Sunday, December 13, 2009

Money Saver: Knock-Off Baby Legs

A few years ago when Monkey was born, I saw a pair of Baby Legs on a friend's baby and thought they were so cute! It was even better when I discovered they had Baby Legs for boys. But at $15 a pair back then, it was more of an item for a wish list than a shopping list. The one pair I did get Monkey, we wore out! They were great on his little legs when he crawled on our hardwoods. They make diaper changing a breeze and they are also a must for "shot days" at their well-check visits. You don't have to worry about pulling pants back on over their sore little legs.

Because I'm always looking for a bargain I found Baby Legs on sale BOGO on their website for a limited time.

But when a friend reminded me that I could make my own, I got even more excited! Women's knee high socks, with a little "tweaking" can make perfect faux Baby Legs. (Pack of three women's knee highs for $6 this weekend at Target.)

You can hem the bottoms or leave them to curl naturally like I do. Does anybody else just want to nibble on baby toes like me? Yum!

What an adorable model! :-) This boy so has me wrapped around that chubby baby toe.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Recipe: Roasted Garlic and Cauliflower

Cauliflower is one of those quiet little vegetables that folks either love or hate. I'm not a fan personally, as the texture of it raw reminds me of eating rubber fish gravel with Ranch dressing. Cooked, it's always mushy. Not a fan of mushy veggies. But I've always wanted to like cauliflower. It's inexpensive, it's pretty, it's PACKED with nutrients!

While surfing the net a few weeks ago, I saw a picture of roasted cauliflower with garlic. It looked beautiful and since I love roasted garlic, it sounded yummy to boot! I decided to tweak it a bit and make it mine, cooked according to my tastes.

Took it to a Thanksgiving dinner last week and again last night to a Christmas party. Both times it was a huge hit with friends and family. It's easy. And better yet, you can prepare it in advance and then just pop it in the oven 45 minutes before you leave. If you got a chance to try this dish, let me know what you thought...

Roasted Garlic and Cauliflower

2 heads of cauliflower, dice into 1" chunks
1/3 c. olive oil
1/3 c. canola oil
1 1/2 T. diced garlic
1 T. Herbs de Provence (The original recipe called for chopped rosemary, but I wanted a little more flavor. It does make a difference!)
1 t. salt
1 t. ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400.
Put diced cauliflower into a large plastic Ziploc.
Mix oils, spices, garlic and herbs together.
Pour oil mixture into Ziploc bag, closing tightly.
Toss cauliflower in oil mixture until well coated.
Place into large baking dish and bake uncovered at 400 for 20 minutes.
Toss again.
Continue baking for another 20 minutes or until cauliflower is tender to personal liking.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Product Review: More Target Brand Items

I've always been a bit of a brand snob. But the last few years, I've really tried to keep an open mind about generic items. I try a few things here and there. Some not so good choices, some you cannot even tell it's generic. What really got me reconsidering my brand loyalty was when the salmonella peanut butter scare happened a few years ago. Peter Pan (my personal favorite) was recalled from the same plant as the Wal-Mart brand. It made me realize that many times it's just a matter of appealing mass marketing. I was paying dollars more per jar of PB than I needed to. Since then, I'm more willing to at least try generics once in awhile.

Here are a few products that I've tried lately and my thoughts on them:

Target Brand Eye Make-up Remover:
I am a Clinique girl. My mom was growing up and I think it's just one of those things that stuck with me. One of the things I really love in their product line is their Take The Day Off Makeup Remover. Velvety soft, non-greasy, cleans in just three or four sweeps. Works great on waterproof mascara and stubborn lipstick. I've happily spent $17.50 a bottle on this stuff. So I begrudgingly tried the Up & Up brand of Eye Make-up Remover and was VERY surprised! I seriously, literally could not tell the difference. Considering the Up & Up brand is only about $3.50, I'm actually going to make a change. It's also got me wondering what else in their skin-care line is worth trying.

Target Brand Dishwashing Detergent Gel: Cascade lemon-scent gel is another one of those products that has my name loyalty. No more. The Up & Up brand is really no different. I see no streaks, smells great, and cleans thoroughly. Sorry Cascade!

