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6 Steps To Eating Well On A Budget

How to eat well on a budget

 

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by Meghan Newsom
Health & Gluten Free Recipes Contributor

It’s no secret that it’s expensive to eat well. It’s even more expensive if you are on a strict gluten free diet. The thing I hear most from friends and family as to why they don’t put better food inside their body is because it’s just too expensive.

 While eating an organic plant-based diet IS a bit more expensive than the normal American diet, I have found lots of tricks to keeping our grocery budget low while still being able to enjoy a healthy whole foods diet in our home.

 These 6 tricks to eating well on a tight budget have helped our family, and I know it will help yours as well!

1. PLAN PLAN PLAN!- Always plan ahead of time. Know what you are going to eat each night for dinner, and plan for lunches and breakfasts as well. While you are planning your menu, keep a piece of paper beside you to jot down specific items you will need from the grocery store. Take an inventory of your pantry as well and jot down any staple items you will need to re-stock for the week.

 2. Budget– With our household, we keep a strict budget to keep us on track. We pay for things in cash and this really helps me not overspend when I go to the grocery store (since it’s the only place we are really allowed to spend money!). Taking cash with me helps me know that I’ve got to be extremely mindful of what I put into my shopping cart. It’s kind of embarrassing when you get to the check-out and you don’t have enough money to pay for everything!

 3. Keep Staples On Hand- This little tip has helped me eliminate about $20 dollars a week from our budget. I keep brown rice, quinoa, dried beans, sushi rice, lentils and gluten free pasta on hand. By buying these items in bulk when our budget allows for it, I always have “filler” items for times when our budget runs out. Notice that I said DRIED BEANS instead of CANNED BEANS. Buying dried beans and cooking them in the crockpot then freezing them saves our family so much money. I also love that I know exactly what goes into our beans- just beans!! (no preservatives from the cans).

 4. Make Your Own Snacks- Instead of buying processed, pre-packaged foods, I always make our own snacks. I make our own granola bars, pop our own popcorn and make our own “ice cream”. Whenever we have deserts, I either buy a Bob’s Red Mill mix that is on sale at Big Lots! OR make my own. The only pre-packaged snacks we buy are high-protein granola bars for my husband’s bike rides. 

5. Produce- There are several ways to save on produce, and none of them involve shopping at a health food store or even your local grocery store. We have saved money by joining a local CSA, shopping at farmers markets (the best time to do this is when they are closing down and the farmers want to get rid of their produce), and recently shopping at locally owned grocery stores. There is a store in our area that sales only organic produce that they buy off of farmers at farmers markets. We are able to get a HUGE box of produce that will last us 2 weeks for only $35.00. I have several friends who are able to save money at co-ops as well as costco.

 6. Stay Away From Pre-Packaged Foods– This little tip is especially helpful when you are on a gluten free diet. Gluten Free packaged foods are a lot more expensive than their gluten-contaning counterparts. When you can, stay away from prepackaged foods and opt to make your own. I do this in our home by making our own dressings, our own popcorn, french fries, salads etc. There are some prepackaged foods that are staples in our home like cereals and condiments. But, as a general rule pre-packaged foods can really add onto your grocery bill.

 Do you have any tried-and-true ways you help your family save money on your grocery budget? We’d love to hear your ideas!

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Meghan Newsom
Health & Gluten Free Contributor
Meghan’s site: eat.live. make.
 You can follow her here:
Decorating/ Frugal/ FUN/DIY/ HOME/ Homemaking

My Bathroom Makeover Makes Me Happy!

I really can’t believe I finally got this done.  I sure wish  I took ‘before’ pictures!  I’ve wanted a grey bathroom for awhile now.  The paint color I had before was an awful brown/green color – blech!- and my shower curtain was small vertical stripes, in rusts & golds and greens, which I’ve had for over 12 years.  This was a much needed & big change!
Besides wanting to get rid of the prior green/brown paint color, what motivated me to do this was the never-ending loads of towels I was doing with 3 girls in my house!  We had one towel bar for 5 people–not good.  Not anymore.  Each girl has their own hook and their own color of towel.  If their towel is not put back o the hook and they need one, they drip dry…no joke!  This Mama is serious about cutting down on laundry!  There are 2 more hooks on the back of the bathroom door for Mom & Dad’s towels.  Our towels are white.  Nice, fluffy, spa-like white.  Ahhh. It has worked beautifully and I don’t know why I have not done this sooner!
I also was motivated by really wanting a new shower curtain.  I had the old one for over 12 years, so it was time!  I love this simple, horizontal striped shower curtain.
I added a few minimal holiday touches.  A little touch of sparkle.  I always have a candle in there, even when it is not Christmastime.
I think every room needs a touch of natural green, and these succulents on the back of the ‘throne’ were just the thing.  They are super low maintenance.  The clock was given to me by a friend–when I stand in front of my mirror, the time is reflected which is super helpful on late mornings.

