Meal Planning for Low-Income Families

When I started MIM about a year and a half ago, I really wanted to write articles about frugal living that were realistic and practical for low-income individuals and families. I really missed the mark.

Why? Well, because I wasn’t food insecure. I wasn’t getting 50% of my food from food banks or pantries. I wasn’t living in a food desert or a homeless shelter.

Instead, I wrote articles about grocery delivery and online coupon clipping with the assumption that people living in poverty, living in the projects, living in shelters, could realistically afford the grocery delivery fee or even had access to the internet, or a computer, or a printer, or the literacy to do such a task.

Life has been funny to me, I’ve experienced several different kinds of poor, all of which is very different.

There is a difference between having a choice to spend $22 dollars a week on groceries, and not having a choice to spend $22 dollars a week on groceries. So, today, I write this article for a different demographic.

In the past, I’ve written specifically with urban living in mind, with New York City being its focal point. So, I will continue to gear my posts, at least minimally, to locals.

When it comes to meal planning, there are many variables to consider including, of course, access and affordability. For example, a low-income family living in New York City can buy a carton of eggs, quite easily, for $1, while that is certainly not the case elsewhere. So, although I’ve religiously recommended the consumption of eggs, I do realize that it is not a viable option for everyone.

What is a viable option for everyone? A lot of the time, it is the pantry goods, including canned goods. Why? Because they’re affordable everywhere and everyone has access to them.

No matter where you are, here is a list of easily obtainable food products that are universally affordable.

Breakfast

  1. Pancake mix
    1. Pancake mix can be extremely affordable if you don’t care for name brands. Generic brands of pancake mix, including those you can find at Dollar Tree, for example, might not be your Aunt Jemima, but they’re equally filling.
  2. Oatmeal
    1. Again, same concept. Oats are extremely cheap, even more so if you’re willing to ditch Quaker. To maintain some of the nutritional value, don’t buy Quick or Instant oats – stick to Old Fashion.
  3. Corn Flakes
    1. I’m convinced the government is stockpiling cornflakes because there is always a $1.79  gigantic off-brand box of this stuff on sale.

 

Lunch / Dinner

  1. Bread
    1. Buy the store-brand stuff. Wheat if you can manage it.
  2. Bologna
    1. You can fry it, you can eat it cold, it’s the cheapest deli meat.
  3. Canned tuna
    1. If you have an Aldi near you, GO THERE. It’s 69 cents.
  4. Canned beans AND dry beans.
    1. Canned beans spiced up to your liking paired with rice will fill you up.
    2. Buy dry beans, soak them overnight, and cook them in bulk.
    3. A bag of beans will often cost you about the same as 1-2 cans, but it produces 5x the amount.
  5. Rice
    1. Long grain, or whatever it cheapest near you.
  6. Canned pasta sauce
    1. It’s not as tasty as your Ragu, but it’s ⅓ of the price. You can season it up and add ground meat and anything else you has lying around.
  7. Hot dogs
    1. Keep in mind that although hot dogs are often eaten on bread, they also make great fillers.
    2. Buy in bulk, if possible.
    3. Buy a generic 10-pack.
    4. Drop them in your chili, pasta sauce or box mac n cheese.
    5. Fry in a pan with potatoes and cabbage.
  8. Instant ramen
    1. Buy them by the case, it’s cheaper.
    2. You can toss Spam, Vienna sausage, eggs –  just about anything to bulk it up.
  9. Cream of ___ soup (preferably mushroom)  
    1. With ground beef, frozen veg of choice, and pasta or egg noodles.
  10. OFF-BRAND ONLY canned meals and soups
    1. Go to Aldi or Dollar Tree. You’ll get the same product for $1 and it’ll taste exactly the same.

 

This list is definitely work-in-progress, and something I’d like to build over time. Feel free to add to it!

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Aldi Harlem “Mini” Haul, Savings Galore!

After watching about a zillion Youtube videos, I’ve FINALLY popped my Aldi cherry (Harlem location)! I’ve been dreaming of this shopping experience for quite some time, but have yet to make my way there. In 2017 alone, I’ve moved from Manhattan to Queens, back to Manhattan, and luckily for me, I am now approximately 15 blocks from this Aldi location (as well as Target – control yourself, Jocelyn!)

