Friday, April 26, 2013

Gardening, a green thumb on the first try

Some women may ask their significant other for a brand new Michael Kor's handbag. Don't get me wrong, I love and appreciate all things MK and handbag related. I've just had my sights on something even bigger and better for the past few years!!! The issue is that I do not live alone and John is not even remotely on board. My relentless,"but Tori Spelling has one, and her's eats scones off of the kitchen table", has not helped matters. It may have actually  made things worse. When he officially nixed my dream of a beautiful  indoor silkie chicken, I knew it was time to move on.


I redirected my energy into what I knew would be my next hoorah, our outdoor farm. I could see it coming into fruition, a  regular chicken coop( NO silkies allowed), a bunny hutch, some goats the works! We'd have organic eggs! We'd have an....H.O.A.
I thought once you became an adult you were allowed to have fun! Fine plan C, we'll have tomatoes! I'll have the best tomatoes ever! I'd need a raised bed, some pots and a tractor! Fine I guess If I can live without my silkie chicken, I can live without a tractor too, but I do look good in green.

Off to Lowes we went. We had two options, the ready to build raised bed kit or we could get creative and make one ourselves. Ours could be deeper if we made it ourself and less expensive. Option 2 it was! This seemed like the better idea until I heard John yell, "We shoulda bought the damn kit" to his friend mid-construction. oops : )

 Being a first time gardener I decided to keep things simple and stick to a few basic plants.  I didn't want to get carried away or overwhelmed. Ok I tried, I really did but it was so tempting and everything looked so good! We bought a few things from plants, seeds and 2 things from my scrap garden. Scrap what a ?! you ask, yes a scrap garden! You regrow things from scraps leftover in your kitchen! It's not only ingenious but it's easy. I'll update more on it later, but the scrap garden is thriving!

From plants

1)bibb lettuce
2)sweet onions

From seeds


5)sweet peppers
6)green peppers...the only thing that didn't grow
7)yellow squash
9)an herb kit...basil,chives,oregano
10)purple basil

Scrap garden

1)white onion

From the seeds I planted the majority in either biodegradable egg crates or plastic containers. I made sure to put them in a sunny spot and water them daily. The squash and the zuchini I planted straight into the raised bed. After about a month the sun was not shining as bright into the house, so I started taking the pots onto the deck every morning and bringing them in every night. I could probably leave them on the deck fulltime, but I don't want them to get too cold at night or over watered with the occasional rain. The one night that I did  leave everything out, it got too cold and we lost half of our turnips, go figure. So for now, I'm babying them a little. With the biodegradable egg crates it makes transplanting super easy, just make sure you're using the paper NOT the plastic ones!!!My sweet little  sweet peppers finally outgrew their pot and I moved them into their  new home in the raised bed community today, keep your fingers crossed!
My biggest issue thus far has been trying to figure out when to plant and transplanting. It said it was ok to plant, but our weather threw us a curve ball and a last minute frost made the broccoli a little touch and go for a minute. Transplanting is a scary concept to me, I'm scared of tearing their little roots or messing up the whole thing and mess, yes it is! Aside from those two issues it's  just been water, sun and consistency. If you can own a fish or any type of pet you can handle a garden!  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Never Buy Fish Sticks Again!!! Homemade Fish Sticks Kids Will Love in 6 Easy Steps!

Last week E hit me up for some fish sticks. We didn't have any in our freezer for 2 reasons. Number one, we are trying to eat better and number two as much I also love the little sticks, they kinda gross me out. Not one to disappoint, I improvised.

I grabbed some tilapia out of the freezer (we had tilapia, I'm sure it would work for any other white fish or salmon if you have a really great eater!) and got to work!


1)  I defrosted  the tilapia in the microwave.
2)When it was thawed I cut it into about six pieces.
3) I then took an egg and some milk and mixed them in a bowl.
4) I put some regular bread crumbs on a paper plate and dipped each piece of fish into the egg/milk mixture before rolling it into the bread crumbs.
5)I preheated the oven to 375 and took out a pyrex dish.
6)I sprayed the pyrex with some cooking spray and added a smidge of butter.

I cooked them for about 25 min and turned them halfway.

They looked edible,not as PRETTY per see as the store bought but, aaaaand that's when I noticed John eating them. Adult approved apparently, but would E like them?  He not only ate them, he asked for seconds!

