Wednesday, May 28, 2014

$1 Store Veggie Spring Rolls.

I love Chinese Buffets. Mostly because no one judges the fact that I have a bowl of hot and sour soup followed by as many egg rolls, spring rolls and dumplings as I can comfortably consume in one sitting. I pretty much ignore everything else. 
Right now I can't really afford to eat out or the $12 minimum for delivery. I was kind of excited when I found a package of spring rolls in the freezer section at Dollar Tree.

There were ten spring rolls in the package, but they were slightly smaller than veggie spring rolls from the delivery guy. (Those cost $1.10 each!) 

The package indicates that these could be fried, baked, or microwaved. Believe me if I had a fryer I would have used it, instead I baked them at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, turning once in the middle. They came out nice and crispy. I think if they were microwaved they would have been a soggy mess. 

As for taste, they were a little bland. That was easy to remedy with dipping sauce. I made a honey, ginger, soy, mustard mixture after I discovered I was out of little packets of duck sauce. 
These actually ended up making a pretty satisfying lunch. I would definitely buy these again. They would also go great alongside a ramen noodle dinner! 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Ouch My Back Hurts!

Dealing with Aches and Pains

If you make $8.15 an hour, chances are pretty good that a lot of those hours are on your feet. You might be bending, lifting, or just standing on a hard surface for a long period of time. Once upon a time I could afford visits to the chiropractor. He wanted to see me three times a week. Even at my highest paying jobs, that was pushing the envelope on what I could afford and what my insurance was willing to pay. I settled for once a week or once every two weeks depending on my schedule. I also made sure to visit the massage therapist once a month. Those days are over. I've had to come up with ways to help with the general aches and pains and my really nasty shoulder problem. I've got four different ways to help with these problems in four different price ranges. Hopefully one or more of them will help you.


Go buy a tennis ball or a racket ball and a pair of tube socks. Fill the tube socks with uncooked rice. Keep one in the freezer. Keep the other near the microwave. When you have a pain area nuke the sock near the microwave for about two minutes and then place it on the pain area--don't put it directly on your skin--it will be too hot--I wear a T shirt. After 15 or 20 minutes remove the heat and use the tennis ball against the wall to roll out the knot. Then grab the sock from the freezer and apply cold for another 15 or 20 minutes. Repeat as necessary.


I have an acupressure mat. You can find them on Amazon ranging in price from $20-$60. It's a foam mat covered in metal circles that have metal spikes sticking out. Sounds painful? Well it is a little bit when you start out--so start with five minutes laying on the mat. Increase the time as your tolerance goes up. You may eventually find that you can sleep on it. It stimulates blood flow to the back, hips, or wherever you are using it. It doesn't really do much for leg issues--so skip this one if your calves are the problem. 


I bought a home TENS unit. That stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. It's a little electronic shock machine. They use them in chiropractic offices, but I bought a home unit. I got mine on sale for $20, but they regularly run $40-$100, depending on the unit. It has little gel pads, which have to be replaced fairly regularly, that you attach to the pain site and then you determine what type of electronic pulse you would like and at what intensity level. You can use it just about anywhere on your body--I've found it particularly effective for my lower back and calves. 

Not so Cheap

I joined Massage Envy. It's just like joining a gym. They charge me $59 every month and I get one massage. Additional massages are $39. This does require a one year subscription--so don't just dive in unless you know you can make the payments. They do allow you to put a hold on the account if you need to, but the frozen months don't count towards your year commitment. The prices vary by market, so if you live in a big city you may find that the monthly charge is higher. You may also be able to find better deals on local massage therapy on sites like Groupon, but they aren't consistent so I went with a sure thing. It's one of the things I look forward to every month. An hour, relaxing, with someone else working on my "problem areas."

Completely Free

Stretch! At my last massage I was in pain everywhere. I couldn't figure out why I was hurting so badly. My therapist informed me that I wasn't stretching enough before or during work. Take the time and stretch all your muscles before you start your work day. That means legs, arms, shoulders, back and neck! Just do it--you'll feel better all day because of it. Now I have to go get some icy hot for my shoulder!  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

My Favorite Sandwiches!

