Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Saving Money on Shampoo

Shampoo and Conditioner You Can Afford

When I moved to Florida my hair drove me insane. The water here is crazy. My usually oily hair went from needing to be washed twice a day to being so dry it was crunchy. Yes, crunchy. I was making more money then so I went immediately to the Aveda store at the mall, where they quickly sold me about $48 worth of stuff they were sure would fix my problem. Guess what? They were wrong. Not only that but I had a skin reaction to their super-duper, didn't work at all, heavy duty once a week conditioner. It didn't work if I used it once a week or once a day. So I set off on a quest to find something to fix my hair.

I read every beauty magazine article I could find and filled my shower with all of the products on the best conditioners--I didn't buy any more designer conditioners after the Aveda mishap. I only bought things I could find at the drug store/Walmart for less than $10.  At one point I had at least five different conditioners in my shower. Lets run through them really quickly--just for a cost perspective. Keep in mind that none of these worked really well--unless I left them on my hair for twenty minutes or so, every other day. Also keep in mind that in most of these cases I also bought the shampoo that went with the conditioner for continuity's sake.

Organix Teatree and Mint Hydrating Conditioner: $5.94. Smells awesome, doesn't hydrate.
L'Oreal Total Repair Damage Repairing Balm: $5.97. 
Neutrogena Triple Moisture Deep Recovery Hair Mask: $6.27.
Garnier Fructis Damage Eraser: $4.97
Pantene Pro-V Repair and Protect: $3.97 and  Overnight Miracle Repair Serum: $4.97. Trust me, not a miracle, just a mess!
Aussie Three Minute Miracle: $2.97. This one actually helps, if used in conjunction with Aussie Hair Insurance Leave in Conditioner: $2.97. 

You get the idea right (The list is actually longer than this)? Well after ditching lots of bottles and tubs of stuff when I moved the last time, I eventually ran out of shampoo. I also now make $8.15 an hour, so inexpensive was now the order of the day. I *might* have spent thirty minutes in the shampoo aisle at Walmart. Well I decided to take a chance and go with the least expensive possible option. I bought 12.5oz bottles of Suave Humectant Moisture Shampoo and Conditioner for less than $2 each. 

It's a miracle. 
Really truly. 

In just a few days, my crunchy, dry hair was back to "normal." Now that summer is in full swing here, my hair needs less moisture on a daily basis so I switched to Suave Rosemary and Mint.

Rosemary & Mint    
I'll tell you another secret. I finally found an anti-perspirant that mostly works. I work outside in the sun, I sweat. After years of swapping products. Degree Motion Sense actually does it's job. It doesn't work for 48 hours like they say it does, but it will get you through work. It costs about $3.88 at Wally World. The active ingredient is Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex Gly18.2%
Expert Protection
 Bigger secret, Suave 24 Hour Protection works almost as well, for less than half the price at $1.50. I haven't decided if almost as well is good enough for me.  The active ingredient is Aluminum Chlorohydrate at 20%.
Interestingly enough . . . both products are made by the same company: Unilever.  

Contempo Cafe at the Contemporary

The Contempo Cafe is located on the main concourse of the Contemporary Resort. (That's the fourth floor folks.)  It's right next to that Disney dinner powerhouse: Chef Mickey's.  I have a new favorite sandwich, but I'm on a diet, so this beauty from the Contempo is now out.

Yup, no buttered, which was made with apple butter, Challah Texas toast for me anymore. What else was on the sandwich? Arugula, green apples, brie, turkey, and honey mustard dressing. It was actually a pretty healthy sandwich until they made it large enough to feed a small country and put it on buttered Texas toast. (It was, looking back, a little on the greasy side.)  Can I make a healthier, even Weight Watchers friendly version? 

Sure I can, but my sandwich just became a salad--there was no way around ditching the Texas toast, unless I made croutons and croutons are not plastic fork friendly. This was kind of a no brainer because the sandwich came with nice bitter arugula instead of lettuce. Wally World stocks 4oz bags of organic arugula for less than bags of romaine lettuce. (Organic baby carrots are also cheaper than conventional baby carrots at my Walmart.)  

I also have to say goodbye to the full fat, creamy, honey mustard dressing. Instead I'm going with a honey, dijon mustard vinaigrette made with white wine vinegar. I swapped the brie for a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese with herbs. Add in some diced deli style turkey (I used Great Value Mesquite Smoked) cube half a granny smith apple, chop some celery and toss! Just to up the freshness I always add some herbs from my mini garden to my salads. I topped this one with mint and thyme. Three points for the turkey and two points for the dressing and two more for the cheese and you've got a Weight Watchers friendly lunch! 

If you wanted to you could take that side of sesame green beans and add them to your salad. Just blanch some beans, chill and add in with the rest of your salad and sprinkle in some toasted sesame seeds. 

