I don’t know about you, but for me October is the unofficial kick-off to what is traditionally considered the “busiest season of the year” for many of us. The weather has noticeably started to change, retailers and advertisers have started to let us all know we only have a limited time left to prepare for all that is coming and the cozy, festive feelings (with a bit of Halloween scare thrown in to keep us in check!) start to remind us that another year is coming to a close…..

I am a Summer Baby through and through and the change in seasons always makes me a little sad….I could live on the beach with my feet in the water and my butt in the sand and never regret it!  But, I also LOVE Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I know….make up your mind lady! The magic of the holiday season has always been something I look forward to.  Thanksgiving feels like the start of it.  And the magic of Christmas is very different now that I have children.  And this year, 2020 amidst a global pandemic, it is all feeling very different indeed.  The way advertisers and retailers are marketing, how we’re planning and what we have in mind for the season ahead.  

I was approached a few weeks ago to be a featured contributor in another blog with a number of other entrepreneurs about how we plan to celebrate this year in the face of 2020.  Reading how others have changed their plans and what new traditions they plan to create got me thinking about some of my favourite things about this season as well.  There is a bit (ok, probably a lot for most of us) of sadness when we think about what we might not be able to do this year, but we have also been given the opportunity to slow down, take a look at what we DO have and appreciate it all the more.

Over the last few years, Thanksgiving has been one of the weekends I look forward to the most.  My husband usually has all of his year’s vacation time to still use up (he’s a company man through and through and lets his staff take all of their holidays before he does!) so he has often used a vacation day to take the Friday before Thanksgiving off and uses another 4 days to take the week following Thanksgiving.  Which gives us 10 days for the cost of only one of his weeks of vacation! 

We use some of that time to make a plan for the rest of the year, and for the last few years, (with the exception of last year and now this year) we’ve also made a trip out to my best friend’s house (and to her mum’s in years past) with our girls to celebrate together.  It has honestly been my favourite part of Thanksgiving over the last decade!  I think we started this semi-tradition when I was expecting my oldest daughter and she’ll be 10 in January! 

There are some people in your life who just feel like home and these girls and their mum (and now one of their hubbys as well) are my “home”, our friendfamily, for sure.  We would spend the better part of the entire weekend outside….in the garden with the last of the veggies to harvest, in the barn with the horses, hiking through the woods around their house with the dogs, and in recent years, learning about keeping honeybees! 

Amidst the outdoor time, we’d share amazing food, laugh for hours and likely enjoy a few glasses of wine.  And it never felt like anyone was stressing about getting things done.  We flowed through the weekend at our own pace (although now that I am a mum I can definitely say I appreciate my bestie’s mum for all that she has done over the years to make us all feel welcome!) and enjoyed each other’s company without expectation.  I think this is part of why it has been one of my most enjoyed weekends of the last few years.  No expectation.  No rushing.  No stressing.  We all contributed food to the communal pile, we all took turns preparing and cleaning up and we all got to enjoy each other because no one person was in charge of everything.  And I think we can all take some advice from that when we look at preparing for the “busy” season ahead of us! 

 

Jess’ 5 Tips for Making the Most of the Busy Holiday Season:

