Category Archives: Resources

10 Blogs I Follow

Are you looking for more information, stories from the field, or news about the battle against hunger? Do you want to save money on the things you buy for your family? Would you like to encourage your faith? Here are some of the blogs I read – maybe you’ll find something to love!

10. Pocket Your Dollars – This is the first blog I ever followed, and I didn’t realize it was a blog because back then I thought blogs were a big ego thing where people post pictures and talk about what their kids have been up to – like some kind of published diary. But I followed PYD, because Carrie is literally handing out useful information. This site lists the sale prices at grocery stores (specifically she covers the Minneapolis-St Paul metro area, but many of the stores are national chains), and which recent coupons (from newspaper inserts and online sources) can be combined with the sales to get rock bottom prices on groceries, personal hygiene items, and school supplies. She also has a weekly list of freebies and other great deals you don’t want to miss!

9. Living Well, Spending Less – Staying in the money-saving theme, LWSL is a blog I mostly follow via Facebook. They offer great organization and money-managing strategies, and practical advice. They also sell super cute organization items like planners, desk sets, etc., but the sales portion is not overwhelming at all.

8. Kiva blog – I’ve blogged about Kiva before – they’re the site I use to make microfinance loans. Well recently I found out that their organization also has a blog. On their blog they have reports from the field, news about the microfinance niche of the global economy, and follow-up stories about the change that microfinance is making in lives around the world.

7. Compassion blogCompassion is another organization that I have blogged about before. I sponsor a little boy in Burkina Faso, so I get the organization’s emails and follow them on Facebook. That’s how I became familiar with their blog. To be honest, I don’t read it all the time. But once a year, Compassion takes a group of bloggers on a missions trip somewhere in the world, and I read those faithfully! The Compassion bloggers visit the homes and families of children in the program, and they visit the Compassion centers where those kids are educated, fed, and cared for. If the bloggers on the trip are sponsors in the country, Compassion arranges for them to meet their sponsored child in person. How cool is that?!

(Side note: Compassion will help you arrange a meeting with your sponsored child if you’re traveling to their area. It’s on my bucket list, and I’m super excited for a friend of mine who will be meeting two of her Compassion kids this fall!)

6. The Feed (Feed My Starving Children) – Unless you’re new to Food Shelf Friday, you know I LOVE Feed My Starving Children. I have blogged about it, attended their events, and I participate in their book club. I also subscribe to their blog, The Feed. They share stories from the field, highlight inspiring donor/volunteer stories, share resources, and keep you up to date about FMSC events.

5. Bridging the Gap – OK, full disclosure warning. FSF isn’t my only blogging outlet. I’m also a contributor at Bridging the Gap, the Minnesota Assemblies of God women’s ministry blog. But this isn’t about my occasional contributions. My fellow contributors are amazing writers. Some of them are (or soon will be!) published authors. They are godly ladies of all ages and life stages who want to share with you the wisdom they glean along the way. Topics range from humor to the heavy stuff, all wrapped up in the faith we share.

4. Sherburne History Center – While I’m doing shameless plugs… Of course, I also read the blog of the history museum where I work. My boss writes our blog, and it’s full of fun little things our volunteers find in old newspapers, great stories of local interest, and broader historical coverage.

3. No Kid Hungry – Share our Strength/No Kid Hungry is an advocacy group that helps connect hungry kids with resources as well as offering hunger education to the public. They are a great resource for information on legislation, school lunch programs, etc. I follow their blog because I love their summer Youth Ambassador program. In the program they put teenagers to work in the field, then the teens blog about their experiences. It’s really interesting, and their enthusiasm is contagious!

2. All Your Heart Ministries – A few years ago, my friends Kelli and Tracy founded an organization called All Your Heart Ministries. Since then a few more friends have joined their effort, and they have a great organization! Their website, Facebook, and blog are soothing, encouraging, and do a great job walking the line between being gritty-real and maintaining a hopeful and faith-filled mindset. Also, they talk about Bible journaling, which I love!

1. We Are THAT Family – This is another blog I follow mainly through Facebook. Kristen Welch and her family are dedicated to making the world a better place, and they invite us all along on their adventures. The Welch family founded Mercy House Global, and it’s offshoot, Fair Trade Friday. I am a monthly subscription box member at Fair Trade Friday, and I LOVE getting my monthly box of fair trade goodies and learning about new retailers I can support. Kristen’s blog is inspirational, encouraging, and really beautiful.

So those are ten of the blogs I read! There are others, this could have been a MUCH bigger list, but I thought I’d pick some favorites and some variety, and give you some new things to check out.

