Tag Archives: thrifty health

Make Bone Broth At Home and Eat Like a Nutritarian

Home-made bone broth is one of the best things you can do for your health, for your wallet and for your sense of satisfaction because you are using food that would normally be wasted.  Besides, once you taste homemade bone broth you will never go back. Never, ever.  The flavor is so much richer than the watered-down, over-salted version you can buy at the grocery store and it’s packed with vitamins and minerals from the bones, veggie pieces and various scraps you boil down. This is totally thrifty health and even though I’ve been doing it for years, the sense of satisfaction that I get out of turning scraps into deliciousness almost can’t be described. Literally every pot of broth feels like  a mini-miracle.

Benefits of Bone Broth:

  • Uses leftover scraps of food that would normally go to waste or compost so you get all the nutritional value out of them
  • After you make the soup the veggie scraps can *still* go to compost 🙂
  • Boosts your nutrition tremendously because it’s chocked full of trace minerals, vitamins and nutrients
  • Saves money
  • Tastes way better than store-bought broth
  • Easy enough that anybody can do it – even if you’re not sure about your skills at boiling water
  • Cuts down on food waste (and if you don’t know that we waste 40% of our food, then you should read this)
  • Your broth contains no cheap fillers, flavor enhancers, ridiculous amounts of sodium, artificial colors or anything else you don’t want to eat.
  • If you’re working on gut health and healing your gut to increase your nutrient absorption, then bone broth is a food-must.  It’s a huge part of the GAPS diet and many other protocols to boost health.

Starting Your Bone Broth Journey with a Freezer Bag

Bone broth starts with, well, bones.  Plenty of people rush out to buy bones specifically for broth, which is great, but I’m all about the thrifty so I just use bones from the meals we’ve eaten recently.  Naturally, this isn’t something you want hanging around in your fridge, but don’t worry – there’s a handy tip to keep things sorted out and it comes in the form of a zip-lock freezer bag.  At all times I have a 1 gallon freezer bag in the front of my freezer that I can toss scraps into for bone broth.  I’ve tried with reusable containers like glass storage containers, tupperware, etc… but it seems like when I’m actually making soup the freezer bag is the easiest to get frozen stuff out of to dump in the pot and I can usually reuse one bag for several months before it tears and I need to replace it.  It looks something like this (right now what I have is lamb bones – lucky me! But normally it’s a picked-over chicken carcass in there). I call this the BONE BAG and everyone in the house knows to add veggie scraps and chewed on bones to it.

A good bone bag is the key to good bone broth. This is pretty typical for mine - although the bones are all at the bottom of this one.

A good bone bag is the key to good bone broth. This is pretty typical for mine – although the bones are all at the bottom of this one.

Bone Broth Ingredients:

