday Greens; Homestead Barn Hop; Natural Living Monday;  Mostly Homemade Monday; Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways;


Regular Girl is Not Your Grandma’s Fiber Supplement

What do you know about fiber? If you’re anything like me, you might know you need it to be healthy, but maybe you don’t really know why. Since fiber is such an important part of digestive health, here’s what you need to know about fiber, fiber supplements, and healthy poops to keep you and your family healthy!

why regular girl is one of the best fiber supplements

*This post is sponsored by Regular Girl. All opinions are mine.*

Regular Girl is Not Your Grandma’s Fiber Supplement

Who takes fiber supplements? Only old people, right? Gloppy, gritty, nasty – that’s what comes to my mind when I think about fiber supplements. Last fall I had the great pleasure to meet Dr. William Sears, the doctor my kids never knew they had. I have a total fan girl crush on Dr. Sears and I really enjoyed a talk he gave on a topic I never thought I’d enjoy – poop! I know what you’re thinking, but it’s totally true. His talk was so great.

meeting Dr. Bill Sears

If you’re anything like me, you might not consider fiber supplements at all. However, if you aren’t getting enough fiber in your daily diet, and many people don’t, it might be time to make some healthy changes. While I’m sharing tips today that are working for my family, please understand that I am not a doctor. If you have severe gut health issues, please consult your trusted medical professional.

poop chart and Dr. Poo book

Together with his wife, Martha, Dr. Sears published an informative book called Dr. Poo – The Scoop on Comfortable Poop in 2018. I even have a signed copy, but I digress. After his talk about keeping guts healthy, I started paying attention to my body (and my poops), and I realized that I need more fiber in my diet too. Although I try to eat as healthy as I can, I have not been getting enough fiber either. Luckily, Regular Girl Prebiotic Fiber & Probiotic Blend busted every preconceived idea I had about fiber supplements and I’m excited to share what I’ve learned!

Why Do You Need Fiber and How Much Do You Need?

Dietary fiber is an important part of your health. You need it to keep regular and keep your gut happy and healthy. Adults need up to 38 grams of fiber a day, toddlers need 19 grams, and school-age kids need 25 grams of fiber a day. I really recommend that you get your fiber from a healthy diet, but we live in the real world and that’s not always possible, is it?

Fiber Rich Foods to Add to Your Diet

Fiber is found naturally in a lot of foods like the ones listed below.

  • whole grains: oats, brown rice, popcorn
  • nuts: almonds, walnuts, peanuts, cashews
  • seeds: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds
  • berries: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries
  • fruit: bananas, apples, pears, oranges, figs
  • veggies: broccoli, spinach, peas, sweet potatoes, potatoes
  • beans: black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, lentils
  • and water is very important too when consuming fiber!

Sadly, most of us only get about half the needed fiber from our diet. That means many people are constipated or strain to poop and their guts aren’t happy. Have you ever examined your poop before you flush it down? You might be surprised to learn what a healthy poop even looks like. It was a shocker to me. 😉 You can download Dr. Sear’s family friendly poop chart here.

regular girl fiber blend

Looking for the Best Fiber Supplement?

If your poop is not happy, and you can’t get enough fiber in your day-to-day diet, I really recommend Regular Girl! Made with clinically proven Sunfiber (a highly soluble guar fiber), Regular Girl provides 5 extra grams of fiber per serving, and it also contains 8 billion active probiotics too. It’s available in a scoopable powder and a pre-measured on-the-go packet to provide relief from occasional constipation, diarrhea, gas or bloating. You can trust me when I say it’s taste-free, odor-free, and totally dissolves in water.

Regular Girl

I’m super picky about my water and I will admit that I was a little scared to try Regular Girl in it. Several years ago we found out our well water was full of nitrates and other nasty chemicals. The nitrate level was so high that even a reverse osmosis system was not enough to make it safe. We work hard with a water purifying company to this day to filter everything out of it.

The last thing I want is a gross additive messing it up, so trust me when I say I was worried. I reluctantly filled up a water bottle with water and ice, added a Regular Girl packet and shook to combine. Then I drank it, and I really couldn’t tell it was in there – maybe a teeny tiny bit, but nothing to turn me off. My kids can’t tell when I sneak some in their water bottles either.

