Aldi for the Gluten Free Win!

Gluten Free on a Budget at www.thesoutherninstitute.com
Let me start this post by letting you know that it is not sponsored by Aldi, lol. I promise that no one is paying me to write this. I just want to let you all know when I’ve discovered a good thing… and apparently I’m late catching this train anyway.

I’ve never been an Aldi shopper in the past. There is an Aldi grocery store not 8 minutes from my home, but from where I come from, their reputation is less than stellar, if you know what I mean, so I have always stayed away. When living with a picky “restricted-gluten” eater, such as my six year old son is, you quickly realize that shopping for gluten-free product at the larger chain stores can be quite taxing on the wallet. Over a year or so ago I started seeing pictures on Instagram of several gluten free and (also organic) products that people were buying at Aldi! Imagine my surprise! I had been avoiding the place, but they were selling gluten free and organic foods? Hmmm.

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Still I didn’t go. Clearly I’m a stubborn person.

Fast forward to about a year later and I’m in my friend’s kitchen. She’s showing me all of these gluten free foods that she got at (you guessed it) Aldi. They have an entire line called liveGfree! So, I’m checking out the ingredients and noticing that many of them are even organic, and the majority of them are the same as the ingredients in the more expensive counterparts that I’ve been buying at the bigger chains (ahem, Whole Foods). Now I’m feeling a little bit foolish. I have to check out Aldi now.

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I’m never turning back! Because not only have I found several of the gluten free foods that I buy on a regular basis at much higher prices elsewhere, but I’ve also found things like bacon, kefir, organic frozen berries, cheese, and a few other items that are way cheaper than I’ve been paying! I make gluten free pizza from store bought mixes (cheaper at Aldi) and pancakes from ready made mixes as well (again, cheaper at Aldi), so I decided to try their pizza mix and the family loved the crust. WIN! I have seen our grocery bill come down and I’m happy about it! Last week organic blue corn tortilla chips were on sale for 99 cents per bag!!! Are you kidding me?!?!? I wanted to buy all of them! But I only have very limited space in our kitchen, so I only got two bags. Aldi has me and my husband seriously thinking about purchasing an extra refrigerator so that we can take advantage of sales and stock up on things when they are cheap.

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I love their Simply Nature line of products because they have created a whole line of foods that are free from all of the things that healthy eaters avoid. Consumers are becoming more educated about what is in what they eat and they don’t want to see things such as acesulfame-K, nitrates and nitrites, and high fructose corn syrup in their foods. Simply Nature leaves all of those things and MANY MORE out! Take a look at this list. Are you as impressed as I am?

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Go Aldi! You’ve won me over.

Do you shop at Aldi already? What are your favorite deals that you have found there?

Sewing To Sell and Tips for Small Business Finances.

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I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there are a lot of people trying to sell their handmade wares in the market place these days. I’m sure this has been happening for decades, but now more than ever there is a trend toward handmade, artisan crafts. More and more people of all ages are taking up sewing and crafts and giving it a go at selling what they’ve made (including my eleven year old daughter!) and I think it’s amazing and awesome! Whether it’s on Etsy, Big Cartel, Folksy, at craft fairs in your town or through your own blog, it’s easier than ever to be creative and make money doing it! Sewing to Sell, by my friend Virginia Lindsay is a wonderful book if this is something that you have always dreamed of doing. In Sewing To Sell, Virginia takes you through everything that you need to know to start your own small business making things that you love, including several projects that you can make to get started! She also touches on something really important…the business side of it all.

One of the things that a lot of creative people don’t tend to want to address is the financial side of creating and selling…who does, really? The fun part is the sewing, the crafting, the creating, right? The part that is not so fun is the business side of things. I’ve put together a few tips for you as you embark on your handmade business, or think about starting one. Virginia touches on a few more in the book.

Keep Track of Every Single Expense.

You can make this as simple or as complicated as you want, really. If you know your way around a spreadsheet than you can have a ball creating one to record all your expenses relating to your business. I am not good with a spreadsheet. I use a good old-fashioned filing system! Yep, that’s right. I keep every receipt and every invoice in a file folder. It’s primitive but it works for me.