It is true when people say that you can easily save 50% on your grocery bill by simply coming to Aldi. You don’t have to wait for sales or use coupons to save a lot of money here. I haven’t tried many of the products yet like other bloggers and YouTubers have, but I can say that the produce is fresh and well-priced. For example, you won’t find wilted salads here! Like many others have mentioned before me, Aldi supplies their own off-brand products, which so far, have been of very good quality, with many low-priced organic and GMO-free varieties to choose from. A few things you should keep in mind: They don’t bag your groceries, and you have to pay for plastic bags if you don’t bring your own. The same can be said for a shopping cart.

Unfortunately, because my husband and I have to lug back everything we purchase, we can’t shop too heavy. And, let’s face it, the bigger the value, the heavier it is! I’m not even kidding – the canned goods, the rice, the bag of sugar, flour, potatoes, etc. – that’s heavy stuff, and we only have 4 arms combined. However, the great thing is, those prices won’t disappear. They’ll still be there next week.

So, I’ll begin by sharing with you all what I’ve purchased along with a list of meals I plan to incorporate with these items. Then, I will share some good finds that I weren’t able to purchase and carry home, but felt it was worth mentioning.

Before I begin, keep in mind that I am meal planning under certain circumstances such as limited refrigerator space and cookware. This haul is meant to last 2-4 days, with a focus on snacks, lunch, and dinners. We are also shopping to stretch our food stamp dollar the absolute furthest possible.

PRODUCE:

Bag of navel oranges — $1.49, probably the best deal from this haul!

Baby carrots — .99

PANTRY:

3lb Long grain rice — $1.39, again, you won’t find this price elsewhere

2 cans of black beans — .69 ea, ^^^

2 cans of vienna sausage — .49 ea, I’m not quite sure why I bought this, I used to eat them straight out of the can as a child and it’s kind of a treat when I’m feeling homesick

Peanut butter wafers — $1.09, my husband’s guilty pleasure

DELI:

Bag of hard-boiled eggs — $1.89, this is a pure convenience purchase; we share a community kitchen with our neighbors and any time I can save in the kitchen goes a long way

Kielbasa sausage — $2.29

2lbs of potato salad — $2.49, I love potato salad, what can I say?

Honey Ham, cold cuts — $2.59, makes about 3-4 sandwiches, depending on how generous you want to be

Smoked Turkey, cold cuts — $2.59, ^^^

Cheddar cheese slices <3 — $1.89

DAIRY:

Strawberry yogurt cups — .49 ea

FROZEN:

Chicken fried rice — $3.09, meal for 2 type of thing

Frozen peas — $1.05

 

Right now, we have a decent amount of cereal, cereal bars, and granola bars, which, by the way, are mostly from Aldi as well! With that in mind, we didn’t shop for any breakfast foods. For lunches, we plan to have sandwiches with a cup of yogurt, an orange or handful of baby carrots. I have some salad dressing and hummus in the fridge to jazz things up. For dinners, we will be enjoying A LOT of rice and beans, and rice and peas (with carrots too)! We plan to throw in some kielbasa, eggs, or even some sliced ham. I will probably divide our kielbasa up between 2-3 meals and have some of it sliced, browned on the stove, then put on some bread with potato salad on the side.

Flavors will depend on what we have on hand from take-out condiments such as soy sauce or hot sauce.

In all honesty, I am a very simple eater. I am very satisfied with a bowl of rice and eggs with a little soy sauce or hot sauce. Chances are, we may go back for more kielbasa because it’s literally $2, and we can’t deny how versatile it is for meal planning – they have all-beef smoked sausage, lean turkey, etc. so there is some variety to choose from. Next time, I also plan to pick up some canned tuna because they’re .50 a can! Another simple meal I enjoy is diced tomatoes tossed in with some tuna (preferably tuna in-oil) with a few tablespoons of fish sauce stirred in over hot rice.

A few goodies I spotted but wasn’t able to purchase:

$1.99 box of fruit bars that I really wanted, but would melt before I got home :/

MILK – it’s $1 less than anywhere else I’ve been!

Spices, sauces, dressings, and condiments.

Basically all baking and staple pantry items such as flour and sugar.

What are your favorite Aldi products? What would you recommend to new Aldi shoppers?