Everyone knows I love burgers. I do, I REALLY do. However, I also love good old deli sandwiches. I have two favorite sandwiches. One is pretty simple: ham and cheese with coleslaw and mustard. It's also my Dad's favorite sandwich. Probably where my love came from as he made all my school lunches when I was growing up. There is no mystery in a ham and cheese sandwich--although we could discuss types of ham and types of cheese all day and I have gotten pretty picky about my slaw. The premade stuff from Walmart doesn't cut it--it's chopped and I much prefer julienned slaw. It is also far to wet for successful sandwich making. Lately I've been buying precut slaw and making my own dressings. (In a pinch I use Kraft's Poppy Seed Dressing.)

My other favorite sandwich is found at Columbia Harbor House at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. There it bears the name the Lighthouse Sandwich. I found a recipe for said sandwich on AllEars. The bread has changed, though, since this recipe was published.  It now consists of hummus, broccoli slaw and tomatoes on multigrain bread. Along with a side of chips it costs $9.49 for one sandwich--no drink. This week I decided to try and make said sandwich at home. I made hummus from scratch, you can find my recipe in the previous post (About $.75).  I bought preshredded, but not yet dressed broccoli slaw from the produce section at Walmart ($1.98). I found a workable multigrain bread in the bread aisle, but I think I'll be buying bread from the Whole Foods bakery from now on. I'm using The Need for Seeds made by Cobblestone Bakery this week. I bought Roma tomatoes because they were significantly better looking than the slicing tomatoes this week (and less expensive).

My only fault with the original version of this sandwich is that it is a bit dry, so I have found myself dumping mayo on top of it. In an effort to be more health conscious I'm subbing plain yogurt for mayo this week.

The broccoli slaw recipe for the original sandwich called for Ken's Honey Dijon dressing, which is now only available in the "lite" version and has things I cannot pronounce in the ingredients so I didn't buy it. Instead I made my own dressing.

Heather's Honey Dijon Dressing

2T honey--locally produced if you can get it!
2T Dijon Mustard--look for the one with the fewest ingredients--I actually bought the Great Value version. Grey Poupon has some unnecessary additives. I couldn't find Golden's or I would have bought that one
2T Cider Vinegar
2T Olive Oil
1T Lemon Juice
Salt and Pepper

Whisk everything together adding  more oil or vinegar as necessary. Dress the slaw mix and allow it to rest in the fridge overnight before using. (It just gets better as the week goes on)

I bought a bag of salt and vinegar chips to go with my sandwiches--they were buy one get one free.

I think I have enough ingredients to make four sandwiches, lets do the math!
Hummus = $.75
Slaw = $1.98
Dressing = $.50
Bread = $1.25 (only using half the loaf)
Tomatoes = $.84
Yogurt = $.25
Chips = $1.25

Total = $6.81  Each sandwich and side of chips made at home costs a total of $1.70!

Dear Columbia Harbor House,
I'm sorry but our love affair is over. It's me, it's not you. I'm so sorry. However, since no one has a published recipe for your tuna salad, I'll be back shortly.

When I finally get around to buying a deep fryer and can make my own potato chips--that number will drop even more! (Don't talk to me about baked potato chips--that's not a real thing!)  Of course if someone would like to buy me a fryer . . .lets talk!

Web Links
Columbia Harbor House Menu

Two Things You Should Know About

It's Thursday, which is both shopping and cooking day in my house.  My morning shopping trip reminded me of two things that everyone on a limited shopping budget should know about: buying from bulk bins and price matching.

My day started with a trip to Whole Foods.  Wait, What??? Yes, indeed, there is another reason to visit Whole Foods. Buying in bulk. Now I don't mean buying huge quantities of things so that your pantry is stocked. I'm talking about being able to buy exactly the amount you need for a recipe from a bulk bin.

 Here's how it works. You decide to make couscous salad this week, but the grocery only stocks mixes or big 2lb bags of the stuff. 