The original sandwich cost $9.19. Here's what I spent for enough for 4 lunches:
2 apples: $1.47
Celery: $1.58 -- and I'm not using the whole thing--plenty of snacks in that $1.58
Arugula: $2.48
Turkey: $2.50
Total: $8.03  (I had everything to make the dressing in the pantry, but if you don't add about $5.00 in shopping costs, but the ingredients will last you awhile.)    

Honey Mustard Vinaigrette Recipe:

1t honey
1t dijon mustard
1T white wine vinegar
1t olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Just whisk it all together and toss with your salad!

More Resources and Shopping Updates!

I just wanted to let everyone know that in addition to the blog you'll be able to find timely updates for shopping deals and other cheap/interesting things on my community Facebook page here:

Not everything is worthy of a whole blog post . . . like which buy one get one frees are good stock ups this week! I'm going to put those things on the FB page instead. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Dieting on a Budget

I don't usually plug specific products in my blog, but this week I'm going to be doing a whole bunch of it. I don't have any relationship with any of the companies that produce the products I'm plugging. I just thing they are great--and can save you money. I just wanted to let you know before I started this blog for real.

I am on a diet. It's really hard to diet on a budget, no more $.99 packages of hot dogs for me! Before I left New Orleans and moved to Orlando I lost 30 pounds on Weight Watchers.  Since then, I have put 9 of those pounds back on. Right now I feel like I've put all 30 back on. I decided the slide had to stop and I started looking at going back to Weight Watchers.  I very quickly discovered that the plan that includes face to face meetings that got me through that first 30 pounds was out of my price range. That plan costs $43 a month. So I looked at the online plan. The sign up fee is $29.95 plus a monthly fee of $18.95. Well I know eating well costs more than eating hot dogs, so that's also out of the price range because I would have had to take the money out of my food budget, which I knew was about to go up!

I did a little research online and in the App Store. I found an App that tracks just like the Weight Watchers App. It's called Pro Tracker and it cost me $1.99. It does exactly the same thing the WW App does. It takes my points for the day and subtracts from them as I tell it what I've had to eat.

If you aren't familiar with the Weight Watchers plan, this might not be for you. However, if you already know how the plan works, it's perfect. Here's how my day goes. I start the beginning of the week with 26 points a day and 49 flex points to use through the week. At breakfast I log in what I ate and the App subtracts the points from my daily total. The same thing for snacks, lunch and dinner. I also log in my exercise and it gives me additional points to use during the week.

I'm going to be very honest with all of you. I don't ever use my flex points or log my exercise points. I use them for my wine consumption and I don't count them. I stick to 26 points a day and 26 points is plenty!

I'm also going to give you some tips! Fruits and veggies all have a zero point balance, but not all fruits and veggies are created equal. When you start out you can eat as many fruits and veggies as you want, all of them! However, if you find yourself sliding or your scale is stuck, you might need to consider which fruits and veggies you are eating. Try to eat fruits that have lots of fiber: berries, papaya, citrus. Try to avoid fruits that have a high sugar content . . . things like watermelon. The same goes for veggies. Go for a high fiber content like raw greens or a high water content like cucumbers. Avoid veggies that have a high sugar content like carrots and corn! Remember that things like potatoes count as starch not veggies!

Good luck and I'll let you know how it goes!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Whole Chicken?

Yes, You Can!

A whole chicken? I can't do that . . . what the heck do you do with a whole chicken . . . and can I afford a whole chicken? Well the good news is that yes, you can afford a whole chicken. A whole chicken costs about the same as a package of chicken breasts or between $5 and $6, as long as you pick a small one, not one of those giant family roasters. (Those cost $9-$12.) However, there are so many more uses for a whole chicken than a package of chicken breasts. Yes, you can buy a whole roasted chicken at the grocery for about the same as a raw one, but there are two reasons to cook it yourself. First, you get to decide what herbs and spices you are using with your chicken. My grocery offers two or three kinds: regular, lemon pepper and BBQ. Yes, I love lemon pepper and I'm going to use it in this blog, but I also want fresh herbs, garlic, etc etc etc. Second thing it's that little word that starts with a P . . . yup pride. The satisfaction that you cooked it yourself, and can now brag that you made winner winner chicken dinner, chicken salad, chicken soup and whatever else you decide to do with your left over chicken. I'll come up with some more ideas before I get to the end of this.

Ok so now you have a chicken. It's in a plastic bag right? Get it out of the plastic bag in the sink. There's a lot of messy stuff in there. I rinse my chicken once it's out of the bag. I don't know if you need to or not, it just feels like the right thing to do. Then I put it directly in a foil covered roasting pan (this makes the cleanup easier and the cooking seems more even) and wash my hands. I grab the butter, herbs, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and lemon pepper and prep those things up. Slice four tablespoons of butter, quarter the onion, smash a couple of cloves of garlic, wash the herbs and you are all ready to go. If you are going to cook immediately, preheat the oven to 350. 

