BLOGMAS DAY #5 // PROGRESS REPORT!

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Instead of covering a specific topic today, I thought I’d just write a bit about what I’ve been up to and what I’ve got planned for tonight!

This evening, I stopped by the post office to complain about the packages I haven’t received. For some reason, the post offices in the upper-Manhattan area are so terrible! It really is disappointing. I do a lot of online shopping and receive care packages from loved ones out of state, and it’s such a challenge receiving any of my parcels.

The line was long and those standing in it were very grumpy, to say the least. On the bright side, I didn’t leave empty handed – thankfully! I was able to pick up at least one package – 2 pairs of leggings and a cardigan from Forever 21 which I purchased on Black Friday. I love Forever 21 basics, especially their solid knit leggings. They’re surprisingly thick and fantastic quality. I wear leggings all year long, and they often don’t last. Big thighs create friction and tend to wear down on the material quickly. But these beauties? They last at least an entire season! Which may not seem like much, but at $5.90 a pop (that’s their list price!), you can’t find a better value for plus size leggings anywhere else.

I really enjoy the Fall/Winter colors as well. I picked up one pair in a maroon color and another in a forest green color. I also ordered a basic flyaway cardigan for under my coat! Eventually, I’d like to style these pieces and show you how I plan to wear them!

On the way home from the post office, I stopped by a few Mom & Pop discount stores, which, by the way, is very common in every neighborhood in NYC. They basically have a little bit of everything. I was able to find wrapping paper, scotch tape, glue sticks, danish cookies, hot cocoa, a box of tea, and Christmas cards for a dollar each! Before I go to chain stores, I always check the nearby discount stores first to see if they have what I need for cheaper – 99.9% of the time they do, and for a dollar. Hands down, I’d probably spend $20 instead of $7 if I went anywhere else.

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Tonight, after I finish uploading this blog post, I plan to wrap a few gifts, and work on these DIY paper houses I started last night. I will probably be enjoying some tea, maybe coffee, or cocoa, and of course, the danish cookies I purchased today! If I have time, I’d also like to start working on my Christmas cards and get them out ASAP!

// Blogmas Day #1 BUCKETLIST progress //

I’m proud to say that I’ve been making good progress getting through my Christmas bucket list! So far, I’ve picked up my small potted plant and made my Toys For Tots donation! 😊 

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I’m also well on my way to completing the DIY projects I have in mind, as well as sending out the Christmas cards with written letters. I have a few 2017 planners sitting in shopping carts, as well as a journal, but I’m honestly really considering bullet journaling and/or putting together a binder and printing the entire thing out myself with the hundreds of free printable planner inserts you can find on Pinterest! I have the paper, the printer, and the ink. And, a 99 cent binder is a lot cheaper than a planner, amirite!?

How is everyone making progress with Blogmas? Have you kept up with it? It’s only been 5 days! I know it’s starting to feel like a chore already, isn’t it?

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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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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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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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Shopmissa Mini-Haul & Giftcard Giveaway!

Want to win a $25 giftcard to my favorite online dollar store – Shopmissa.com?! Comment on this post with your favorite products from Shopmissa.com and/or what you’d get with your $25 giftcard! Winner will be annouced 7-27-16!

Overall, it is always a fantastic experience. This time around, I recieve a very small package (of 6 items). Even though the package was very small, it arrived much later than expected. It took almost a week to ship! However, once it was out, arriving at my apartment took just a matter of days. Best case scenerio is they were out of stock of one of the items, having to wait a few days, and that’s why it took a bit longer than usual. Still, I am so happy with all of the items I recieved!

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The L.A. Colors lip gloss and the Burt’s Bees tinted balm are not from my Shop Missa A order but I wanted to share them! It makes the perfect combo for a a bold lip.

Of course, I took some selfies to show you folks how the Kleancolor “Madly Matte” lipsticks look when worn!

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My personal favorite – Congo Pink #2281 (Kleancolor Matte Lipsticks)
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A bright, and I’d say “fearless” color! Fearless #24 (Kleancolor Matte Lipsticks)

What’s that in my nose?

Faux nose clip and 2 faux septum rings!

