Monday, October 12, 2015

Seven Layer Bean Dip

 This is so easy it's scary! Just a few ingredients too and it will last all week! Start with a can of refrained beans--you can use either regular, fat free or my personal favorite: black refried beans with jalepeƱos.
Just spread an even layer across the bottom of a good sized Tupperware.

This dish can be made with or without meat! If you are going to add mean I would use chorizo--either ground or sliced and add it now!

Up next is a can of tomatoes--either diced with green chilis or a poco de gallo. Just make sure you drain it well! 

Next I added a cubed avocado--they were on sale. You can leave this out if it's outside your budget!  Add a can of sliced black olives at this stage too! 

Next cover the whole top with a layer of Greek yogurt and shredded cheese. ! 

This dish is much better if it sits in the fridge for awhile, plus it will keep for several days. I can get 5-6 meals out of one preparation of this dish.

Beans $.68
Tomatoes $.69
Avacado $1.26
Sausage $ .80
Olives $.44
Yogurt $.66
Cheese $1.25

Total: $5.78 or $.97 per meal.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Where Have You Been?

Sorry Guys . . . I have not abandoned you . . . fear not. However, when you make next to nothing an hour, you have to work a lot of hours to make ends meet. You know . . . 57 hours a week or so. And what do you want to do when you get home from working 57 hours a week. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Definitely nothing that involves thinking or working of any kind. No cooking, no cleaning, no laundry gets done . . . also no writing. So again, sorry. I will attempt to be more consistent.

Good news! I got a raise! In the spirit of consistency, however, I'm not going to change the blog title to "How to Survive on $9 an Hour." I'll tell you that while that little bit extra helps, it was not life changing or revolutionizing. I'd need to get a much bigger raise to change the way I'm currently living.

So lets talk about living for a minute, rather than subsisting. Subsisting is what I'm doing when I'm telling you about a great recipe that costs only pennies a serving and only requires one pot and an hour. Sometime you need to live a little. I made a promise to myself when I moved to Orlando . . . go find it on my Facebook page from June of 2012 . . . it's there I swear. I promised that my house would always have croissants, chocolate and ice cream. I've not kept that promise, but it made me think about the little things that can make your life so much more pleasant. I will scrimp and I will save and I will buy Suave shampoo and Hunts tomato sauce, but I will not give up my Bath and Body Works shower gel. Nope, not doing it.

So let's talk about those croissants.

Relatively speaking, they are a pretty big splurge. I can get a loaf of bread for $1. I buy bagel thins at Publix when they are B1G1 free for less than $1.50 a package. That box of croissants set me back $2.98. However, they make me happy. As one of my managers recently reminded me, happy is important and happy in contagious! So I'm making an effort to do things that make me happy more often--it's even better if they are cheap or free, but $2.98 is not a huge expenditure.

Besides there are a ton of things that you can do with a croissant. I prefer them as breakfast foods.

You can go classic:

You can go French and add a slice of ham to that butter . . . no ham at my house right now, so I'm using smoked turkey.

I recommend leaving the butter out on the counter the night before for easy spreading. (You do know that you don't have to chill your butter at all--it's counter top stable, just invest in a butter bell--about $10 on

You can use it as a bagel substitute . . . yes indeed that is pumpkin spice cream cheese!

If you'd like something slightly more substantial I recommend good ol' PB&J. I just discovered, however, that my roommate consumed all of my jelly, so I'll be having cream cheese on my croissant for breakfast!

At any rate, the lesson is  . . . do things that make you happy. Even if they are little tiny things like buying croissants. On that note, I'm going to go have a margarita. Margaritas also make me happy.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

I love Aldi and the Easiest Recipe Ever

      My Aldi shopping experience was the exact opposite of my Save-A-Lot shopping experience of a few weeks ago.  Everyone was friendly and polite and even asked if I needed help when I looked a little lost. I *almost* didn't need my headphones while doing this week's grocery shopping. Granted I didn't need much this week.  The deals on produce are outstanding.  Let's get specific. I went to Publix right after I went to Aldi.  I needed two items that Aldi didn't have cilantro and ginger. While in the Publix produce aisle I discovered the exact same head of butter lettuce I had just purchased at Aldi for $1.49.

      That's right it was $2.00 cheaper, two whole dollars! What can I do with $2.00, well I can make the southwestern style bean salad I'll give you the recipe for at the end of this. How does Aldi match up against Walmart? Well I've got last week's Walmart receipt in front of me. Bananas at Walmart were $.56lb and at Aldi today they were $.44. Then we've got last week's grape tomatoes which were $2.49. This week I only paid $1.49. How do they do it? Well for starters, make sure you have a quarter with you if you go to Aldi. You are going to have to put down a deposit for your shopping cart. You get it back when you turn it in, so no one is out there collecting shopping carts. Second, bring your own bags, Aldi doesn't provide them for free, but you can buy reusable ones there if you forget yours. Don't even think about buying name brands, you aren't likely to find any. Plus you know how you find four different brands of kidney beans in the canned veggie section at Walmart, you'll only find one brand at Aldi, but it's only going to cost you $.59, which is $.10 cheaper than the Great Value brand at Walmart. Last, don't plan on paying with a credit card, they don't take them. Your debit card, however, will work just fine.

      Will I stop shopping at Walmart? No, the Walmart is closer and it's open twenty-four hours a day. Sometimes I do my grocery shopping at 5:45am on Thursdays. Aldi doesn't open until 9am (10am on Sundays.) Look HERE to see where the nearest Aldi to your house is! However, I don't think going five extra miles once a week is a problem, especially since I've been eating lots of fruits and veggies, which are significantly less expensive at Aldi.

      On to the food. This is hands down the easiest recipe ever, because it involves absolutely no cooking.  You can open a can right?


1 can of black beans
1 can of corn
1 can of kidney beans
handful of cilantro
handful of grape or cherry tomatoes
3 T white wine vinegar
1 T olive oil
southwestern seasoning
salt and pepper

Dump all three cans into a colander. (I'm not going to lie, it took me three tries to spell colander correctly.) Rinse everything really well! Then pour the mixture into a plastic container with a lid. Cut the tomatoes in half and add them. Chop the cilantro and add it.

To make the dressing add the rest of the ingredients to a small mixing bowl and whisk. Use as much or as little southwest seasoning as you like--careful, it's hot! (If you need to make your own seasoning try a blend of chili powder, cayenne, onion powder, and garlic powder.) You can leave out the mustard if you like, I put some kind of mustard in most of my dressings.

Add the dressing to your salad, put the top on and shake to distribute the dressing evenly over everything.

Here's my lunch for tomorrow!

I lined the bowl with the butter lettuce, added the bean salad, and topped it with already grilled southwestern style chicken. (Yup, I did zero cooking. I was feeling tired so I bought the prefab chicken.)

How easy was that? Now . . . What did it cost? The bean salad, by itself . . . oh about $2.00 for about four servings. So my lunch tomorrow when you add in the lettuce and the chicken comes to $1.75. You can definitely just have the bean salad as a meal!  

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!