The first two slices of butter and 1/4 of the herbs, today I'm using fresh rosemary and thyme from my balcony garden, get stuffed in between the skin and the breast meat. Just stuff them under the skin and push them all the way forward--you could add a clove of garlic in there if you wanted. The next two slices of butter and 1/4 of the herbs go in between the skin and the thigh meat. 

Inside the chicken I stuff the rest of the herbs, the quartered onion--whatever fits, and some garlic. If you have other veggies around like carrots or celery you could add those too! I usually run out of room too quickly--so this particular chicken only got three onion quarters. 

Next I coat the skin with a combination of salt, pepper and lemon pepper seasoning. Then cover the whole thing with foil. If you want to, before the foil, you can tie up the legs with butcher's twine or foil. I usually do, but today, because I wanted to see if it made a difference, I didn't. 

 Then the whole mess goes into the oven. Chicken needs to cook for about 20 minutes per pound at 350. My chicken is just over 5 pounds so it needs a total of 117 minutes or almost two hours. That's what the chicken people say. Reality is . . . it probably doesn't need that long. I'm going to cook it for about an hour with the foil on and then another 30 minutes with the foil off and check it. If I think it needs more time. It goes back in. 

So what can you do with your chicken once it's cooked? Well start with roasted chicken for dinner. Then harvest the rest of the meat from the bones and throw the carcass in a pot of boiling water and let it simmer into chicken stock . . . now you've got stock to make chicken soup from some of the left over meat. Just add veggies and you are all set! Chicken salad is super easy once you've got a cooked chicken. Cut the meat into chunks, add mayo, celery, relish, maybe some apple or grapes and salt and pepper and you are set for a couple of lunches. I like to make a basic spinach salad and top it with the roast chicken. You could also make pot pies, tacos, or anything else that calls for cooked chicken. The possibilities are literally endless. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Thanksgiving Dinner Canned

Canned Food Challenge Meal #2

Thanksgiving dinner is my favorite meal. I thought it would be interesting to make a Thanksgiving dinner casserole from all canned products. This stroke of genius came when I discovered that I had thrown a can of whole berry cranberry sauce into my cart. It was maybe the second easiest meal I've ever put together.

First I made a box of stove top cornbread stuffing. Just follow the directions on the box. The box calls for half a stick of butter, but you can actually make it without it if you need/want.  I also preheated my oven to 350. Why 350? It's my default temperature when I'm not working from a recipe.

As far as building the casserole, I started out with canned sweet potatoes, which I rinsed because they had added sugar and I didn't want it to be too sweet. I dumped them into the bottom of a 9 x 9 Corning ware dish. 

Next I drained a can of mixed seasoned greens really well. I mean REALLY well! Looking back the preseasoned greens had an awful lot of vinegar in them, and if I do this again I'll use plain greens or spinach. Then I spread about half the can on top of the sweet potatoes.

I added a can of chicken chunks next. I drained and rinsed this again. You could completely leave out the chicken if you wanted to do a veggie dish, or to cut costs. This was by far the most expensive item at $2.30. I put half of the can of cranberry sauce on top of the chicken.  I should have used the whole can! 

I topped everything with a thick layer of the stuffing and covered it with foil. I put it in to bake for 30 minutes. Then I took the foil off and let it go for another 30 minutes to crisp up the top of the stuffing. I topped it with canned turkey gravy. 

It was absolutely fantastic and I ended up with two lunches and two dinners and, don't laugh, one breakfast. Yup it was so good that I ate the last small portion for breakfast one day . . . cold. 

So here's what I used:
1 can of sweet potatoes: $.88
1 can of greens: $.99
1 can of chicken: $2.30
1 can of cranberry sauce: $.50
1 box of stove top stuffing: $1.00
1 can of gravy: $1.00

The casserole cost a total of $6.67 to put together and I got five meals out of it so . . . $1.33 per meal. Without the chicken this is a real bargain at $4.37 or $.87 per meal. Just so you know I didn't add salt or pepper to anything because the greens were heavily seasoned and I didn't want to add to that! 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Great Northern Beans

Canned Food Challenge Day 1

I'll be honest. I skipped breakfast this morning. I was out getting the oil changed and my hair cut. Right now the first meal is on the stove: Italian style Great Northern Beans!

So what's in the pot?

4 cans . . . salt, pepper, and shelf stable "Parmesan" cheese.  See you can cook too! (My new can opener works great, but I really want an old school swing line. Anyone know who still carries them? Wally World does not.)

