Frugal Foods: Doritos Chicken Fingers

Just a few days ago, a friend of mine posted this video from Cooking Panda on Facebook for a Doritos chicken recipe. Immediately my husband jumped on board and wanted to give it a try. This recipe only calls for 3 ingredients: boneless-skinless chicken breast, mayonnaise (or substitute), and a bag of Doritos (or generic substitute).

We simply coated the chicken in mayonnaise, then breaded it in a generic bag of nacho flavored corn chips. Any chip would probably work just fine – in fact, feel free to experiment with different kinds of chips! Try buttermilk instead of mayo and let us know how it goes.

We ran out of chips for the last few pieces of chicken so we ended up grabbing some breadcrumbs from the cabinet and seasoned it with half of pack of tacos seasoning!

Pop it in the oven on 375 for 15-20 minutes depending on the thickness and size of your chicken. 

The Doritos chicken fingers came out great -moist inside and crunchy on the outside!

You can easily spend $1-2 on a generic bag of chips, hopefully you already have a little bit of mayo in the fridge (it doesn’t take a lot), if not, a small jar will run you less than $2, and depending on the cost of chicken per lb, you can easily walk away with spending less than $5! Pair it with your favorite vegetable. Yum!

The only thing I would have done differently is pan-fry the chicken coated in bread crumbs instead of baking it.

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Here is our end result:

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After running errands this afternoon, this is exactly what I wanted – a quick, easy and affordable lunch.

This is such an awesome kid-friendly meal too. Bring them into the kitchen with you for this one!

Enjoy!

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Resources For Low-Income Students: Surviving College When You’re Dirt Poor

“I’m in college – therefore I am broke.” That was indeed my reality for the last 5 years of my life! The cost of tuition has risen across the board – both locally and at private institutions, leaving young people with skyrocketing student debt and tired bodies from working 2-3 jobs just to get by.

In fact, low income youth are less likely to attend college today than ever before!

In 2010, I was offered financial support to attend college by my grandparents. I knew I wasn’t academically prepared for a 4 year college, but I was being offered an opportunity of a lifetime. At that point,  I had only taken a few semesters of community college. There I played catch up – learning basic English and Math through a special needs program that offered support for dyslexia. In 2008, I graduated from high school with a incredibly low GPA, and no math whatsoever under my belt. I had never taken my SATs or ACTs. I didn’t even apply to college while in high school because I knew I couldn’t get in.

Many low income students come from neighborhoods lacking in quality public education to prepare them for college. “A new study confirms that low-income students understand that education is a path out of poverty, and most aspire to go to college—at an even higher rate than most students overall. Yet, unlike their middle- or upper-class peers, poor students are significantly less likely to head to college after graduating from high school.” (source)

Low-income youth WANT to go to college but are faced with huge financial obstacles and a lack of resources that sometimes lead to harsh realities such as youth homelessness. Several years ago, my husband experienced this reality first hand. For about 6 months, he went to college during the day, and slept in a park at night.

It wasn’t soon before I realized staying in school was just as equally challenging as getting in. The first 3 years of my undergraduate studies, I worked a regular 9-5 during the day, and had classes all night long. I was out of the house from 8am-10pm, and was incredibly overworked. This barely left me with any time to enjoy the experience of being in college. I didn’t have the time or energy to go out with my classmates after class. I wasn’t thinking as big, or dreaming as big I wanted to. I was incredibly envious of my peers. I wasn’t having as much fun, and I was jealous. I was sleeping on the floor of my office, stealing toilet paper, and going to events just so I could sneak food in my purse to bring home for dinner. And, you know what? I wasn’t the only student doing this. I wanted an education so bad, and I was determined to make it work. This is when lifestyle changes started happening and I opted in for a more thrifty, frugal, and minimalist life.

