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6 Steps to Going Green When Remodeling Your Kitchen

Going green in your kitchen is just one of the many steps that you can take to make your home more eco-friendly and most cost-effective. When you're energy-efficient, you're money-efficient, too.

Photo courtesy of Glass Tile Oasis

I loved the kitchen tile backsplash in the house we moved from in Michigan. It was one of my favorite DIY projects I had done, and I have been dreaming of installing a beautiful backsplash in our home here in South Carolina. One of my main goals with my new backsplash is to use eco-friendly materials to help keep toxins out of my household and the environment. The same goal will apply when I eventually change my countertops and flooring. Glass Tile Oasis gave me some great tips on choosing the best eco-friendly kitchen remodel materials.

When you’re remodeling your kitchen, you want it to be as “green” as possible. Not only is it better for the environment, it’s often better for your pocket book as you make energy-efficient choices that will last throughout the life of your kitchen. To ensure that you’re making the best possible choices, follow these steps to creating a green kitchen that you’ll love.

1. Choose kitchen cabinets that have been produced with sustainability in mind. Many manufacturers now make cabinets that are made from wood that is chosen from sustainable forests. Take the time to look into the practices of the manufacturer you’re choosing. Don’t just look at the wood; consider their supply chain practices and how close their facilities are to their wood’s source, their stores, and to you.

2. Look into recycled backsplash tile. Your backsplash tile is one of the most prominent accents in your kitchen. Choose tile that makes a statement about the things that are important to you: go with recycled materials. Backsplash tile is available online for every taste and budget.

3. Look into eco-friendly flooring. You already have a long list of criteria that your kitchen floor has to pass. It needs to be easy to clean, compatible with your current decorating scheme, and hardy enough to last for a long time. Recycled glass tiles and natural linoleum are quickly becoming popular choices in many kitchens and bathrooms. They aren’t just eco-friendly; they’re also better for your home and family, because they’re made without the use of harsh chemicals that can impact your health.

4. Select your appliances carefully. When you go appliance shopping, you’ll find that every appliance has an Energy Star rating that will tell you how efficiently it uses energy. Take a look at the Energy Star rating for your preferred appliance to determine how expensive it will be to operate over time. The more you use your appliances, the more those savings add up–both for you and for the environment.

5. Go for green countertops. There are plenty of options available to allow you to choose a gorgeous countertop that is also eco-friendly. Look into “green” materials: recycled glass, bamboo, and even recycled paper are all becoming popular countertop solutions for eco-friendly kitchens. As an added bonus, you’ll get a unique, gorgeous countertop that suits your tastes and displays your green lifestyle for all of your guests to see.

6. Look for energy-efficient lighting alternatives. These days, you can easily find lighting alternatives that are just as bright at half the energy cost. Advances in technology have made it possible for you to choose green lighting without sacrificing your ability to see clearly in your kitchen.

Going green in your kitchen is just one of the many steps that you can take to make your home more eco-friendly and most cost-effective. When you’re energy-efficient, you’re money-efficient, too. That means that going green doesn’t just save the earth. It saves you money at the same time. By following these tips, you can create a green kitchen that you’ll love.

Book Review: 37th Edition of the Ball Blue Book

The Ball Blue Book is a staple in the kitchen for anyone who cans; newbies and experienced home canners alike.

Wow, it is hard to believe that the last new blog post I published on Daily Pea was last Halloween. Time sure does fly by when you have two little ones, a household, work, a garden and a yard to take care of! Life has been busy but I have missed blogging. I have had many things resting in the back of my brain that I can’t wait to write about. Here is my first post to get things rolling again.

I was happy when I was asked to review the 37th edition Ball Blue Book, since we are harvesting lots of organic goodies from the garden as we speak! The first edition of this book was called The Correct Method of Preserving Fruit and was published in 1909. The first edition called the Ball Blue Book was published in 1915. Over the years it has evolved into a beautiful, full-color, must-have canning guide and recipe book. The 2015 edition is 200 pages long and includes more than 500 recipes (75 brand new ones!)

The Ball Blue Book is a staple in the kitchen for anyone who cans; newbies and experienced home canners alike.

The Ball Blue Book is a staple in the kitchen for anyone who cans; newbies and experienced home canners alike. It’s a reference book in which you can quickly find scientific facts, tips, easy-to-follow instructions and recipe inspiration. From freezing to the boiling-water method to the pressure canner method, this valuable resource has you covered.

The Ball Blue Book is a staple in the kitchen for anyone who cans; newbies and experienced home canners alike.

The recipes in the Ball Blue Book are organized by style (whole fruit, jams, jellies, pickles, etc.) If you are ever wondering about new ways to use your preserved garden harvest, open these pages for inspiration! There are delicious meal recipes as well. I recently harvested lots of basil from my garden and used the pesto recipe from page 152.

The recipes in the Ball Blue Book are organized by style (whole fruit, jams, jellies, pickles, etc.) If you are ever wondering about new ways to use your preserved garden harvest, open these pages for inspiration!

Between my mother and I, we own a few editions of the Ball Blue Book. It’s especially meaningful for me because my grandmother canned for years and used the Ball Blue Book in her kitchen. Last summer I posted her recipe for Old Fashioned Bread & Butter Pickles.

If you don’t yet have the 37th edition of the Ball Blue Book, I would highly recommend picking it up ASAP! In my opinion, it is a canning essential.

If you don’t yet have the 37th edition Ball Blue Book, I would highly recommend picking it up ASAP! In my opinion, it is a canning essential.

Disclosure: Jarden Home Brands (parent company of Ball Canning) sent me a copy of the Ball Blue Book to review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. 