Regular Girl is also low FODMAP, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, Non-GMO Project verified, and vegan. It’s absolutely nothing like the gritty, gloppy mess that may come to your mind when you think of a fiber supplement! Beyond all of that though, it’s recommended by Dr. Sears and that just means a lot to me.

winter smoothie

How to Add Regular Girl to your Diet

If you’re traveling or just need that extra added boost, it’s so easy to add Regular Girl to your diet. I’ve already mentioned that you can add it to water without telling it’s there – and it’s really true! I’ve also added a scoop to smoothies, and I’ve put a scoop full on the yogurt, fruit, granola mix I love to eat for breakfast too. Super easy! Because of the added probiotics, it’s better to eat the Regular Girl cold than to heat it. And the portable packets are perfect for taking along when you’re traveling and might not be able to eat as well as you eat at home.

Regular Girl at Hyvee Health Market

Where to Find Regular Girl

You can find Regular Girl in a lot of the standard places – Amazon, on line, and they just recently launched at HyVee too! If you’re in Iowa, you can find now find Regular Girl  in the Vitamin Aisle of Hy-Vee’s Health Market too! Not only can you find Regular Girl at Hy-Vee, but they also have registered dietitians available for a whole host of food and nutrition needs as well! Learn more about Hy-Vee dietitians here.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on fiber and yes, even pooping. Do and your family members get enough fiber? What healthy changes can you make for your family’s gut health?

Printable Road Trip Games for Kids & Easy to Make Activities

The key to smooth car travel is lots of road trip games for kids. Enjoy this list of fun ways to keep your kids occupied in the car without resorting to electronics!printable road trip games for kids

Welcome! If you’re reading this post, chances are you’ve got a road trip coming up. Driving everywhere is one of the only ways we can afford to travel with six people in our family. The kids and I especially, log a lot of travel miles in my car. I know you will love the selection of road trip activities we’ve put together for you.

Enjoy the list and let me know what you liked most or would most like to see!

Printable Road Trip Games for Kids

Free Printables for Road Trip Activities

One thing I really like to do is print out a lot of fun activities for my kids and then put them on a clipboard. I make one for each kid so they don’t have to fight over one. These are my go-to websites for finding fun, printable games:

Travel Games for Kids – Moritz Fine Designs

Travel Scavenger Hunt for Tweens & Teens – Meander & Coast

Free Printables ~ Road Trips Games – The Organised Housewife

More Road Trip Travel Printables – The Mad House

DIY games and activities for road trips

Road Trip Scavenger Hunt {Printable} – Double the Batch

100 Would you rather questions for kids – The Measured Mom

The License plate Game {Geography} – Makeovers & Motherhood

If you’re a crafty mom, you might really like some of these NEXT ideas – they can help amuse your kiddos and keep the “Are we there yet questions” to a minimum!

DIY Road Trip Activities

If you’ve got a little time to prepare for your upcoming road trip, I really recommend making a few of these road trip activities. They take a little more time to prepare than simply printing out from your computer, but they are cute and educational too! Your kids will really enjoy them.

Creative activities for road trips

 Are We There Yet? – Repeat – The Via Colony

Pull Ball Magnets {aka Magnetic Pom Poms} – Mama Jenn

DIY Convenience for Road Trips

Crayon Roll Tutorial – The Pleated Poppy

Travel Memory Game – Kids Activity Blog

Road Trip Activity Bags – The Nerd’s Wife

DIY games and activities for road trips

Felt Mr/Mrs. Potate Head and Boy/Girl Dress Up Set – The Dagenais Daily

Truck Spotting – National Post

We’re heading out next week for our Spring Break in Florida! The links in this post will help us all have a pleasant 20-hour drive. What’s your best tip for surviving long road trips with your kids? 

If you liked this post on Fun Road Trip Games for kids, you will like these posts too:

Top 11 Secrets for planning a Disney Vacation on a Budget

25 Things to Keep in the Car for Ultimate Summer Fun

5 Easy Tips for a Clean Car even if your Kids are Slobs 


Road-trip Activities for Keeping Kids Occupied in the Car

Why You Might Consider Raising Chickens for Eggs

 As more cities jump on the backyard chicken bandwagon, you might be wondering if you should consider raising chickens for eggs too. Here are reasons you might want to make this the year to start your flock!

flock of egg laying chickens

*This post contains affiliate links which means I earn a small commission on your purchase.*

Why You Might Consider Raising Chickens for Eggs

There are so many reasons to start raising chickens for eggs. While the eggs by themselves are wonderful, they are not the only reason to care for a flock of chickens. If you’re on the fence about taking the chicken plunge, here are several reasons we love to raise them on our little homestead.