Do you blog? Do you have a favorite blog you like to read? Share in the comments so we can check it out!

Cheap Summer Recipes

Summer is just around the corner, yay! On the upside, fresh produce is abundant and lower in price. On the downside, it gets too hot to cook! So today I’m bringing you a few of my favorite summer-friendly cheap recipes.

Alternative pizza nights
Grabbing a pizza is a reasonably-priced way to feed a family or group of friends, but it’s hard to accommodate everyone’s tastes, and you pay a delivery fee to wait 45 minutes for a pie! We have two alternatives to pizza night that are fun for the family and pretty economical. The first is a simple idea called “pizzadillas,” and the second is a make-your-own pizza night on the grill. All it takes is a pizza stone or one of those grill mats so your pizza won’t fall through.

Pizzadillas:
Shredded mozzarella
Pizza sauce
Tortillas
Pizza toppings of your choice

Put a little mozzarella and the toppings of your choice between two tortillas, and heat on the stovetop until the cheese melts and the outside is browned. Cut the pizzadilla with a pizza cutter and dip into pizza sauce.

Make-Your-Own Pizza Night: Crust recipe originally found on Food.com

2 1⁄4 teaspoons yeast
1⁄4 teaspoon sugar
3⁄4 cup hot water
1 3⁄4 cups flour
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
Pizza sauce, cheese, and toppings of your choice

Dissolve the sugar and yeast in the warm water. Let sit 5-10 minutes until the yeast mixture becomes frothy. Add the flour and salt, and mix well. This makes one pizza for 2-4 people, or you can divide the dough in half (or thirds – I have a teenager and a husband who runs distances, so they eat bigger than your young kids will) and let each person make their own. I usually double the recipe and make four individual pizzas. Roll out the dough and top with sauce, cheese, and toppings of your choice. Cook on a hot grill until the cheese is melted and the crust begins to brown.

Quiche
Eggs are an economical source of protein, and quiche is a great way to turn leftover meat, cheeses, and veggies into a brunch or dinner for the whole family. Quiche consists of two parts: the crust and the egg filling. You can buy a pie crust to save time and effort, but making pie crust is really not that hard. Here is my go-to pie crust recipe; I got it years ago from my friend’s aunt who is a terrific cook!

3 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
1 cup cold butter (cut in small chunks)
1 egg
1 tsp. vinegar
cold water

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour and salt. Add the butter chunks and mix until it resembles pea-sized chunks. Add the egg and vinegar and mix. Add the cold water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough holds together. Remove from the mixer and divide in two. Roll out the dough and place in pie pan. (makes 2 pie crusts or one double crust for fruit pies)

Filling:
5 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup of cream or milk
cheeses, meats, and veggies of your choice

Mix the eggs and milk. Pour into pie crust. Add cheeses, meats, and veggies of your choice. I’m a big fan of cheddar, onion, and leftover ham. Sometimes I throw in some spinach if I have it on hand. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Top with cheese and bake for another 20-25 minutes. Quiche is done when the filling is firm and the top starts to brown.

Stretching seasonal produce
Summer is the ideal time for the freshest produce at the best prices. And if you’re gardening or subscribing to a CSA box, you might have produce coming out of your ears! Don’t let it go to waste, learn some basics of freezing and preserving produce.

My excess usually comes in the form of raspberries and zucchini, which both freeze well (shred the zucchini, squeeze out some of the liquid, and put in a plastic freezer bag. Remove as much air as possible and freeze). There’s nothing like fresh sweet corn in season, and it’s possible to preserve that flavor for winter too.

Summer Sweet Corn: From on a post on Little Dairy on the Prairie
15 cups raw corn kernels (shuck the corn and cut off the kernels. I like to use a Bundt pan. The little center part makes a great stand for the corn, and the kernels can fall into the round pan in any direction)
1/8 cup salt (I know. 1/8 of a cup. I just half fill a ¼ cup measuring cup. It works out)
½ cup sugar
4 cups hot water
¼ cup butter

Put all ingredients in a large pot. Heat slowly to a gentle boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Ladle into freezer bags and seal. Lay bags flat and freeze.

 

I hope this gives you some new ideas for affordable, summer-friendly recipes. Share some of your favorites in the comments!

 

Volunteer Resource List

Like a lot of couples, my husband and I get in date ruts. We always seem to watch the same movies, eat at the same restaurants, and either go bowling or shoot pool when we want to go out and do something. There is a whole big world out there, but at the end of the day it’s hard to think of something original to do. So this year for Valentines, I made my husband a list of all the ideas we’ve talked about but never think of spur of the moment, complete with websites and phone numbers. Now when one of us starts the “what should we do tonight” conversation, we’ve got all the ideas and info right at our fingertips. This week I’m going to do the same for you – a list of non-profits you can volunteer with, including web links. Click on any blue link to go right to the volunteer signup page for that organization. “I didn’t know where to start” is history!
Amazon Smile: Set up your Amazon account so a portion of your spending goes to the non-profit of your choice.