Target Brand Toilet Paper: I'm not a fan. I considered starting this with a funny one-liner about how it's "crap", but I'll refrain. I've always been a Cottonelle girl and this huge pack of Up & Up Toilet Paper I purchased last week reminds me why. Cottonelle is soft, the double-ply is matched up, and it's soft. Hee. Up & Up TP is neither of those things. I hate scratchy TP! And when the sheets don't match up and I tear off a half sheet of one side of the ply, it's annoying to me. Maybe I'm just picky, but the $1 or so more for my name brand TP is worth it. This is the last time I make this purchase.

Target Brand Paper Towels: I love me some Viva Papertowels! They seriously feel like little washcloths to me. So it was with a begrudging heart that I tried the Target Brand Paper Towels. They aren't nearly as soft, but they do come in select-a-size and are pretty absorbent. I will purchase these when the budget's tight for the week. But if I have the extra dollar or so, I will probably splurge on my Viva.

Target (Market Place) brand Steam-in-a-bag foods:
I've tried asparagus, broccoli, and white rice. At $1.99 a bag, these are a real winner in my opinion! For those nights you need a good hot meal fast, this is the perfect answer. A few days ago, I had a whole chicken cooking in the crockpot, steamed a bag of rice, another bag of asparagus and we had a great meal in under 10 minutes of coming home. Seriously. Just doesn't get better than that on a time and money budget! These are a regular occurrence on my grocery list nowadays.

I have a few other items I'm trying out, but still not sure where I stand on them, so I'll write about those at a later time.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Product Review: Purely Decadent Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Not that I have tons of readers here anymore, but for the two of you that do read, thank you so much for your patience the last several months. Having a baby will get you a teensy-bit behind schedule. :-)

But what is inspiring me to post today is this lovely new friend I met yesterday...

Gluten-free and dairy-free for a cookie dough ice cream? I HAD to introduce myself to this new product. It had been years since anything cookie dough was tummy friendly for me.

Wow. I'm quoting myself from the first bite. Seriously, this stuff was really yummy!

It's a vanilla based ice cream with big flakes of a dark chocolate and big round clumps of gluten-free cookie dough. I was impressed. Word of warning...this is NOT soy-free. So I react a little bit to that, but there are some things I'm just willing to suffer for. This is one of them.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Product Review: Reynolds Slow Cooker Liners

I LUUUUURVE my crockpot! There is just something about dumping a bunch of ingredients into a pot, letting it stew all day, and then coming home to a house full of yummy smells and dinner is already to go. How much better can it get?

Well, let me tell ya, it CAN get better!

What I DON'T love about crockpot cooking is the cleaning of the crockpot. I'm stepping out on a limb here and exposing my underbelly...there have been times where my crockpot has sat in the sink for a few days unwashed, while a science experiment takes place, because I am SO averse to cleaning the messy, encrusted, whatever that stewed all day long.


This is where I introduce my new friend...

Reynolds makes crockpot liners. They are big plastic bags that you use to line your crockpot, even the big ones like mine, and put all your ingredients into the liner. When dinner is done, you simply remove the liner and you still have your clean crockpot.

I know...doesn't seem real, huh?

But it is. And it is a beautiful thing! No, the plastic did not melt on me, although there was a tiny leak and I had to wipe out the bottom of the crockpot with a cleaning sponge. But other than that, it was easy-peasy, like nothing else. The box comes with 4 liners, all for a low price of around $2 at Tar-jay.

I see myself using my crockpot MUCH more often, as I have the energy of sloth in hibernation right now.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Our New Normal

Since my little posting sabbatical, I've been learning a few things about myself and my son.

About my son:

We started removing gluten from his diet several weeks ago. Things have been going very well! One of the symptoms he struggled with was a strange eczema around his mouth that would just not go away. The other symptom was completely behavioral: screaming tantrums, easily frustrated, cried for no apparent reason. Since eliminating gluten from Monkey's diet, he has been doing MUCH, MUCH better! We don't have an official diagnosis and are planning on official testing soon. But the results at this point speak for themselves. A Happy Monkey = a Happy Momma!

About me:

Just like a gluten-free/dairy-free/soy-free diet, a gestational diabetes diet has a learning curve. Learning to eat foods that didn't make my sugar soar was a bit of challenge. I was in unchartered territory. So far, I've learned that the easiest way for me to approach food without the GD symptoms (severe fatigue, nausea, confusion), was to focus on meat and fresh veggies with the occasional carb thrown in. Being petite, something as small as a gala apple for a snack would just send me over the edge. My body is not even tolerating natural sugars well. I have also learned not to eat carbs alone. I have to eat it with a protein or a dense carb. So if I do eat half of that gala apple, I eat a handful of almonds with it. I have also learned that I can still have my high sugar carbs, just not in the same amounts as before. And if I eat dessert immediately after dinner, my body handles the sugars MUCH better.