The black display boxes on the wall have been a great addition to our bathroom.  Ball jars hold cotton & q-tips.  I have room deodorant spray on the top shelf, another candle, a Christmas tin for pretty storage, & shelves for wash clothes.  I LOVE having a space for an extra roll of toilet paper.  It is noticeable when the shelf is empty, and I can refill it when I notice it.  Sure beats hearing “MOM, I NEED SOME TP!!” which was the case WAY too often before.  I got a great deal on these shelves on black Friday…they were only 9 dollars!
I really, really like our new rug.  It feels so lovely on our feet & covers a crack in our tile which used to drive me nuts!
I had a very willing little helper.  It only took about 2 hours to paint the bathroom…one hour per day/coat.  Easy!  Why oh WHY do I procrastinate.  It feels so, so good to have this done.
//
Paint-Sherwin Williams Intellectual Grey ($40)
Towels-Bed Bath & Beyond ($8 each)
Shower Curtain-West Elm ($40)
Black Shelves-Shopko ($9)
Hooks-Target ($7 each)
Rug-Target ($20)
Washcloths-Target ($5)
Clock-gift (free)
Planters-garage sale ($3)
Plants-Walgreens ($5 each)
= about $175.00  
Not bad for a bathroom makeover!  I love my new bathroom.  I kinda want to go just sit in it now… 
🙂
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Frugal/ HOME

No Spend Week Update + Black Friday Shopping

I contemplated not giving you all an update on No Spend Week {sheepish grin}.

Really, I didn’t do to bad, and if No Spend Week was Sunday-Thursday, I would have a perfect report to give you.

Where I got in trouble was when I headed out to Black Friday shopping. I have never participated in Black Friday shopping, mostly because I was a bit scared of it!  It seems the only stories to hit the news are the ones of crazy shoppers hurting each other to get a good deal.  But, when my 13 year old Teagan asked (begged) to go, I thought it could be fun and maybe, just maybe I could get a chunk of my Christmas shopping done.  We also celebrated Thanksgiving on Wednesday evening, and had a ton of quality family time at home on Thanksgiving day, so getting out was appealing.

Back to the no spend week,  let me explain; if we have a budget set aside for a certain item, then spending money in that budget was ok during ‘No Spend Week.’  For instance, we have a certain amount we budget and save for Christmas.  We know it is there and we know what we can spend. Same with groceries, we have a grocery budget and same with clothes, we have a clothes budget.  The key for me during ‘No Spend Week’ was to be extra thoughtful with each penny I spend, even in our set budgets that I could spend from.

I noticed where I saved the most money during ‘No Spend Week’ was going out to eat.  I meet a friend for lunch at least once a week, and I frequent coffee shops to work on New Nostalgia.  During ‘No Spend Week’ I had a friend come to my house for brunch. I made Coconut French Toast & Salad with Homemade Dressing.  We had talked about going out for sushi, but when I decided that this was the week for no spending, I asked her if she would like to come over for brunch instead.  We had an awesome time and it was a great way to save money.

I found myself really struggling with no spending on Wednesday of last week, because my older two girls had school, but my youngest one didn’t.  Whenever I find myself alone with one girl, I like to find a way to spend some special time with them.  We call them “Mommy Dates.”  I really wanted to take her out for a pastry or grab some lunch with her, but I fought the urge and stayed home!  We still had quality time together.  She helped me in the kitchen and we had lunch together, it was just in our own home at our own table.

Back to Black Friday shopping.  Here is the deal.  I LOVED IT.  My Teagan and I had so much fun, we created amazing memories together and I have 90% of my Christmas shopping done.  I was able to buy gifts for my family that I never would have been able to afford if they were not on sale.  I found I was able to buy gifts that were practical and will be used, but still very nice quality which makes a great gift.  I felt like I was supporting the economy while at the same time being wise and frugal with our money.