  1. Delegate or plan potluck style events so that no one person is responsible for all of it. Who will bring what food and drink? Is someone going to be in charge of desserts?  Will someone be setting the table or will it be more like a buffet?  Who will be the one playing with the kids while the food is prepped? Are the kids old enough to participate in some of these jobs?
  2. Be mindful of EXPECTATION. This one can be hard and is often a large contributor to stress and overwhelm!  There can be a general plan (we know we’ll need food and drinks etc) but try not to hold too hard and fast to a schedule or build up what you expect an event to look like so you are less likely to stress out about things “not going to plan”.  Also, don’t hold yourself to someone else’s expectation either!  Just because someone else thinks you should do something one way or another does not mean you have to!  And if you find that someone or something doesn’t work for you, it is perfectly ok to say no!
  3. Work together! When everyone takes a turn in the food prep, serving and cleaning up,  again, no one person is responsible for all of it.  This can also help to not exclude anyone from the fun part of the holidays.  If you are always the one doing the washing up you’re the one stuck in the kitchen with your hands in wash water while everyone else relaxes over pumpkin pie and mulled wine….
  4. Find “shortcuts” where you can. This is where Epicure has been a massive help to me!  Meal solutions, baking mixes and ready-made blends for desserts, hot drinks and appetizers means less overall work required to bring a meal together.  Make use of tools like slow cookers and sheetpan recipes to cut down on prep, dishes and hands-on cooking time.  Prep ahead when you can so that things can be reheated for serving rather than trying to cook it all at once.
  5. GRATITUDE! One of my favourite parts about our Thanksgiving meal with my bestie and her family has been our tradition of going around the table before we start to eat to share what we are grateful for – in that moment, for the week or month or year we’ve had, the people, places or experiences.  It has been something we’ve all enjoyed and all taken away from the table with us when our meal was done.  To be grateful for who we are with and what we have while we’re in it makes it all so much less overwhelming.  Appreciate those people and situations who make you feel like “home”.

 

If you hang out with me long enough, you’ll get to know that I genuinely believe the Direct Sales industry (or Network Marketing, or Multilevel Marketing depending on who you talk to….) is an opportunity for anyone to look into! It is an opportunity to work for yourself, to create something out of something you’re already passionate about and opens the door to all kinds of other learning and growth opportunities! Not to mention, for some it can be an amazing way to bolster or replace an income!!
These days, I am sure you know someone online that you’ve seen sharing a product they like. Most direct sales companies offer a competitive startup cost making the “getting started” part fairly simple and low-risk. But did you know, in Canada alone, there are more than 100 different direct sales companies offering products ranging from books, crafts, toys, food, makeup and jewellery to health products, cleaning supplies, food, cookware and so many more! While you’re out in the digital world perusing opportunities, keep these things in mind:

1. Is the product you are considering something you are already passionate about or enjoy using?
If you aren’t already using it, what about it draws you in and makes you think you’d want to represent the product or company? If you wouldn’t be comfortable using it every day, or talking to the people you love and trust the most about using it, maybe it’s not the product for you! That’s not to say that the people you love and trust will support your decision either way, but if you couldn’t imagine talking to them about it, you’ll find it even harder to talk to strangers about why you love and use it!

2. Is it a consumable product?When my husband and I were looking into choosing a direct sales company, this was one of his biggest questions (and consequently one of his biggest reasons for being on board with my decision to join Epicure!)

 As you grow your network, you’ll meet and work with people who will genuinely love your product. It is largely beneficial to choose something they will use up and need to replace regularly in order to maintain your business. If what you will be selling is a one and done or niche market product you may find it harder to maintain if you are always having to “sell” to new people every time.

3. Will you need to carry stock?
Is the contents of your startup kit really all you need to get into business or will you be required to order large amounts of product to display or sample? Are there seasonal changes that would require you to essentially buy a new kit every few months in order to have new stock to display? Will you be selling stock you’ve previously purchased (similar to consignment) or is your product shipped directly from your parent company to your customers? If there are seasonal changes to product availability are you expected to purchase all new product upfront?

4. Are there website fees?
These days most direct sales companies provide an ecommerce site for their representatives to use. Is it included in the cost of your startup kit? Are there monthly or annual renewal fees once your startup period is over?

5. Is there an autoship requirement for you or your customers?

Many companies offer an “insider” program where you receive product at a discounted price by signing up for their autoship program. What will that cost you? Autoship (whether it’s for you or your customers) will require a credit card and like the name suggests, will ship to you or your customers automatically every month. This is where representing a company with a consumable product comes in handy. Whether your company has an autoship requirement or you create something for your customers on your own, keep in mind that there is the possibility that you will end up with a lot of product sent to you, regardless of how engaged (or not) you may be with your business that month. Creating an autoship program for your customers may be a great way to guarantee regular re-order business every month but you will need to consider that the cost of commitment is fairly low so as not to be intimidating, and as already mentioned, a consumable product will help make this much easier to maintain.