All of that to say that I'm figuring things out slowly and N and I have made adjustments in the weekly food budget to accomodate both Monkey's and my needs. We have tentatively made the weekly budget $100 instead of the $75 we've become used to. With the exception of the first week, I've come under by $5 or $10, so we might tweak this more later. But this amount accomodates all the additional proteins that make up the main portion of my diet today. Meat at every meal?! N is a very happy man! No more weird vegetarian stuff. LOL! The budget also accomodates the snacks that we send with Monkey to school. They have been kind enough to work with us on the meals by providing him alternatives for fish stick day or chicken nugget day. I am supplementing this with a few items they can cook when they don't have an alternative. I can't say how grateful I am for that!

All in all, we are starting to find a little more comfort in the process, which is nice. I'm not the queen of flexibility, so I'm happy that I'm finding myself just taking the changes in stride. And I'm happy to see my little Monkey feeling so much better. I think that's the best part!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - 6/1/09

I have not fallen off the wagon! I've actually been doing the weekly menu planning and shopping trips, I just haven't been posting about it until I get comfy with the new diet restrictions and what I can safely eat. I've also been trying to get an idea of how much of a budget we'd be working with. I think I'm starting to find my new normal.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Monday: Tuna sandwiches, fresh cut vegetables
Tuesday: Grilled chicken, grilled fresh veggies
Wednesday: Beef broccoli with steamed rice
Thursday: Ham and fried potatoes
Friday: Soft ground beef tacos
Saturday: Shrimp Linguine, tossed green salad

For more menu ideas, visit Laura over at

Monday, May 11, 2009

Adjusting and Giving Myself a Timeout

Menu Plan Monday and the Weekly Shopping Trip is a bit up in the air this week. I've been struggling with adjusting to my new gestational diabetes diet AND navigating that around my gluten/dairy/soy allergies. This is no easy feat. There is not much left to eat outside of meat, eggs, fresh veggies, and fruit. I know that sounds like a wonderfully healthy diet - it is - but it's a total budget buster.

On top of that, some of the menu and snack items I've specifically purchased for Monkey are no longer viable, as we think he might have a food allergy like Momma and Pop-Pop (my father).

All of this realized this past week, so it's a double-whammy.

So until we know for sure what we're dealing with, I'm attempting to find alternatives for some basic snacks in his diet (Ritz, Goldfish, Saltines, etc), that are not totally cost prohibitive AND something this picky toddler will eat. If you've ever had a toddler, you probably already know how much food is wasted by their finicky palates.

So this week, I'm focusing on what's on sale and attempting to keep the budget as low as possible based on that. I'm not in my comfort zone at all this week, so I know I'll be over budget and I know it will be a few weeks before I understand what the heck I'm doing and how much it's going to cost us on a regular basis. I'm giving myself permission to do that and just deal with the financial repurcussions later, as I figure this out. When one's health and baby's health is at stake, there really isn't a viable option.

I guess that's my advice this week: Give yourself a break until you understand what works for your family. Eating foods that fit the budget, but literally make you sick is not even a viable alternative. Stop the game. Figure out the new "rules" and move slowly forward until it becomes your new normal.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Product Review: Good Karma Organic Rice Divine

It was back in 1999 that I realized I had a gluten-intolerance. My father had it for years, so I at least had someone that could help validate how awful I felt. Eventually, I started reacting to dairy products as well. Which stunk because whenever I'd go out to eat with family or friends, ice cream was always my backup plan for dessert at a restaurant. I don't know why, but fruit sorbet never quite cut it. There was something about the creaminess of dairy products that satisfied me in ways that frozen fruit didn't.

So slowly I switch to soy products. I bought soy milk, soy ice creams, soy butters, all in an effort to capture that same creamy essence in my meal enjoyment. It wasn't quite the same either, but it was really the only alternative I found that has halfway decent.

Eventually, it dawned on me that since giving birth to Monkey, I haven't been able to enjoy any soy product without repercussion. Are you serious? ANOTHER food reaction??? No soymilk in my lattes at Starbucks. No edamame with our sushi. No soy ice cream.