  • Bones. Cooked or Raw. Any kind you have, from whatever meat you like.  I like for the pot to be at least half bones and I use a big stock pot.  It can be a mix of bones, or all one kind – that’s totally up to you. If you’re lucky enough to have a local butcher they may have scrap bones, which would be awesome. I typically just use the leftover bones from what my family eats so it’s chicken carcasses, bones out of beef or pork ribs, lamb bones, or whatever.  You can totally make stock from fish bones, clam shells and shrimp peelings as well but it has a strong fish-stock flavor so I usually keep those separate from my meat bones.  If you’re feeling really adventurous add some chicken feet – they’re fantastic in terms of adding collagen and gelatin to the stock (which is great for your skin, hair, nails and bones) but people get squeamish about the idea of chicken feet.
  • Pot scrapings. If I roast a chicken or other meat there are always drippings at the bottom of the roasting pan. Some of it is chicken fat, some of it is juices and some of it is little bits of cooked skin or whatever that is stuck to the bottom of the pot.  Once it’s cooled down, scrape all of that out into your bone bag and make sure you don’t miss any of it because this makes the soup flavor awesome! Don’t worry about too much fat – you can skim the fat off later if you want to. Likewise if there’s anything stuck to the pan after you pan-sear a steak – add some water to liquify it and dump it into your bone bag.
  • Onion skins and scraps. The thin papery peelings from onions that would normally go straight to trash or compost, as well as the tops and bottoms that you cut off. These release nutrients and give your stock a nice golden color that canned stock mimics with colorants. In the old days some of the golden color would come from chicken feet too, but we modern kids are sensitive about that sort of thing – although if you can find them, I’d highly recommend them!
  • Celery tops and bottoms. The leafy tops that just go to trash and the bottoms that you cut off celery stalks can just go in the bone bag and get boiled down with the rest of it.
  • Mushroom stalks. Some people leave most of the mushroom stalk on when cooking, some people cut off only the bottom, and some people take out the whole stalk.  Any part of a mushroom that you don’t use can go into your bone bag.
  • Veggie ends and pieces. As you’re preparing food there are inevitably bits of veggies that get cut off. Think of the peelings, the ends that get cut off, the stems spots from tomatoes that get cut out, parsley stems, the outside leaves from cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower outside leaves or woody stalk.  The only things I don’t use are potato peelings and that’s only because potato things make the stock a little bit starchy, which I don’t prefer. My bone bag always has celery, onions, mushroom, carrot and tomato pieces because I don’t seem to know how to cook without those things so there are always scraps, but frequent additions are zucchini ends, eggplant peelings, squash tops or bottoms, parsley stems, cilantro stems, stems from fresh herbs, green pepper scraps, and sometimes a wild variety of other things.
  • Herb bits and pieces. If you happen to buy fresh herbs or cut some from your garden then most of them have stems that have the same great flavor but would normally get thrown out. The only herbs I wouldn’t add are mint (just because minty broth sounds weird to me) or huge amounts of any one thing because then the broth will only taste like that one thing – so just portion some out for the next bone bag.
  • A bay leaf. If you happen to have some – I usually buy these in bulk from Mountain Rose Herbs just because I toss one into every bone bag and typically make a batch of bone broth at least every 2 weeks. If you don’t happen to have any sitting around the house then don’t worry about it. It adds flavor, but isn’t crucial.
  • Eggshells. If you happen to buy good organic eggs then tossing a couple of eggshells into the mix can up the calcium and mineral content of your broth. If they’re factory-raised eggs then I’d skip it.
  • Vinegar or Lemon Juice. This adds a bit of acidity to the broth and will help to pull the nutrients out of the bones. Long cooking does the rest. I’ll add maybe 1-2 tablespoons (honestly, I don’t take time to measure. I add a glug or two).
  • Water. Enough to fill the pot to about an inch and a half below the top.

Generally I make bone broth when the fates dictate that I should – which is mostly when my freezer bag is full – but you just pick the best day for you. 🙂 The whole thing is super easy, just pick a day when you’re mostly home.  Dump the bone bag into your big stock pot or big crock pot – whichever you prefer.  Fill it up with water to an inch and a half below the top. Turn it on high until it comes to a boil and then cover it with a lid, turn it down to a low simmer and go about your day. Every couple of hours check on it to make sure the water level isn’t changing too much – if it’s dropped significantly add more water and re-cover.

Give it minimum 4 hours, but the longer the better (often I’ll leave it simmering overnight). I’ve never left it more than 24 hours, but I’ve heard of people doing that.

Once it’s done cooking put a big bowl in the sink with a colander in it and pour the pot into the colander slowly. The colander will catch the bones and bits and the broth will drain down into the bowl.  Please remember the bowl because I know from experience that you will feel like an ass if you pour the soup through a colander directly down the drain (I only did it once, but was so sad when it happened that I learned my lesson).

Put the big bowl in the fridge and let it cool down. Typically there is enough collagen in the bone scraps to make it turn into a gel-kind of consistency and if you put chicken feet in it then it will be flat out broth jell-o.  The fats from the broth will rise to the top and solidify into a thick layer if there are lots of fats or little spots if there aren’t.  You can skim these off or leave them with the soup just depending on how much fat you like.  I typically leave most of it, but if something was really fatty sometimes I’ll skim some of it off.

