Avoiding Genetically Modified Foods: Some Tips and Tricks for the Grocery Store

We’ve all heard about genetically modified, or GM, foods.  And most of us, especially those who grow our own food and want to live a more sustainable life, know we should avoid or boycott them.  But the trick is, HOW do we avoid them?

If you are like me (and most of the country), you still go to the grocery store on a weekly basis and buy most of your food.  Going up and down the aisles, it is pretty obvious that a lot of the food should be avoided.  The pink frosting on aisle 5 is probably not a healthfood and the frozen lasagna in aisle 15 is almost certainly laden with salt and transfat.  But what about the block of cheese in aisle 3?  And the canola oil in aisle 10?  If you are trying to be healthy, cook at home and bake from scratch, these are items that you would probably consider picking up.  But are they healthy?  Do they contain GMOs?

In this article, I hope to give a you couple of tips for tackling the grocery store and filling your cart with items that are less likely to contain GMOs.

(If you have anything to add, please don’t hesitate to leave information in the comments.  This topic is one that is changing daily and is very hard to pin down.  I’ve done my best to do reading and research but I know I’m not immune to mistakes and misinformation.)  


70% or more of the foods that you can buy in the grocery store probably contain some form of GM ingredient, either directly or indirectly.  That is intimidating!  Since there is no requirement that companies label foods that contain GM ingredients, you can do one of two things:

  1. Only buy foods clearly labeled as GMO free or 100% organic 
  2. Know which ingredients are mostly likely GM and avoid products that contain them.

Let’s start with the good news.

Pasta, Rice and Beans: 

These items, when purchased plain and dry, do not contain GM ingredients.

  • Wheat – There have been 419 field trials of GM wheat but none are currently being produced commercially in the US or for US consumption. (Though don’t forget the recent story about a field in Oregon being contaminated with one of Monsanto’s test crops. Times, they are a-changin’))
  • Rice – GM rice is not currently being cultivated, though varieties have been developed and tested. 
  • Beans (this does NOT include soybeans) – GM beans are not commercially produced at this time in the US and are not available for US consumption.  
Fresh Produce:
Believe it or not, you are mostly safe in this department.  Some sweet corn sold fresh may be genetically modified but most fresh produce is GM free.  However, if you want to be 100% sure, buy organic. 
Sadly……. that’s where the good news ends.  The rest of the aisles in your typical grocery store are filled with bad news.  
The top five GM Foods are:
  1. Canola – (made from the rape plant)
  2. Soy
  3. Corn
  4. Sugar Beets (which comprise about 50% of the sugar production for the US)
  5. Cottonseed 

Given this information, it is easy to understand why so much of the food (i.e. processed junk) that is in the grocery store is GM. 

Cereal – Unless it is labeled 100% organic, you can count on it containing GM ingredients.
Snack Foods – We all know that most snack food is bad for us and you can be sure it also contains GM ingredients.
Frozen Foods – Again, unless labeled 100% organic, it is going to contain GM ingredients.  Plus, most frozen food is high in sodium.  Better to just prepare fresh food and freeze your leftovers. 
Oils, Shortening and Fats –  Pretty much out of luck in this department.  If you look at the list of the top five GM foods, you can see that most oils are going to contain one more of these ingredients.  There is an exclusion, though.   100% extra virgin olive oil - http://amzn.to/1bo4oR1 , from a reputable source, is GM free.  However, there is a lot of controversy out there right now about how pure olive oil is and whether labeling is begin done correctly, so be sure that you are buying from a reputable source, that it is 100% olive oil and if you can find it, that it is labeled GMO free. Further, it is also possible to find GMO-free coconut oil - http://amzn.to/1bo4BDN . 
Condiments and Prepared Foods – Much like the snack foods, it is no surprise that these all contain GM ingredients.  If you absolutely must have it, make sure it says 100% organic on the label.  
Bread and Crackers – While technically a wheat product, most of the bread and bread products sold in the store contain corn syrup and/or some soy-based ingredient.  Better to just bake your bread at home.

Animal Products – Unless it is labeled 100% organic, odds are the cows have been injected with rBST and/or fed GM soy and corn products. 

Confused?  Frustrated?  Annoyed?  Overwhelmed?  Yeah.  Me too. 
The best thing to do is buy organic whenever you can and make as much food at home, from scratch, as you can.  The first step is having the knowledge, the next step is figuring out what to do with it.  And much like you, I’m still trying to figure out what to do with all of this information – how to put it into play in my daily life with three kids and family to feed.  
We’ll get there……

And if you’re looking for more information on the topic of GMOs, I recommend these books and videos:

       
Standard, legally required, Endorsement Disclosure: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.

Buttermilk Basics: Culturing Your Own

Buttermilk.  Delicious and Irreplaceable.

I used to substitute regular milk for it in recipes until I realized that they tanginess of buttermilk does, truly, add another dimension to the finished product.  It is easy to buy at the store but also fairly simple to culture on your own at home.  The benefit of doing it at home is that you can control the quality (and fat content) of the milk that you use to make it.