6. What are the minimum requirements to stay active as a consultant?
Regardless of the company you choose, all direct sales companies will have an amount of product you are required to use or sell over a specified period in order to maintain your status as a consultant or representative. There are companies that require as much as $1000/month! With the company I currently represent, the requirements of $250/ 90 Days is fairly attainable. If you plan to advance within your company, it is also worth mentioning that you should look into the monthly requirements for the higher levels/ranks to know how much MORE you may be required to do as you promote. When you first start out, it can take some time to build a regular client base. Having large sales requirements right from the start can pose a challenge if you don’t already know a large network ready and willing to purchase from you.

7. What are the requirements for in-home or in-person events?
Some companies claim you can start immediately and work entirely “from your phone”. Others require that you hold in-person parties or attend live events. Some allow flexibility between both. While the company I currently represent still attributes the highest success rates for consultants who hold in-person live events, there is a growing opportunity for building a business online as well. And, at current press-time of May 2020, the world is navigating life inside a pandemic with the COVID-19 virus making in-person events an impossibility. Knowing how comfortable you are with both options will help you make a decision about how much work you are willing to put into building your network and community in order to be successful. If you don’t have a large local community, the option to build an online community will be crucial for your success. At this time, being able to do business entirely online with people because the product and company I represent is versatile enough to navigate between live events and virtual communities will be what makes my business sustainable. Be sure to truly understand what you may or may not be able to do with your products when choosing how you want to build your success.

8. Can you be your own host? If so, how often?
One of the perks of hosting a “party” for your friend in a direct sales company is that you earn rewards for doing so. You earn points or credit towards your purchase of products as an incentive for being the one to introduce the consultant to your network and inviting them into your home (either in person or virtually). As a consultant you may or may not have to opportunity to act as your own host. Essentially, as well as earning the commission for the product you physically sell, you can set yourself up as the host and earn the free and discounted product credits yourself. With the company I represent, I can set myself up as host every month if I wanted. So that when I have orders come in that are not associated with an open “party” or current host, I can add them to one I host myself, earn the rewards and use them to purchase free and discounted product for myself, my customers and hosts as give-aways or choose to give them away in a contest or to charity. Some companies will cap you on how often you can operate as your own host.

9. Does the company you are considering joining share the same values as you?
If you don’t align with the core values of how the company runs, you are not likely to succeed. Do they meet your level of social responsibility or corporate philanthropy? Do you already know representatives within the company who operate in a way that aligns with how you envision running your business? Are they family-owned or run by a corporation? Does that matter to you? How environmentally aware are they with their policies and procedures? Does that matter to you? Do you trust the person you are considering getting into business with?

10. And finally….this is a big one….Do you have support at home??
I have had this conversation with people often. The year I was a session speaker at our National conference it was part of my discussion. And it comes up when I talk with people in any direct sales company, not just the one I represent. If your partner, parents, grandma…whoever you live with really…doesn’t support your decision or your business you will find it significantly harder to succeed. Whether it’s support financially while you get your business going, support with children if you have them, support with maintaining the household so that you have time to work on your business, or just mental and emotional support for you and your choices, if you don’t have that at home this business will be hard. I am forever grateful for the support of my husband. We have 4 young children (and when I started my business we only had 3!) and without him as an ally at home and my biggest fan in business, I would not be where I am now. I have spoken with so many people who struggle with family or friends not understanding why they’ve chosen this industry (and I understand that too – not everyone will!) but if the person (or people) you live with and rely on most for support don’t understand it will be hard. Sometimes it just means finding what it is they need to know or see in order to understand why you do what you do. I know many women who needed to show their partner the money before they really got on board. Others need to know that they won’t be left by the wayside or always in charge of the children and household. Have these kinds of conversations before you choose direct sales!

If you’re interested in more info about what Epicure is all about I’d love to talk to you! Send me a message and we can chat, or read more about the business here. If you already love the idea of direct sales and want to jump in now that’s amazing! When you’re ready to jump in click here and start the process of signing up! I will be in touch to complete the process soon!