The gel-like consistency is what makes this broth special, and what shows you how much nutrition you’re getting.  As soon as you heat the broth the gel will melt and it will convert to a liquid, but the collagen in this broth that makes it turn into a jelly is exactly what you want to see. It may need a little salt – don’t be afraid to be generous with the sea salt, you’ll never add a fraction of what you would find in store-bought broth.

This makes a lot of broth – I usually end up with about 4-8 quarts (2-4 L) per batch just depending on which pot I used and how full my bone bag was. Typically I’ll keep some in the fridge for use this week and divide the rest into glass mason jars (leave space at the top for it to expand as it freezes) for the freezer. I put a piece of masking tape with the date on the outside just to make sure I’m using the oldest ones first. If I’m feeling especially ambitious I’ll freeze some in ice cube trays and then store the ice cubes in gallon freezer bags for future use.  Honestly I usually run out just about when my bone bag is full again.

Bone broth is liquid gold for a nutritarian diet. I borrowed this picture from paleosherpa.com - if your'e going to freeze them just leave a little bit more room at the top.

Bone broth is liquid gold for a nutritarian diet. I borrowed this great picture from paleosherpa.com – if you’re going to freeze them just leave a little bit more room at the top.

Now make food-gold out of your bone broth

I use bone broth in everything. When I’m sauteing veggies I’ll add a spoon full for flavor. When I’m making sauces or gravies I’ll add some to make it richer. I love homemade soups and stews and always use my own broth. So many leftovers can be converted into a great soup for new flavor.  Favorite leftovers to add include rice, beans, cooked veggies (I usually chop them smaller for soups), leftover meat pieces, leftover noodles, or whatever.

If you’re not into the leftover idea then a great basic hearty soup is:

  • 3 cups (ish) bone broth
  • 1/2 cup cooked rice
  • 1/2 cup cooked beans (whatever kind of beans are your favorites)
  • 4 thin sliced green onions
  • 1 small carrot, cut into small cubes
  • 1 celery stalk cut into small cubes
  • 1 medium or 2 small mushrooms cubed
  • 1-2 oz cooked chicken, beef, pork or lamb cut into small cubes (or small pieces of cooked ground beef are great too)

This will serve a couple of people. If you like your soup a little less dense than this one, just add more broth. The great thing about soup is that you can put literally anything into it. There just isnt’ a wrong way to do soup.  If you want different flavors try adding a dash of hot sauce, some lemon or lime juice, fresh parsley, cilantro or other herbs, a little bit of honey, molasses, agave nectar or palm sugar or even some Thai fish sauce. Just as an aside, the combo of a little bit of palm sugar and a couple of tablespoons of fish sauce is what makes Thai soups so darn yummy. Bone broth is the base for an endless variety of meals and once you’ve had your own liquid-gold bone broth you will never go back.

Cut Down on Food Waste And Eat Like A Nutritarian

Food waste sounds kind of like something mom used to tell you about at home, but as it turns out, it’s a far bigger problem than just not finishing what’s on your plate. In fact, farm to table the National Resources Defense Council estimates that 30 – 40% of the total food produced in the US is wasted. This is just a little bit shocking and disheartening, given how many people are hungry in this country and beyond.  Also, if you consider the impact on overall food costs that this must have, it’s a little staggering.

Staggering Factoids About Food Waste:

  • Decreases profits to farmers and increases the overall cost of food for all of us.
  • Limits the amount of food available for our population.
  • Rotting food in landfills is one of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas levels, specifically methane (!! I had no idea!) In fact a Canadian Public Radio Broadcast gives this shocking quote:

    “If food waste was a country it would be the third largest CO2 producer after the U.S. and China”

  • 80% of the total fresh water, 10% of the US energy budget, and 50% of our land is used to grow our crops and farm animals – if 40% of all of these is wasted we’re doing something incredibly wrong.
  • We throw out the equivalent of $165 billion (BILLION!!) each year
  • Reducing food wastes by just 15% would feed an additional 25 million people.
  • The average American consumer wastes 10 times as much food as a consumer in Southeast Asia. This is up 50% from the average American in the 1970s.
  • Using foods we would normally waste – especially if you get creative with things like beet tops and carrot greens and use celery leaves, chicken bones and onion peelings in your soup stock boosts the nutritional content of your food significantly. This is one of the best ways to become a nutritarian (and if you don’t know what that is, check it out here).