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Below you will find some resources I’ve gained as a low-income college student:

  1. If you’re thinking “I need to get there first…how do I get in?”- check out this article here, which provides a list of organizations that help low-income students get into college.
  2. The second you receive your acceptance letter, send an email to the financial aid department at your university. This is crucial! You want to start building a connection with these people because they’re more or less going to determine how much federal and state financial assistance you can receive. Don’t be afraid to express your concerns and ask questions. That is what they’re there for. Check out this beginner’s guide to financial aid!
  3. Are you worried about where you’re going to live next semester? Having trouble paying your rent? Check out SNAPS, a resource for homeless youth. If you’re in NYC and you need a place to sleep tonight, contact the The Crisis Intervention Program. Here is an excellent guide to student and youth homelessness.
  4. Do you have enough to eat? Soup kitchens and food banks are for everyone. If you live in the NYC area, here is a list of locations of where you can receive a hot meal. Like I mentioned above, student activities and events are a great place to get free food. Need advice on coupons, grocery shopping, frugal meal plans and recipes? I have tons listed here!
  5. Are you insured? Ask your university adviser if you’re covered for any kind of healthcare services on campus. In some cases, you may be able to apply for student insurance through your university. If not, you can apply for Medicaid here.
  6. If you’re not making ends meet right now, and you need help, there are several social services programs that provide cash, housing, heating, utility, and food assistance. If you live in NYC, you can apply for assistance programs such these quickly and easily online here. If you live elsewhere, seek out your state’s HRA (Human Resources Administration). For non-profit resources, take a look at the GuideStar Directory which provides a list of non-profit social services.

If you’re struggling right now, and trying desperately not to drop out all-together, just know you’re not alone and there are resources out there to help you get through this difficult and challenging time.

If you have any suggestions or resources I didn’t list above, please let me know in the comments below!

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Minimalism Meets Frugality: A Match Made in Heaven for New Yorkers

It is easy to confuse minimalism with frugality. Though minimalism and frugality stand for completely different things, they have a similar goal – which is to not overspend.

The name of my blog is “Minimalism in Manhattan” because I most identify with the idea of detaching from material possessions, financial pressure, and only making purchases that are valuable to me, as well as enhance my quality of life. I don’t buy stuff just because they are cheap.

Last time I went shopping, I went specifically to buy basic thermals and long sleeve tee’s for layering under my coat and to wear at home. Instead of raiding the clearance racks for absolutely everything else, I left empty handed. I don’t buy just because I can.

What makes minimalism so ideal for those living in metro areas is the fact that we don’t have a lot of space. I live in a small 800 sq apartment. Truth is, I don’t have the space to accumulate clutter.

That is what minimalism means to me, however, I also live a frugal lifestyle.

Not necessarily out of choice – in fact, I lead my life with frugality in mind because I don’t have the financial freedom not to.  This is a common reality for millions of Americans. Income inequality and the rising poverty line is a real problem here in the states. But alas, the system isn’t going to fix itself overnight.

In the meantime, there are ways to elevate some of that financial pressure by living a minimalist lifestyle with frugality in mind.

So, what does that exactly entail?

  • Buy affordable, not cheap. Cheap = poor quality. Affordable means within your budget. Can’t afford to purchase a product of quality? Then you save, coupon, and wait. You DO NOT buy the crap instead. Of course, this is situational, and a lot of the time a learning experience. Above all else, your purchase is geared to your specific needs. Spend just enough to meet your needs. Nothing more. Spend with reason.
  • Invest in hobbies. Investing in hobbies is a great way to enhance your quality of life, encourage productivity, and plant seeds of happiness. Do things. Make memories. Have experiences. The only hobby that is off limits is hoarding collectibles and memorabilia…for obvious reasons.
  • De-clutter and get rid of excess. Contrary to what you might think, you really don’t need 10 of everything. Do not stock pile anything that isn’t a basic need. What are basic needs? Beyond food and water, there really aren’t too many basic needs. There is nothing wrong with stocking your pantry, but don’t hold on to foods you haven’t touched in a long time. Face the reality that you will probably never eat that bag of red quinoa.  Stock piling toilet paper, dish soap and shampoo is also reasonable.
  • Do not own more than what you need or can use. This is pretty self explanatory – if it doesn’t work, throw it out. If it doesn’t fit, get rid of it.