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The Magnificant Health Benefits of Kefir

Is Kefir For You?

The irony of living in the age of information, with the internet always at our fingertips, is that not everything we find on the web is actually factual — and there is quite a lot of fake news and fake information to sift through. Although modern society has granted many of us more access and more opportunity to live more health conscious lives, the consumption of fast food, along with high sugar and salt diets has become the norm among us. This has done nothing but leave us with terrifying statistics of heart disease and other seemingly avoidable health concerns. Surprisingly enough, the response of the natural health community is the evolution of superfoods trends.

I have combatted high stress, anxiety, and depression in the past, and can attest that ongoing mental illness can cause physical ailments. Stress alone can affect your immune system and how well you can fight off a cold. It can cause digestive problems. Additionally, it can cause weight gain and even stop your period dead in its tracks causing an array of reproductive health problems affecting both ovulation and fertility.

So, as you can imagine, at the barely ripe age of 25, my body was indeed out of whack! I wasn’t taking shits or getting my period. My stomach was permanently upset, and I had month-long lingering colds. A friend with similar health concerns recommended I give Kefir a try to help combat my long list of problems. To be honest, at first, I was skeptical. I had, quite literally, heard it all. Once a woman standing in line at the grocery store swore to me that a lemon wedge swimming in a mug of warm tap water was the cure to all human ailments. What most of us failed to realize is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to our individual health concerns. Additionally, those chia seeds don’t work like a fairy godmother. You can’t blend it into your morning smoothie and magically you’re cured. This is why, in no way, am I suggesting Kefir is the end all be all, because yes, it takes more than a fermented dairy beverage to get your life in check. However, through evidence-based research and consulting with my physician, I’ve come to a realistic solution to a variety of common ailments.

5 Powerful Health Benefits of Kefir (Backed by Science)

Health Benefits of Kefir

The main health benefits of Kefir is its nutrient density and probiotic properties. There is possibly no better solution for digestion and gut health than Kefir. Before we jump the gun, I’m sure you’re wondering what exactly we’re discussing here. Kefir is a fermented drink, traditionally made with cow’s and goat’s milk. It is essentially a more powerful version of yogurt with a much thinner consistency. It is also much less complicated to make, as well. This extremely tart and sour beverage are made by adding kefir grains to milk and allowing it to ferment for 24–72 hours. What is so unique about kefir is these grains can be used more than once, really allowing you to get your money’s worth.

The name is derived from the Turkish word keyif, which means “feeling good” — that’s exactly how you’ll be feeling once you finish a small 6oz glass of it!

High Nutrient Density

Like I mentioned above, Kefir is extremely nutrient dense, and you benefit much from even a small glass:

According to Dietitian Joe Leech, a 175 ml (6 oz) serving of milk kefir contains:

Protein: 6 grams.
Calcium: 20% of the RDA.
Phosphorus: 20% of the RDA.
Vitamin B12: 14% of the RDA.
Riboflavin (B2): 19% of the RDA.
Magnesium: 5% of the RDA.
A decent amount of vitamin D.

Fight Infection and Other Harmful Bacterias

Although the most common known probiotic food product in the western world is yogurt, kefir is actually a much more potent source of this. In fact, kefir contains about 30 different microorganisms, making it the best-fermented dairy product. Additionally, certain probiotics are known to protect against infections and harmful bacterias. Lactobacillus kefiri, unique to kefir, does just that. Studies have shown Lactobacillus kefiri prevent the spread of Salmonella and E. coli, for example.

Digestive Problems and Lactose Intolerance

Probiotics such as kefir can help restore the balance of friendly bacteria in the gut. If you suffer from IBS or other digestive problems, kefir can give that poor tummy of yours a break. The great thing about kefir is those with a sensitivity to dairy can consume it safely! In fact, kefir is 99% lactose-free!

According to the article titled 9 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Kefir, “Regular dairy foods contain a natural sugar called lactose. Many people, especially adults, are unable to break down and digest lactose properly. This condition is called lactose intolerance. The lactic acid bacteria in fermented dairy foods (like kefir and yogurt) turn the lactose into lactic acid, so these foods are much lower in lactose than milk. They also contain enzymes that can help break down the lactose even further.”

