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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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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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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Reminder: Check A-L-L Grocery Catalogs!

 

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When I load up my Flipp app, there are literally hundreds of catalogs that pop up. On a regular day (or week), I usually don’t bother looking at any of the catalogs for stores that I don’t frequent. To be honest, I am probably missing out on deals I’m not even aware of. In truth, it is kind of a pain to skim through tons of catalogs, but in the long run, you do save money. Effort always pays off.

 

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Frugal Tips – Shop Your Pantry!

Today was a great example as to why it is important to shop your pantry before going out to buy something else.  Let me explain.

This morning my husband woke me with news that there was an error alert on my desktop screen. Of course Luna (my cat) decided to sleep on my keyboard last night. She somehow  managed to manually reset my computer! (LOL) I was not surprised; this is definitely a Luna thing. She has turned off our Xbox One with her tail, as well as reset the internet – quite the trouble maker! Unfortunately, I spent the remainder of the day getting my laptop back in working order!

Anyhow, all of this had me completely forgetting that I had the Peapod delivery set for this afternoon! I missed 3 calls from Peapod while focusing on my laptop fiasco – one that they were in the neighborhood, another when they arrived, and a last one that notified me of out-of-stock items that did not make it in my delivery. It is one of my favorite features about Peapod, yet the alert only works if you pay attention to your phone…

So, as you can imagine, I was completely thrown off from my meal plan I had put together for the next few weeks. Instead of going out to the store to pick up those missing items, we decided it would make more sense money-wise to first see what we had in our pantry.

A lot of the time we think there is nothing to eat in our homes, but in reality, we have food – we just don’t really want to eat it – or don’t know what to eat it with, how to prepare it, ect.

This is a great time to get creative and/or to check out some recipes online. Tomorrow we plan to do just that! I’ll keep you folks posted on how well we improvise with what we already have at home!

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Frugal Plus Size Fashion Haul – Old Navy, Marshall’s, Rainbow Shops

(Links to where you can purchase some of these pieces at end of this article!)

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Hey all! So, it’s been a while since I shared a frugal fashion haul. This haul is quite small with a mix of in-store purchases as well as some pieces I purchased online.

When it comes to fashion and shopping, I do have a style that I tend to stick with. In regards to shopping, I only shop sales racks and clearance. Rarely, if ever, will I venture away unless the item is $10 or less at regular price.

I’m a seasonal shopper – which means that I often purchase seasonally appropriate clothing right before the season starts. In late Spring, I will generally buy warm weather clothing, and in the late Fall, early Winter, I will buy cold weather attire. If you’re the type of person who likes to keep their wardrobe fresh and wear new styles often, then you’d understand why I do not invest much money in clothing. It is only meant to be worn for 2-3 seasons. I think as a young person, our styles and personalities change so much, and so does our wardrobe. I dress a lot different than I did, even a year ago! In the past, I found myself wearing a lot of quirky, bright, and loud clothing which really reflected my college-age personality. Today, I prefer basics, classic, and chic styles that are more career/office friendly which also reflects how much more reserved, quiet and calm I am today. I shop with sensibility in mind, and often think about being able to pair many different pieces together. This is why you’ll find a lot of solid color cardigans, flowy tops, and basic leggings and tank tops in my closet. My wardrobe keeps layering in mind for Spring and Fall as well.

If you were not already aware, the best time to shop for clothing is in-between seasons. This is when a lot of new styles get pushed out by retailers and when you’ll run into the most variety on clearance and sales racks. Most assume the best time to shop is during the holidays, but that’s not entirely true. In recent years, I have landed better deals in April than I have in November-December. In fact, I’d say the absolute best deal I’ve scored was with Old Navy a few weeks ago. I got an additional 30% off already marked down clearance on some beautiful peplum tops, as well as a low-impact sports bra for $6 a pop. I plan to wear these all summer long with a light cardigan!

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I love Old Navy and it has been my to-go spot for a long time. One thing that I love about Old Navy is the fact that their clothing runs large, and they also have petite and tall available. I’m a pretty tall gal. I’m somewhere between 5’7″-5’8″, but I am also apple/pear shaped. All my weight is in my tummy, hips and upper thighs. No where else can I find clothing that is long enough to hit below the zipper than at Old Navy. They carry a size that is perfect for me – Tall XL, XXL in straight sizes. They also offer a plus size line that shares many of the same styles. I really recommend Old Navy for their quality, fit, and price (always running sales, always have a lot on clearance online).

I’ve also been having a lot of luck at Marshall’s. A few days ago, I went to Marshall’s with the intention to purchase bras. Yes. Bras. Every lady’s most hated shopping experience involves bras. LOL.

I found a Kathy Ireland t-shirt bra marked down from $42.99 to $6.99. Unfortunately the straps were too short and it didn’t fit as well as I hoped. Am I upset? Not really. It was only $6.99, and it was in part my fault for not thinking I should probably try it on. Duh.