No really, what's in the pot:

1 can of Great Northern Beans
1 can of Spinach
1 can of Diced Tomatoes-the Basil, Garlic, & Oregano flavor
1 can of Chunk Light Tuna in Oil
1/2 cup of "Parmesan" cheese--it came from the Dollar Store . . . it's not real
Salt and Pepper

Drain and rinse the beans, drain about half the oil out of the tuna and dump everything in a pot. Simmer until the consistency is where you want it.  You can eat this one as is . . . or you can stretch it from 3 meals to 6 by adding a half pound of pasta. Your choice! I personally like this one with pasta--so I've got water boiling for penne right now!

Cost?  About $2.09 without the pasta and $2.59 with the pasta!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Cans Aquired

My Last Visit To Save-A-Lot Ever

So today I went to Save-A-Lot, and it will be my last visit there ever. I walked out with my cart of cans and realized the checkout girl hadn't given me a receipt. I walked back in immediately, I had literally gone 10 feet. I asked the girl for my receipt and she asked me what I bought. I said, it was your last transaction. She looked at me with a blank stare and said, "I don't remember." Then she turned and went back to checking out her next customer. I was going to throw a fit, thought better of it and walked out. Prices for the canned food challenge will be approximate. I know I spent $28 and some change and that the most expensive thing I bought was canned artichoke hearts at $2.49 and the least expensive thing I bought was vienna sausages at $.35. (I've never eaten them before, but they do come in a can . . . they may sit on the shelf forever.) So what is in the canned inventory? Lets see!


Sweet Peas
Seasoned Mixed Greens
Artichoke Hearts
Sweet Potatoes 
Small White Potatoes
Diced Tomatoes (Garlic and Basil)


Chunk Pineapple
Fruit Salad


Black Beans
Great Northern Beans
Canned Chunk Chicken
Vienna Sausages
Corned Beef Hash


Chicken Broth
Sausage Gravy
Whole Cranberry Sauce

So what's on the menu this week?

A canned Thanksgiving using the sweet potatoes, greens, cranberry sauce and chicken, Italian style white beans, Some kind of pasta with clams, artichokes and mushrooms, and maybe a spam and pineapple fried rice.  That corned beef hash is for breakfast, so are the biscuits and gravy. 

Pictures and recipes will follow as the week progresses . . . 

Oh and I bought a new can opener. See the fancy looking one on the left. Yeah. It doesn't work at all. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Canned Food Challenge

      I was watching Chopped on the Food Network and frowned when I heard a competitor say that she, "never uses any kind of canned product in her kitchen." First, I find that hard to believe. Lots of things come in cans. Using stock that comes in a box instead of a can doesn't count, it's still a packaged product. Skirting the issue doesn't mean you aren't using "canned" products. Second, lots of great products come in cans. Where would we be today without canned tuna fish? Hungry for mayonaisey goodness, that's for sure.  Those of you know me well know that I'm a big fan of the show Chopped. I have even been known to "play" Chopped with the contents of my fridge on my Facebook page. What you might not know is that I am frequently frustrated by the holier-than-thou attitudes of the contestants. Just because you wouldn't use it in your restaurant doesn't mean that those of us watching at home aren't stuck with a canned version of something because it's easier to get, more cost effective, and shelf stable.

      Have you ever been in a situation where you didn't have a heat source or a source of fresh meat and produce? No? If you don't think you can do it, I suggest you stay clear of areas that are prone to hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, or any other kind of natural disaster. I'll be honest, after 2006, I never want to see another can of Hormel Chili ever again.  
      I wondered if I could cook for an entire week using only canned ingredients. I'm not talking about pre-made canned items like Chef Boyardi Ravioli or Hormel Chili (anyone can open a can of soup for a week!) I was thinking more along the lines of things like beans, veggies, fruits, and proteins that can be purchased in canned form and creating complete meals. Why would anyone want to do that? Well  . . . I think I already told you; canned foods are easy to find, cheap, and last forever.

      I'm going to try it. I'll be taking a trip to Save-A-Lot or Aldi on Thursday (I have to figure out which one is closer) . . . home to the cheapest canned ingredients one can buy--yes even cheaper than Wally World. I have one caveat to the challenge: dried rice and pasta will be used to fill out the experiment. In addition, my regular pantry is available--things like milk, eggs and butter

What would you cook with only canned ingredients?

Here's my favorite canned food recipe--it's also the easiest recipe ever:

Hawkeye's Black Beans

1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of Rotel style tomatoes, don't drain!
1 can of corn, drained and rinsed
Add a protein: 1 can of chicken, yup drained and rinsed. (I'll be honest I usually use a frozen chicken breast for this recipe, but canned works just as well.)

Combine all of the ingredients in a pot and simmer until the liquid from the tomatoes has reduced. Serve over rice.
Bonus ideas: top with a fried egg for breakfast, load into tortillas for tacos, serve over chips for hearty nachos

It should be an interesting week!