Is there ANYTHING I could eat that would fill the void of my ice cream fascination???

I tried Rice Dream ice creams. Not too much there I liked. The flavors or the textures were always just "off". My favorite out of their so-so products was the vanilla with TONS of chocolate syrup to cover the taste. LOL! But there was always something "grainy" about them. Grainy ice cream = a big yuck in my book!

After reading another GF/DF blog, I was introduced to Good Karma products. And last week, I decided to take the plunge and spend the $4 (oy!) to buy a pint of their Very Vanilla Rice Divine.

I'll be really, really honest. I had VERY LOW expectations. Every dairy substitute has direly disappointed me, so I didn't expect this one to be any different. Most non-dairy frozen desserts are not initially creamy, they are really hard. Letting the carton sit out on the counter for 2 or 3 minutes is best. I was a little leary because the Rice Divine had pulled away from the sides of the carton, which gave me the impression that it was old or something was wrong with it. This wasn't looking good.


I was very pleasantly surprised! In fact...YUM! The texture of the ice cream felt good in my spoon, as I glided it across the top...creamy, smooth. I could see little flecks of vanilla bean, which is always a good sign in my book. The taste? Soft, creamy, milky, rich, very vanilla, thus appropriately named. It didn't have that odd after-taste that I remembered in Rice Dreams frozen products. I was impressed! After a few bites, I realized I could easily eat the pint in a sitting, that's how good it was!

But since I'm watching my carb intake right now because of gestational diabetes, I slowed down to savor and only ate about 10 spoonfuls. I very begrudgingly put the pint back in the freezer. I will save some more for later. Even at $4 a pint, it was a really good experience!

I'll also blog later about having a gluten/dairy/soy allergy AND try to keep up with a diabetic diet. Talk about hard!!! Holy cow.

For now, Good Karma's Rice Divine in Very Vanilla gets two thumbs up! This is by far, the best gluten-free, dairy-free frozen dessert I've ever had! There are other flavors that I'm looking forward to trying: Mudd Pie, Coconut Mango, Mint Chocolate Swirl...and others. Although dairy-free, I'm not sure which ones are gluten-free, so I'll have to research those before I try. I'll update the blog later once I do it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Weekly Shopping Trip - 5/4/09

When I write out my weekly shopping trip, I do it in an Excel spreadsheet. In the second column I have an estimate of what that item will cost. And the fun thing with Excel is the formulas that automatically tabulate for you. So I get an idea of what I'm spending before I even hit the store.

Anyways, this week, the formula in the spreadsheet said I was going to go WAAAY over the budget this week. I was a little nervous going into it. But a lot of what I put down I overpriced or there were some good sales that really helped me out! Yay for good weeks!

I realized after I took this picture, that I had left some additional groceries in the car. By the time I discovered it, the above items were put away. Sorry!

Target Total - $42.64
Generic dryer sheets 3.49
Hormel Black Label Bacon 2.99
Peter Pan peanut butter 2.00 (The shelf was labeled with the wrong price, but she let me have it anyways! Woohoo!)
black olives .92
3 cans tomatoes 1.77
water chestnuts .89
Generic raisin bran 2.46
Rice Chex 2.99
black beans 1.54
generic oregano 1.64
McCormick paprika 2.54
McCormick onion powder 2.99
generic cumin 2.09
Bananas .43
generic apple juice 1.12
generic whole milk 2.29
generic eggs 1.67
Colgate toothpaste 3.64 (had a .75 coupon)
Box of Ziploc plasticware 4.99

Natural Grocers Total - $5.14
Pacific rice milk 2.15
Tinkyada rice penne pasta 2.99

Sprouts Total - $21.17
Mission corn tortillas 1.50
Bulk almonds (impulse buy, I was hungry) 1.95
Bulk dried apples (another impulse, but this was for Monkey) 1.12
GF waffles (BOGOF!!!) 3.49
2 lb grd beef 3.92
blackberries .77
celery .77
cucumber .69
cabbage .90
2 boxes strawberries 4.00
head lettuce 1.29
yellow squash .92
bag credit -.15

Weekly Budget - $75.00
This Week's Total - $68.95
Difference - $6.05 under budget

As I typed this out, I realized I left a few items off the list that I'm going to have to go back and get. But with the wiggle room in this week's budget, I think I'm going to be fine.