Using the Dirty Dozen List to Shop Organic


We do our best as a family to buy organic foods, but sometimes it’s not entirely possible for lots of different reasons. Budget is number one, followed by availability at stores in our area. Belonging to a CSA program at our local farm, growing our own vegetable garden and shopping at the farmer’s market are three major things we do that help make it possible for us to buy local, organic produce, dairy products and meat. Using the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen™ guide while shopping also makes it possible for us to incorporate clean eating into our everyday routines.

Avoiding chemical residues such as pesticides is one of the main reasons why many of us choose organic foods. The Dirty Dozen™ guide can help us distinguish which fruits and veggies are most important to choose organic based on amounts of pesticide residues. The guide is updated annually. I keep it on a special page located at the top navigation of my website so that it’s easy to reference.

The items on the Dirty Dozen™ list contain the most pesticide residues, while the Clean Fifteen™ items contain the least. The expanded “Plus” section of the list did not meet traditional Dirty Dozen™ criteria but were commonly contaminated with pesticides exceptionally toxic to the nervous system (source.) It’s even important to reference these lists when buying cooked or packaged items because they can contain the same pesticide residues that the produce contained before it was processed.

Although corn is not on the Dirty Dozen™ list, EWG advises to choose organic because some corn sold for human consumption is produced with genetically modified (GMO) seeds. Field corn is almost always produced with genetically modified seeds, and is used to make tortillas, chips and corn syrup. Organic corn is non-GMO. Buying organic is a major way to avoid products containing GMO crops. Look for the label “USDA organic certified.” Other genetically modified crops that can be found in the produce section of the store are zucchini, papaya and sweet corn. Please see my blog post and infographic about avoiding GMOs in your food.

Don’t see a certain item that you’re looking for on these lists? The EWG has put together a list of 51 popular fruits and vegetables that have been tested for pesticide residues by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration. The EWG ranked them from worst to best in terms of pesticides (lower numbers have more pesticides Source.)

  1. Apples
  2. Strawberries
  3. Grapes
  4. Celery
  5. Peaches
  6. Spinach
  7. Sweet Bell Peppers
  8. Nectarines (Imported)
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Cherry Tomatoes
  11. Snap Peas (Imported)
  12. Potatoes
  13. Hot Peppers
  14. Blueberries (Domestic)
  15. Lettuce
  16. Kale/Collard Greens
  17. Plums
  18. Cherries
  19. Nectarines (Domestic)
  20. Pears
  21. Tangerines
  22. Carrots
  23. Blueberries (Imported)
  24. Green Beans
  25. Winter Squash
  26. Summer Squash
  27. Raspberries
  28. Broccoli
  29. Snap Peas (Domestic)
  30. Green Onions
  31. Oranges
  32. Bananas
  33. Tomatoes
  34. Watermelon
  35. Honeydew Melon
  36. Mushrooms
  37. Sweet Potatoes
  38. Cauliflower
  39. Cantaloupe
  40. Grapefruit
  41. Eggplant
  42. Kiwi
  43. Papayas
  44. Mangoes
  45. Asparagus
  46. Onions
  47. Sweet Peas (Frozen)
  48. Cabbage
  49. Pineapples
  50. Sweet Corn
  51. Avocados

Does the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list help you while shopping for produce? What other ways do you avoid pesticides in your food?


Rockin’ Green Classic Rock Laundry Detergent Review & Giveaway

Rockin' Green Laundry Detergent Review & Giveaway @

Thank you to all who participated in our Rockin’ Green giveaway, and congratulations to Anna I., who will receive a full size bag of Classic Rock detergent. Looking forward to hosting more giveaways in the near future!

I was recently sent Rockin’ Green Classic Rock Laundry Detergent in 3 different scents to review. I’m excited to tell you guys about Rockin’ Green’s non-toxic, eco-friendly laundry detergent for lots of reasons other than the fact that my laundry came out really clean and fresh.

Rockin’ Green Detergents are Healthy for Us

The main reason why I like Rockin’ Green detergents so much is that they’re good for us. I’m a mama of two little ones with very sensitive skin, so I’ve always had to be very careful of what I use to do their laundry. I also do everything I can to avoid exposing them to harsh, toxic chemicals that are in most household products sold in stores. I’m a big fan of the Environmental Working Group’s database which rates products in terms of the safety of their ingredients. Here’s an example of how one major name brand detergent brand scores an F, and why I’m so happy that there are safer alternatives like Rockin’ Green!

EWG's score of one major laundry detergent brand -

You’ll never find any of these harmful ingredients in any Rockin’ Green product:

  • NPEs / APEs
  • Parabens
  • Phthalates
  • Optical brighteners
  • 1,4-dioxane
  • Naphthas
  • Phenols
  • Sodium hypochlorite
  • EDTA
  • Phosphates
  • Artificial fragrances

Many products labeled “green” and “non-toxic” are not what they claim to be. I’m a busy mom, so I feel overwhelmed and frustrated when I’m at the store scanning long lists of ingredients. Rockin’ Green was actually developed by a mom who was fed up with the mis-labeling of supposed “green” cleaners.

Rockin’ Green ingredients: sodium carbonate, sodium percarbonate, natural chelating ingredients, sodium sulfate, biodegradable surfactants, natural fragrance oils (unless unscented.) All scents are made with 100% natural essential oils and are organic. Sodium carbonate (washing soda) is ONE component in Rockin’ Green detergent. Every powder detergent on the market, both mainstream and boutique, contain sodium carbonate as one of its ingredients. Rockin’ Green also contains surfactants, water softeners, and several other special ingredients that prolong the life of clothing and protect delicate skin.