You don't want a mix with lots of added salt and ingredients you can't pronounce, but you also don't want to spend $7.00 on a 2lb bag. Your recipe calls for two cups of couscous. Two cups of Israeli couscous is about 1/2lb. I know because I took my plastic measuring cup to Whole Foods with me--PRETTY PLEASE DON'T PUT YOUR MEASURING CUP IN THE BINS! (Cross contamination is BAD!) Use their plastic scoop to fill your measuring cup and then dump it into the plastic bag. Instead of forking over $7.00 for something I may not use again for weeks, I paid $1.92. There are tons of things you can buy this way: rice, flour, sugar, beans, lentils, dried fruit and nuts. I personally think that the dried fruits and nuts are over priced, but the other things can save you a ton of money! I also purchased sesame seeds to make tahini. Sesame seeds at the grocery come in tiny spice jars for about $3.99 each. I bought about 3T and spent a mere $.39.

Just so you know, my attempt at tahini was a total failure before I even started. I attempted to toast the sesame seeds. You can't forget about them for even fifteen seconds. Yum, burnt popcorn smell all over my apartment. I just made hummus sans tahini.

Next thing you should know about is price matching. The weekly grocery ads usually come out on Thursday and I look through them mostly for buy one get one free deals. I actually use both the Publix and Winn Dixie Apps on my iPhone. Then I look at my shopping list and see how I can adjust it to use some of the deals. Then I take myself to Walmart and pick up all of the Publix and Winn Dixie deals that I've worked into my meal planning. Walmart will match the advertised price of their competitors. You don't need to have the ad with you. You just need to let the cashier know that such and such items are on sale elsewhere. I always try to put the items at the end of my order so that I can just tell them that all of the items I have two of at the end are buy one get one.

This week I cashed in on baby carrots, cantaloupes, Lays potato chips, and Hormel Naturals sliced turkey breast. 

Sadly Wally World didn't have any quarts of strawberries--they only had the enormous containers. Strawberries are buy one get one at Winn Dixie. It's good for all of the other types of sales as well--but most of the time Walmart's prices are lower than the 2 for $5 or 2 for $7 deals at the regular grocery.

Quick and easy recipie: Homemade Hummus

1 can of chickpeas drained
1T lemon juice
olive oil
salt and peper
2 cloves of fresh garlic

In your blender combine chickpeas, garlic and lemon juice. Turn the blender on and slowly drizzle a combination of olive oil and water into the blender until you achieve a creamy consistency. You can use all olive oil or all water (don't do this unless you absolutely cannot spare the calories or the oil), but I like the way it comes out using a little of each! This recipe takes about 5 minutes and costs about $.75. A huge savings over $4 store bought hummus--and people will be impressed when you tell them you made it yourself!  

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Ramen Noodles Every Night

I know you've all see the Allstate commercial about Emily and her ramen noodle every night budget. In case you haven't:

Ramen noodles aren't a bad thing . . . especially if you are on a budget and somewhat kitchen challenged. They are about the easiest thing in the world to cook at $.17-$.20 a package, they are also almost the cheapest thing to eat. It is, however, possible to make your ramen experience more enjoyable.

I recommend a trip to an Asian grocery store. You can get the basics for a much more reasonable cost than at a regular grocery--and in much larger sizes.
Asian Grocery Shopping List:
Soy Sauce
Fish Sauce
Sambal (ground chili paste)
Hoisin Sauce
Lemon Grass
Bean Sprouts
Shrimp flavored ramen

Other things you may want to add:
Basil/Thai Basil
Green Onions

I've already got most of those ingredients on hand, so this week I left out the bean sprouts and picked up the ginger, mushrooms and lemon grass at the regular grocery. I also bought frozen salad size shrimp. I managed to find some at the dollar store, but you can usually buy the really tiny shrimp in large size bags at Walmart--the big bag will last you a couple of weeks because you only need to add a couple of them!

Boil two cups of water on the stove and grate (or slice really finely) your ginger and lemon grass into the pot. Add four or five shrimp--remember you bought tiny ones! Then add your mushrooms. Add a dash of soy, fish sauce, sambal and hoisin sauce. Let the mixture boil for about two to three minutes and then add your ramen noodles and cook them according to the package directions. You may want to use only half of the seasoning packet because the sauces all have salt in them.  After your noodles are cooked you can add your fresh herbs and a squeeze of lime.

"Fixing" chicken flavored ramen is pretty easy as well. I just add small amounts of whatever frozen veggies I have in the freezer, some fresh onion, carrot and garlic as well as the soy and sambal.

I don't usually add sriracha to my ramen, unless I've got a stuffy noise, but feel free to add as little or as much as you like before serving!