I did not experience rudeness.  I found the opposite to be true and I was quite surprised.  I met people in line who had holiday cheer and were friendly.  It was a super fun atmosphere.  People were polite.  If I dropped something, it was picked up for me before I had a chance to get it myself.  Christmas music was playing and we had a blast!  We created memories that I know my girl won’t forget, like sharing spaghetti in the mall food court at 4 a.m.  She loved that.

So, Black Friday was a super positive experience for me and left me pleasantly surprised.  I stuck to the Christmas budget which was following my ‘No Spend Week’ rules, UNTIL I saw an outdoor fire pit for 60% off.  Ugh.  I have wanted one of these for years and have been watching for sales, but whenever I see one for sale the timing is not right with our budget.  Well, I couldn’t resist and bought it.   We also couldn’t resist eating spaghetti in the mall food court…we were STARVIN’ by 4 a.m.

I admit, I am glad ‘No Spend Week’ is over.  I will have another, but not until January!

 It really did help save some money, and more importantly it changes my thinking to be more purposeful with my spending.

//

How about you?

Did you shop on Black Friday?
Was it a positive or negative experience?
Have you ever had a ‘No Spend Week?’  Is it something you would consider doing?

Frugal/ HOME

No Spend Week

So I updated my bathroom this last week, and spent a little more than I wanted.  I will be sharing the results of that update sometime soon, and I’m super happy with it, but boy…the numbers add up quickly!  I got a new shower curtain, paint, some hooks, a new rug, a new tp holder & the most expensive purchase; new towels.

 We are also finding ourselves a bit short on grocery budget, due to how expensive it is to stock up the kitchen again after being out of town.  We also had a very sick week with 4 trips to the doctor which meant paying a $40 dollar co-pay 4 times!  One more recent expense was all 3 of my daughters growing like weeds and needing some fall/winter clothes.  Thank goodness for 40% off sales!

Because of these few things, I thought it would be good to have a ‘no spend’ week.  Here is what that means for me.  No spending unless I absolutely have to.

This is tough, because honestly, we are quite frugal already, so to find more ways to cut expenses is not easy.

Some ways I plan on doing this:

~use a gift card I have to a coffee shop.  I love to work at coffee shops. I can concentrate so much better! I am relieved to know I have a gift card tucked away in my purse.  It was an early birthday gift from my Mother-in-Law.

~have a friend over for brunch instead of going out to lunch.

~have an ‘eat from the pantry & freezer’ week.  I bought quite a bit of groceries last week, and with Thanksgiving this week we should be able to get by without having to buy a bunch of groceries.  We are having Thanksgiving at my sisters, and all I have to bring is the turkey, which yes, qualifies as an ‘absolutely necessary’ purchase.  Funny that I am bringing the turkey when I don’t eat turkey..huh?

~stay home.  I have all kinds of things I need to get done at home.  Laundry. Projects. Organize photos.  If I stay home, I am less likely to spend money.

~ask for accountability.  I think if I tell you all what I am doing, and post an update on what I spend this week, I will be very purposeful in my purchases!  So yes, I will let you know what I spend and why in a post next week.

~practice thankfulness.  How fitting on the week of Thanksgiving.  The more thankful I am for the things we do have, the less I find I really need!

//

We have done a ‘no spend month’ before, but that seemed a little daunting, especially with the holidays coming up.  I will start with this ‘no spend week’ and maybe make it two?

What about you?  What are your favorite ways to watch what you spend?

Beauty/ Frugal/ HEALTH/ HOME/ Natural Products

Coconut Oil as a Moisturizer + 6 More Ways I Use it in my Beauty Routine

I am a HUGE fan of coconut oil, for many reasons, but today I’m just going to focus on why I love coconut oil for my skin.  I have been using it in place of lotion as a body moisturizer for about a year now and I LOVE IT!  

The main reason I started doing this was because I read about how so many body lotions contain parabens and chemicals, and with my cancer history, I am being very purposeful about getting rid of as many toxins in this house and on my body as possible! 