Rockin’ Green Detergents are Healthy for the Environment

When I think about how much laundry I do each week, I also think about how much detergent is washing into the environment. If detergents contain toxic chemicals, they can end up in waterways and affect aquatic wildlife. That’s just one way these chemicals can have a huge negative impact on the environment. If we all make a conscious effort to use safe products, we can make a big positive impact. All Rockin’ Green detergents are a safe choice for us and the environment:

  • They are biodegradable
  • They have recyclable packaging
  • They contain no phosphates
  • They are gluten and vegan friendly
  • They contain no SLS or parabens
  • They contain no optical brighteners

Rockin’ Green Laundry Detergent Works

I’ve tried many eco-friendly laundry detergents, and most of them just plain didn’t work well. Rockin’ Green is one that is very effective. It didn’t leave a residue on the laundry, even when a gentle cold water cycle was used. I like my laundry to feel and smell clean, and that’s just what it is after I use Rockin’ Green. It does a pretty good job of lifting tough stains, however, I get some serious stains on a daily basis on my little ones’ clothes that I normally spot clean right away with Biokleen Bac-Out.

Rockin’ Green Laundry Detergent Smells Good

After gradually replacing all my household products with natural ones over the years, I noticed myself and my family having more of a sensitivity to fragrances. Now that I’ve used wool dryer balls for years, the scent from dryer sheets is really overwhelming and I prefer either no fragrance in my laundry, or a subtle one from essential oils. Same is true with laundry detergent. A subtle, natural fragrance is nice while I’m doing the laundry, but I really don’t want it to strongly linger after it’s done. That’s what I love about Rockin’ Green. You know the scents are 100% natural because they wash out. After you wash and dry your laundry with Rockin’ Green, it smells clean and fresh, but not like the scent of the detergent. I tried their Lavender Mint Revival, Smashing Watermelons and Mötley Cleän scents. I liked all 3, with Lavender Mint Revival being my favorite.

Rockin’ Green Customizes Detergent for Your Water Type

The other thing I love about Rockin’ Green is that there’s a detergent for each water type. Check out their handy map to see which type of water you have. This is especially important when it comes to cloth diapers. When we lived in Michigan we had “normal” water that was neither soft nor hard. Now that we live in South Carolina our water is extremely soft. I was starting to have some issues with my cloth diapers shortly after we moved and began using Rockin’ Green Soft Rock detergent along with Funk Rock Ammonia Bouncer in my diaper washing routine. Works like a charm! When I tried the Classic Rock detergent on my regular laundry, it worked just fine and I don’t see the need to use the Soft Rock for that.

Rockin’ Green Detergent is Affordable

One challenge I’ve had while switching to green household products is cost. I do a lot of laundry, so I simply can’t afford expensive detergent. Rockin’ Green detergent doesn’t break the bank. One bag of Rockin’ Green can do up to 90 loads of laundry, which breaks down to 16¢ per load. HE machines only need 1 tablespoon of soap per load.


I decided to host a Rockin’ Green giveaway so you can try out the awesomeness of Classic Rock detergent for your laundry! Enter below to win 1 full size bag of Classic Rock laundry detergent in the scent of your choice: Lavender Mint Revival, Smashing Watermelons or Mötley Cleän.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rockin’ Green provided me with free samples of their laundry detergent to review, and I was under no obligation to write the review. I was not under any obligation to write a positive review or host a giveaway.

Save Money on Organic Food with a CSA

How Joining a CSA Helps Save Money on Organic Food @

Joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program is one way to save money on healthy, fresh, organic food. Organic produce and grass-fed meats are most definitely going to be higher quality and less expensive when you buy directly from your local farmer. My whole family will say that the food from our CSA share tastes much better than what we get from the grocery store. It’s fresher and has more flavor. My 3 year old says “these are the best carrots I’ve ever tasted!” The pasture-raised meat, eggs and dairy products taste amazing, are more healthy, and are less expensive than what we buy from the store. We live in a more remote area where the stores that are nearby have a very small selection of organic foods. If we want to stick to mostly organic, we have to drive to multiple stores to find what we need, at top dollar. We have been CSA members for only a short time so far, but we can already see that our weekly share covers a large part of our grocery needs and cuts down on our travel. Since this will be our first year with our backyard garden at our new home, we’re planning to stay with our CSA membership through the summer as well. That way we can really stretch our food dollar value by canning and freezing if we have a great harvest from our garden.

How a CSA Membership Works

  • Memberships are normally available for the different seasons, or some farms offer programs for the entire year. Some have payment plan options.
  • Your farm may offer half shares, which is a good option for a family of less than 4. There’s also the idea of splitting your share with a friend.
  • An example of a share for one week is a minimum of 5 pounds of fresh produce, including 6 to 10 different items. Ours also includes a dozen pasture-raised eggs each week.
  • Many farms offer meat and dairy shares.
  • Get to know your farmer and talk with them! Often times you’ll be able to put in a request for your favorite fruits and veggies, and they’ll do their best to grow more of those types.
  • Sometimes mix-and-match options are available where you can trade items out for others. For example, if you know you’re not going to eat brussels sprouts, you could trade them for another type of veggie or fruit.
  • You’ll choose your weekly pick-up day and time. Some farms even offer doorstep delivery!