Sara with a chicken

1. Family bonding / learning experience

There is not much cuter than baby chicks. Their peeping is precious, and the potential is enormous. Chicks have taught my family so many useful skills. Together, we have learned how to be mindful of the creatures we bring to our homestead. We’ve cuddled them, fed them, cleaned the poop off their butts, and watched them grow and give back to us! They’ve also taught us valuable lessons about raising our own food, and life and death as well.

Ben with an egg laying hen

2. Hours of entertainment

Chickens might have a reputation for being bird brains, but they provide hours of fun for people who take the time to watch. We love learning the true meaning behind so many chicken sayings. There is a true pecking order in chicken flocks. Some chickens are indeed hen-pecked. And the rooster may crow, but the hen delivers the goods!

colored eggs

3. Variety of colors

If you’ve ever compared a farm-fresh egg to a store-bought egg, you will be amazed at the difference. Farm-fresh eggs from your backyard chicken flocks come in so many spectacular colors. Chickens lay eggs in almost every color of the rainbow. I was mind blown when I first found out there are more colors than white and brown. Green, blue, pink, speckled, dark brown, cream – so many lovely shades of farm-fresh eggs.

4. Quality of eggs

Not only are the outside colors different, but you’ll find differences inside the eggs too. Chickens are natural carnivores and a varied diet gives yolks a brilliant and rich orange color and helps firm up the egg whites too. While I haven’t really found much of a difference in taste, farm-fresh and store-bought eggs are just not the same.

5. Reduce the amount of food waste you send to the landfill

Did you know that a huge amount of food goes to the landfill? You can reduce the amount of waste you throw out by feeding it to your chickens. They eat a lot of different types of food that would otherwise end up rotting elsewhere. Our chickens love to eat melon rinds, beans, most fruits and veggies, leftover eggs if there are ever any, and pasta and bread too. I love being able to give the chickens my food waste!

6. Free fertilizer for your garden

And not only do the chickens eat my compost, but their own poop makes the perfect garden fertilizer! Chicken manure is very high in nitrogen and also calcium. You do need to let the chicken poop mellow for several months before you use it, though. Three to four months is the minimum time it takes to clear the pathogens (salmonella, E.coli etc)  that could be in the manure, but six months is recommended. I clean out my coop in the fall and put the manure right on my garden. Since I won’t be plant for at least six months, the manure has plenty of time to stop producing pathogens.

7. Eggcellent tilling of your garden

While I don’t always want chickens in my garden because they can be pests, I do like to let them in sometimes. Their scratching is an excellent way to till your soil!

8. Pest control

Finally, chickens are amazing at keeping the bug population down. They’ll eat grubs, Japanese beetles, tomato horn worms, and I even catch ours eating mice from time to time. They are great help beyond simply providing eggs!

9. Extra source of income

Another benefit to raising chickens for eggs is selling excess eggs! I’ve found multi-colored farm fresh eggs to be in great demand and selling them earns me a little money to buy more chicken feed and treats.

Cons of raising chickens for eggs

While there are a lot of pros, there are also a few cons to raising chickens that you might want to consider. We have found the benefits to outweigh them, but you should still know what you’re getting yourself into.

  • Some cities do not allow backyard chickens, so make sure to check your local zoning laws.
  • You will need space to house them, generally 4-4.5 square feet per bird if you intend to keep them inside.
  • You’ll need some sort of chicken coop to keep them warm, dry, and safe from predators.
  • While some varieties and do free range very well, you will still have to buy them food, especially in the winter when there is nothing for them to forage.
  • You’ll need someone to take care of them when you go on vacation.
  • Cleaning the coop is a chore. It doesn’t have to happen all that often, but at least a couple times a year, someone will have to deep clean the coop.

chicken eggs, zinnias, peacock feathers

If you liked this post on raising chickens for eggs, you might like these too:

How to choose the perfect breeds for your homestead

Beginners guide to raising chickens

How to prepare for mail order chicks

Tips and tricks for keeping chickens warm in winter

Do you have another reason for raising chickens for eggs that I didn’t mention? Please share!