Much of this waste is a problem with the industry, including issues with packing, transport, distribution and display but there’s also the myth of the perfect apple, the flawless peach, the stick-straight carrot.  As consumers we tend to shop with our eyes and reject foods, produce especially, that show any sign of actually coming from nature, in spite of the fact that produce that looks less perfect is entirely equal in terms of nutrition, flavor, and everything else that actually matters with food.  In light of this, the French supermarket Intermarche launched what has to be my favorite marketing campaign of all time – the Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables Campaign.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a campaign like that here? To have the option in supermarkets for buying “inglorious” fruits and veggies at 30% less than regular? I’d be thrilled to have that option because frankly produce spending is a huge cost.  It wouldn’t fix the problem entirely, but would certainly be one giant step forward.

Reduce your food waste and learn to love that ridiculous failed lemon. I mean seriously.

Reduce your food waste and learn to love that ridiculous failed lemon. I mean seriously.

What You Can Do To Reduce Food Waste:

Some of this starts with you and I. If we can take steps to reduce the amount we waste then not only do we benefit (think of the money we throw away constantly!) but everyone else benefits too. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Actually plan meals and snacks so that you know what you need each time you grocery shop.
  • Stop with the impulse buying – just because there’s a 2 for 1 special doesn’t mean you will actually eat 2 sheet cakes in a week. Honestly.
  • Love your freezer – If you do buy in bulk, freeze the portion you aren’t planning to use immediately right away so that it will still be useable when you get around to it.
  • Dish out less – Put smaller portions of food on your plate – you can always dish out more if you want it, rather than scraping your plate into the garbage after the meal.
  • Be organized with leftovers – If you cook large batches of things, separate out the leftovers into serving sized portions so they’re easier to use.  If there’s a lot of leftovers, separate them and then freeze them.
  • Take produce out of plastic bags – as it turns out, fruits and veggies rot faster in plastic. I like bringing them home, taking them out of plastic and rolling them up in big tea towels to keep them fresh and crisp.
  • Wash veggies just before you use them – moisture encourages mold growth
  • Label – When you freeze food, label it accurately with both name and date so that it’s less likely to be ignored as mystery food.
  • Buy from farmers – Buy from farmers markets and directly from local farmers. Ask them if they would be willing to sell you their seconds at a reduced price.
  • Grow your own – growing some of your own veggies, fruits and food connects you to your food in a different way. Its so much harder to waste food that you grew with your own hands, and you can grow great foods in containers if you don’t have a yard.
  • Get creative with leftovers – it doesn’t have to be the same thing 4 days in a row. Salmon can become salmon salad, salmon patties, salmon meat balls or salmon dip.  Apples that are getting soft or going brown are still wonderful sliced and baked with a drizzle of honey and some crushed nuts.  Cooked veggies can often be pureed and spiced into soups.
  • Make your own soup stock – this gives you a great use for onion skins, celery ends and leaves, mushroom stalks, ugly bits of veggies, parsley stems, veggie peelings and bones left over from your meals (chicken, beef, pork or lamb). Plus it tastes better than store-bought and doesn’t cost you anything at all. I’m going to do a post on this because people look at me like I have two heads when I talk about it, but making your own stock is so incredibly satisfying! This is also a great step towards nutritarian eating because you’re extracting the nutrition out of the bones and veggie remains that you wouldn’t normally get.
  • Compost – fruit, veggie and grain waste as well as coffee grounds and a lot of kitchen paper waste can be effectively turned into nutrient-rich garden soil. If you’re a gardener this is like gold and saves you from having to buy soil additives, fertilizers and a whole host of other things.
  • Clear the fridge – there’s something psychologically pleasing about having an overly full fridge, but it also creates more waste because you can’t see what’s actually in there.  Keep the fridge a little more empty and eat what’s there before you buy more.

 Great Additional Info about Reducing Food Waste:

NPR’s great broadcast and article about  ending food waste and the pilot program Food: Too Good To Waste.

Canadian Public Radio broadcast on food waste and steps you can take at home to reduce it.