Your CSA Membership Will Help You Meal Plan and Eat Seasonably

If you’ve ever wondered how to eat as much in-season local foods as possible, a CSA is your answer. Each weekly share you receive is packed full of fruits and veggies that are harvested at that particular peak time in the season. The farm we go to here in South Carolina utilizes regional farms in nearby states during the fluctuating seasons, so memberships are offered for an entire year. A dozen pasture-raised eggs are included every week in our share, but if we don’t need eggs that week, we can trade them for more produce. We pick up on Saturday and that’s the day I plan our meals for the following week. I plan them based on the veggies and meats we have for that week. Meal planning helps us save money because it cuts down on those extra trips to the store where we usually end up buying more than we really need and spending more for it. Your CSA membership will also encourage you to be more adventurous with your cooking, since you’ll most likely be introduced to a fruit or veggie you haven’t cooked with before. If you’re willing to be spontaneous, you’ll enjoy the different varieties of foods every week!

Your CSA Membership Helps Support Your Local Farms

When you purchase a CSA membership, your investment supports your local economy and community. It’s a win/win for you and the farmers, since you’re making an investment in your health and also contributing to a fair economic return for the farm. You’re supporting sustainable farming, which in turn supports a healthy environment. You’re really making a big contribution to your community while you’re enjoying the freshest, most nutritious organic foods available!

The Rewards Outweigh the Risks Involved with a CSA

The risk involved with a CSA membership is the event of crop loss. Complete crop loss is very unlikely since farms have strategies in place to avoid it. CSA members are rarely empty-handed, but variety and quantity may be affected. Your partnership with the farm helps share the investment and loss that farmers have carried alone in the past; helping to secure the future of the farm.

Where to Find an Organic Farm CSA Program

At, you can enter your location and search for farms and CSA availability in your area. Give the farm a call or stop by! Talk to them to find out whether they grow organically. It’s very expensive to become certified so many farms are not, even though they have been growing organically for years.

Other Ways to Save Money on Organic Food

One of the main challenges for many families (including mine) who are trying to eat organically as much as possible is cost. Stay tuned on my blog this year, as I’m going to share all of our tips as we find new ways to save money and eat healthy organic food. Check out my last post about one way to save money on organic pantry staples.

What’s the biggest challenge you face while striving to eat healthy, organic foods?

Scratch Mommy Organic Lotion Review

Scratch Mommy Organic Lotion Review @

Becoming mindful of what’s in our personal care products is one major way we can empower ourselves to make healthy choices. Watching what we put on our bodies is just as important as watching what we eat; the ingredients end up in our system once our skin absorbs them. Unfortunately, having control over this is overwhelming since the U.S. government does little to regulate ingredient safety. It’s up to us to read labels and choose products without hazardous chemicals, but federal law doesn’t require companies to list every single chemical ingredient (source.) After much research and trying dozens of different brands since I started replacing my personal care products, I’ve grown to trust and love just a few. Scratch Mommy Skincare is one of them!

Why I Trust Scratch Mommy Skincare

Jessica is the mama behind this fabulous skincare company that she started from scratch. She was inspired by her little boy to create a line of non-toxic products that are safe for the whole family. She also blogs at Scratch Mommy about real food, healthy DIY projects and of course, organic skincare! I’m thankful to be friends with Jessica in the blogging world. I can relate to her because we’re mamas who are concerned about the safety of the products we use every day. I have been extra careful about everything I use for myself and my baby girls ever since before I was pregnant with them, and have struggled with finding safe, affordable options. Jessica’s organic skincare products are wonderful because you feel pampered every time you use them, and you can feel good about using them from a health perspective.

What’s in Scratch Mommy Skincare Products?

Jessica lists every ingredient she uses. Nothing to hide. Just pure, natural and healthy. All ingredients are:

  • Certified organic
  • Raw
  • Unrefined (i.e. not extracted by use of solvents, alcohol, or other chemical means)
  • 100% pure
  • Sustainably sourced
  • GMO-free
  • Made with love

Besides the awesomeness of supporting a mama-owned business, you can’t beat the good feeling and peace of mind that comes along with using products with these superb ingredients!

Handcrafted Scratch Mommy Body Lotion

I recently sampled and started using Scratch Mommy Signature Lotion. It’s gentle enough to use on my babies, yet very healing for my extremely dry skin this winter. Paring down is one thing I’ve done over the years while replacing my beauty products. I now know that I only need a couple different kinds of products with ingredients from nature to heal and maintain healthy skin. I use the Signature Lotion as a moisturizer for my body and face, and I dab a little extra around my eyes as a healing night cream before I go to bed. I no longer need a separate eye cream and facial moisturizer, as my Scratch Mommy lotion does the trick! My girls always end up with chapped cheeks after playing outside during the winter. I put the lotion on them at bedtime and they’re healed by morning. It’s rich and concentrated so a little goes a long way. The subtle, light sent is very fresh and pleasant. Here are the ingredients:

  • Shea Butter
  • Coconut Oil
  • Jojoba Oil
  • Apricot Oil
  • Tamanu Oil
  • Essential Oils
  • Lavender=Lavender EO
  • Signature=Bergamot & Blue Chamomile EOs

I love telling my readers about the healthy products that I trust for my family, since I know it’s tough to find options out there that are truly safe. I hope you’ll find a Scratch Mommy Skincare product that you’ll absolutely love, too! Besides body lotions, you’ll find handcrafted body butters, bug repellent spray and lotion, deodorants, lip lotions, tooshie salves and sunscreens in the Scratch Mommy online store.

Have you found it difficult to find affordable, safe personal care products that you like?

It Works! Greens – Review

It Works! Greens {Review} -

I was recently sent a jar of It Works! Greens to review. It’s a powder made up of 38 organically grown, non-GMO herbs that you add to water or juice. This purpose of this natural supplement is to help strengthen your immune system while boosting your energy. One serving of Greens provides 8+ servings of fruits and vegetables with pH-balancing magnesium and potassium, as well as a probiotic to aid in healthy digestion.