Reproductive Health

Experts in women’s health recommend kefir during pregnancy, as well as to those trying to conceive. To an even bigger surprise, they recommend it not just every once in a while, but regularly — daily if you can manage it.

To start, “it helps create a healthy inner ecosystem in your birth canal before the baby is born. This matters because your baby will then inherit this beneficial bacteria and yeast, creating an inner ecosystem in his/her digestive tract that will help digest your milk while building a stronger immune system.”

According to Alyson Lippman, RN, “pregnant and nursing women can drink kefir or yogurt to prevent the overgrowth of a bacterium called Group B Beta Strep. There is potential for passing (Strep) to the baby, where it can be harmful and cause infection.”

Women can also take kefir to reduce vaginal itching, yeast infections, and general problems of immunity while aiding hormonal balance.

Mental Health

Did you know that probiotics may have psychiatric benefits, as well? Is gut health the secret to sustainable mental health? Consider this — “Kefir contains tryptophan which is an amino acid that raises the levels of serotonin in your brain. According to WebMD, “serotonin acts as a neurotransmitter, a type of chemical that helps relay signals from one area of the brain to another. Although serotonin is manufactured in the brain, where it performs its primary functions, some 90% of our serotonin supply is found in the digestive tract and in blood platelets.”

How To Make Milk Kefir 101

What Are You Waiting For?

There is simply no reason to not try kefir! Although this very sour and tart drink is difficult to adjust to, you can make it a much more pleasant experience by adding fresh fruit or even honey, too. Don’t forget your favorite granola, nuts or seeds! That’s how I like mine — crunchy!

Sources

4 Benefits of Milk Kefir That Could Change Your Life. (2015, November 11). Retrieved June 24, 2017, from https://bodyecology.com/articles/4-benefits-of-milk-kefir-that-could-change-your-life

Leech, J. (2017, January 24). 9 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Kefir. Retrieved June 24, 2017, from https://authoritynutrition.com/9-health-benefits-of-kefir/

Pregnant Women and Kefir. (2017, May 03). Retrieved June 24, 2017, from http://www.benefitsofkefir.com/pregnant-women-and-kefir/

Schizophrenia, Depression, and the Little-Known “Mental Health”/Dietary Link: An Interview with Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. (2011, October 07). Retrieved June 24, 2017, from https://bodyecology.com/articles/schizophrenia_depression_dietary_link.php

The Secret to Happiness? Gut Health. (2017, April 12). Retrieved June 24, 2017, from http://lifewaykefir.com/mental-awareness-month-kefir/

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Christmas Morning Casserole // Irresistible Spicy Sausage Hash

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Christmas morning is all about two very important things: food and presents. Not particularly in that order! My Christmas morning usually starts with a cup of coffee, and even with dozens of presents under the tree, I still find myself stumbling to the kitchen first thing in the morning. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want something hearty and flavorful on Christmas morning, and I think I’ve got the perfect breakfast to satisfy the appetites of everyone in your family!

What you’ll need:

// 4-6 servings //

1 roll (or package) of spicy breakfast sausage // I recommend Jimmy Dean’s hot sausage, although any breakfast sausage will do just fine!
8 large eggs
4 medium Idaho potatoes
1 cup of shredded muenster cheese // Cheddar works just as well.
1 cup of chopped scallions
Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Begin by browning your breakfast sausage until cooked. While your sausage is cooking, begin chopping your potatoes into small cubes. Drain your sausage and set aside. Go ahead and clean and dry your pan – now heat a little bit of olive oil in your skillet and fry potatoes until golden brown and cooked through. Chop your scallions – don’t be afraid to be generous here! Whisk your eggs, and combine all of your ingredients (don;t forget the cheese!) Mix well. Transfer mixture to a baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until cooked through and browned on top. Enjoy!

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10 MUST-HAVE Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Products (And Where To Get Them!)

One of the many things that I look forward to during the holidays is limited edition products. I wait all year for Dunkin Donuts to come out with their pumpkin flavored drinks and donuts! And, by the way, the classic pumpkin glazed donut at Dunkin Donuts is to die for. I just had one earlier this week and I’m probably going to get another this weekend. LOL. Because these products are only available for a limited time, it really does make the experience of enjoying them that much more meaningful. So, with that being said, here are my favorite pumpkin spice products and where to get them!