I *love* this project from chef and masters student Leanne Brown. It’s called Good and Cheap and it’s a free cookbook in .pdf format that helps people to eat on $4 per day. Because she’s budget conscious she’s also really great at using leftovers and making sure food stretches as far as it can.  I love that she’s making good food accessible on all budgets. This is exactly what we need to boost health across the nation and the world!

This is the type of change and action that helps your health, helps your budget and ultimately helps the environment and changes the way food is handled on a larger scale.  Ending food waste really does start with you and there are so many benefits to everyone involved that it makes a great project to stat incorporating into your life. Small changes over time will really add up and it can be something as simple as starting a soup stock bag (look to next weeks post for how-to information) or getting a compost heap going for your garden. It can be changing the way your fridge and freezer are organized, or even sitting down for 10 minutes and writing down a list of ways that food is wasted in your home. Start with baby steps and work towards reducing the amount of money and nutrition you lose from food waste in your home.

Aluminum Deodorant Safety and Natural DIY Deodorant

Aluminum deodorant safety is an issue that generates a lot of controversy. Research has shown a link between aluminum levels and a number of conditions including breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, but how much topical aluminum products like deodorant or aluminum antiperspirant make a difference to that is much-debated.

What Are The Health Risks of Aluminum and What About Aluminum Deodorant Safety Research?

First off, aluminum is everywhere. It is the most abundant metal in the earth’s crust and happens to be highly useful in industry so most people have high levels of exposure.  The biggest source for aluminum by far is through foods and medicines, as it’s added as an additive and anti-caking agent to flour, and baking powder and also to food colors and food additives. It is a major ingredient in some medications including antacids and buffered aspirin and also aluminum cookware and food packaging contaminates foods. Aluminum is detoxified from the body via the kidneys, so those with kidney impairment are at greater risk.

In their exhaustive toxicology reports, the Centers for Disease Control reports many risks of orally ingested aluminum including:

  • Reduced immunity
  • Memory loss
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Behavioral changes
  • Learning impairment
  • Confusion
  • Muscle Twitching
  • Bone pain
  • Alzheimers – maybe?  Studies are mixed but :
    • brains with Alzheimers have higher levels of Aluminum than normal
    • Aluminum is clearly neurotoxic
    • Areas with high aluminum levels in the water typically have higher rates of Alzheimer’s
  • ALS, or Lou Gherig’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Breast Cancer? – Studies have shown higher aluminum levels in breast tumors, but it’s not clear if the aluminum is related, or if it just happens to deposit there.

Obviously aluminum isn’t a health food, but this still doesn’t tell us anything aluminum deodorant safety or risk. A study published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology indicates that about 0.012% of aluminum applied to the skin is absorbed. Another study published in the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry shows that in stripped skin absorption of aluminum from stick-type antiperspirants is actually much higher – almost 10x higher. Both of these studies emphasize the safety of single usages of aluminum deodorant, but give cautions about long-term use.

Why is Aluminum in Deodorant Anyway?

There is a lot of talk about aluminum deodorant safety, so it seems like manufacturers would remove it, but aluminum is largely why deodorants work – or at least why anti-antiperspirants work.  The aluminum forms gentle plugs in the skin that blocks the ducts so that sweat is trapped in the skin. Aside from being mildly gross, sweat is a detoxification method for your body and clearly aluminum blocks that process.

Aluminum deodorant safety is a hot topic - but take a look at the way the aluminum plugs are thought to form in your deep skin. Eek!

Aluminum deodorant safety is a hot topic – but take a look at the way the aluminum plugs are thought to form in your deep skin. Eek! Great file by Christopher Exley (http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/C3EM00374D) [CC BY 1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Are There Natural Alternatives?

Yes, but they don’t do the same thing because there is nothing natural about blocking sweat from leaving the body.  Honestly – my experience has been that the natural products work, but don’t last as long and don’t hold up as well to extreme situations (like job interviews or first dates or marathons).  With the natural products you may find you have to carry some with you to reapply.  You will also find that the natural products don’t reduce sweating at all – sadly that doesn’t really happen without the aluminum.  So you still sweat, but you smell just fine.  My real-life compromise has been to use the natural home-made deodorant most of the time because I have enough concern about aluminum deodorant safety to avoid regular use, but I will break down and use the aluminum one if I’m speaking at a conference or in some other higher-pressure situation.