Visit more shopping savvy ladies over at Gayle's GCC Weekly Roundup.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - 5/4/09

Cinco de Mayo has never been a big deal to me until I moved to Texas. It was here that I learned that it's an expectation to eat Mexican, or at least Tex Mex, on May 5th. So that's what we're doing this week! A simple Tex Mex meal of Taco Salad, because that's what fits into the budget. But we're doing things a little differently this time. No prepackaged taco seasoning. Eeks. The shopping trip this week will consist of purchasing everything needed for a scratch taco seasoning. We'll see how that goes! Here's the rest of the menu:

Monday - Grilled chicken, steamed broccoli/carrots, flash fried potatoes
Tuesday - Taco Salad
Wednesday - Tuscan Sausage and Bean Soup
Thursday - Breakfast for dinner
Friday - Lunchmeat sandwiches
Saturday - Thai Lettuce Wraps (I didn't do it last week)

For more menu plans, visit Laura at Have a great week!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Product Review: Arico Chocolate Chunk GF Cookies

We had family in town this week from Houston and our little gathering was with some other family in McKinney. This particular hostess (N's aunt) always goes WAY out of her way to make sure I have something to eat. This time was no exception. She had my favorite bread, Kinnikinnick, since we were grilling burgers and dogs. Yum! But this time for my dessert, she got a bag of gluten-free cookies that I'd never heard of before: Arico Chocolate Chunk.

The cookies were moist, dense, with a sweet and slightly nutty flavor from the brown rice flour. The chocolate chunks were very large and soft with a rich, dark flavor. I was completely impressed! Since she purchased them, I'm not sure what they cost. There were only 10 cookies in the pouch, so I'm hoping they weren't too terribly expensive. But she was sweet enough to send them home with me, because she didn't want them. I wasn't going to fight her. :-)

They have other flavors that I plan on trying: almond cranberry, double chocolate, peanut butter, lemon ginger, and triple berry. The chocolate chunk definitely gets two thumbs up from me!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - 4/27/09

Okay, I'm kinda throwing this up here and not really sure how the week is going to go. Sweet MIL is out of town again this week, so my typical grocery shopping on Monday night is probably not going to happen the "good" way: Monday night after work while she watches Monkey. I'm doing a little shopping during my lunch hour today and probably a little on the way to pick him up from school. If that doesn't work, it'll probably happen after Monkey goes down tonight. If that happens, Lord, help me with energy, please! Shopping at night never goes well. LOL! It's too close to after dinner snack time and I get impulsive. Can we say "four cartons of ice cream" please?

Monday - Baked potoatoes with steamed broccoli and cheese
Tuesday - Lunchmeat sandwiches
Wednesday - Tostadas
Thursday - Thai Lettuce Wraps (a new recipe I'm trying!)
Friday - Breakfast for dinner
Saturday - Polenta with red meat sauce

Wish me luck!

For more menu plans from savvy mommas, go visit Laura at

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Recipe: Cranberry Breakfast Struedel

A few weeks ago we had a diapers and wipes shower for a friend of ours. I signed up to take an item and scrounged like crazy to find something I could make out of what I had in the cupboards. (Not much.) I kind of combined elements from different recipes. If it didn't work, we were stopping for donuts on the way. Ha! It's not gluten-free, so I didn't get a firsthand taste of it, but next time I plan on using a gluten-free cake mix so I can enjoy it. But from the comments I got from N and others at the event, it was a hit! So I'm going to post it and I would love to see if anyone else gets similar or different results. If you try this, let me know how it goes. I might just have a husband and friends that are too scared to give me a truthful answer. LOL!

Cranberry Breakfast Struedel

1 box white or yellow cake mix
1 can whole cranberry sauce
1/3 cup oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup water and 2 T water separately

Streusel topping ingredients
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup oatmeal
2 T butter or margarine
1 T Cinnamon (I used pumpkin pie spice, as I was out of cinnamon.)

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix eggs, oil, and water together.
  • Empty cake mix into a bowl and create a well.
  • Place egg/oil/water mixture into well and mix until moistened and most of the lumps are gone. Mix will be drier and denser than typical cake mix.
  • Pour mix into 13 x 9 cake pan.
  • Mix 2 tablespoons water into whole cranberry sauce to make the fruit a little "creamier". Next time I plan on using Grand Marnier or Cointreau instead, just to see what it tastes like.
  • Marble in cranberry mixture into cake mix.
  • Mix streusel ingredients together until mixture is mealy.
  • Top cranberry/cake mix with streusel topping.
  • Bake 30 - 40 minutes, until cake is golden and fruit is bubbling on the edges.