I had not known about It Works! or Greens prior to doing this review, but I was intrigued because I know it’s challenging to find natural, non-GMO supplements. What I like about this product and other It Works! products I’ve read about, is that they complement a healthy lifestyle. If you’re striving to eat well and incorporate exercise into your routine, Greens is a supplement to give you an additional healthy boost. Sometimes you just get busy and overtired and could use a little healthy reinforcement!

I tried the orange flavor Greens, which is 100% natural. (The flavor comes from actual real oranges.) It also comes in berry (raspberry, blueberry and blackberry) which is sweetened with Stevia. My first thought about the orange Greens is that it’s surprisingly good tasting. A lot of supplement drinks have unpleasant textures and flavors. I honestly haven’t noticed an overall boost in my energy, but I’ve been burning the candle at both ends lately and am pretty sleep deprived to begin with. The extra boost in my immune system is beneficial – I haven’t had a cold yet this winter, knock on wood! I will feel good about taking the Greens supplement until the end of cold season for sure.

My sample was sent to me by Jessica Smith. You can read more about It Works! products here, or email Jessica at Her Facebook page is Living Green, and also check out her blog at raw

One Way to Save Money on Organic Pantry Staples

One Way to Save Money on Organic Pantry Staples -

I recently heard from some of my readers on my Facebook page that cost is a big concern while striving to follow a healthy, organic, whole foods diet. I can relate as it has definitely been one of the main challenges for our family since we started making healthier lifestyle changes 6 years ago. Over the years I’ve had to be pretty creative to stick to our budget and healthy diet, but it’s been fun and satisfying! This year on my blog it’s one of the topics I’m planning to really focus on.

Why Buy in Bulk?

Buying organic pantry staples in bulk saves us a substantial amount of money each month. I’d love to have an unlimited supply of canned goods from our garden and fresh fruits and veggies whenever I want them year round, but it’s just not realistic for us at the moment. That being said, I always make sure I’m stocked up on certain items to make healthy meals. It’s more convenient and economical to be stocked up than it is to make last minute trips to the store. Say it’s a busy weeknight in the middle of winter and you want to put together a quick veggie soup. You run to the nearest grocery store for organic veggies. Some of them may not be in season so you check for frozen. They may not carry them organic and if they do, they’re expensive. Keeping a few types of frozen organic fruits and veggies in bulk is the way to go if you have the freezer space! We have a small freezer, but I really pack it full and take advantage of every square inch.

Where to Buy Organic Foods in Bulk

Stores like Whole Foods carry just about everything you could possibly need to make healthy, organic, GMO-free meals. However, buying EVERYTHING there can really add up. Big time. Whole Foods and health food stores are an awesome option if you need to buy fresh produce, meat and dairy from the grocery store. They often carry items from local farmers. There are less expensive options for certain pantry staples, though. We recently found out that stores like Costco and Sam’s Club are growing their organic selections. I was a little skeptical at first since I’m pretty picky about buying organic food. I look for the 100% organic, USDA Certified labels to avoid all artificial additives and GMOs. I was very pleasantly surprised and excited to find a pretty good selection at Costco.

Which Organic Pantry Staples to Buy in Bulk

Here’s a list of some organic items that we buy in bulk from Costco. I go through these things quickly since I use them often to make meals from scratch. We’re hoping to stick to a once-a-month trek out there, at least until we can get our garden going this year and start canning. For now I find that buying the items below in bulk saves a good amount of money, and a $55 club membership to the store is definitely worth it for us.

  • Organic frozen fruits and veggies like wild blueberries, strawberries, cherries, peas, broccoli, corn and green beans.
  • Organic cooking/baking items like whole wheat flour, olive oil, dried herbs/spices, salts and sugars.
  • Organic snacks like nuts and dried fruits. You can also find different kinds of organic gmo-free specialty snacks that Whole Foods carries. And, if you have a baby who eats purées, you can find organic baby food purée pouches for on-the-go.
  • Organic rice, grains, beans and seeds like pasta, dried beans, quinoa, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds.
  • Organic canned items like diced tomatoes. I prefer using canned tomatoes from our garden but if I buy them, I feel safe buying the ones in glass containers. But to have them on hand as backup I found organic diced tomatoes at Costco in BPA-free cans.

Stores like Costco often rotate products in and out, and their selection also varies by location. I think it’s great that they offer organic, GMO-free options and it’s definitely a great step in a healthier direction!

What do you do to save money while buying organic? Do you buy some of your pantry staples in bulk?

Preventing Disease Through Organic Whole Food Choices

This is a guest post written by David Novak, Contributing Editor at Healthline. The subject of his article personally hits home for me because I started to incorporate organic whole foods into my diet 6 years ago when I was diagnosed with acute diverticulitis. Eating whole, non-processed foods that are high in dietary fiber as much as possible, along with staying hydrated and exercising are the main ways that I manage my diverticulosis naturally. I also used to suffer from chronic migraines, which diminished after I cut out foods that contain chemical additives. My family and I incorporate organic foods into our diet as often as possible by growing our own veggies in our garden, shopping at farmer’s markets, and using the EWG’s Dirty Dozen List while shopping at the grocery store. We’re on a budget and can’t always afford to buy all organic produce 100% of the time, so the Dirty Dozen List helps us prioritize.

