Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Healthy Start

Everyone knows that they are supposed to eat lots of greens everyday, right? Sometimes, though, you just don't have the time to sit down and eat a salad. You should make this instead: I got the idea from Tasha at Clean Eating Mama blog (original post here) and I love it. I changed the recipe a bit, so here's what I did:

8 oz. almond milk
3 tablespoons flax meal
2 large bananas
3 large handfuls of greens (spinach, kale, mixed baby greens)
1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled
1 1/2 cup frozen strawberries
1 tablespoon agave (note about agave at the bottom)
drizzle strawberry syrup (optional, and shouldn't really be in this list)

Place the almond milk, flax, and bananas in your regular old blender and blend. Add your greens and blend until smooth. Add in all your strawberries until completely smooth and taste. If you think it needs a bit of sweetness, add some agave nectar (or maybe a simple syrup if you don't have/don't like agave) and taste again. It should be thick, cold, and taste like strawberries with a hint of banana. You won't be able to taste the greens at all. (I accidentally pu too much flax in mine and the flavor of it over powered the drink so I put in some strawberry syrup. I realize this was a silly thing to do since I'm drinking this for the ton of healthy stuff in it, but oh well; we can't be perfect all the time! =D) Pour it in a tall clear glass, and garnish with a strawberry. It's pretty, tasty, and healthy. You'll have several servings of fruit, a couple servings of vegetables, healthy fats from the almond milk, and plenty of Omega-3s from the flax. Not to mention plenty of fiber from the strawberries and flax. Very tasty.

And look who else liked it!

She mostly just wanted the strawberry, though.
Now, about agave nectar: If you've never tried it, you must! It's amazing stuff. The agave is closely related to the lilly and amaryllis, and the nectar is a delicious sap called aguamiel (honey water.) It is sweet and delicious, and healthier than processed white sugar, especially if you get raw agave nectar. It is a great vegetarian replacement for honey, and some tequila is made with agave. I use it in sweet tea, on pancakes, in coffee, to sweeten up vegetable shakes, etc. It's cheaper than honey, and lasts me a long time. Try it out!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Top Ten

Everyone wants to save money, right? There's a blog I like, Life As Mom, that offers lots of ideas for keeping things manageable, and I enjoy applying the tips I find there to my own life. There's another blog I like, Is It Naptime Yet?, that talks a lot about green lifestyle, knowing where your food comes from, buying organic, and frugality. Heather, at Is It Naptime Yet?, taking example from the Life As Mom blog, has posted her Top 10 ways to be frugal at the grocery store. (The original post is linked here: Frugal Friday.) There are 10 tips that are easy to follow that make a big difference in your spending. Below, I've listed Heather's tips, but added my own commentary. To view her comments on each tip, view her original post.

#1 Keeping an inventory of what you have
I am bad at this. There are so many times I go to the store and think 'Do I have this? Do I have that?' I usually end up buying more than I need to. Having a list helps me with that. I like to use Evernote.com, simply because I can log into the website from anywhere and have a copy of what I have at home. Also, if you take pictures, evernote will make the text in the pictures searchable! How awesome is that?

#2 Meal Planning
This is a very good thing to do. You may think it takes too long, or is too difficult, but it's not. It is very worth it. You don't feel rushed at the end of the day because you already know what you are going to eat and you already have the food in your pantry. The peace of mind from that is worth any amount of work. Heather says she sits down and writes a number for each day of the month (1-30 for example) and then writes down that many meals and allows the family to pick together what meals to make each day. I like to plan each day so that I can incorporate leftovers into new dishes (since my husband hates leftovers), and use the other half of that onion or ground beef, or whatever it is. I end up buying less and getting a lot more out of each item I buy.There are meal planning templates over at Money Saving Mom and $5 Dinners.

#3 Always have a grocery list
I'm keeping Heather's commentary for this one. I couldn't say it better!
"Research shows that 60-70% of what ends up in your grocery cart is unplanned!
Make a grocery list.
If you've done numbers 1 and 2 then this one should be a cinch! Never, ever go into a grocery store without a list. Statistics show that you, on average will spend $1 for every minute you're in a grocery store... IF you don't have a list. People who have grocery lists made spend significantly lower amounts on money on groceries... It pays to be a little more organized sometimes!"