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Do you folks have any suggestions to live a minimalist or frugal life? Let us know in the comments!

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Meal Planning: “Themed” Weeks – Mexican Food

Among all the different ways there are to save money on groceries, I find that meal planning, specifically with “themed” weeks, is by far the most efficient way to put a dent in your money management goals in regards to food. First things first: What the heck is themed weeks? Themed weeks is picking a type of cuisine for each week to reduce the amount of ingredients purchased. How is this cost effective? Buying a single ingredient in bulk is much more cost effective than purchasing small amounts of many different ingredients.

Here’s an example – next week, our theme will be mexican food. So, we will be buying lots of tortillas and beans. A large pack of a few hundred corn tortillas is where we would start. Add a few bags of dried beans (pinto and black beans) and that will last us all week!

Our task for Saturday night will be to soak the beans. On Sunday we will cook the whole lot of them. Yum!

These two ingredients will be the staple of all our meals. 

We will probably buy additional ingredients such as chilis, onions, tomatoes, and garlic – perhaps salsa as well! If it’s in the budget, we’ll probably purchase a nice size container of sour cream to top on everything and a bag of mexican blend cheese. Buy some avocado too if you can fit it in the budget. If you can find it for 50 cents a piece, buy 1 for each day of the week!

What can we make with this? We can have enchiladas, burritos, tacos, nachos and tortilla soup! Let’s add a can of tomato sauce – now we can have chili too! Buy a few cartons of eggs and breakfast is served – my favorite low cost, yet filling meal of huevos rancheros!

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Ultimate NYC Thrift Store Guide

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New York City is a shopper’s paradise regardless of how much money you can and/or are willing to spend. In fact, the best place to thrift shop is right here in the Big Apple. New Yorkers move from one apartment to another quite frequently, and it is very common for residents to de-clutter their apartments before moving. That clutter often ends up at Goodwill.

Here is a list of items you should definitely thrift for, along with a few tips in getting it done:

  1. While we’re on the topic of moving, thrift stores are a great place to start furnishing your apartment! Best items to purchase for the home: kitchenware, cookware and appliances. When we moved to this apartment, we bought a 2o cup, digital rice cooker/steamer (with tray) priced at $5 – Like new, still in the box and wrapped in plastic. Instead of purchasing an expensive dinnerware set from a department store, you can buy different pieces at a thrift store. Casserole dish and cupcake tin? Thrift it.
  2. Books! Contrary to popular belief, there are more than romance novels from the 90’s at Goodwill. You can find a great variety on children’s books, recent novels, and even textbooks.
  3. Cold weather clothing. Coats are very expensive indeed. Fact of the matter is, not many people wear the same coat for more than 1 season. In many cases, for children especially, they grow out of them. For many, winter coats are only worn for a few months out of the year, and that’s it.
  4. Baby and toddler clothing. We all know babies and toddlers go through sizes quickly – so it only makes the most sense to invest the least amount of money here.
  5. Entertainment and electronics. I’m talking speakers, headphones, keyboards, gaming headsets, DVD’s, CD’s, records, video games, ect. Now, there is always the possibility that the product will not work. This is why you should either 1. Ask if it is possible to test the item in store. 2. Make sure there is a return policy so if it’s damaged or not compatible with your systems, you can bring it back for a refund or store credit.

You can save upwards 90% by first looking in thrift stores for that item you’ve been searching for. Whether you’re after fashion or old records, there is a thrift store in this city that can accommodate your needs. Here is a list of the best thrift stores in NYC and what they specialize in. 