Preventing Disease Through Organic Whole Food Choices

You make food choices every day… what you eat, how much of it you eat, and when you eat it.  These choices determine more than just satisfying your schedule and your appetite.  They affect your health, your immune system, your organs and joints in your body, your blood glucose levels, your energy level and most importantly, the odds of whether or not you’ll contract diseases such as cancer, hypertension, dementia, alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, stroke, heart disease, and the list goes on.  It also determines whether or not you will experience optimal health, glowing skin, a youthful appearance, decreased inflammation in the body, improved cognitive ability, body function… and that list goes on as well.

Your diet is key to making a difference in literally every body part and every body function imaginable. And practicing good nutrition habits, particularly paying attention to natural and organic foods, can improve your health, not to mention reduce the risk of short-term and long-term illness and disease. What goes in the body is almost more important than even exercise!

Any good doctor or dietician familiar with good nutrients will tell you that plant-based foods offer protective effects against a variety of diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, as well as many cancers like liver, esophagus, prostate, endometrium, rectum, ovary, colon, pancreas and stomach.

The Difference Between Conventionally-Produced Foods VS Organic Foods

But what about conventionally produced vegetables and fruits vs. organic ones? Does that really matter, and if so, why? First, let’s go over the differences between the two. Most standard vegetables and fruits are grown in mass quantities, requiring multiple methods for preventing crop diseases, bug infestations, and even fungicides to preserve them during transport. Organic vegetables are different. They are grown in smaller quantities, and are guaranteed free of these chemicals that go hand-in-hand with conventional produce.

Many people shirk these differences off, but studies have shown that these chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, are in fact real and do build up in the body – specifically the fat cells of humans, producing toxicity as these chemicals are known carcinogens, many of which have been banned in the European Union.

Organic produce is grown with more consideration to the land, and in turn, they affect your body more gently in a wholesome way, as mother nature intended. Granted, some organic fruits and veggies do cost more, but not by much these days. They were certainly more costly in the past, when they were newer to the food market, and there were less organic farms.  But today most are competitively priced due to their popularity and demand.

This is great news, because these fruits and vegetables are grown in smaller quantities, even on smaller plots of land, where soil is preserved, which means more nutrients in the form of vitamins and minerals in your food. Conventionally grown fruits and veggies are grown on the same soils year after year, and the crops are not usually rotated, a method which would allow the soil to replenish lost nutrients from repeated use if implemented.

There are some veggies that do not require a lot of chemicals, and they are considered ‘clean’ — such as avocados, bananas, asparagus — whereas there are many that do require them — such as berries, peaches and spinach – and those are best purchased if an organic and/or pesticide free label is visible. Some labels will also say sustainably harvested ‘wild’, and these are wild grown foods, such as wild arugula. These are harvested without depleting the food supply or otherwise harming the environment.  Rather, the food was grown in the biosphere surrounding it, such as butterflies, bees or birds.

Medical professionals suggest that a person suffering from diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer should focus on healthy organic foods that are high in protein and calories to provide energy.  During disease treatment, it is vital to maintain energy and a healthy immune system to fight against the disease. The chances of success may increase if disease fighting foods are included in the diet, and organic foods provide the best and most nutrient-enriched option.

Immune Boosting Foods

A healthy lifestyle is your first line of defense for good health and a strong immune system. Your body simply functions better when protected from environmental assaults and invasion of disease.  It’s ultimately bolstered by healthy-living strategies.  Make sure you’re eating a diet high in organic fruits, organic whole grains and organic vegetables; exercising regularly to maintain a healthy weight; cutting back on smoking and drinking; getting adequate sleep and controlling your blood pressure. These steps make a significant difference, and can really help as you age.

While some people age healthy, studies compared the elderly with younger people, and found that the elderly are far more likely to contract infectious diseases because of a lower immune system. Respiratory infections, pneumonia and influenza are leading causes of death for those over 65.  Eating healthy organic foods increases the production of T-cells, which help fight off infection and helps the body’s ability to mount a more vigorous immune response.

Organically Grown Whole Foods  Promote Good Glucose and Insulin Function

Diabetics need to understand the importance of various foods’ affect on blood glucose.  Having diabetes means that your body has trouble controlling blood glucose levels. When blood glucose stays too high for too long, serious health problems can develop. However, by controlling your blood glucose through medication, exercise and most importantly, an organic diet, you can delay or prevent problematic conditions associated with diabetes, such as kidney malfunctions, eye problems, heart disease and other complications.  According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), following a diabetes meal plan, which consists of organic foods, can help you keep your blood glucose levels on track.

Glucose is regulated by the insulin in your body. Insulin helps glucose move from the blood into your muscle cells, where it can be used for energy. Some oral diabetes medications help you produce more insulin or help your insulin work more efficiently, so your medications and food plan have to work together. If you take insulin shots, you need to be especially careful to match the amount of carbohydrates you eat with your insulin dose.

Eating an excessive amount of carbs without adjusting your insulin dose might cause your blood glucose to spike. If you consume too few carbohydrates, your blood glucose might bottom out, or become too low.  The best choice for whatever food choices you make should consist of organic foods such as fruit, vegetables, poultry, beef and pork.  These will regulate your blood sugar, unlike processed food, which can spike or bottom out your insulin levels and cause inflammation, which can eventually lead to rheumatoid arthritis.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Your immune response needs regular nourishment through organic foods to stay strong. There is evidence that suggests that people who live in poverty and are malnourished are more vulnerable to infectious diseases.

Various “micronutrient” deficiencies — for example, deficiencies in vitamins A, B6, C, and E, as well as zinc, copper, iron, folic acid and selenium — alter immune responses. If you suspect your diet is not providing you with all your micronutrient needs, eating healthy organic food rich in these vitamins and minerals brings health benefits of many types, especially a healthy immune system. Eat organic foods like fruits, vegetables, grass-fed beef and cage-free eggs.  These will provide all the vitamins you need, and then some.