Jessica Crossan with greens

10 Easy Pantry Swaps to Try Now to Save $$ and Limit Processed Ingredients

Have you been looking for some easy DIY recipes or simple pantry items to swap out your traditional processed options? Well, look no further! These are some of my favourite and simplest swaps to make NOW for a happier and healthier pantry!

10 Easy Pantry Swaps to Try Now to Save Money and Limit Processed Ingredients

  1. Swap Soy Sauce for Coconut Aminos or fermented Tamari – significantly less sodium and sugar!
  2. Swap processed bread crumbs for some delicious and easy gluten-free options,  or make your own with dried bread ends or crushed nuts.  Homemade bread crumbs and croutons are quite possibly the easiest things you’ll ever make from scratch and once you do, you’ll NEVER buy them again!
  3. Swap Ketchup for an easy Home Made Version 
  4. Swap the Hellman’s for avocado mayo or make your own – check out the easy recipe here!
  5. Swap Sour Cream for Greek yogourt – Greek yogourt traditionally has less fat and more protein than sour cream (although, I love a creamy one made with full fat milk!) and is SO easy to make from scratch!  For the cost of a bag of milk and a few hours of hands off time, you can make it creamy, delicious and fresh at home!
  6. Swap traditional dairy for full-fat coconut milk (make sure the ingredients are coconut solids and water and nothing else) or make your own nut or seed milk – we learned to make almond/hemp/sesame seed milk and cashew milk around here when the baby was still allergic to traditional dairy.  They taste so much fresher, cost significantly less and generally have only two or three ingredients!
  7. Swap the Skippy or Kraft peanut butter for an organic nut-only version or use almond or sunflower seed butter. If you’re up for it, make your own!  Again, simple ingredients and simple process for some of the best tasting stuff you’ll ever try! No cheap fillers like canola oil and sugar either.
  8. Swap your shelf-stable salad dressings for fresh-made using your favourite Salad Dressing Mix and your choice of Evoo, Olive oil or avocado oil and vinegar of choice!  Save yourself 1/2 the fat, added sugar, sodium and hydrogenated oil!
  9. Swap store-bought salsa and guacamole for fresh-made in minutes and cut out the over-load of salt and sugar.
  10. Swap artificial sweeteners and processed white sugar for dates, organic cane sugar or coconut palm sugar.

Is Your Kitchen Well-stocked?

Ok, so you’re cooking at home A LOT lately.  You’re taking stock of what’s in the fridge, deep freezer and pantry and making decisions about what REALLY needs to be in that online grocery order (or maybe what’s in your produce delivery box!) or what you’re actually going to go into a store for!  So, here’s what I’m making sure I have hanging around here on any given day to make cooking at home every day that much easier!!  Having a well-stocked kitchen makes Everyday cooking so much easier and less stressful!  At this time of year I am super-excited that I will need to go to an actual store less and less as our CSA and local Farmer’s Market and our very own veggie garden will help supply most of our in-season fresh produce!

Pantry:

  • Dried pulses and lentils
  • Dried or canned beans – black beans, chickpeas, pinto beans, kidney beans etc (choose the ones you’re actually going to EAT!)
  • Rice (white, brown or wild – again, choose the ones you will actually eat!)
  • Grains – quinoa, millet, bulger etc
  • Pasta
  • Rice noodles, vermicelli or soba noodles (or all of them!)
  • Nuts (if you can have them in your home!) – almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, pine nuts
  • Seeds – flax (whole and ground, but keep in mind ground are easier to digest but should be kept in the fridge/freezer once opened!), chia, sesame (calcium!), sunflower, pumpkin
  • Nut or seed butter you prefer – almond, cashew, sunflower seed, tahini
  • Tinned tomatoes – chopped, crushed and paste (no salt added, organic and BPA free cans!)
  • Oils – EVOO, olive, coconut, avocado
  • Vinegars – Apple Cider, red wine, Balsamic
  • Broth – Epicure has you covered so you don’t need to fill the pantry with tetrapacks full of sodium, canola oil and artificial colours!
  • Condiments – make your own when you can! I have some great DIY recipes for ketchup, mayo and salsa!
  • Tinned meat – tuna (not too much for mercury concerns!), salmon, sardines
  • Flour – brown rice, buckwheat, almond or regular organic unbleached white flour + whole wheat flour
  • Sugar – coconut sugar for dry sugar and honey or pure maple syrup when dry sugar isn’t necessary
  • Dried fruit
  • Other baking ingredients – baking powder, baking soda, salt
  • Coconut milk
  • Protein Powder