  1. Lindor Pumpkin Spice Bag, 19 Ounce 61fW8X7-UhL._SL1000_.jpg

  2. Quaker Pumpkin Spice Limited Edition Instant Oatmeal 8 Ct, 1.51 oz Packets 91J0ocwhXSL._SL1500_.jpg

  3. General Mills Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheerios – 12 Oz 81ynjqkyuxl-_sl1500_
  4. Twinings Chai Tea, Pumpkin Spice, 20 Count 91NqhkfB9+L._SL1500_.jpg
  5. Krusteaz Pumpkin Spice Pancake Mix A1oyhWmVpKL._SL1500_.jpg
  6. Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts – Pumpkin Pie (Limited Edition) – 12 Toaster Pastries 61FO7RRC0gL.jpg
  7. Nestle Coffee-mate Pumpkin Spice Non-Dairy Creamer 15 oz 81Lmy7FFdxL._SL1500_.jpg
  8. Hostess Twinkies Pumpkin Spice 10 count box (13.58 OZ) 515tDwP2b6L.jpg
  9. Kraft Jell-o Instant Pudding & Pie Filling, Pumpkin, 3.4-ounce Boxes (Pack of 4) 81fwqWYlPIL._SL1500_.jpg
  10. Ghirardelli Fall Pumpkin Spice Caramel Medium Bag, Pumpkin Spice Carmel 7166-gFskOL._SL1500_.jpg

 

 

 

 

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Chinatown, NYC // Manhattan Adventures // Mini Haul

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A lot of people don’t know how absolutely tiny Manhattan is. It is literally a teeny tiny little island. What you may understand as New York City – the neon lights and skyscrapers, is just a tiny fraction of the whole pie. In a span of just a few short blocks, you can walk out of the Financial District, into Chinatown, and out into Little Italy. So, in essence, you could pass by a courthouse, pick up a pork bun (which my husband is particularly obsessed with. LOL.), then swing by a pizza place on the way home. That isn’t entirely what I did on Friday, but it’s pretty darn close!

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It’s been a hot minute since we’ve had an adventure. The last time I spent an ample amount of time out in the city – just exploring – was when my parents came to visit from Hawaii. Not only that, but I’ve been starving for many homesick essentials, particularly Asian foods that I grew up with and enjoyed as a child. These *essentials*, which I guess aren’t *really* essentials, range from fish sauce, to shrimp crackers, to green tea with roasted brown rice!

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Every week, for the last month, we’ve found ourselves in Chinatown. Each time we discovered something new that we loved. One of my favorite places to visit (and try) is Asian bakeries – I absolutely adore Chinese and Taiwanese pastries. My mother enjoyed going to them often while I lived in Hawaii. Our favorite bakery was Saint-Germain, also known as Dee Lite Bakery in Ala Moana Shopping Center. It was always such a treat to get a hot dog bun. In NYC, we have a small Asian bakery chain called Fay Da that serve delicious low-cost pastries, bread, cakes, and cookies. My favorite item of theirs is the green pea & scallion twist. They also serve a variety of cakes including Taro and Mango topped with fresh fruit. Some stores serve mochi, custards, and a mix of all other types of yummy Asian goodies.

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Before heading out, I checked Yelp for the best Asain supermarket in Chinatown. We ended up at New Kam Man on Canal Street, and believe me, we didn’t regret it! I was able to snatch up all of my essentials for a fraction of what I usually pay for. In fact, nothing I bought was over $2! Can you believe that? The best bargain was definitely a 23 oz. bottle of Lucky Brand Fish Sauce for 1.95! At the grocery stores nearby, it would run me $6-7 dollars for a small little bottle! I also picked up 4 packs of Doll Instant Noodles in a variety of flavors, 2 bags of Nong Shim shrimp crackers, a small jar of Huy Fong chili garlic sauce, Yamamotoyama’s green tea with roasted brown rice, and Meiji’s chocolate Hello Panda! Most of these foods have sentimental value. Both the tea, as well as the shrimp crackers, were foods I enjoyed regularly in my childhood. I had tea in the morning with my grandma, and my grandpa used to buy these chips for me after school every day.

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It was definitely a nostalgic experience to eats these foods again after nearly 6 years of not having them.