Compassion: Sponsor a child  or volunteer with Compassion at an event near you .

County agencies: Your county probably has many volunteer needs. Check their website for listings. Here is the listing of volunteer needs in Anoka County, Minnesota, where I live.

Dress for Success: Find out how to donate clothing or funds, or consider a hands-on volunteer job. Dress for Success needs people to sort donations and help clients with clothing as well as mentors who can work with clients on job and interview skills.

Feeding America’s Food Bank Finder is intended to help the hungry find a food shelf, but it can also lead you to local donation and/or volunteer opportunities.

Feed My Starving Children: FMSC has permanent packing sites in Minnesota, Arizona, and Illinois, as well as mobile packing events around the country.

Homeless Shelter Directory: Find a homeless shelter near you. Volunteers are always needed!

International Justice Mission: IJM needs interns and lawyers, as well as everyday volunteers.

Meals on Wheels: Drivers and volunteers are always needed!

Minnesota Council of Nonprofits: Job listings including paid work, executive boards, and volunteer jobs at nonprofits in Minnesota.

RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program): Connecting people ages 55+ to local volunteer needs – I work with RSVP at my museum job. They are a huge blessing and make my job much easier!

Second Harvest Heartland: Second Harvest is a network of food banks in Minnesota. They have two locations in the Twin Cities metro area, and they support many other community food shelves.

Venture: Run or bicycle while raising money to fight hunger and human trafficking.

Volunteer Match: Helps volunteers find opportunities in their neighborhoods.

 

That should be enough to keep us all busy for a while! Don’t forget your church is a great resource for volunteer opportunities as well, and feel free to leave more volunteer opportunities in the comments!

 

Food Drive Kit: Tips, printables, and everything you need to host a successful food drive

Hosting a non-perishable food drive to benefit a local food pantry is fun and easy, and this post will help make your food drive MORE SUCCESSFUL and even EASIER!

So, you want to host a food drive…

  1. Who: Decide which sphere(s) of your life you will concentrate on for collecting the food.. Make sure that leadership and group policies (if there are any) are ok with your event before you begin.
    -Workplace
    -Neighborhood
    – Church
    -Civic Group/Club
  2. What: Choose a local food bank or shelter as the beneficiary of your food drive. Donors like to know where their contribution is going; it gives them confidence in their donation. It also helps spread the word about a great local organization. You never know, but the information on your flyer might come in handy some time if a friend/coworker finds themself in need.

    Call up the organization you’ll be collecting for, and ask them what their biggest needs are. The free printables I’ve attached to this post list the food shelf basics, but asking will give you the real picture of your food shelf’s situation and what you and your donors can best contribute. The printables can easily be altered with a Sharpie when you’re filling out the other information.

  3. When/Where: Decide if you’ll be doing your food drive collection-style or pickup-style.
    – If you’re setting up a collection box, like at a workplace, give people a week or so to contribute.
    – If you’re doing pickup on a specific day, give people at least a week’s notice and remind them every few days as the day approaches.

    – Avoid hosting your food drive on a holiday week; people’s minds are busy with their vacation plans, arranging childcare, etc.
    – If you’re hosting your food drive in your workplace, pick a week after you get paid, not the week before.

  4. How: Spread the word!
    – Use social media groups/pages to reach people – posts with more pictures, reactions, and shares are seen by more people on Facebook. The printables in this post include a .jpeg you can use on social media.
    -Send out an email blast – give everyone a last-minute reminder on pickup day or the day before the collection drive ends so they don’t miss out.
    – Hand up posters – The printables at the bottom of the page include an 8 1/2 x 11 printable poster advertising your food drive. All you have to do is print it off, Sharpie in your details, and hang it where it will be seen. There is also a flyer printable that prints 2 flyers/sheet. You can put those in work mailboxes (not postal service mailboxes, that’s illegal unless you actually address, stamp, and mail them), neighborhood newspaper boxes or doors, hand them out cubicle to cubicle or at a meeting, insert them in the church bulletins, etc. There is a box label printable also. If you’re doing your drive collection box-style, make sure the box is sturdy (canned goods get heavy fast!), clearly labeled, and put in an obvious, visible place. It’s good to have all your flyers, posters, social media images, and box label match, so people can easily connect things in their memory.