Its been all over the news that they are finding parabens in the breast cancer survivors breast tissue.  My ears perked up with this because I have been in the beauty business for years as a cosmetologist, and parabans seem to be in EVERY beauty product.  I have also met way too many young hairstylists that also battled breast cancer, and it has made us all say “hmm.”
Parabens are a group of compounds widely used as antimicrobial preservatives in food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic products, including underarm deodorants. Parabens are absorbed through intact skin and from the gastrointestinal tract and blood.
Measurable concentrations of six different parabens have been identified in biopsy samples from breast tumors (Darbre, 2004). The particular parabens were found in relative concentrations that closely parallel their use in the synthesis of cosmetic products (Rastogi, 1995). Parabens have also been found in almost all urine samples examined from a demographically diverse sample of U.S. adults (Ye, 2006a).
Parabens are estrogen mimickers, with the potency of the agonistic response being related to the chemical structure (Darbre, 2008). They can bind to the cellular estrogen receptor (Routledge, 1998). They also increase the expression of many genes that are usually regulated by estradiol and cause human breast tumor cells (MCF-7 cells) to grow and proliferate in vitro (Byford, 2002; Pugazhendhi, 2007). Nevertheless, parabens as a class do not fully mimic estradiol in the changes in cellular gene expression nor are the effects of all parabens identical (Sadler, 2009).
    Parabens are estrogen mimickers.”  This really made me pause, as my cancer and the majority of breast cancers are fed by hormones.  I had symptoms of estrogen dominance for years and I often wonder if this contributed to my diagnosis.
    As I have been trying to avoid parabens, I have been on a kick of making my own beauty products. There are some wonderful healthy organic body products out there, but they usually end up costing “an arm and a leg,” so have been quite motivated to make my own or to figure out a simple, inexpensive & healthy alternative. 
    {even the Stars use it!}
    Here are a few ways I have been using coconut oil on my skin:
    1. I use it to shave.  I wrote about this here.  I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to shave with a natural product.  I no longer have bumps, and my pores are nice and small now.  No irritation!  It makes sense…when I read what is in those cans of shaving cream, I am not surprised that my skin reacts with little bumps and irritation!  Especially when one slathers it on, then takes a razor that makes little nicks in the skin for those irritants to penetrate even deeper.  Blech.

    {my fav razor is a Mach 3 Gillette.  I have been using it for years.  Even with all the fancy smancy lady like razors out there, I still prefer my Gillette.  Yes, the refill blades are expensive, but they last forever and I love how close of a shave I get with this razor!  Plus, I have a thing for black and silver…}
    2. I use it as body oil to slather on while still in the shower.  This is my last step of my shower.  Then when I towel off I am super soft and there is no need for body moisturizer.
    3. I use it as a body moisturizer.  On days I do not shower or use it in the shower, I will use it in place of lotion.  Especially on my legs before a hot date with my Todd.  It gives a great glow.
    4.  Just recently, I have been using it as a facial cleanser.  Yep, you read that right.  It is called the “oil cleansing method.”  You can read about it here at Sorta Crunchy.  The whole idea of it is that cleansers strip moisture, and then your body over produces oil to make up for it, which leads to breakouts and unbalanced skin. The idea that oil dissolves oil is key with the oil cleaning method.  I have done this for about a week and my face is more clear than it has been for months…I am amazed.  I am also amazed at how moisturized my skin is.   Moisturized skin is plump skin, which helps with the appearance of lines. I will be writing a whole post on this after I have used this method a bit longer.  
    5. I have been using it as an eye make up remover.  I wrote a post on Homemade Eye Makeup Remover, and talked about a recipe that used olive oil.  Well, I am all about simplifying, and since I am already using coconut oil to wash my face, I also started using it to wipe away eye makeup.  It works beautifully.  
    6. I use it as a cuticle oil.  Occasionally, when I have extra on my hands, I will rub it into my cuticles.  No more hangnails!

    7. I use it at a key ingredients in my Homemade Coconut Lime Sugar Scrub.  This is one of my most FAVORITE beauty products.  Love!

