September 6, 2014

The Village Mercantile—Knoxville

vill merc A friend of mine recently asked me if I shop at salvage stores as a way to save money on groceries and household supplies.  When I said yes, she told me that I needed to make a trip to a local store in the Fountain City part of town called The Village Mercantile.  She raved about some of the deals she had scored, and she was especially happy to find organic and natural food products available at a fraction of the cost elsewhere. 

I phoned and spoke with one of the owners, Monica, about their store.  She told me a little about their place and welcomed me to stop in when I was in the area.   I did just that last week and, in spite of our 18 month old cutting the trip shorter than I would have liked, I enjoyed my experience. 

What you’ll find—

  • Great prices.  Yes, couponers can score deodorant and toothpaste for free, but I have been finding those deals fewer and farther between lately.  I’m not sure if it is that my shopping habits and purchases have changed or that couponing itself has made a shift or a little of both, but my stockpile of freebies is smaller than it once was.  Couponing is only one part of the grocery shopping equation, and places like The Village Mercantile help to reduce costs when coupons aren’t cutting it.  Baby food for 50cts each, organic cereal for around $1, canned goods for half the price of mainstream grocery stores—I’m in!

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  • Excellent customer service.  Monica and Amy were so helpful.  Since I’ve been finding myself more and more frustrated by the service I’ve been receiving at larger grocery stores, their kindness was refreshing.  Bonus—they never once scowled at me for the baby being super fussy and into everything.  ;)
  • Since the store sells salvage and surplus items, you never know exactly what gems you might find while there.  It pays to visit frequently to see what they offer from week to week.  
  • Some items are slightly past the expiration date, but as many of us who preserve food know, those dates are not hard and fast rules.  If you are picky about expiration and sell by dates, you might want to check products before purchasing.  Things like soap and toilet paper aren’t a problem, and there are plenty of non-food items from which to choose.  If you would like to learn more about sell by and use by dates, ask the owners.  When I spoke with Monica, she was very well versed in the literature about the topic. 
  • You won’t find refrigerated, frozen, or fresh vegetable/fruit items at the store.
  • Their Beanstalk Soy Candles are for sale, and they are a nice addition to your next gift or hostess basket.


To learn more, I encourage you to check out their Facebook page and stop in when you are next in Fountain City.  Happy Shopping!

September 1, 2014

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins


I tried a few recipes before I came up with this one for pumpkin muffins.  Most of the recipes I found in my cookbooks or on the internet came out heavy or tasteless, so I tweaked them and came up with the one listed below.  This one uses mostly wholesome ingredients and was still light and yummy.   I hope you enjoy them as much as we have!

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins

2 cups whole wheat flour (I use soft whole wheat)
1 t. baking soda
½ t. salt
1 t. ground cinnamon
½ t. ground ginger
¼ t. ground cloves
¼ t. ground nutmeg
¾ c. packed brown sugar
¼ c. molasses
¼ c. coconut oil
2 eggs
1 c. canned pumpkin
¾ c. buttermilk (I use Cruze Farm buttermilk)

Mix dry ingredients together in one bowl. Mix wet ingredients together in a separate bowl. Mix dry and wet together. Fill greased muffin cups about ¾ full and bake at 400 degrees for approx 15 minutes.

August 24, 2014

Whole Wheat Muffins with Natural Sweetener

I have been trying to make a double batch of muffins each weekend since school started.  We enjoy a few hot out of the oven, save some for breakfasts early in the week, and freeze the rest for mornings when we need a fast meal.  Last night I came up with this recipe that was a big hit with the family. 

muffin photo 4 cups whole wheat flour (I prefer soft whole wheat)
2 T. baking powder
1 t. salt
½ t. cinnamon
1 stick butter, softened (1/2 cup)
2 c. whole milk (room temp is preferred)
3 eggs (room temp is preferred)
1 c. maple syrup (room temp is preferred)
1-2 cups blueberries (if frozen, defrost first)—you can substitute other berries

Mix dry ingredients and set ¼ cup of mixture to the side. Mix wet ingredients together in a separate bowl. Defrost berries if using frozen and mix the ¼ c of the flour mixture with the berries. This step helps to keep the berries from sinking to the bottom of the muffins. Mix all ingredients together and fill greased muffin cups. Bake at 325 for approx 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from center.

February 20, 2014

What a plumbing crisis reminded me about life

Our home has been faced with a major plumbing crisis recently.  It has been a heck of an experience—costly, stressful, poorly timed, and lengthy.  As I was awake at about 2am thinking about all that has happened and will happen this week with the plumbing, I came back to the life lessons that I mention below. 