 

 

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Frugal Living in NYC: Should I get my groceries delivered?

Yes! You should get your grocery delivered if you live in NYC; and I will explain to you exactly why you should. First, let me tell you how I first made that decision.

When I first arrived in NYC, I thought the idea of grocery delivery, among laundry delivery, and endless food delivery was incredibly attractive for a busy working student who left the house before the sun was even out, and didn’t get home until after 9pm on most days. Let’s face it, New Yorkers are busy people! By the time I got home at night, I had a pile of papers to write in front of me and hundreds of textbook pages to read before the following day. This is why I often brought food home, did bulk grocery shopping online and didn’t even bother going to the laundromat. Some days I would grocery shop between classes and leave my groceries in the lunch room refrigerator at work! Can you even imagine how crazy (and inappropriate) that is?

At that moment, I realized this isn’t working and I need to find a better way to get good food in my stomach without spending an arm and a leg doing it.

Here are the reasons why I did it, WHERE I did it, and why I think you should consider it too:

  1. You can plan out every meal and snack for the entire month and order it all at once. It’s bulk shopping without bringing the car around. It saves time and money. Period.
  2. This allows New Yorkers to stock pilenot that we actually have any room for that! Have you seen the size of these apartments? Stockpiling is when you buy a lot of a very cheap product to save money in the long run. For example, you discover that cereal is a dollar a box, instead of just buying 1 box, you buy 20 because it may be a long time before you see such a low price again. That box of cereal will run out in 3-4 days – by then, that sale will be over.
  3. It eliminate impulse purchases and over-spending, and helps you avoid spending money outside of the house. For example, instead of picking up a snack between classes, I can pack some yogurt or crackers from home and save a lot of money.
  4. You can have everything you need delivered. Beyond your meat, produce, and pantry, most delivery services have every household item you can think of, baby products (food, formula, diapers, ect.), wine and spirits. They even deliver flowers, and have catering options!
  5. You can apply coupons to grocery delivery just as you would at the store! All you have to do is give your coupons to the delivery person, or apply them online.
  6. Each grocery delivery service has their own sales and deals every week just like any other grocery store. You can take advantage of these sales and work your meal plans around them.
  7. If you live in NYC, you have many grocery delivery services to choose from. Though Fresh Direct is the most widely known and used online grocer, I highly recommend shopping with PeaPod as well, which is Stop & Shop online.
    1. They’re always running a “first order” deal. TSA_SE2015_FD50_FeatureRYHM0
    2. Fresh Direct offers a delivery subscription program that allows you to have unlimited deliveries with an upfront payment. Prices range from $9.92 – $12.99 per month depending on how often you are charged. (Ex. $9.92 per month price requires you to pay the entire year upfront.)
    3. PeaPod is incredibly cheap. In fact, PeaPod offers very competitive prices in comparison to what you would find at your neighborhood grocers. Sometimes I spend LESS at PeaPod than anywhere else. I’ve made a $140 order at PeaPod that lasted my husband and I a month. That’s 35 dollars a week you real wholesome meals.
    4. Fresh Direct offers premium products and brands generally not available in many grocery stores.
    5. Last but not least, both Fresh Direct and PeaPod deliver to all of Manhattan.

Have you gotten your grocery delivered in NYC? How was your experience? Who did you shop with? Who would you recommend? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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Absolute BEST place for frugal fashionistas in NYC (Plus Sizes too!)

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Since moving to NYC in 2011, more than 50% of my wardrobe has come from Rainbow. It’s my absolute favorite shop in the NYC area. They have stores all over!