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Do you have a website dedicated to your business? Keep track of the hosting expenses! Even if it’s part of your blog, keep track of the money you spend on hosting. Did you hire anyone to create a logo for you or to design your site for you? Keep track of that expense as well. Do you sew as part of your business? Record what you have spent on all of your supplies- all of them! Do you have business cards? Keep track of that expense. Did you outgrow your old sewing machine and need to upgrade? That’s a business expense. It’s tax-deductible. Did you drive to the local Kinkos to pick up business cards? Record your mileage to and from… it’s tax deductible too! Did you drive to the craft fair in another town to sell your goods? Record the miles! There are handy smart phone apps to help you! timr is a free time and mileage tracker for iPhone. MileIQ is a free mileage tracker and mileage log that I have used… it’s super handy! Are you getting the idea? Any thing that you do that has to do with your business should be tracked and recorded. If you have a dedicated sewing room in your home you can claim that as a home office and receive tax breaks for that! Did you know that? Shipping expenses… keep receipts. That includes envelopes, bubble wrap, twine, tissue paper, postage, and mileage to and from the post office. Keep. Track. Of. Everything.

Open a Separate Account For Your Business.

Here’s the deal. If you make more than $600 selling your handmade items during the fiscal year, you must file taxes with the IRS. Keeping track of all of your expenses and income is very important. One easy way to keep track of your small business’s finances is to open a Paypal account that is dedicated to your business. Set all sale income to be paid into that account. This is really easy with Etsy, which I have used. When customers pay, it is automatically paid into your Paypal account.

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Use a Paypal debit card.

You will be issued a Paypal debit card connected to your business account. You can use your Paypal debit card for all of your business expenses and Paypal will keep a record of all of the money that goes in and out of your Paypal account. This is a great way to keep your business’s finances straight and in one place. You can print reports straight from Paypal when you need them.

Hire an Accountant!

When I created the Sew Fab Sale a couple of years ago, I did not think about the tax side of the whole endeavor. I had a host of pattern designers contributing to the sale, and altogether in 2013 the sale brought in tens of thousands of dollars. The majority of that money was paid to the designers in commissions. At the end of the year when Paypal sent me a 1099 for over $80k I completely freaked out! The 1099 was in my name, but I had paid all of that money to other people (subcontractors). My husband and I quickly realized that we were way out of out league regarding our taxes. Up until this past year we had done them ourselves. Now I was having to report expenses and account for all of that money that had gone out. Whether your business makes $600 or $100,000 you are responsible to report it to the IRS. If you aren’t sure what you are doing, hire someone who does know what they are doing… it’s worth it.

Best of luck following your dreams! Don’t let all of this talk of finances scare you. Just do your best to keep track of your business finances as you start out and it will all become second nature to you as your business grows!

Essential Oils for Immune Support.

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‘Tis the season to be… sick. Ick. Yep, it has been going around our home too. This season it seems as if there are more sick people than in years past. I hope that you and you family have been able to avoid everything that has been going around.

While I cannot make claims that essential oils can heal sicknesses or cure diseases, what I can do is share what essential oils can do do support your immune system and the other systems of your body. I can tell you, absolutely beyond a doubt, that our family has been much healthier since we started using essential oils, even through the cold and flu season so far.

Here’s the deal. We use chiropractic care and essential oils, supplements, and frequent hand washing as our main source of prevention when it comes to sickness all year long. Our family has not gotten the flu shot in several years. In fact, our six year old has never gotten the flu shot in his life. I wish I could say that we reduced our sugar intake significantly too, but honestly, we eat more sugar than normal during the flu season, which is not smart, but it’s just so hard to turn down the hot cocoa, cookies, and candy canes! When we feel something coming on we most definitely cut out the sugar as much as we can, however. There have been a couple of times when we thought that one of the kids had the flu, but the tests have proven otherwise. We have been very thankful to have avoided catching it.

We know that there are certain essential oils and blends that support our immunity, so we use those regularly during this time of the year. DoTerra’s OnGuard is one of the blends that we use just about every day. I have a rollerball of diluted On Guard that I apply to our feet in the mornings before we put our shoes and socks on and head out of the door. We also use Melaleuca (commonly known as Tea Tree Oil) on a regular basis to support our health. I have been taking the LifeLong Vitality Supplements as well, which I LOVE! They have made a big difference in my quality of life.

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When sickness does strike we find that our bodies are well equipped to fight it off naturally. Because we have been supporting our bodies with immune boosting practices, the severity and length of our sickness is much less! I’m talking 2-3 days versus the 4-7 days that we used to deal with. That’s a big difference!

Here are the oils that we go to when we have colds and congestion:

Breathe on the chest and back as well as on the bottoms of the feet, to support our respiratory systems
Melaleuca and Oregano on the bottoms of the feet. These two used together support your body’s ability to fight bacterial infections.
Cardamom on the chest for respiratory support.
On Guard diffused in the air to purify the air and support the immune system.

There are so many more essential oils and oil blends that can be used for immune and health support at this time of the year. To find out more, join us at The Oily Institute Facebook Group. It’s so easy to get started with essential oils. You can start seeing a difference in your family’s health right away, so don’t wait!