Deep Freezer:

  • Frozen veggies
  • Frozen fruit – berries, avocado, pineapple, mango
  • Frozen meats

Cold Storage

  • Onions/shallots/garlic
  • Potatoes/Sweet potatoes
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Squash
  • Long-lasting fruit like apples, bananas, grapes

Fridge:

  • Citrus – lemons & limes especially come in handy for making dressings, marinades, condiments and sauces!
  • Celery (store with cut ends in a tall jar of water for longest life)
  • Cabbage
  • Leeks
  • Eggs
  • Lettuces and greens
  • Milk or non-dairy

 

Notes 

If you’re looking for a great way to have amazing, local meat delivered, check out truLocal and use PROMO code JESSICA3349 for $25 off your first order!

Need a CSA (community supported agriculture) program to take part in and are in the Bradford ON area of Canada?  Seed to Feed Co, Holland Marsh Food Market and Springh Farms are all amazing!

Find a local, small business to support if you can for your pantry staples.  I love Nancy’s Nifty Nook in Bradford!  Search your local area for an independent if you can find one.  They often have better quality and much better customer service!  And, now more than ever, supporting local businesses is so important!

Looking for even more inspiration? Check out this post from Epicure’s blog The Feed with even more helpful tips!  How To Stock a Culinary Nutrition Pantry from the Academy of Culinary Nutrition and my Pantry Must-haves video on YouTube.

Jess Crossan Family

How food allergies taught me about Baby Lead Weaning, “picky” eaters and lead me on an adventure with Culinary Nutrition!

Do you have a picky eater??  Generally, I feel that the term “picky eater” isn’t entirely helpful.  Children develop their eating habits just like any other habits – by example and practice. Babies aren’t born picky, but often the experience of eating can create bad habits for them as they learn.  With the exception of actual food allergies, I believe most children can learn to appreciate all foods if they practice!

My oldest daughter is allergic to tree nuts like pistachio, cashew, walnut, pine nut and pecans but can eat peanuts, hazelnuts and almonds no problem!  My youngest was allergic to eggs until she was 1, anaphylactic to dairy until she was 2 and to this day (she’s 3.5) is allergic to peanuts but can eat ALL the tree nuts her biggest sis can’t!  When she was first diagnosed with the dairy allergy she was 7 months old and had been flagged as “failing to thrive” by her doctor (which, in my humble opinion is a TERRIBLE thing to say to a mother about their baby!) which generally means there is insufficient caloric intake to support optimal growth. This news made me feel like I was failing her as her mum!  At that point she was exclusively breast fed and happily nursed 6 times a day and was in the beginning stages of baby lead weaning where she was given small, soft pieces of pretty much whatever we were eating (one new item at a time obviously!) because she had ZERO interest in purees! She wanted what the big girls were having! Because she was still nursing frequently, sleeping well, hitting all her other developmental milestones, was happy, alert and just a generally content baby who loved being part of our chaotic life, to be told she was “failing” at anything felt awful!   She was going to be referred to a developmental paediatrician and we were told to start supplementing what she was getting with formula. I had switched our oldest two girls to formula for less than 2 months before they were old enough to move to homogenized milk because they had both self-weaned around 10 months. My third daughter refused anything besides breast milk from ME (so no cups, bottles, straws etc!) until she was almost 1 so she never really did formula. Regardless, I had picked up a tub of the kind of formula I had used with the oldest two and thought I would add it to the baby’s cereal to see if she even liked it….well, she broke out in a rash all over her face!  I thought maybe it was a lactose intolerance and bought her the hydrolysed formula for lactose intolerant babies….and we ended up in the ER!! Her face, neck and ears swelled up and looked like she had tomatoes stuck to her head instead of ears and she had hives from head to toe and started coughing like she couldn’t breathe! Funnily enough (although not funny at all….) when you arrive at the ER with an infant having and obvious food reaction, they move you through triage fast!! That night, the ER doc basically told us it looked like she was allergic to dairy and to stop giving her the formula and go back to breast feeding….only breast feeding had landed her in the “failing to thrive” camp.