Here are the 3 reasons why I spend so much time at Rainbow:

  1. They carry affordable plus size fashion. Not only do they carry very afford plus size fashion, but they also carry in-trend pieces. Best part is their low prices which actually extend to their plus size line. A lot of the time plus size clothing can be a little bit more expensive than straight sizes. (Ex. sales at Old Navy? It it always a few dollars more for plus sizes, even when it is the same exact item) More fabric? I guess. But here at Rainbow, they have $5 and $7 sale racks that are filled with sizes up to 24 and 4x.
  2. They carry everything. Rainbow is really a 1-stop shop for frugal fashion. They have clothing, footwear, and accessories for all seasons. Also, merchandise circulates quickly. This means there is always new stuff! That cute top you’ve had your eyes on all week? It’s probably already on the clearance rack. By the time I make it to the front of the line, I’ve got a several tops, a scarf, headphones and facial wipes in my basket, and it’ll probably still come out to under $20.
  3. They also have an awesome online store. I’ve purchased quality winter coats (for $20) on rainbowshops.com even though there is a store literally 6 blocks away from me.

So even if you’re not in NYC, I still recommend checking out their online store. Whatever you’re looking for, you can find both in store and online. Although, the selection of accessories (including makeup) is much better in store.

Warm basics (thermal long sleeves, for example) and leggings are must for my winter attire. I wear them with ankle boots, a bright colored scarf and a knit headwrap 🙂 What does your winter wardrobe look like?

Right now, there are tons of plus size knit leggings for less than $5! Link here!

Happy Shopping!

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Frugal Foods: Cheap Chili

I love chili. Chili is incredibly versatile and it’s general my go-to meal when I don’t want to work too hard or spend too much money. It’s an easy-to-please dinner that can be jazzed up with toppings and sides.

Today, I was worn out and tired after running errands with a head cold. I thought – this is the perfect time to dump a few ingredients in a pot and walk away.

Here is my version of Cheap Chili

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Ingredients list: Really, it’s JUST 3 things!

Chopped/ground meat (a ground beef and pork mix may be the most cost effective, but ground chicken or turkey is a great healthy alternative.)

Beans! I love beans. They’re packed with protein and give chili that great texture I love. I recommend buying a small bag of dry beans because they go a lot further than canned beans (about 3-5 times in terms of price). Stick a handful in a bowl of water before you go to bed and cook them prior to adding them to your chili. Kidney, pinto and black beans are my favorite.

Tomato sauce. When you buy a chili seasoning pack, the recipe on the back of the packet calls for tomato sauce, and truly, in comparison to tomato paste and diced tomatoes, this is the cheapest, and easiest option. Generic tomato sauce is 50 cents a can, NOT on sale. If you don’t live in NYC, you can probably find it for cheaper.

Spices. Basic chili seasoning consists of **chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, oregano, cayenne pepper, and cumin. **Quick rule of thumb: you will always need 2-3x the amount of chili powder to everything else** Try adding a tablespoon of sugar, very little bit!, to your chili to off-set the spicy factor of the cayenne pepper and add a bit of sweetness. I also always add fresh garlic and onion to mine!

I know that spices are costly but I promise you it’s cost effective to stock your spice cabinet. You’re going to be spending a lot more buying those pre-made packets such as the taco seasoning and chili seasoning packets. Consider buying your spices at non-grocery stores because they tend to be generic and much less expensive. Did you know Rite Aid has many $1 spices? Again, this is shelf price, not sale price. In fact, drug stores are a great place to check for any pantry items! Just a tip: you can also get a 2lb bag of white or brown rice at Rite Aid for 1.99. I often see it on sale for 1.50!

Now it’s time to jazz it up! Maybe a dollop of sour cream to the top? A handful of cheddar cheese? On a bed of rice perhaps? Smothered on top of a hotdog or fries? Or both?

There are many ways to make chili, and I’d love to hear your version.

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How do I grocery shop efficiently?