We’ve also been in need of new sheets and a bath rug, as well as same athletic shoes for hubby. We found all of these items for an awesome value at Marshall’s. Last time we were at Marshall’s, he found a great pair of Under Armor shoes on clearance. He scored again this week. He has big feet – size 13-14, which is particularly difficult to find…that has not been the case for our favored Bronx Marshall’s. When it comes to clearance, those large sizes are usually all that’s left. Good thing for him, he has a lot to chose from!

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Loves these pieces? Want them for yourself? Some of them are still available online!

Grey lace up top – http://www.rainbowshops.com/Plus-Size-Ribbed-Top-with-Lace-up-Neckline/9003145027,default,pd.html

Peplum floral print top – http://oldnavy.gap.com/browse/product.do?vid=3&pid=209501002 (I am a size 2X usually, and purchased this in a Tall XL and it is still roomy enough to layer underneath). It’s also comes in their plus size line as well – http://oldnavy.gap.com/browse/product.do?vid=8&pid=215922012 (1X-4X). Slightly different cut.

Peplum pink striped top – http://oldnavy.gap.com/browse/product.do?vid=1&pid=207531002 (I purchased XXL in straight sizes)

Seamless cami sports bra – http://oldnavy.gap.com/browse/product.do?vid=1&pid=429321212

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$30 5-day Meal Plan

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Hey all – I know I haven’t published many blog posts over the last few weeks. That’s because my parents are in town! 🙂 I can’t wait to share a bit more about their visit in later posts. If you’re interested in keeping up with our adventures, feel free to follow my Instagram account for regular updates on food spots, tourist attractions, and the like!

Let’s move on to this upcoming week’s meal plan! So what’s on the menu?

Dinners (with leftovers!) FYI – Recipes will come as I prepare these meals.

  1. All-beef Smoked Sausage or Kielbasa Hash w/ Bell Peppers + Onions
  2. Salisbury Steaks w/ Mashed Potatoes and Homemade Mushroom Gravy (Green beans or your favorite veggie on the side!)
  3. Roasted Lemon Pepper Chicken Breasts w/ Rosemary Garlic-y Roasted Potatoes (Green beans or your favorite veggie on the side!)
  4. Roasted Chicken w/ Homemade Mushroom Gravy and Mashed Potatoes (Green beans or your favorite veggie on the side!)
  5. Cheesy Meatball Subs with Sweet-Marinara Sauce

Lunches

  1. Leftovers
  2. Variations of egg salad, tuna, and avocado sandwiches on whole-wheat bread.
  3. Ham & cheese sandwiches on whole-wheat bread
  4. Grilled cheese sandwiches on whole-wheat bread.

Breakfasts

  1. Ham, eggs, and home fries.
  2. Cheese omelettes on whole wheat bread.

What we already had on hand:

  • Eggs
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Lemons
  • Eggs

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Easter Haul: Staying Conscious In The Mist Of a Sale

When I go shopping, I always ask myself – will I wear this regularly? Even more importantly, I ask myself – what will I wear this with? Even if I love this piece of clothing, this shade of lipstick, or this pair of earrings, if I can’t foresee myself wearing this item right now -I won’t buy it. I only buy something because I love it.

Just because I have a gift card, doesn’t mean I should buy it. Just because it’s dirt cheap, doesn’t mean I should buy it. Today was a great example of this conflict. I have been doing quite a bit of shopping lately and I’m starting to notice how much consumerism can bother me. Spending money makes me feel guilty. Have you ever felt this way?

I admit, I’ve been stressed down to my bones due to life’s usual ups and downs, and retail therapy – wearing something new, really brightens my day!

Truly – minimalist or not, you should not feel guilty about treating yourself to something you love. Every once and a while, buy yourself something you love. It is a form of self-love. When we dress ourselves, we are loving ourselves and expressing ourselves too. When I wear a colorful floral top, or a bright shade of pink lipstick, I’m saying – hey! you know what? today I’m going to have a bright and colorful day.

Before I get anymore philosophical on ya –

Here is what I managed to snag off several $5 and $7 clearance racks!

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Floral print “swing” tops by Ambiance Apparel from Rainbow Shops, NYC. 
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Thick marble open-front cardigan (mid arm length) – brand unsure, Velvet elephant print (hippie, bohemian) wide-leg yoga pants by Hot Kiss. Super soft denim jeggings by Sapphire Red.
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Copy-cat perfume/body spray of Carolina Herrera fragrance.

 

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Hollar.com Haul – Unboxing & Review

Hey gang!

So, after waiting in line for an hour at the post office, I finally got my Hollar package in hand!

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Everything looks great except these earrings, which are chipped in the skull and crossbones:

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All the pens have smooth ink, and nothing is damaged or opened. The only other thing to note is the the kitten stickers are raised (puffy). The red crochet scarf with a rose is missing from the photo. It is very thick and warm and the detail is impressive. I’ll get a picture of it up on the blog soon! Click here to get $2 off your order!

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