Historically, buttermilk is a byproduct of butter-making.  When making butter at home, you churn or whip heavy cream until you are left with two products – a solid (butter) and a liquid (buttermilk).  These days, traditional buttermilk has been replaced with cultured buttermilk.

There are three ways to make cultured butter milk:

  1. Add a powdered culture to fresh milk
  2. Add buttermilk with live cultures to fresh milk
  3. ferment raw milk
Buttermilk is a probiotic food and is often suggested as a beverage for lactose intolerant people, as the fermentation process transforms the lactose into lactic acid. 
Are you convinced?  Ready to make your own?  Read more below.
Making buttermilk is very similar to making yogurt.  Just like when you make yogurt, you can do it two ways.  You can either use a powdered culture - http://amzn.to/14AICqZ to start your buttermilk or you can use a previous batch of buttermilk to start a new batch.  Considering that most of the buttermilk that is available in the store is either ultra-pasteurized and/or doesn’t contain live cultures, you’ll probably have the best luck starting with store-bought culture - http://amzn.to/14AICqZ and making your own.  Then you can use the buttermilk you make at home to culture future batches. 
Here’s how you do it with the powdered culture (you can buy it here - http://amzn.to/14AICqZ ):
1.  Let 1 quart of milk sit out at room temperature and “ripen” for six hours.  
2.  After it is ripe, heat the milk in a saucepan and stir until it reaches 86 degrees. 
3.  If you have a crock pot, transfer the milk to a warmed (but not on) crock pot.  If you don’t have a crock pot, a thermos or something similar (like a cooler) will work.  
4.  Sprinkle the culture - http://amzn.to/14AICqZ on top of the milk and let it fully absorb the milk.  
5.  Cover with a lid and gently wrap a few towels around the crock pot - http://amzn.to/17MR1GA or thermos to keep it warm. 
6.  Let sit for 24 hours.  
7.  Put the buttermilk in a jar and store it in the fridge for 2 week or so.  (You can also freeze buttermilk.) 
I made buttermilk waffles using this recipe - http://www.marthastewart.com/341273/buttermilk-waffles and they were divine. 
What do you think?  Do you like buttermilk enough to give this a try?  
             

Tasty Tuesday Linkup

Standard, legally required, Endorsement Disclosure: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.

Small-Batch, Homemade Applesauce

We had an amazing Labor Day weekend.  One of the best weekends in recent memory.

We headed three hours south to the little town of Willcox, Arizona and did some serious apple picking. It was so much fun and only a *tiny* bit hot and humid.  (Ok…. maybe it was a lot bit hot and humid….  but we’re trying to keep it positive here.)

So, we went apple picking and it was our first time doing so as a family.  We had a great time and came back with a little over 40 pounds of apples.  My plan is to do a large batch of applesauce and can it (!).  (Don’t worry…. my mom is coming to help me, so I won’t be able to screw it up and therefore we won’t all die of botulism.  Phew.)  But, honestly, who can wait all that time for yummy, fresh applesauce?   Certainly not me, nor my husband, nor our three adorable children.

So, what’s a mommy to do?

Well, let me tell you.  This mommy took to the internet for a quick and easy, small-batch, applesauce recipe.  And you know what?  I couldn’t find one!  And some of you might be saying that this is because applesauce is really easy and who the HECK needs a recipe for it?  Well, I’ll tell you who – this girl does!  So, I looked over the large batch recipes and came up with my own.

Here you go….. the Five Little Homesteaders’ small-batch applesauce recipe!


Ingredients
6-ish apples (We had two varieties – red delicious and criterion.)
1/2-3/4 cups of water (enough to have about 1/2 inch in the bottom of the pot)
1/4 cup sugar (Now, before you go jumping all over me, yes, I used refined, white sugar.  You could certainly use this - http://amzn.to/174m0x1 or this - http://amzn.to/1dBKId1 in place of it.  Or if you are really serious about the whole no sugar thing, you can omit it altogether.)
1 tbsp lemon juice - http://amzn.to/19dI4W7
1/4 tsp of cinnamon - http://amzn.to/137cTuK or apple pie spice - http://amzn.to/1fvAyrc (I used apple pie spice, which is just a combo of spices.)

Directions
1.  Peel and slice your apples.  (I use this thing - http://amzn.to/174mbIA for slicing apples.  It is a life saver.  I use it daily for the kids.)

2.  Put the apples and everything else into a pot.

3.  Heat on medium until the water starts to boil then reduce to simmer.
4.  Simmer for 15-20 minutes.
5.  Smash your apples up. (Careful they are hot!)  You can use a simple potato-type masher - http://amzn.to/1fvAAzc if you don’t mind chunks (which we don’t) or you can use a food processor - http://amzn.to/1fvAE1V .  You can even use a food mill - http://amzn.to/18n0l29 , if you’re that hardcore.
6.  Enjoy while hot!  You’ll be in heaven, I promise.

Do you make applesauce?  What is your secret ingredient?

           

Tasty Tuesday Linkup

Standard, legally required, Endorsement Disclosure: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.

Coconut-Lavender Relaxation Salve

Relaxation.

Does that word even exist anymore?

With three small children, I seem to fall into bed each night without much regard for “relaxing,” per-say, which is one reason I came up with this nifty little salve.