    For more yummy recipes, go visit Gayle at GCC's weekly recipe swap!
  • Wednesday, April 22, 2009

    A Green Challenge

    Happy Earth Day everyone! Hope it's as lovely in your world as it is in mine!

    As mentioned in the sidebar, this blog is about stewardship, primarily of the financial type. But really stewardship is about making the wisest investment in whatever resource is given to us. It really isn’t just about money, but so much more. N and I have attempted to be wise(r) about other decisions in our lives. Being more environmentally aware is one of them. The littlest changes can make a difference. But sometimes those little changes can be a challenge. We finally realized that many of the things we could be doing, but weren’t, were simply out of laziness. Pretty pathetic when you get right down to it.

    So last year, we decided that we’d start implementing some changes to the W household. Knowing it was a mindset change, we knew if we didn’t approach things slowly and deliberately, that we’d fail simply out of being overwhelmed. So instead of making a lot of changes at once, we adopted a new “green” method of living every month or every few months, depending on what was going on and what we could handle.

    • Moving to fluorescent bulbs. The whole house is not complete yet. We’re still replacing them as the incandescent ones burn out. Which helps a big on the pocketbook too, since they’re pricier. Spreading the costs over several months is a bit easier to swallow.

    • Stopped buying bottled water. We have a filtered water dispenser on our fridge, so I’m not entirely sure why I bought bottled water anyways. Old habits die hard I guess. I spent $14 bucks on this at Sprouts. I now carry this or a similar one with me almost all the time. It’s dishwasher safe and BPA-free, so it’s convenient AND safe for me and the Monkeys AND doesn’t fill up landfills. Plus I can’t even begin to speculate on how much money we saved not buying bottled water.

    • I started using this. I hate talking about such personal matters on a public forum (apologies to sensitive readers), but let me just say that I am now a huge fan of this product. About one million tons of waste in our landfills EVERY YEAR is due to feminine waste products, which surprisingly enough, is not always biodegradable. This one little detail blew me away! One million tons? I know what I go through every month. If you’re a woman, you know what YOU go through every month. Multiply that with all the women in your city, your state, our country, the world. I was horrified! That alone was enough to send me to the store to purchase one. It took me a few cycles to get the technique down and there is a technique. I’ll be honest, I was frustrated the first month. But I fought through it. The initial cost was a bit hard to swallow (around $33), but after about three months of use, I decided I was not ever going back to paper products. Never, ever! I’ve been won over and I feel very good about my decision. This is one area that I feel is making a huge impact on our earth and only us women can do it.

    • We purchased a recycle bin. Some cities provide an actual recycle bin. Ours does not. But they do pick up recyclables, as long as they are in blue bags, differentiating them from trash bags. They are also nice enough to provide free blue bags once a year at their community center. They also list on their website and in the local paper what recyclable items they accept. So I clipped it out of the newspaper and have it taped above our recycle bin. I go there regularly to remind myself what goes in the bin versus what goes in the trash. So take a look at your city's website listing. You might be surprised what they are doing in your community.

      If you decide to recycle, check with your local city listings to make sure you’re not putting things in the recycle bins they can’t recycle. It’s a waste otherwise. Haha! Get it? Waste? A little green humor. *ahem*

    • Using recycleable shopping bags. I don’t use them for all the stores and I don’t use them every time. But I figure if I use three less plastic bags a week, then that’s 156 less plastic bags I use every year. And for those plastic bags that do follow me home? I use them for liners in our bathroom cans or save them and take them back to Sprouts or Tom Thumb to place in their recycled bag bins.

    • Composting. As a gardener, I understand the HUGE benefits of compost. Talk about making trash into treasure! Rotting fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, eggshells, cut up egg cartons and newspapers are some of the best things for your garden. Currently our compost is going in an old trash can in our backyard that we don’t use. I actually get excited when I have vegetable remains or empty eggshells. LOL! This weekend N and I will be making an actual compost bin to oxygenate the materials most efficiently. I’m excited! I’ll post later on how that goes.

    There are a ton of other things that we need to change about our lives, but these are the baby steps we’re making. Some other ideas that we plan on implementing over the course of this year:

    • Turning off the water while we brush our teeth. I’ve started on this as of last week. Hard habit to break. Something about the calming sound of the water…silly I know.