What are your favorite Asian foods? Do you have a particular Asain comfort food that comes to mind? I’d love to hear from you!

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Hello October <3 // Fall 2016 Bucket List!

 

It feels like I blinked and the entire year dissolved. Like a cube of sugar met to a cup of tea, it was over. A friend and I were discussing how much seasonal changes can influence our moods – for me, I spend all year looking forward to October, November, and December. I love the holiday season and everything it stands for – giving and serving others, reflection and being thankful, and sharing love and light with those we care about. However, for her, it’s the complete opposite. The cold weather, darker skies, and quietness instead create a sort of sadness in her heart. If this is you, I hope you find solace in the kindness and softness of others.

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One of my favorite things about autumn is how abrupt the changes are. It gets chilly overnight and the physical world changes. We get thrown into it, usually unprepared, and have no choice but to adjust quickly. I think there really is no better time of year to let go of whatever may no longer serve you, and begin something new. Something new could be a lifestyle or career change, while for others, it may be something simple as picking up a new book, or starting a new craft. I also find this the perfect time to set new goals and make preparations for what’s ahead.

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With that being said, here is my TOP 10 must-do’s (BUCKET LIST) for Fall 2016:

1.) Make art!

The art you make is entirely up to you. Perhaps, take up a new craft or work on an on-going project you’ve been putting off for a while now. This is a fantastic time to try out some DIY projects! My “craft” is writing. November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I’d really like to dedicate at least an hour a day to writing in the month of October. This will hopefully prepare myself for writing an entire novel in November. I have yet to decide if I will start something new or continue something old.

2.) Document everything!

Take photos of everyone and everything. Journal EVERYTHING. Although I personally think it’s good idea to journal 365 days a year, most of us recognize it’s that the most important events happen during this time of year. Families often get together for the holidays, and you’ll want to photograph it all. In this day and age, journaling can take on many forms. For me, blogging and using social media apps such as Instagram can be a form of journaling as well.  I do, however, also journal privately on LiveJournal!

3.) Enjoy hot cocoa, warm cider, and holiday inspired coffee drinks (pumpkin spice latte – DUH!)

My absolutely favorite hot cocoa is Nestle’s Abuelita Mexican Chocolate. This isn’t your average hot cocoa, ya’ll. Abulita hot cocoa requires you to melt down an actual brick of chocolate in a pot of whole milk – it takes time and patience, but it’s well worth it. This is the real deal – as close to homemade as it gets. A single purchase makes more than a gallons worth of hot cocoa, so it’s an incredible value when you compare it to single single packets. However, if you fancy the convenience packets, you can also buy Abuelita Instant Hot Chocolate! (Just add water.)

4.) Purge your closet!

Do you have winter attire (coats especially) that you haven’t worn in a few seasons? I urge you to donate it! Coats (and socks) are in high demand among low income families and homeless as the weather starts to become colder. Donate your cold weather clothing to your local coat drive. Check out One Warm Coat!

5.) Take a free (or low-cost) course. Join a writing, art, or craft workshop!

This is in addition to #1. Last night, in a frenzy, I found myself enrolling in not 1, but 3 courses at UC Berkley! 100% free, by the way! If you’re interested in writing courses, I welcome you all to join me in English Literature & Composition! Ed2Go is an awesome resource for adult learning, continuing education courses, and for those not necessarily interested in receiving college credit or obtaining a degree.

6.) Attend free local events in your area!

TimeOut is a very good resource for finding out what’s going on in your town! Check your local news as well. Any city ran events will surely be on the 6 o’clock news, or in your local newspaper.

7.) Dress up your home in seasonal appropriate decor!

This is a good time to check out DIY projects, as well! You don’t have to spend a lot, either. Go to your local dollar store, such as Dollar Tree or Family Dollar! (which, by the way, are sister companies so you’ll find more or less the same type of stuff at both stores!) While you’re there, look for Halloween costumes as well. Many child costumes run as low as $5.

8.) Bake pies!

For the amateur chef, like myself, a pie may seem like a huge and complicated task to take on, however, you’ll be surprised by how simple it actually is – especially if you opt in for a pre-made crust! Pie filling, those made of  fruit such as apple or peach are very simple to make and the quality of that pie really does come down to the quality of the fruit (ex. the apple variety, and/or, the ripeness of the peach), not so much your skill or talent in baking.