Want these for yourself? Here are the links:

2 Piece Gold Rhinestone Septum Rings

Madly Matte Lipstick- Pink Tones

Madly Matte Lipstick- Orange Tones

Oatmeal Oxygen Bubble Mask

Want to win a $25 giftcard to my favorite online dollar store – Shopmissa.com?! Comment on this post with your favorite products from Shopmissa.com and/or what you’d get with your $25 giftcard! Winner will be annouced 7-27-16!

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6 Month Anniversary & Forums!

So, it’s come to my attention that as of today, it’s been 6 months since I started brain vomiting all over WordPress!

I’ve learned so much in the process of building this blog, and for the most part, I’ve been doing this casually, just for fun – for myself.

To be honest with you, I’m still struggling with sharing my blog with other people outside of WordPress and the blogging community. I’m not really the type of person to throw myself out there and tell people about my life…”then why do you have a blog” Yeah, yeah, I know. LOL. Life is just a big fat ironic thing.

I’ve really surprised myself by how often I look back and reference my own posts! This gives me reassurance that the content I am sharing is useful, beneficial, and worthy of reading.

As of today, I have just a few folks shy of 1,400 loyal subscribers.

I thought this would be a great time to thank all of you for your interest in what I write. 

Today, I’m expanding my blog by including forums on my blog.

Though these forums will be public, they’re mostly there for my subscribers. So far, I’ve made this blog all about me. But, this is a learning experience. As an instructor, as a writer, as a growing and learning human being – I believe in the art and power of collaboration. Let’s help each other by sharing our experiences. Life is hard, no? It’s also very expensive. Where the coupons at?

Cheers to the future,

Jocelyn

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Planner Printables

I’ve always been a huge fan of planners since my adolescent days. I like to feel in control of my life. Who doesn’t?

Setting small goals and completing them (sometimes something as small as following through with today’s meal plan (really provides a sense of control in a very hectic world). Not to mention, heck, it’s instant gratification that you’re allowing yourself to have on a daily, if not hourly basis.

Bullet Journaling is also a great way to take charge of your life. Successful people – people who get stuff done? They plan. They plan everything. And they plan it well.

What’s the catch? Well for starters, keeping up with your daily planner requires some serious self-discipline. It doesn’t help that planners, really well-made ones, are expensive. They can easily cost you $30 to even $100! I get through life best by writing it all down, so for me, well-designed planners are a good investment. Some great brands are Erin Condren, Plum Paper Designs, Passion Planner, and Day Designer.

Each planner is superb in their own way. Passion Planner is definitely more along the lines of goal setting and very good for young people and post-grads. Erin Condren and Plum Planner allow you to basically create your own custom-made planner to fit your specific needs, and Day Designer is all about organization. Me? I could benefit most from Day Designer because I’m very disorganized and really can’t get anything done without a schedule.

Finally, let’s talk about what’s printable. Now, printing your own planner pages really is a great way to get started immediately (assuming you have a printer, ink, and paper readily available), and don’t want to invest (just yet) in buying one. I find that this is also a great way to sample layouts and decide what is most useful for you. Day Designer has an amazing selection of printable pages. In fact, I believe they offer every page design for you to print yourself for absolutely no cost. Check it out here! Passion Planner also offers their entire planner for printing free of cost. Here’s a link!

Let me know what you think! Is there a planner you recommend? What about free printable(s) online that I missed? Let me know!

 

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Peapod Grocery Haul – $28.09 Per Week Budget/Meal Plan

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I can’t even begin to explain how much I am loving Peapod right now, and how much of a bargain it has been for me and my family. When it comes to feeding myself and my husband healthy and wholesome meals (for the most part 😛 ) for very little money, this really is where it’s at.

So, just to start, I’d like to let you know that my order came out to over $100. About $20 of those dollars went to household items such as toilet paper, dish soap, and cat food to last the month. The rest? Food for nearly 3 weeks.

It could last a bit longer depending on how much we actually end up eating on a day-to-day basis. We also aren’t quite at bare fridge/freezer yet. We have a 3-4 days, if not more of meat in the freezer. We also have frozen vegetables, and leftovers in the fridge. Regardless, I calculated this food plan for 21 days.

I’d like to also throw it out there that I will probably be going to the street markets once a week and spending a few more dollars on fresh fruit for snacking and smoothies. I might also pick up some rice. I also took it upon myself to “shop the pantry”, therefore there are some items I will be cooking with over the next 3 weeks that I already have at home.