Turns out, not knowing she was allergic to dairy meant I was still consuming it. Which meant she was not actually getting enough nourishment from me, even though she was nursing 6 times a day she was pooping most of it right out. Yep, that makes a mama feel pretty terrible!! Hydrolysed formula for lactose intolerant babies means that the dairy proteins are already broken down, making them more digestible and helping to alleviate the gas often associated with babies who are lactose intolerant. But when your baby is allergic to that protein? The hydrolysed protein is just absorbed faster and brings on the anaphylactic reaction faster! It was a pretty rough night…..

This is where I am eternally grateful for the community I have through my Epicure family! I reached out to other consultants who are dieticians, Holistic Nutritionists and other Culinary Nutrition Experts (before I was certified!) and received so much help and support that it was overwhelming!  We spent time researching non-dairy and egg-free options. Found so many resources on Baby Lead Weaning (BLW) and had so much help that by the time the baby finally got into the appointment she had with a registered dietitian at the hospital (here in Ontario we have a great healthcare system, but because it’s covered by our provincial government we wait a long time for non-essential appointments sometimes….) we had more info for her than she had for us!!  And 10 weeks after our first appointment with the paediatrician where we were told to feed her things she was allergic to and that she was “failing”, we were discharged because she had gained nearly 10lbs and was doing absolutely amazing!

A week after our trip to the ER we had another appointment with the paediatrician to discuss ways to help get the baby back onto the growth chart (she’d dropped from 95th percentile at birth weighing nearly 9lbs to below 5th percentile by 7 months old having not gained any weight at all between 5 months and 7!) so that she could start “thriving” again.  I keep using that term in quotes because on the outside she was such a happy little thing that we hardly felt she was failing but we’re going by what the doc was saying here.  So we arrive at our appointment and are promptly told that in order to “fatten” her up we should start giving her formula, cheese, yogourt and butter…..right…..but we’ve just established (and confirmed with an allergist!) that she’s allergic to ALL those things!

Part of our adventures in food allergies is what led me to pursue my certification in Culinary Nutrition. So I can offer help and support to others learning a new normal.  My love for food has always made me pursue cooking from scratch so being an ambassador with Epicure has helped me to offer practical solutions to anyone looking to incorporate more scratch cooking in their daily life as well.  In my adventures with food, children with food allergies and baby lead weaning I learned a few things that I have found to be extremely helpful in encouraging children to eat well, without arguments so that everything is on the table – except what we’re allergic to of course!!

5 Easy Tips for Helping Your Child Become a Confident and Adventurous Eater

  1. Include them in the prep! This is my #1 tip for sure!  The more they participate in the making, the more they’re willing to try it!  Obviously in the beginning, the baby wasn’t hands on in the kitchen with me! But these days she’s as eager to get involved as her big sisters!  You can join us in some adventures in the kitchen over on YouTube too!
  2. Deconstructed dinner – set up a buffet-style with all the parts of what’s for dinner and involve them in the process of choosing.  Taco Tuesday, DIY pizza, build your own nourish bowl etc.  This way you allow them to choose what they want to eat without catering to them specifically and having to offer (and cook!) multiple options. Check out some of the great BYO options in the Good Food Real Results Guide
  3. Pair favourites with new foods – use dips, condiments or sauces they like along with something new and they may be more willing to try it.  Be mindful of what’s in your dips, sauces and condiments though!  And when you can, make your own!
  4. Eat with them! Sit at the table with them, and let them see you eating the same foods.  They are much more likely to eat it WITH you than to have you dictate or force them to eat something they don’t see you eating.
  5. Relax! I know it can be hard introducing new foods or working with a picky eater, but if you are calm, cool and collected they will be too.  They can sense your stress and are more likely to get defensive if they feel you are wound up!