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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Frugal Foodie Funk

That is what I’m calling it! It could be the heat (I’m almost positive it’s the heat), or any number of things – however, I’ve been in this frugal foodie funk for nearly a month now! And, I might need your help getting out of it!

What do I mean by this? Well, not only have I been struggling with producing and maintaining meal plans, but I’ve also been lacking an appetite to cook both our favorites as well as exciting new recipes. Until just yesterday, I’ve have almost no appetite for the last month or so.

It wasn’t until my husband whipped up this fantastic bacon cheese burger (with all the fixing, I must add) that I was able to finally reignited my love for stuffing my face. My life-long love affair with taste and smell is no secret, but you could say there has been tension in our relationship. Due to a tight budget and an indifference to meal-time, I’ve been feeling almost defeated in the kitchen.

Have you guys every experienced something like this? Perhaps it’s time to shake things up. I’d love to know what your favorite frugal foods are. What is your go-to recipe when money is tight? Any favorite websites or blogs for recipe searching and sharing?

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Real Food IS Frugal Food

Fresh food, or what I like to call REAL food, really is the most cost effective way to eat. What do I mean by fresh food? Homemade, or “nearly” homemade meals. Meals that consist of mostly fresh ingredients (can and does include dry grains – rice, beans, oats, and pasta.)

Science and logic will tell us immediately that this is so.

We all know it’s better for us. It’s wholesome, and more likely to be nutritionally complete than any convenience meal. Sure, a packet of instant noodles can easy be eaten for 30 cents, but what are you really getting out of that? Not only is it a waste of money, but it is also terrible for you. A serving of oatmeal with a banana and a side of eggs is cheaper than your instant noodles or TV dinner. Same can be said about box mac n cheese, all canned foods, and most prepackaged meals or snacks.

We know this, yet, we are stuck in our ways. Why is that? There are many factors that prevent us from eating real food, even when we know it’s cheaper and better for us. Many roadblocks stand in the way: access, skill, and willpower, just to name a few. Even for me, I struggle with these roadblocks every day. I am not perfect. The act of living more frugally, healthfully, and with minimalism in mind is a on-going process. Living well is an on-going process. The real truth is this: It’s work. It’s hard work, and it’s even harder work depending on your income level, where you live, and how skilled you are in the kitchen.

My advice? Make the commitment, but don’t hold it against yourself. First and foremost, the journey should be exciting and rewarding. Life is too short to be punishing ourselves. Make small changes, build strong habits, and enjoy the journey. When things pay off, and they always do – when you feel good, when you look good, when your wallet is full, when your family smiles – celebrate.

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Buy Local, New York!

I’ve said this time and time again, yes – I know, but I really can’t stress this enough – buy local! One of the greatest benefits of living in a highly diverse metropolitan city is being able to shop an extensive amount of local businesses spanned across many “Little” cities or ethnic enclaves such as Little Italy and China Town. There are tons of mom and pop shops in almost every neighborhood in NYC. My home, Washingtonian Heights, is its own Little Dominican Republic with many Latin American specialty shops and restaurants.

These small shops rely on their neighboring residents to keep them in business, and in many ways, they often offer very competitive prices and cater specifically to their residents – sometimes better than what you can find in chain stores within the neighborhood. Just last week, I found a tub of yogurt shoved in the back of a fridge inside a small shop priced for $1.59. I could find the same product in our neighborhood Bravo Supermarkets for $3.69. The only thing I recommend is to always check expiration dates! If you’re willing to take your time to dig, you can find some really affordable pantry items, as well as frozen and refrigerated goods. Many of these shops will often have your basic grocery needs such as milk, bread, and eggs for cheaper than your neighborhood supermarket.

Just a few days ago, I discovered a small local chain, “Deals and Discounts” that offers department store merchandise for very cheap. Though not a mom and pop, definitely check it out! They have many of your name brand products, as well as generic (which, I must add, is most of the time, just as good! I always recommend to try the generic – you’ll be surprised that a lot the time, it’s not very different from the name brand stuff.) They had basic apparel for the family, seasonal + household products, and some edible goods – your usual convenience store set up. Check them out here: http://www.deeii.com/locations.htm They may have a store in your neighborhood!

Skip the chain stores today and discover your new favorite mom and pop shop, 99 cent store, bodega, or local market!

Got a favorite local business you’d like to share? Leave their information in the comments below!

Happy shopping,
Jocelyn

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