Additionally, a number of herbs and vitamins can influence the immune system in good ways. These include foods like organic spirulina, organic chlorella, sustainably grown and harvested ginseng, aloe vera, echinacea, garlic, licorice root and probiotics. And while science has not proven that these nutrients unequivocally promote good immune function, if you do choose to take these nutrients, it can’t hurt.

High Nutrient, Low-Carb

Carbohydrates are foods that have the biggest effect on your blood glucose levels.  After you eat carbohydrates, your blood glucose rises.  Fruits, dairy, sweets and starches all contain carbohydrates. Although carbohydrates are important for health, when you eat too many at once, your blood glucose can rise too high. This can also lead to other diseases such as heart attack, stroke and rheumatoid arthritis.  Other carbs, such as sweet potatoes and vegetables, are better for you and less risky when considering a glucose spike.  Additionally, avoiding processed and packaged foods and eating more fiber and nutrients is another good strategy.

If you’re overweight, you can eat the same foods as everyone else, but the devil is in the details. A smart meal plan will tells you when, what and how much to eat.  It’s important not to completely deprive yourself of the foods you like, so your diet can include your favorite foods.  Just make sure your meal plan is also covering foods like fruits, vegetables, low-fat organic dairy, whole grains, eggs, lean meats and fish.  Other organic disease-fighting foods include:


Green and black teas are rich in polyphenols (catechins), which are known to reduce inflammation, lower the risk of stroke and prevent cancer cells from dividing. These polyphenols may protect against various types of diseases.  Red wine and olive oil are also rich in polyphenols.


Soy foods are rich in nutrients, especially in several types of phytoestrogens — weak, non-steroidal estrogens — that can help prevent prostate, stomach, esophageal and breast cancers by blocking and suppressing the cancerous changes.  Soy protein can lead to the lowest mortality rate among cancer patients, along with the lower probability of recurrence.

Allium Vegetables

Ever heard of allium vegetables?  Onions, leeks, garlic and onions are allium-based veggies that can significantly lower the risk of heart disease, stroke and prostate cancer. These vegetables contain immune-enhancing allium compounds (diallyl sulfides) that appear to increase the activity of the immune cells that fight disease. These compounds also help in blocking carcinogens from entering into the cells apart from slowing down the development of tumors.


Fiber protects and helps in clearing off the disease causing wastes and toxins from your gastrointestinal tract.  It promotes weight loss by making you feel fuller, longer. Being obese or overweight will put you at greater risk for heart disease, stroke and alzheimer’s disease.


Carrots have falcarinol and beta carotene, which has been shown to reduce a wide range of cancers such as throat, mouth, lung, breast, prostate, bladder, intestine and stomach cancers. Isolated cancer cells grow more slowly when exposed to falcarinol and beta carotene. Tomatoes contain Lycopene, an antioxidant known for its anti-cancer properties, specifically preventing cancers in breast, pancreas, colon and prostate regions.

Vegetables like kale, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli contain disease fighting antioxidants like zeaxanthin and lutein.  Cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli have a chemical component called indole-3-carbinol that can combat breast cancer by converting a cancer-promoting estrogen into a more protective variety. Broccoli alone has phytochemical called sulforaphane, a product of glucoraphanin, which is believed to aid in preventing rectum and colon cancers, as well as prevent cardiovascular disease.


Grapes contain bioflavonoids, the powerful antioxidants that work as disease preventives. Grapes are also rich sources of resveratrol, a natural phenol, which inhibits the enzymes that can stimulate cancer-cell growth and suppress the immune response. Avocados are rich in glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that attacks the free radicals in the body by blocking the intestinal absorption of certain fats. They also supply a high level of potassium and are strong sources of beta-carotene. Finally, berries — like blue, red, black and strawberries — are rich in ellagic acid, one of the most powerful antioxidants, which help in preventing the growth of cancer cells and boosts your immune system.

Food choices that includes these specific disease fighting foods can be a huge factor in boosting your immune system, preventing illness, and a big help to those suffering from major illness during their recovery process.  Having a healthy lifestyle, void of smoking and drinking, is vital as well.  Research suggests that around 70-percent of all major diseases can be averted if people exercise, eat organic plant-based foods and minimize bad foods, including chemically treated and altered foods.  Doing so will ensure that your body is healthy, clean and chemically free.

David Novak HealthlineDavid Novak is a international syndicated newspaper columnist, appearing in newspapers, magazines, radio and TV around the world. His byline has appeared in GQ, National Geographic, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, USA Today, among others, and he has appeared on The Today Show, the CBS Morning Show and Paul Harvey Radio. David is a specialist in health and fitness, and he is a regular contributing editor for Healthline. For more information, visit

A Very Important Investment: A Non-Toxic Couch

A Very Important Investment: A Non-Toxic Couch -

A toxic couch? It sounds crazy, and it is. It’s crazy that most couches sold in our country have been doused with chemicals including toxic flame retardants that can affect our health. This is why, other than our beds, the second most important furniture investment we have made in our household is a non-toxic couch.

When my baby girl turned two a little over a year ago and started to occasionally fall asleep on the couch, her close contact with it really made me think about its safety. I also thought about all the hours I was spending nursing our newborn baby on it and how toxins could be affecting her rapidly growing little body. The toxicity of the couch was in the back of my mind years prior, when I became aware of the chemicals in conventional mattresses. My husband and I splurged on an organic mattress back then and also have chosen organic crib mattresses. Couch cushions are made of similar materials as mattresses are so I was definitely justified in being skeptical.