 Lesson learned:kids foods can be made healthy you just have to get creative!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Markdowns Galore

Nothing thrills me more than the idea of a treasure among 400 odd items at The Salvation Army.  I walk in and my D.I.Y brain starts instantly turning "has beens" into " must haves". As far as I am concerned there are two types of people in this world; those that love the pursuit of the hunt and those that don't.

With that being said I love getting a good deal. Here are a few more of my tips and tricks for saving where I can.

1)When I go the the Salvation Army or Goodwill I try (try, doesn't always mean do mind you :p ) to go on Wednesday's. Why Wednesday's? Because each town, city and state has their own markdown day and here in NOVA, our's is on Wednesday! 25% OFF of an already great deal?!?!  I'll take it!

2)Always ask for a better price or a coupon. If I don't have a coupon with me, I simply ask if they have an extra. Surprisingly it works 50% of the time. Michaels is a great store to do this at. I love to do arts and crafts and Michaels is the Mecca of all things crafty. They also have cute seasonal and home decor items. They always have a 40% off ( full price items only) coupon in the paper and if you forget it or can't pull it up on your phone they are more thna happy to honor it for you. Also look out for additional coupons for sale items.

3)Take advantage of savings programs!!! With my health insurance I can ONLY pick up my prescriptions from CVS pharmacy. However, everytime I go in I make sure to show my CVS card to earn points. I end up with coupons and "CVS bucks"  for free stuff all of the time.

4)Magazines. I have a slight obsession with US weekly. Instead of paying the $4.00 off the newstand every week I invest in a yearly subscription.

5)End caps and clearance sections are one of my favorite places to shop. End caps are the "shelf" at the end of an aisle and are basically loaded with overflow of clearance items. My local Marshall's has THE BEST clearance aisle in their home decor section. It's definitely a hit or miss, but oh when it's a hit!

6) Know your markdown days! These vary by store obviously, but for the most part go as follows:

Marshalls: Wednesday
Children's Place:Wednesday
Target:Mondays- Kid's clothes, electronics
            Tuesdays-Women's,Lawn & Garden,
            Wednesday-Men's, Toys, Decor, Movies, Music and Books
            Thursday-Shoes and Housewares

7)Two things I love are MAC makeup and recycling. Put them together and you get the back to MAC  program. For every 6 empty containers you bring back to a MAC store or mall location  you get a free MAC lipstick!!!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Turkey vs. Beef

Earlier this year John decided to complicate my life. He didn't do anything crazy like sign us up for trapeze lessons, instead he gave up beef. Not all beef mind you, we still have the occasional burger or steak out, but for the most part my other half wanted to stop eating red meat at home. I must say I was never a HUGE red meat chef to begin with, but nothing beats homemade tacos or my bff's meatloaf recipe.  So what's a girl to do? I began doing my research. Turkey meat? hmm, would it taste the same? Obviously it still has protein. However, unlike beef, it has zero to low  trans fats and low sat. fats. As long as you buy "lean" ground turkey you are almost guaranteed to be consuming less calories and fat. If it doesn't say lean you could be getting a high mix of dark meat and skin in your ground turkey. White meat is alot less fattening.

Off to Battle I went, armed with my grocery cart and purse to peruse the turkey section. I have to admit it was much less nauseating to look at than ground beef. The color is a light pink as opposed to the blood red hue of beef. I chose what appeared to be a nice pack of turkey and off I went.  Oh and bonus surprise, Turkey is cheaper than beef! Turkey Recipe #1 was tacos. It felt like I cooked that first pound of  turkey for years before it started to resemble what looked like what I was used to seeing with ground beef. The consistency is definitely different in the skillet for those first few minutes, but once it's cooked you can't tell the difference. Seasoning wise I did add a little garlic salt and red pepper that first time to add more flavor. Now for my big reveal, would my audience of 1 be able to taste the difference?!? John could not beleive that we were eating turkey tacos and I loved every bite! The 2nd time I made tacos I used a little less than 2LBS of meat so I used two taco seasoning packs and a little garlic salt.
Recipe #2 Pre-made turkey burgers...we added a little garlic salt again and it even passed the test of 4 year old picky picky eater E!!! If that's not an endorsement I don't know what is.
Next week I'll be making Turkey burgers from scratch, keep your fingers crossed!

