New Year’s Resolutions You Can Keep

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new year resolutionIt’s that time of year when we make promises to ourselves in the hopes of making life better. Did you know that only 8% of Americans actually achieve their New Year’s resolution? In fact by the fourth week of January only 64% of us are still working to achieve the goal we’ve set. Maybe that’s why 55% of us infrequently or absolutely never make a New Year’s resolution to begin with.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

I’m no stranger to making major changes and I’m certainly not opposed to embarking on new adventures, but I also realize that small successes give us momentum to tackle bigger changes with confidence. Instead of resolving to lose 30 pounds or pay off $50,000 in debt, what about starting with a simpler resolution? The feeling of success you’ll get from making it into the elite 8% just might give you the chutzpa needed to tackle your bigger goals. Here are four New Year’s resolutions I think you can complete like a boss.

Make Your Own Laundry Soap

Why

powder laundry detergentYou should make your own laundry detergent because it’s cheaper and more natural. In general, laundry detergent available on the grocery store shelf contains “a cocktail of potent cancer-causing chemicals, some of which the manufacturer doesn’t even have to list on the label. This loophole reduces the odds that you’ll ever discover what’s in there. Not only are these chemicals potentially damaging to your health, but they are also contaminating waterways and harming the environment.” (source)

Those unnecessary ingredients also make store-bought detergent unnecessarily expensive. As you’ll see at the end of this article, you could be washing your clothes for pennies a load without sacrificing cleaning power.

How

Last year I wrote a blog post describing the simple process of creating your own laundry soap. For instructions, click here. I’ve had good success with this recipe although I sometimes doubt how well the powdered version is working in my cold water loads. Solutions include dissolving the soap in a half cup of warm water before adding it to the wash and creating liquid laundry soap, which I’m going to attempt later in January.

How Long To Win

In an hour or less you can make enough laundry soap to last the entire year. Get right on this (before the close of January) and you’ll be one of those prestigious Americans who faced the resolutions-monster and won!

Transition to Natural Sweeteners

Why

baking trick for measuring honeyWell… duh. It’s pretty hard to argue that more-natural is less-healthy. And since a significant percentage of resolutions made revolve around health and well-being, it’s hard to argue that Americans aren’t interested in being healthier.

The thing is… sugar is delicious. And addictive. And readily available. Trust me – I struggle constantly with a sweet tooth! Fortunately I live with a fabulous family that has been supportive of gradually transitioning to sweeteners that are less-processed than the white (or brown) sugar you can pick up in the baking aisle.

It’s taken us time to get here. I used to hate the taste of honey. Now I sweeten my plain yogurt with it daily. It wasn’t until I started trying to eat real maple syrup that I realized how different it tastes from Log Cabin… and that I didn’t care for the real stuff as much. (That’s also when I realized that most store-bought maple syrup is actually maple-flavored corn syrup.) It took persistence to retrain my taste buds, but the transition has been worth it. We now buy honey in bulk (I currently have a one year supply on hand) because we use it so much.

How

For a guide to finding and using natural sweeteners, check out this article from Nourished Kitchen.

You can learn more about cooking and baking with honey by checking out this post.

How Long To Win

We tend to believe the adage that it takes 21 days to change a habit. More recent research and thought suggests it may take more like 45 days – with an especially critical 14 day withdrawal stage at the beginning. Similarly, the pace at which you can change your tastes in food is heavily related to your mental mindset toward the new (and old) food; it can take months. With a positive perspective and daily consistency, you can probably get there in 3 to 6 months.

Drink Raw Milk

Why

glass of milkResearch – both scientific and anecdotal – suggests that raw milk has several health benefits not retained by its pasteurized counterpart. Or perhaps a more accurate way to say it is that pasteurized milk has been altered in ways that reduce its health benefits and, in some cases, actually cause the milk to be more harmful than healthful. The general premise is that raw milk contains proteins, antibodies, a perfect balance of minerals and good bacteria that are destroyed, altered or diminished during the heating process of pasteurization. In addition to all of these health benefits, many people (myself included) think that raw milk has a superior flavor and texture to pasteurized, homogenized milk. For a more in-depth discussion of the pros and cons, as well as scientific support, check out my post on raw milk by clicking here.

How

The State of Michigan has currently outlawed the sale of raw milk. That’s sad, because it is so much healthier than the alternative white beverage we like to pretend is still milk. However, the State has not yet gone so far as to ban drinking raw milk from your own cow, goat, etc. So currently the only way to drink raw milk is to own your own animal. Don’t worry – you don’t have to run out and buy a cow (and hope your neighbors won’t notice the mooing from your garage). Instead, you can lease a cow from a local farmer. This arrangement is called a herdshare and it typically involves a boarding fee (for the care of your cow) and share fees (which cover the cost of milk). You lease the cow and you pay a farmer to do the work for you. For a list of resources in Southwest Michigan (including prices) click here.