Hubby and I went back to Bravo today to stock up on some meats and buy ingredients to make chili for dinner. We didn’t use coupons or the Flipp app, and we still did really well. I simply wrote down exactly everything I needed before hand.  You don’t always need to use coupons or tirelessly look for sales to be an efficient shopper. In fact, most of the money saving comes from pre-planning meals and bringing a shopping list. Most of the money we can save comes from not buying anything you didn’t go to the grocery store for. So, yeah, it’s pretty much about self control. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy anything at all (that isn’t on your list), because it would be smart to take advantage of a sale or a deal, even if you didn’t intend on it, but it’s important to set a limit so you don’t lose track of your spending. Keep in mind that, you can buy everything on sale, and it still not materialize into a wholesome meal.

The key to being a smart shopper is not letting sales blind you into purchasing something 1. you don’t need. 2. is unhealthy, is not “real” food 3. you can’t turn into a meal without spending a lot more money. 

This is what we spent today. $26 bucks and we got all of this.

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With less than $50, I can pretty much feed myself and my husband for an entire week. We usually do oatmeal, pancakes, or cereal for breakfast (all generic, usually with coupons), and sandwiches or jazzed-up leftovers for lunch. Sometimes we skip lunch because we’ve had a big breakfast, or we plan to have a big dinner!

How do I make this happen every week? 

I plan everything out and write every meal in my calendar. I never go to the grocery store without a list (if I don’t make a list, forget it, it’s a disaster and I’ll overspend.)

This week’s dinners: Chili, cottage pie, a classic roast chicken, and stew (I haven’t worked out the details on that yet.) We will probably do some kind of pasta this weekend and go out for pasta sauce and noodles over the weekend ($2-5) For snacks, I stick to apples, bananas, and yogurt. I like to buy fruit that is easy to portion and easy to grab and go.

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Frugal Foods: BBQ Chicken Pizza

Today my husband came along for my usual weekly errand and grocery run. We started at Rite Aid, to purchase some cough syrup for his sniffly and sickly self. I had my catalog clippings on Flipp (app), and I had a hand-written  grocery list. Did I stick to my list? Well, not exactly. BUT, we still did well.

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When we arrived at Rite Aid, I was bummed that the Thermaflu was sold out! Understandable – that blizzard left a lot of us sniffly and sneezey! We ended up picking up a generic bottle of Rite Aid brand cough syrup and kept on our way.

Second mistake was not actually going to C-Town. We ended up going to Bravo across the street instead. If you guys aren’t familiar with these stores, they’re small grocery chains in the NYC area.

Luckily, we actually matched the prices on the items we intended to buy! That doesn’t make up for the fact that we did not stick to our list.

See, here is the thing – whenever I take hubby out to the grocery store with me, we end up buying more than what we went there for. That isn’t always a bad thing, though! In fact, sometimes, it works itself out for the best! While picking up the cheddar cheese (on my written list), he thought of a great idea to make use of left over BBQ chicken by utilizing what we already intend to buy + a can of biscuit dough. So, he came up with dinner at the cost of barely $2.50

I married a smart man.

So, I thought I’d share the recipe since it is not only very cost effective but delicious as well!

BBQ Chicken Pizza

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Main ingredients:
Chicken! It really doesn’t matter what kind of chicken you use.

We buy a lot of quarter legs because they’re always less than a dollar a lb. This week, and for the last several weeks, it has been 49 cents a lb. That comes out to barely 25 cents per meal (for 2). You can easily jazz up leg quarters and pair them with a vegetable and starch. It is also awesome for soups and stews!
Biscuit dough flattened out on a cookie sheet (you can use frozen/box pizza dough too, or make your own – whatever is most cost effective and easiest for you!)
Your favorite BBQ sauce (I like to go with something sweet & spicy.)
Veggies! Onions and bell peppers work really well! Feel free to add any kind of vegetable you like!
CHEESE! (Preferably cheddar.) Ranch for dipping sauce if you’re in to that sort of thing 😉


Oven @ 350 for about 10 mins.

Keep in mind, biscuits cook quickly and brown fast.

This really makes for a great, super quick, super cheap lunch. It’s also something fun to do with small kids, family and friends.

 

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