9.) Whip up some of your favorite soups and stews!

I wait all year to whip up a big pot of soup. Hot soup on a cold night is the ultimate comfort. Consider making large batches to freeze for later. This will save you both money and time. My all time favorite winter dishes are Beef Stew and my very own Cheesy Chicken Veggie Chowder! Both of these recipes are low cost – less than $1/serving!

10.) Watch horror films!

Believe it or not, I used to be a huge horror movie junkie. I loved the Saw series in high school, and have been a huge fan of A Nightmare on Elm Street, the classic Freddy Krueger slasher film, since I was a child. These days, the scariest thing I watch is American Horror Story on Netflix. LOL! If you’re like me, you probably don’t even bother with cable. <3 Oh Netflix, you’re all I need! <3

Truly, there isn’t anything you can access on the internet. There isn’t anything you can’t *cough* pirate *cough* off the internet. I mean WUT? Of course EYE don’t do that. 😉

Wanna kick it up a notch? Go to free or low-cost haunted houses in your town!

What do you folks have planned for October? What are you goals? Any special plans? I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

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Sept. 2016 Grocery Haul / $100/M Budget!

It’s definitely been a hot minute since I’ve shared any kind of haul on this blog! As I’ve mentioned in other recent posts, money has been tight on our end, so investing in hauls has overall been a challenge. This doesn’t change that I do believe that buying in bulk, cooking in bulk, is essentially the smartest, most time sensitive, and efficient way to save money.

As I’ve mentioned time and time again, this can be particularly challenging for city dwellers, who don’t have access to big box grocery stores, especially those who do not or can not drive, and are more or less limited to their surrounding 5-10 block radius. (*Like yours truly.) That in itself is one of my biggest challenges in saving money. I can’t hop in my car and go to a Walmart. I don’t have a license. I don’t have a car. Even if I had a car, I’d have nowhere to put my car.

Thankfully for us, convenience delivery services are popping up left and right for nearly every industry out there. From laundry, to grocery delivery, you can get that delivered to you, and in many cases, the time and money saved in doing so is extensive.

So, let’s see – yesterday, I found myself with a $50 food budget. Ideally, I’d like to stretch it over the course of 2 weeks. The only way I’ve ever really been able to do that is by taking advantage of “value packs” at Stop&Shop and digging through tiny Mom & Pop convenience stores in the neighborhood for marked down items (in short, crap shoved to the back of freezers and shelves – crap that nobody wants).

Frankly, the prices at my neighborhood Bravo and C-Town has been really bad for months. Meat and produce prices are to the roof, so Stop&Shop/Peapod seemed like the next best move. And, am I glad I did it! In short, I put over $75 worth of groceries in my cart and paid only $50 for all of it. I used a $25 off $75 coupon, as well as free delivery coupon! There is absolutely nothing complicated about it either. Simply use the “60daysfree” coupon code at check out and you’re good to go! Any order you make over the next 60 days will also have free shipping! Awesome right?

The best part is definitely the seasonal items – pumpkin spice EVERYTHING! I am so ready for Fall. I can’t even tell you how absolutely READY I am! The weather has been really nice too. Today’s high is 71, and the low is 50. Fantastic hot cocoa and a book weather.

Ok – let’s get right to the good stuff! My receipt! LOL.

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I’d also like to point out that Stop & Shop DOES often miss a few items in your order. For example, I did not get my Stop & Shop frozen vegetable mix (x2). It’s also important to note that – like in-store merchandise, things do sell out. It happens. So be ready for that possibility.

Now, I didn’t just throw anything on sale in my cart. In fact, I was meal planning as I go. Yes, I did end up spending probably 2 hours shopping online, but there really is a benefit in sitting down and planning out your meals and taking your time with this. It’s a time-consuming process – that’s definitely a part of it.

The way I shop for groceries is pretty simple. I focus on bulk meals. Large “dinners” that can be stretched over several days. Every meal will offer lots of leftovers. Go with soups, stews, and chili – whatever is easy to reheat – foods that “get better” the longer it simmers on the stove. My husband and I often eat very simple breakfasts and lunches – often a cup of tea, banana, egg-in-the-hole, and/or oatmeal. If we want something a little more hearty, we go with pancakes because they’re dirt cheap and a box of generic pancake mix can last forever!