You see, I’m a routine person.  I set up a routine and I generally stick to it.  So, in an effort to relax and calm down each night before bed, I’ve started applying this salve to my elbows, knees and heels.  Not only does it moisturize these rough areas of my body, but it also gives off the heavenly, relaxing scent of lavender (and a touch of coconut).  I’ve found that it really helps my mind shut off and my body relax.  I swear I’m falling asleep easier.

I’m in love with it.  Check out the recipe and directions below.  (It’s also really, really easy.  I promise!)


Ingredients
4 ounces coconut oil ( Here’s - http://amzn.to/11ahf4g what I often buy.)
.75 ounces beeswax - http://amzn.to/1doNzH4
8-12 drops lavender essential oil - http://amzn.to/19Y6Ca2
2 – 2 ounce containers ( These - http://amzn.to/1fhYjCN would work well.)

Directions
1.  In a double boiler - http://amzn.to/14CfHkr , melt the beeswax.

2.  Add the coconut oil and heat them both together until your mixture is completely liquid.

3.  Add your essential oils.  (I say 8-12 drops because some people like more scent than others.   I’m usually pretty sensitive to smells so I used about 10 drops.  You get the scent of lavender but can still smell the coconut-y-ness of the oil.)

4.  Pour into containers.  I reused some old baby food jars.  Let it cool completely and you’re done!

**** Some Notes *****
– The consistency of this salve is very customizable.  Generally you want one part beeswax to anywhere from 3 to 5 parts oil.  More oil and it will be softer, more beeswax and it will be harder.

– You can use the same mixture but with different essential oils to create a product that serves other purposes.  For instance, use peppermint oil - http://amzn.to/147iBtN instead of lavender to relieve tired, sore muscles.  Add eucalyptus oil - http://amzn.to/12JDv4J as a homemade Vicks to relieve congestion.

– It you add zinc oxide - http://amzn.to/12JDm0Z to the mixture, you’ll get a salve that has sun blocking properties.

             
Standard, legally required, Endorsement Disclosure: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.

Natural Homemaking: Homemade Laundry Soap

This month I am doing a short, weekly series on natural homemaking.  You can check out the other posts here, here and here


 
So.  You knew this one was coming, right?  
 
I’m not exactly the first blogger to talk about making your own laundry soap, especially in the homesteading community.  However, I also felt like no series on natural homemaking was complete without a recipe for it.  
 
So, here you go!  Homemade laundry soap! 
Standard, legally required, Endorsement Disclosure: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.

Natural Homemaking: Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Tablets

This month I am doing a short, weekly series on natural homemaking.  You can check out the first post here and the second post here.

Homemade Natural Dishwasher Detergent Tablets

This week I’m excited to bring you a clever little idea that I had.

Are you familiar with those little dishwasher tablets that are sold in all the stores?  ( Here’s one example - http://amzn.to/16OBDLl and here’s another - http://amzn.to/16OBFCV .)  They seem awfully handy and I’ve often wanted to buy them.  However, they also are really expensive and just squirting or shaking a little detergent into the receptacle isn’t that hard.  But then I started this natural homemaking series on the blog and I began thinking about all the store bought cleaners that I use and dishwasher detergent came to mind.  So, I took to the internet and decided to make some of my own naturally.

Well, there are about a ZILLION dishwasher detergent recipes on the internet and I thought to myself that it wouldn’t be very helpful to just repost one of those.  So I thought of the tablets again and I thought, “Hey!  Maybe I could make those with all natural ingredients!”  Here’s what I came up with.

Read more ›

Standard, legally required, Endorsement Disclosure: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.

Fresh Homemade Ketchup Recipe

Homemade Ketchup Recipe :: Five Little Homesteaders

Have I mentioned that I froze a bunch tomatoes last spring?

Yeah, I know, I’ve mentioned it only a million times.  Well, you should know, they’re gone now.  I’ve used them all!  My freezer has never felt so empty!

Originally I made pasta sauce, then I made pizza sauce and now I’ve made homemade ketchup!  And let me tell you, it is amazing!  I was so impressed by how ketchup-y it came out.

Check out the homemade ketchup recipe below.

Read more ›

Standard, legally required, Endorsement Disclosure: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.

Homemade Sourdough Pancakes

I’m always looking for new ways to use my sourdough starter.  So far, the homemade english muffins have been my favorite way to use it but these sourdough pancakes may be a close second.

Check out the recipe below and let me know if you give them a try.

Ingredients

For the Sponge
1 cup sourdough starter
1.5 cups warm water
2.5 cups flour

For the Batter
1 egg
2/3 cup milk
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp melted butter

Directions
Night Before
1. Mix all the ingredients for the sponge in a bowl.
2.  Cover (I usually use a clean dish towel) and let stand over night.

In the Morning
1. Mix all the batter ingredients in a bowl.
2.  Add to the sponge and stir well.
3.  Let stand for five minutes.
4. Drop by 1/4 cups onto warmed griddle and cook as you would a regular pancake.

Tasty Tuesday Linkup

Standard, legally required, Endorsement Disclosure: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.