    • A clothesline. Maybe not for everything, but for large items like towels, bedsheets, blankets, etc.

    • Planting a vegetable garden. This year with M2 coming along, this is just not something I can commit to. But I’m hoping that next year it’s something I can really get rolling.

    • Turning down the heater. N and I are pretty cold natured. So in the winter, our gas heater is on overload. I’m not going to tell you where we keep our thermostat, because, well frankly, it’s really embarrassing. But next year we plan on turning it down a notch and wearing a sweatshirt.

    • Re-insulating our attic. I’m hoping we can get this done sometime this summer. We’ll see.

    • Taking the train. Later this year, the DART Rail is supposed to have a station stop right in front of N’s office. We’re hoping to conserve fuel, money, and air pollution by him taking that instead of driving downtown for his daily commute. An added bonus: we found out his company is willing to pay a stipend for any employees that uses public transportation. Way cool!

    I'll try to write more about how things are going green in our household. If it inspires just one more family to make one change in their lives, then great! So far, we're happy that we've made the changes we've made because we feel like we are really making a difference on the earth we leave to our boys. And all of this in just about 6 months. Just imagine in another year what we could be doing!

    God gave us this earth to enjoy...are we making the most of what He's given? In celebration of that beauty, what change can you make TODAY to make a difference in our environment?

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    Weekly Shopping Trip - 4/20/09

    I knew this week was going to be a smidge of a struggle because I didn't have a lot of time to plan and scour the pantry before I went shopping. The stress of having to rush through that process doesn't always bode well. But all things considering, I'm happy that we were only a tiny bit over budget.

    Sorry about the blurry picture. I was in a rush to take the picture too and didn't realize my auto-focus wasn't on. :-( Even photographers make lame mistakes. LOL!

    Target Total - $54.83
    Tostitos 3.00
    Generic saltines .99
    Jimmy Dean hot sausage 2.04
    Dole lettuce in a bag 2.49
    Generic olive oil 4.99
    Arriba salsa 4.19
    Mission corn tortillas 2.29
    Hormel ham 6.94
    Black beans .77
    Applesauce 1.87
    4 pack Starkist Tuna 3.14
    Wheat bread 1.29
    McCormick cinnamon 3.29 (with a coupon 2.54)
    Vegetable oil 2.49
    Bananas .90
    Gala apples 2.96
    GF Waffles 3.84
    Apple juice 1.19
    12 pk sprite 3.00
    Milk 2.29
    Eggs 1.67

    Tom Thumb Total - $6.80
    6pk Generic club soda 1.25
    Cottonelle TP 6.49 (with store coupon 5.49)
    Red grapes 1.00
    Coupon for 1.50 off total - Yay!

    Sprouts Total - $14.63
    Bulk sea salt .56
    Earth balance butter 2.99
    Bulk cheddar cheese 2.24
    Cucumber .79
    Grape tomatoes 2.50
    Avocados 1.76
    Onions .77
    Orange bell pepper .89
    Red bell pepper .88
    Strawberries 1.25

    Weekly Budget - $75.00
    This Week's Total - $76.26
    Difference - $1.26 over budget

    To meet other gals that share their weekly shopping trips, visit Gayle at GCC.

    Monday, April 20, 2009

    Menu Plan Monday - 4/20/09

    Nothing big going on this week, so just another week to put on the menu books.

    Monday - Chicken Enchiladas with green sauce
    Tuesday - Breakfast (sausage, eggs, hashbrowns)
    Wednesday - Tuna Casserole (not sure how to do this yet)
    Thursday - Beef fajitas
    Friday - Pizza
    Saturday - Sandwiches

    I'm typing this AFTER dinner on Monday, so I must confess that we did not do the chicken enchiladas. The jarred sauce I purchased awhile back on sale, was WAAAY too intense for a pregnant lady with delicate tastebuds. Holy cow. That stuff was going to keep me up all night with heartburn! So, thinking maybe I was being a baby, I had N try the sauce. Even HE thought it was hot and he's got tastebuds of steel. So that made me feel better...less of a pansy. On top of that, the DF/GF "cream" sauce that was supposed to go with the chicken, was a total disaster with a capital D. I was flustered and frustrated. I REALLY wanted chicken enchiladas!