 

Here is what we have planned for this grocery haul:

  1. Spaghetti + meat sauce
  2. Creamy mushroom chicken
  3. Chicken corn chowder
  4. Chicken tortilla soup
  5. Chili + rice
  6. Chili + corn bread
  7. Chili dogs
  8. Chili mac
  9. Hot dogs + baked beans
  10. Goulash
  11. Hamburger steak + gravy
  12. Loco Moco
  13. Cheese burgers
  14. Corn beef hash + eggs
  15. Fried bologna + eggs

The chicken dishes will use up about 10lbs of chicken, and ground beef recipes will use up about 6.5lbs. Give or take. Each dish will use about a lb of meat.

Alright guys, I’ll keep you posted on how the next few weeks plan out and let you know if we stick to our meal plan or not!

Hope you all enjoy your weekend!

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I’m a snacking enthusiast.

While we’re still on the subject of investing in frugality, I’d really like to take the time to reiterate what I said in my previous post. That message is quite simple: There are really no right or wrong ways to go about this. If you’re making progress, you’re making progress. To be honest with all of you, these last couple of months have been challenging – I’ve been occupied with some of life’s many obstacles, and this blog, as well as this lifestyle, has taken a backseat to overcoming them, as well as prioritized self-care.

During this time, I still needed to work with a very small budget, and I found myself snacking A LOT. I have a tendency to skip meals in order to save money (as well as under large amounts of stress), and though this is a hard thing to hear, it’s incredibly common. It is, however, very bad for you and your body! So, please, don’t skip meals! In my opinion, the best way to combat missed meals is to invest in affordable nutritious snacks. Keep easy access and easy to eat foods in your home – especially foods that do not need to be prepared or cooked (with the exception of oatmeal!) Some of my favorite snacks are fruits, vegetables, yogurt, oatmeal, popcorn, and biscuits or crackers.

When buying fruits as vegetables, I suggest to stick to carrots, apples, and bananas because they’re often cheapest year-round. Buy a generic box of plain saltines or biscuits. For yogurt, always go for the tub! Never buy those tiny cups. Sure, they’re convenient, but it’s insanely cheaper to buy the tub. Another great option is buying cheese by the block, and cutting them up into cubes. Hard boiled eggs can be cooked and stored for later. A friend of mine suggested any kind of sausage you can cook and store away for later is another great option. I’ve been told they’re very tasty eaten cold, wrapped in cabbage with a little mustard, however, I’ve never tried that myself!

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Living Frugally: Is Money More Precious Than Time?

Many would say that saving money, particularly on food, requires a huge commitment of time and effort. And, that really is true in most cases. Cooking in bulk, clipping coupons, using grocery apps, and meal/budget planning before even leaving the house are big factors in saving money. And, all of these tasks require disciple, commitment, and a whole lot of time. Being frugal is indeed a time-consuming process – but a process that does pay off in a big way.

Over time, I’ve realized that this kind of investment of time isn’t always an option. When I ask others what stands in the way between them and their goals, the answer is always TIME and INVESTMENT. Over recent months, I’ve learned that even I find this way of life not ideal. Ideally, I would like to reduce the time and effort it takes to save money. You’ll notice this when you read some of my blog posts regarding concepts such as grocery delivery where time and effort are greatly reduced. Think crock-pots!

Truly, what’s the point of saving money, if you have no time to spend it elsewhere? Yes, saving money, living minimally, and frugally, is important to me, and I choose to live this way for numerous reasons, but that is not who I am. Balance, baby.

Before everything else, I am a wife, a daughter, and a friend – an optimist, a humanist, a lover of life, an educator, a poet, and a painter. Heck, most of my free time is actually spent gaming! Eventually, I’d like to learn to incorporate all these other parts of me into my blog. I’m sure my readers don’t actually think my life is just an array of throwing together tasty slop, clipping coupons, and writing about it!

What is the purpose of this post? (You don’t need to tell me I went off on a very obvious tangent – I see that :P) I just want to tell all of you that if you’re making progress, you’re doing everything right – keep pushing, keep grinding, but most importantly, be you always. Also, that I wrote this post for you just as much as I wrote it for myself.

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