In November 2012, the Environmental Science & Technology journal released findings from a test done on 102 samples of polyurethane foam from residential couches purchased in the United States from 1985 to 2010 (source.) They detected chemical flame retardants in 85% of the couches tested, and the chemicals found are suspected human carcinogens. There was a phase-out of the chemical flame retardant PentaBDE in 2005 and since then there have been a greater number of untested flame retardants on the market. If the couch has the label that says it meets the flammability requirements of California Bureau of Home Furnishings Technical Bulletin 117 (TB 117), it most likely has the highest amount of chemical flame retardants. However, there’s really no way for us to know since 64% of the tested couches without that label also contained the chemicals. (source.)

I especially wanted to get rid of our couch after that study was released. If we were so careful about our bedding, how could we have a toxic couch? We bought that couch in 2005 and had no idea about the chemicals. It wasn’t until a few years later that we started researching, becoming more aware of possible toxins in our home and making healthier lifestyle changes. Unless furniture is tested and studies are released, we have no idea what chemicals are there. We just have to do our best to shop for locally made furniture made from the most natural materials possible.

The reality is that we cannot control everything. There are pounds of toxic chemicals in building materials and even electronics in our homes. In the big picture, a non-toxic couch is an easy change to make. Since it was months until we were able to afford to buy a new couch after we moved, we took some simple precautions with our old couch. Unfortunately even though the couch was older, we knew the chemicals still existed since they were designed to last for years and years. The chemicals are released as dust particles as the foam in the couch breaks down. We inhale the dust, and worse, our small children ingest it on their hands or on toys (source.)

Things You Can Do to Reduce Your Exposure to Chemicals in Your Home

  • Vacuum carpeting often with a vacuum with a HEPA filter, and wash the filter often (we use this one.)
  • Open windows as much as possible.
  • Mop hard surfaced floors with a wet mop to help remove dust.
  • Dust with a microfiber cloth or damp cloth instead of a feather duster, since feather dusters can spread dust into the air.
  • Wash hands frequently since dust is often ingested from the hands (source.)

How to Shop for a Non-Toxic Couch

I was a bit overwhelmed when we were ready to shop for our new couch this year. I researched for literally months. I contacted many companies, and here are responses from a couple of them:

Here is what I received in an email from Ikea: “In seating furniture and cushions the foam is treated with chemical flame retardant (phosphate ester basis, or chlorinated phosphorous-compounds – substitution of these halogenated compounds is ongoing; one of the alternatives is based on TPP – triphenylphosphate) in order to comply with NA fire protection requirements; TB117.”

Here is what I received in an email Pottery Barn: “Because we are required to comply with California’s regulations, we don’t currently offer upholstered furniture products made without flame retardants. There are no clear alternatives to current flame retardant chemicals that are widely available, cost effective, provide adequate fire safety protection, and are scientifically proven to pose no health risks. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently working to identify alternative flame retardants that do not pose human or environmental health risks. In June, 2012, the EPA released a plan to review and develop risk assessments in 2013 and 2014 for 3 flame retardant chemicals. We closely monitor the evolving science related to alternatives for current flame retardant chemicals.”

My personal decision was that I wanted a chemical-free couch; no flame retardants or stain guard chemicals of any kind. I went on to do more research online. Many of the couches would need to be custom made and were out of our price range; it’s unfortunate that it’s easier to find a non-toxic couch if price isn’t an issue. While shopping around, contacting the company is a good idea as most will be happy to let you know how their furniture is manufactured and whether it contains any chemicals. Wool is an option that is naturally flame resistant but is quite expensive.

I finally came across Eco Select Furniture online. It is is a family owned business in North Carolina, and this is what their website states about their furniture:

  • Hardwoods from certified forests right here in the US that follow strict guidelines for sustainability and conservation.
  • USA grown cotton (some of organic!)
  • Certified eco-friendly Leather.
  • Soy-based foam for our cushions.
  • Natural hemp fabric that is the most environmentally-friendly fabric available.

I gave them a call and was pleased to find out that they offer cushions that have not been treated with flame retardant chemicals. Additionally, as also stated on their website, there are no harmful emissions from formaldehyde adhesives or synthetic fabrics. There are a dozen different styles of chairs, love seats, sofas or sectionals to choose from. You can choose from 6 leather colors and 6 hemp fabric colors. There was a summertime sale going on, so that is when we decided to make our purchase. We chose the “Logan Square” style with the Bamboo colored hemp fabric. The only downfall was that it took 2 months to receive our couch. We were also a little nervous about ordering online without seeing a floor sample first, even though the photos are quite representational and you can request fabric swatch samples.

I now say that our couch was WORTH EVERY MINUTE of waiting, and worth every penny! Our couch was custom made and is extremely high quality. It will last beautifully for years and years, I’m sure. I freaked out a little bit when my daughter spilled some spaghetti sauce on one of the cushions after we had it for a week. I used my Bac-Out natural stain remover and it took the stain out beautifully. The natural fabric is very easy to clean. Hemp is naturally soil-resistant and antimicrobial.

How I Chose a Non-Toxic Hemp Couch -

I was also excited to top off our new couch with GOTS-certified 100% organic cotton throw pillows by Plover Organic, found here. They’re super-soft, beautiful and can be zipped open to wash.

Have you recently purchased a new eco-friendly, non-toxic couch, or have you taken measures to make sure your older couch is non-toxic? Please share your tips!

Sources: Environmental Science & Technology, Healthy Child Healthy World