1.  God is in charge.  Sometimes when I’m helping people through crisis, I find it important to divide out the parts of the struggle that we can control and what we can’t.  I believe that what we can’t control, what we can’t do anything about, is best to leave in God’s hands. 

Earlier this week our daughter was having a very difficult time with teething.  I was barely functioning with limited sleep and the stress of a fussy, crying baby most hours of the day.  On top of that, we were faced with not having access to water in half of our home (the half that controls the kitchen, dishwasher, and laundry).  I wasn’t in check of my emotions and allowed myself to slip into that hopeless place—the one where you begin to think that there is no way that things will get any better and you become frustrated, anxious, angry, and sad.  After making the rest of our family miserable with my rotten mood, I went to bed and prayed and prayed and prayed.  I turned over the teething, the lack of sleep, the emotions, the plumbing issues all over to God.  Yes, the baby still woke up a few times, but I managed to get more sleep that night.  She had a much better day the next day, and I was better able to put the plumbing experience in context and think logically about it. 

God has a plan, even when we do not think that he does.  There is a song by one of my favorite artists, J.J. Heller that says, “I don’t know what you are doing, but I know who you are.”  I think that applies in almost every problem area of our lives.  We may not be able to see the plan in all of it, but if we believe, we know that God is working in all of it.  Remember Romans 8:28.

2.  Rely on your spouse.  I am forever grateful that God gave me the husband that he did.  He is kind, patient, understanding, strong, competent, funny, intelligent—I could go on and on.  Stressful situations in marriage can either pull you apart or draw you into one another.  I confess that with all the stress I mentioned above I wasn’t as patient and kind with him as he was with me.  He was strong enough for the both of us, and at that point I knew that things would be ok.  Sometimes marriage is like that—sometimes one partner carries the load when the other can’t.  He is unwavering, and I’m so grateful that I have him as my partner for life.

3.  Build an emergency fund.  Even if all you can save is $5 a week, do that.  Put money in reserve for a rainy day. Believe me, it will eventually rain.  Sure, you can spend that $5 on a nice latte or magazine, but I bet when you are faced with an emergency dental procedure, need of car repairs, or plumbing problem you will be very glad that you put that money into savings instead.  Build your emergency fund by using coupons, earning money through consignment sales, taking a part time job, or bartering for services or goods with friends.

We will not choose to tackle a few projects and goals this year because of this plumbing problem.  Yes, we could put them on credit, or even take the money out of our savings—we choose to not have debt and to have enough of a cushion in our savings that when emergencies like this come up we can address them. 

4.  When faced with problems, consider it an opportunity for learning.  I often encourage people who have recently been through a crisis to reflect on what they learned from the experience.  Sometimes they learn that they are a lot more resilient and strong than they ever knew.  Sometimes they learn something about the people in their lives or the world around them. 

As I mentioned, we have not had use of our kitchen sink or dishwasher.  Unfortunately, we had some unwashed dishes at the time of the plumbing problem.  Even with using paper products this week, there have also been other dishes that needed washing.  I have taken the dishes and washed them in that bathroom sink.  Each time I do, I think of other mothers and wives across the world.  I think of those in areas of Africa who must walk miles each day to get water for their families.  I think of the homeless women I pass who sometimes sleep under bridges with no running water.  I think of women escaping domestic violence and living in a motel with their children until they can find housing.  I think of my great grandmothers and great, great grandmothers who fed, bathed, and cleaned for their families with limited or no access to plumbing. 

What I have learned is that most women will do anything for the good of their family.  I happily clean the dishes in my bathroom sink (yes, I use hot water and lots of soap to get them sanitary!) because it means that my family is fed and cared for.  I am humbled and grateful because I at least have that as an option and reflect on so many who do not have even that. 

5.  Let gratitude take over.  The day after the long prayer session I found my gratitude rock on my bathroom counter. It is a rock (or any symbol) that you put somewhere that you will come across it multiple times a day.  Each time you do reflect on the blessings and positives in your life.  I realized when I saw the rock that gratitude is a choice.  I chose to look at all of the blessings that we have and to remind myself that “This too shall pass.”  The way we look at situations in our lives is a choice.  I fail. I stumble.  I make a fool out of myself plenty of times.  I don’t always choose wisely.  Instead of giving up, I try better the next day and the next.  I make those choices “One day at a time” and eventually the crisis has passed, the problem is solved, and life continues.