Good luck with your food drive! Come back and leave a comment if you have more tips or suggestions from your experience!

social-media-image

.jpeg for social media posts (to use: copy/paste or right click and save to your computer)

 

 

 

 

flyerEvent poster (to use: copy/paste into Microsoft Word or Publisher. Adjust size and print)

handout
Handouts (to use: copy/paste into Microsoft Word or Publisher. Adjust size and print)

donation-box
Donation Box Label (to use: copy/paste into Microsoft Word or Publisher. Resize and print)

Book Review: Wear No Evil by Greta Eagan

wear-no-evilI know I’ve been on a kick lately talking about Fair Trade, but I really feel that opportunity is the key to poverty and hunger alleviation. And I think that there is something we can do about it. During the month of October, I will be posting daily on the Food Shelf Friday Facebook page about different resources to help you with your holiday shopping. I’ll be showcasing fair trade companies and ways that your spending can do good. Follow Food Shelf Friday on Facebook (be sure you turn on notifications!), or search hashtag #FSFShoptober.

In addition to that new resource, I also have a quick book review for you – Wear No Evil by Greta Eagan.

Greta Eagan is a fashion insider. But the more she learned about the industry, the more she became alarmed at what a broken system the fashion industry has become. In the past, most people owned just a handful of outfits, and cared for them to get as much out of their clothing as possible. Clothes were handed down, altered, and fabrics were repurposed. Today, we own tons of clothing items, and we freely toss them when they get worn, or when we just get bored of them. Clothes used to be made by artisans, from quality materials (especially designer clothes). Today they’re made of cheap materials, artificial dyes, and toxic synthetic fibers by underpaid workers in unsafe conditions. Even high-cost designer clothes are made this way. Manufacturers’ standards have fallen in order to keep profits high.

It’s more than just fair trade labor practices. Our wasteful fashion choices use tons of water, fill landfills with waste, and pollute the environment with burning fossil fuels and toxic dyes. Wear No Evil identifies sixteen factors we should look for in our clothing choices:

– Natural/Low Impact Dyes – Dyes that are not toxic to the environment
– Natural Fibers – Synthetic fibers don’t biodegrade
– Organic – Fibers grown without using chemicals like pesticides and synthetic fertilizers
– Fair Trade – The growers and workers were paid a fair wage at every stage of the production process
– Recycled/Upcycled – An item made from recycled fibers or repurposed parts of an old item
– Secondhand – An item that has belonged to someone else
– Local – Produced in the United States or sold by a local small business
– Social – A portion of the proceeds benefits a social cause
– Zero Waste – The production process is efficient so there is no waste
– Convertible – The item can be used in more than one way or for more than one occasion so you get more use out of it
– Vegan – There were no animal parts involved in the production of the item
– Low Water Footprint – Water-saving measures were used to minimize the amount of water required to grow the fibers or produce the item
– Transparent – The company is upfront about their process/supply chain/etc.
– Cradle to Cradle – The company has a plan for the item from production to recycling/repurposing
– Slow Fashion – The company values artistry and a well-thought out process
– Style – Do you like it? Does it fit your life?

That’s a lot. I know. You won’t find a single item that hits every goal, and quite frankly you probably don’t care about all of them anyway. Eagan suggests you start every purchase with the style questions: Do I love this? Does it suit my lifestyle? Then she suggests you pick three other goals that are important to you. When you consider a purchase that passes your style question, you can then consider if it meets your other top goals.

My top considerations, after style, are fair trade, second hand, and social. When I find an item I love, it has to be either fair trade, secondhand, or raise money for a cause I believe in. The more goals an item hits, the more likely I am to purchase. For example, I recently needed to buy some socks. I’m not getting socks secondhand, so I went looking for the style and size I needed from a company that uses fair trade practices. I found them at Pact, and in addition to being fair trade, they’re organic, natural cotton fibers, and my purchase supported the company’s social giving as well. Bonus!

The book gives you a really positive way to consider ethical shopping without getting overwhelmed. Eagan suggests that you keep the items you have and love, and care for them as well as possible. She recommends doing less shopping. And she recommends that you shop your priorities rather than getting hung up on the impossible search for the socially, environmentally, and economically perfect item.

The downside of this book is that the first half, talking about the goals and the importance of each one, is timeless, but the second half, a look at current fashion and designers, won’t be up to date for long (it came out in 2014). There are lots of great designers and websites suggested all throughout, but that info will get outdated.  If you’re looking to make some changes to your buying habits, it’s a great starting point. But it’s going to show its age in just a couple years.

What are your favorite ethical retailers? Share in the comments!