Though my meal plan is still sort of a rough draft, this is what I have in the works right now:

Breakfast:

  • Waffles
  • Cereal
  • Oatmeal (in pantry)
  • Smoothies

Lunches:

  • Sandwiches
  • Smoothies
  • Leftovers

Dinners:

  • Italian sausage, Peppers, and Potato Bake x3
  • Spaghetti & Meat Sauce x3
  • Beef Stew x2
  • Teriyaki Chicken x3
  • Spanish Chicken Stew x2
  • Classic Roast Chicken x3
  • Tacos x2
  • Chili x2
  • Oven-baked Fish Fillets x3

The idea behind this meal plan, (and for the most part, all of my meal plans), is buying and cooking in bulk and eating leftovers for 2-3 consecutive dinners. It is also using the same ingredients, with different seasonings, for many different dishes. Stews are very inexpensive to cook and it makes a TON!  The stews, as well as the Italian sausage bake will all incorporate the same vegetables. Chili and tacos are both very low-cost, especially if you buy your beans dry and cook them in bulk for the week. (However, this week, I did buy them canned because they were less than 60 cents a can.) The fish fillets are indeed frozen – value size bag of 12 for $3! Teriyaki chicken is very low-cost and simple as well. It only calls for (the cheapest cuts you can find) chicken, soy sauce, sugar, and a few fresh ingredients such as garlic and ginger which I keep on hand.

This is really handy for families who have differing work schedules and don’t spend a lot of time at home during meal time. It not only saves time and money, but when it comes to soups, stews, and chili, it really does get better the longer it cooks and the more times it is reheated on the stove.

I honestly really enjoy the process of cooking, but I realize that a lot of people just don’t have the time/don’t want to invest the time in cooking when they could be investing that time in doing something else (leisure activities, for example). I’d rather be spending my free time playing video games than cooking and cleaning! No lies here!

 

 

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Key Foods Haul $60 2-week Budget

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This morning my husband and I trekked to Key Foods, about a mile away from our apartment. I’ve only been here a few times and already I can tell this is going to be  new favorite neighborhood grocery store! (I also just found out they deliver to Brooklyn!)

They have an awesome selection of generic, as well as premium foods. In terms of bargains, the best was hormone free/organic chicken thighs for less than $1/lb this week. They also had some nice cuts of chopped steaks and pork chops for less than $2/lb.  Key Foods offers many mark downs and manager’s specials on both meat and produce. As you can see in my photos, I scored both mark down veggies as well as meats.

If it wasn’t so far away (and it wasn’t soooo damn hot outside!), I’d definitely be heading down there more often. I can’t seem to locate my receipt, so here is a list of what we purchased:

  1. Gal. of Milk
  2. Pure Leaf Sweet Tea
  3. Jelly Rolls
  4. Peach Pie
  5. Prelude Popcorn Chicken
  6. 5.5lb Hormone-Free Chicken Thighs
  7. 3lb Pork Loin
  8. 1lb Cubed Steaks (4 total)
  9. Jennie-O Turkey Kielbasa
  10. Oscar Myer All-Beef Hot Dogs
  11. lb Lemons
  12. Earthbound Farm romaine lettuce
  13. Carton of White Button Mushrooms
  14. Veggie Medley – Carrots, Cauliflower, Broccoli (fresh)
  15. Jumbo Yellow Onion
  16. 12 Pack Poptarts
  17. Bag of Berry Colossal Crunch – Generic Cereal (Captain Crunch)
  18. Town House Butter Crackers
  19. Best Yet Angel Hair Pasta – Whole Wheat
  20. Italian Village Cheese Ravioli – Frozen
  21. Friendship Sour Cream
  22. Key Foods Paprika

Meal Plan:

  1. Teriyaki Chicken Thighs
  2. Chicken Noodle Casserole
  3. Creamy Mushroom Chicken
  4. Raviolis
  5. Meat Jun
  6. Teriyaki Steak
  7. Smothered Pork Chops
  8. Breaded Pork Chops
  9. Kielbasa Stir-fry
  10. Homemade Corn-dogs

Lunches – Sandwiches/Salads, leftovers

Breakfasts – Cereal, Pop-tarts

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