Great DIY Natural Deodorant Recipe:

I’ve been trying this one lately and really like the way it feels on my skin – it’s an adaptation from one I found on Wellness Mama but I add a little more baking soda because I found it just a little too oily without it – but try both ways and see what you like.  Also if you’re looking for a great source for clean oils, herbs and essential oils try Mountain Rose Herbs. Starting out you may have to buy a few ingredients, but overall this is a super-thrifty, super healthy alternative because believe it or not this works out way cheaper in the long-run. God I *love* thrifty health. It’s such a bonus when the best way to do it is also cheaper than the way we normally do it.

Mountain Rose Herbs. A Herbs, Health & Harmony Com
My version of the recipe includes:

  • 3 Tablespoons coconut oil
  • 4 Tablespoons baking soda
  • 2 Tablespoons shea butter
  • 2 Tablespoons arrowroot powder (or you can use baking soda if you don’t have arrowroot)
  • Essential oils (optional – but I always like it to have a light scent.)

Mix the coconut oil and shea butter and heat gently on a double-boiler (I use a stainless steel bowl placed over the top of a pot with a little boiling water at the bottom – that way the steam heats the bowl but it isn’t directly on the stove top).  Warm the oils just until the shea butter melts and you can mix them together then take it off the heat and add the baking soda and arrowroot powders. Stir this really well – a little whisk works or even pour it into the blender if you’re feeling a little lazy, but it’s a heavy oil base so the blender will take some thorough washing afterward. Add 20-40 drops of an essential oil once it’s all mixed and stir that in.  Now it’s ready to pour into a small wide-mouth jar and set for a while. I just let mine sit overnight so that it can solidify.

For this batch I added about 30 drops of grapefruit oil and maybe 4-5 drops of lemon oil just because the citrus smells always make me feel happy and perky so they’re perfect for morning, but have fun playing around and finding the best combo for you.  Once your natural deodorant has re-solidified then it’s ready to use! Just a small amount rubbed under each arm will do the trick but it’s not a bad idea to put a little bit in a tiny lip gloss jar to keep in your purse or pocket. Just don’t leave it in the hot car because it will melt.

Making the Switch to Natural Deodorant

So – it sounds kind of goofy, but if you’re been using an aluminum based product that reduces sweating then your body is probably going to have to detox a bit as it pushes the residual aluminum plugs out of those sweat glands and then pushes out all the toxins that have been building up behind those plugs.  It can take a couple of weeks and what I hear most from people (and certainly what I experienced) was just kind of a funky two weeks.  Your body may produce some interesting odors during this time in it’s joy at getting rid of the junk that has built up.  Don’t worry – there are some strategies to manage it:

Wipe your armpits a few times per day with distilled white vinegar or rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball or cotton pad – it will help to kill any funky bacteria or yeast that may be growing in that slightly toxic environment as well as to pick up the toxins.  Every time you clean your pits this way then re-apply your natural deodorant.  Risking a too-much-information situation here, I will tell you that I tend to be a sweaty kind of gal, so I always used vinegar at home before and after work and carried alcohol wipes to work with me to use maybe three times in the middle of the day.  It was a weird transition, but after about a week and a half it seemed like everything calmed down so that I didn’t need to do anything other than reapply the deodorant towards the end of the day.  Just be careful because if you’ve just shaved then both the vinegar and alcohol burn a little. Also I’ve noticed that since the switch my skin texture in that area has totally changed – there’s a big difference in the softness of the skin and also I’m realizing that my armpits are less irritable, for lack of a better word. It just seems like that whole area is healthier overall.

Aluminum deodorant safety is still not especially well researched, but there is enough evidence about aluminum and serious illness that I feel uncomfortable using it. The switch to natural deodorant takes a little bit of dedication, but is well worth it in the long run.  Our bodies have enough challenges without slathering on the heavy metals!