    Pretty impressive, huh?  Think of the money I am saving by not buying eye makeup remover, shaving cream, body lotions (lets face it, us women usually have at least 5 different types sitting around!), face moisturizer, cuticle oil & body scrub!  Think of the space I am saving in my home by having one jar of coconut oil instead of 10 bottles of all these products!
    That makes me VERY happy!
    //

    –I buy a large container on Amazon, I love the Nutiva brand.  It is organic and wonderful.  Trader Joes also started carrying coconut oil.  Yay!
    –Coconut oil is very unique.  It is a solid up to I think 76 degrees, then becomes a liquid.  So depending on the temperature of your house, you will either be scooping the oil if solid, or pouring it if liquid.  
    –I use coconut oil in recipes, like this one, the Best Recipe I Ever Messed Up.  For beauty purposes, I scoop some out and store in a small 8 oz mason jar.  I love the Elite series glass jars.  They have a nice wide mouth and are a cute shape.  I also keep coconut oil in a small 4oz jar to throw into my gym bag.

    Frugal/ HOME/ Organizing/ Simplifying

    Egg Carton Earring Organization

    I can’t tell you how many pairs of earrings I have lost.  Or even worse, how many single earrings I have whose partner has gone missing, who just sit there and remind me of their cuteness and my spacey-ness!  I was in desperate need for Earring Organization!  Little did I know that a simple egg carton would be the answer.

     I had this egg carton sitting around, and a few months ago when I cleaned out my dresser drawers, I had an extra empty drawer.  A light bulb went off, in went the egg carton, and out whet my tendency to lose earrings.  I  am happy to report that I have not lost one since!

    I really like keeping my jewelry in a drawer.  There is something about having them tucked down deep, that keeps them easy to organize and see what I want to wear that day.  I keep my bracelets on a silver platter to the left of my earrings, but if my earring collection ever grew, I could easily another egg carton. cut to size to fit, instead.  These would also work great for rings.

    I’m not sure why this method of organizing my earrings works so much better than other methods I have tried, but it is easy, it is a great way to reuse those egg cartons, and it works for me!

    Now to find a clever way to organize my necklaces.  Got any ideas for me?

    Decorating/ Frugal/ FUN/DIY/ Holidays/Parties/ HOME

    Graduation Party Decoration Plan

    Tis the season for graduation and graduation parties!  This year is a special one for us. My husband is programs director for an organization called City Impact.  He has the privilege of working with some pretty cool youth.  He has led a group of boys the last few years and 3 of those boys are graduating this year.  It has been amazing to watch them grow up into great young men who we know are going to make a difference in their community and in this world.

    One of those guys is T.J.  We are super big T.J. fans around here. He just has a gentle way about him, he is kind and smart and his smile lights the room.  He has always been so great to my girls, he tops the list when they talk of all the “big brothers” they have.  T.J. and his family are super special to ours, so I was really excited to help decorate for his graduation party.

    I love making social gatherings beautiful, and I really love challenging myself to do it in a simple way that doesn’t break the bank.

    One of the first places I checked out was our local dollar store.  Working with T.J.’s mom and between the two of us, we were able to find all kinds of fun stuff there – from plates & napkins to a grad mug.  They even had a fun poster to be signed by all who enter the party.

    {gathering my supplies}
    T.J.’s school colors are black and white, so that was super easy to work with.  The decor we found at the dollar store had a bit of grey on it too, so working off that I decided to add bits of silver to add some shine to the party.

    We will have 4 large round tables that I need a centerpiece for, and of course T.J.’s memorabilia table.  He is a football player and has been very active at school so I have lots to work with for that table.

    The centerpieces we got at the dollar store came with gold tinsel.  I didn’t like how it looked and gold is not a color I wanted to add, so I bought some silver star tinsel and will work with that to make the centerpieces more what I want them to be.  

    {not what I wanted}
    {that is better}

    The venue that we will be having the party at provides black tablecloths, and I am putting a square of this awesome silver glitter wrapping paper I found at Michael’s Craft store in the center of each table, which will ground the centerpieces.

    I am rolling up paper and tying black ribbon to make simple diplomas at each centerpiece.  We also will have small mason jars with water and silver star confetti floating in it, along with a candle.  T.J.’s mom found some black and white wrapped candy, so we will sprinkle that around each centerpiece for guests to help themselves to.  I hope it turn out as cool as it looks in my head.  I’m sure it will!

    T.J. had some awesome poster sized photos of himself that we will place around, one on a mantle in the party room and a couple on easels.  No one will question who we are celebrating, that is for sure!


    For his memorabilia table, I plan on flanking the back of the table with white and black helium balloons, like in this photo.  


    I will take photos at the party and let you all know how it turned out!

    Congrats, T.J.!  Thank you for letting me be part of your day.  We love you and are very proud of you!

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