#4 Check to see what's on sale, and clip coupons
Checking for sales seems to be the obvious thing to me, but since I like to plan in advance, this can sometimes be tricky. This is where the freezer comes into play. If I see that chicken breasts is 50% off, but I haven't planned many meals that have chicken in them, I'll buy it anyway and put it in my freezer. Then, next month, I'll plan for more chicken meals. Overall, I'll spend less per meal. I don't clip many coupons (mostly because I'm lazy, and I can't print them off the internet because I haven't bothered to put ink in my printer for months and months) but I wish I did. It seems so silly to me that I don't take the free money that's being handed to me through coupons. Heather says, "...there are so many places online where you can find coupons. Anymore it seems as if you can go to any company's website and print off coupons for their products. Here is a great guide for starting out in the coupon world, and here are some of my favorite blogs where I get my coupon info..."
MoneySavingMom.comSurviving the Stores Organic Deals - Helping Moms Go Organic Without Going BrokeCoupon Saving Game Button

#5 Watch for manager specials (markdowns)
I have no problem going to the bakery cart and buying bread that will expire in a few days. It's usually 50-70% off the sale price, and if I freeze it or use it in the next day or few, no one ever knows the difference. My favorite way to use Italian Bread loaves from the bakery cart is to cut them into thick slices, top with pizza toppings and bake. Everyone gets their own 'pizza', it's super cheap, delicious, and takes 5 minutes to make. Yummy, and easy. Use your judgment, of course, in determining if a food is good. Just don't turn down food just because it's 'Sell-by date' is in three days.

#6 Don't take the kiddos
This is a no-brainer to me, but sometimes you just cannot help it. If I have to bring a kid to the grocery store, I make them stay in the cart (or they're going to grab all the goodies the stores place in their reach) and bring a book or maybe an iPod and headphones. If a child is occupied (and full!) they won't beg for food or treats as much, I find. Or, if they are old enough to understand money, give them a 'task'. Show them two identical products, and the prices, and have them show you which one is a better buy, and try to get them explain why they think so. Teach them about the 'price per ounce' part on the price tags and have them pick the cheaper product. Maybe you could keep a record of how much money they 'save' the household by picking the right product, and reward them for a job well done. They'll take pride in making the right choices and helping their family. And you'll be setting your children up with a frugal mindset!

#7 Premade mixes are not your friend
Heather says, "Cake mixes, cookie mixes, bisquick, ect... sure, they might make things a tad bit easier, but in the end you're just wasting money. You have to make a decision on which is more important... convenience or price. Usually you can make all of those handy little mixes for under half the price (usually more than that)
Check out this post at Life As Mom for a how-to on making your own mixes." I want to make my own mixes!

#8 Don't grab the first thing you see at the store
Heather says, "Stores will try and trick you into buy a more expensive item. They are very tricky in this way. They make sure to put the eye candy and things are more of an impulse buy right at eye level. Also, stay away from end of the aisle displays. Make sure you go ahead and shop for whatever it is IN the aisle, so that you can do a side by side comparison of the other brands. Just because it's on sale does not mean it's a bargain."

#9 Go to the grocery during off hours and never go hungry
If I have coupons with me, and the store is busy, I usually just won't use them. I know it's annoying when someone in front of me is taking forever to dish out all their coupons, so I always assume I'm going to annoy others around me, so I just keep my coupons to myself. If I go at a time when the store isn't very busy, usually around early morning, I'll be more relaxed in my shopping, I'll use my coupons, and I'll be able to make the right choices when choosing foods. The most important part of this rule is the 'never go hungry' part. Seriously. When I'm hungry, I walk down each aisle and say 'Oooooh, I should make that. And that. And that. And that...etc.' I end up spending much more money than I had intended, ignoring my shopping list, and making my husband mad, ha ha.

#10 Bulk shop during great sales
Heather says, "If you see that a store is having a fabulous sale on something that your family eats regularly, then stock up! You will save a bunch of money in the end. Meats, cheese, canned goods... these are all good things that if on sale, you should buy more of. Stick it in the freezer and you'll not only guarantee that you'll have enough throughout this month, but maybe over the next couple of months." Use your freezer, people! =D

So, there you have it. Ten ways to save money while shopping. Check out both blogs up there. You'll find lots of neat stuff.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Projects! So many projects!

Well, I started on my quilt. I made the front of the pillow, and the top and bottom strips of the quilt. It's going rather well, although I had to pull the seams out a few times to get it perfect. I'm very excited about it, and I cannot wait to finish it, but at the moment, I'm working on a new project, and I have several more in mind.

My 16-year-old-going-on-30 sister, Krystal, is going to be moving in with my husband and I (if everything goes according to plan), and I've been working on some presents to make her move much more pleasant. When I am done with that project, there are a few more things I'm longing to get done. I want to try my hand at selling a thing or two on Etsy.com or Artfire.com.

Since my passion is children, and I love to make things, I thought I would try and make just one or two baby things, put them up on Etsy, and see what people think. The thing I want to make most is an adorable little baby girl's pinafore with matching bloomers. I want to make it reversible (because who doesn't love 2-in-1 outfits?) but I'm not QUITE sure how to go about that. Also, I don't know if there are laws concerning fabrics. I don't know if it is legal for me to go to, say, JoAnn's, buy fabric, make something out of it and sell it. I don't think there would be laws like that, but I need to be on the safe side, so I am going to research that. I cannot wait to get something up for sale and see what happens!