If you live outside Southwest Michigan you can still find sources at www.realmilk.com.

How Long To Win

Spend an hour doing some research. Find a couple of vendors and call them with your questions. Pick a farm and send off your first payment. With two hours or less invested you’ll be winning at this New Year’s resolution thing long before January ends. Carve out some time on that to-do list early in the month to make sure you win!

Compost at Home

Why

Dumping Compost Onto Cardboard in Raised BedComposting – the process whereby organic matter is decomposed – is a beautiful thing. The process takes material that would otherwise be waste (and possibly end up in a landfill) and turns it into something very valuable and usable – rich soil. Compost contains nutrients and micro-organisms that are beneficial for plant growth. Compost can be used as a soil conditioner and/or fertilizer in your home garden. Did you know that plants “eat” nutrients from the soil and can deplete those nutrients over time? Composting at home means that you can make use of your table scraps (like apple cores and carrot peelings) and yard waste (like fall leaves and grass clippings) to keep your kitchen garden happy and healthy within a mutually-beneficial system. Even if you don’t have a vegetable garden, compost will work wonders on your flower beds or simply spread out over your lawn.

How?

Composting is easy. Composting requires a few components: Fuel, micro-organisms and heat. Your food and yard scraps provide the fuel, micro-organisms magically show up (kind of) and though initial warmth invites them, those magic bacteria will supply their fair share of heat.

Molika Ashford at Live Science says it well:

“It may seem almost like a magic trick: leftover veggies from last night’s dinner and yard debris go into a pile, and nutrient-rich fertilizer comes out. But that’s what happens in an outdoor compost pile. Microbes, worms, snails, insects and fungi decompose organic material aerobically, which means they use oxygen as they breakdown the materials in the pile. Bacteria are the powerhouse of a compost pile. They break down plant matter and create carbon dioxide and heat. Run-of-the-mill microbes usually start off the process, but as their consumption of the compost materials raises the temperature of the pile, heat-loving microorganisms take over. Compost can get up to 100 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (40-60 degrees Celsius) as it brews.

Larger critters such as worms, slugs and insects also digest the decomposing matter, pooping out finished compost as they munch their way through. Their secretions improve compost’s texture, binding small particles into larger crumbly bits.”

You can compost anything that was once alive. However some items work better than others. Vegetable and fruit scraps, cleaned egg shells, used tea bags, fall leaves, grass clippings, weeds from the garden and coffee grounds all work well. You should avoid items such as flour, sugar, bread (or anything containing yeast), meat, bones, eggs or dairy. These items can produce foul odors and attract pests.

In Michigan and other cold-weather-states, there may not be enough initial warmth available to start composting outdoors this January. No worries!

You could start small with a bin for food scraps like this one

stainless steel compost bin

Or you could start vermicomposting

I've Got Worms (4)

Or you could setup a full outdoor system using winter-composting advice found here….

compost-winter-300

In warm weather states, just toss your organic matter into a pile. Turn it every few days to allow for adequate oxygen flow and even heating. Then just stand back and watch while last night’s left-over mashed potatoes turns into what gardeners call black gold.

How Long To Win

Setting up your system can be super easy, especially if you start with the counter-top stainless steel container. You might need to invest an hour or so of setup if you pick another route. Otherwise, this one is all about forming a new habit – tossing your food scraps into the compost rather than the trash. Give yourself 45 days. Your sweetheart will be congratulating you on your New Year’s resolution success round about the time Valentine’s Day rolls around.

Tips for Winning

Despite the more bite-sized effort needed to successfully tackle these resolutions, you’ll still need some willpower and careful planning to get you across the finish line. Here are some tips to help you along the way.

  1. Write it down. Having a written plan is proven to help people achieve their goals. Post your goal somewhere that you’ll see it – on the fridge, you bathroom mirror, in your car, etc.
  2. Tell somebody. A little accountability goes a long way.
  3. Be yourself. If you could care less about whether or not you eat processed sugar, don’t try to change just because of some ethereal idea that you should “be healthier.” Pick something you’re actually interested in doing.
  4. Start again. If you fail, try again. All of these resolutions have a relatively quick turnaround. If you reach the third week of January and find that you’re slipping (or have completely fallen away) from your goal, start over. It won’t be long until victory is yours!
  5. Keep it simple.  Take one day at a time. As I mentioned, these are quick-turnaround goals. Just focus on sticking to your plan each day and before you know it, one day will melt into 45.

What do you think? Can you pull off one of these micro-sized resolutions? (Hint: The answer is yes… a resounding yes. Go for it… you got this!)

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