Our family does not eat bacon at home very often, but I wanted to make a special breakfast this past Sunday. French toast and bacon. When I went to the store I decided to give turkey bacon another shot. I had had it years ago and did not like it at all! My sister raves about it and with my new found love of all things turkey, why not? We cooked the bacon, I hesitantly took a nibble and....YUM! But would it pass the 4yr old test? Ding ding, success! Ok, so It was cheaper, it's healthier for us, why do people ever eat pork bacon? Off to compare....less calories, less fat, less sat fat, and in some cases turkey bacon actually has MORE protein than regular bacon. seriously?! whats the downfall here? Well it is a bit higher in sodium, but you can buy a low sodium package. The biggest thing is that you need to make sure your package says nitrate free. Nitrates can turn into carcinogens (cancer causing agents) when grilled.  So when buying turkey we need to read the labels but overall the benefits outway the negatives.  My name is Lauren and I am a proud Turkey convert..Gobble Gobble!!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Why Blog?

I decided to write a blog for a number of reasons.

#1) I want to share my tips for saving money

I love to read, anything and everything. Lately I've found myself reading a ton of blogs about saving money and living a less complicated more clean life. I've found myself inspired to do so with my own family. I've always been a bit of a bargain shopper. However, since quitting my job I've noticed how much money I used to waste on lunch break trips to Target and oh so many, "what a great deal this is items". My NEED to shop once I stopped went down significantly  Once I kicked this habit, I wondered what other ways that I could save money.

I've always liked coupons and would occasionally buy the Sunday paper to get them. Instead of worrying baout whether I remembered to pick one up I decided to go ahead and order the paper. I ordered the Sunday paper ONLY ON  Sundays to get the coupons, .70 versus $1.98 a paper. Each paper saves me at least $2-$5. 

 I also learned that making dinner on a whim , means a trip to the store each day and a bunch of "extras". The more you go, the more you buy. Making a menu for the week and a grocery list works much better. ooh and a list, without my list I'm lost! I am a visual person to a T!  If I don't write it down, chances are I'll forget it. It also makes for a much more sane me. Having more control over the menu has let me get more creative in the process. I'm experimenting with vegetables I've never cooked before and they are turning out amazing! I recently learned something that blew my mind. I thought that by going to walmart I was automatically getitng "the best deal". wrong! those weekly circulars can def. beat walmarts prices. Hello $10 for $10 deals if you are in the Northern Virginia area! So it def. takes more time and a little planning, but well worth it. Also, that's where I may come in. If I'm doing it for my family, why not share the info?!?  Or if you sit down with your list and the internet for a few minutes before going to the store you can do it in your area. I managed to save $11.10 by doing this on a minor trip this week. Add in $2 in coupons and I saved $13.10! A 4Lb bag of oranges was $2.98 at walmart, but $1.79 at another store, by price matching I bought 2 and saved $2.38 and only had to make one stop!  I also tagged along on a trip to Costco with my friend. I price checked a few things and realized I can get some great deals there as well. My contact solution CLEAR CARE is $9.99 a bottle, at Costco for $17.99 I can get the equivalent in ounces of 3 bottles. Even if I had a $1.50 off coupon for 2 bottles, I still managed to get 1 bottle for free and skip cutting coupons worth $3!!!!! If something in bulk is too much for your fridge, freezer, pantry consider splititng it with a friend. My friend M and I both lack freezer space so we split a pack of turkey meat and voila, half the space and half the cost! The bulk rate also beat any competitors $ per LB price. Plus it was just fun to grocery shop with a friend!

Kids clothes: If you shop at Target for your kids clothes GO ON TUESDAYS! They do their markdowns for these on Mondays. Children's Place has an email list you can sign up for that always sends coupons. At checkout, if you forget your coupon, ask if they have any left that you can use. It has worked for me 50% of the time!

If you are still at Target, you can combine a target coupon with a manufacturer coupon as well, FYI!

When I buy books we have a great hlf priced/used book store here in Northern VA.  When I'm done reading my books I sell them back to the store and get credit for more books.

And my new favorite!!!! I started a garden! Stay tuned for updates!