    So this meant we had to change plans and quickly. It was pushing 9:00! So N made chicken nachos for himself and I made chicken soft tacos. Dinner was still really good! But what this experience did was teach me that I needed to be more flexible, which I'm not good at when I.HAVE.A.PLAN! :-)

    Also, I have tuna casserole planned for later in the week, but it also counted on that cream sauce that was a Disaster. So I might have to be flexible again later this week. We'll see what happens...

    Thursday, April 16, 2009

    Lesson Learned

    I am usually pretty disciplined about bringing my breakfast and lunch to the office. I hate spending money in our office café. The food is decent and it’s reasonably priced on the most part. But with us tightening our belts the last few months, I just cannot justify spending the $5 on lunch, when I know I have a perfectly good box of leftovers from home for free.

    Today was my day to take Monkey to school and usually that means I’m attempting to finish getting dressed, get him his juice, packing my work bag, and trying to brownbag my breakfast/lunch all at the same time. So today, in my rush, I packed my lunch, but forgot to pack breakfast. It’s not complicated. Usually just a couple frozen GF waffles and some fruit. But being preggo, if I don’t eat breakfast, it’s a really ugly morning. When I got to the office and realized my oversight, I was beside myself. All I had in my secret desk stash was a small container of applesauce that had expired, some peanut butter, and my candy jar with leftover Easter peanut M&Ms. Not good! So I dig through my change drawer and come up with two dollars. Woohoo! This was plenty to get myself the café’s “breakfast scrambler”: two scrambled eggs with two toppings of choice, usually ham and onions. Plenty to fill me up for the morning. It’s been awhile since I’ve eaten at my office café, so my walk had a little bounce as I walked across campus. I was excited! I felt like I was eating out, which N and I haven't done in awhile now. Haha!

    And then reality hit as I stood in line. Wow. It really HAS been awhile since I’ve eaten there! Their prices have almost doubled in everything! As I figured out what my $2 could buy me, I was getting disheartened. Eighty cents for a fried egg? Sixty for a slice of bacon?


    So I got an over-medium fried egg and one slice of bacon and decided to have a handful of Easter M&M’s after I got back to my desk. As I walked back to my desk, it dawned on me that last week I spent 99 cents on a dozen eggs. A dozen! And here I’d just bought one egg and one slice of bacon for $1.50. Wow. I fully realize $1.50 is not that much money in the grand scheme of things. But when I considered WHAT I got for that amount of money, it hurt just a teensy bit. I’ve had such a high for the last several months on how well we’ve been stretching our grocery dollars. I felt a little deflated.

    Sometimes it’s the pain of mistakes and oversights that help us learn. You can bet that tomorrow I will NOT be forgetting to pack my breakfast!

    Wednesday, April 15, 2009

    Recipe: Shepherd's Pie

    Some of my fondest memories as a child, are in the warmth and comfort of my step-mom's kitchen. Being with my single-father for so many years, it was not lost on me how blessed I was to have a Momma that was such a wonderful cook. She could make anything and that anything always tasted or felt special, even if it was just sweet cornbread on Sunday mornings with honey and butter. After all the years of Dad's PB&J's, Campbell's soup, and crock-pot chickens, Momma's food was like heaven! As a teenager, I was blessed to be a student under her tutelage and some of my best meals are because of things I learned from her.

    I was browsing through Recipezaar on Monday night after dinner and just happened to bump into this recipe, which brought up a load of memories of a meal my Momma cooked on a regular basis! Since I have this knack for cooking waaay too much of something, I decided I wanted to give this a try. A nice way to use up the 10 gazillion pounds of leftover mashed potatoes I'd made just that night. I've tweaked it some (per usual), but the end result was really, really wonderful! This is definitely one of those meals you can call comfort foods.

    Shepherd's Pie

    1 lb ground beef
    salt to taste
    pepper to taste
    1 T butter
    1 T olive oil
    1 medium sweet onion
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1 can Italian style tomatoes
    1 can green beans
    2 to 3 cups cooked mashed potatoes

    Pre-heat oven to 350.
    Brown ground beef, drain fat, and pat dry with paper towels.
    Salt and pepper to taste and mix.
    Layer on the bottom of a loaf pan.
    Brown onions and garlic in butter and olive oil, until golden and tender.
    Layer on top of the ground beef.
    Drain can of Italian style tomatoes VERY WELL and layer on top of onions.*
    Drain can of green beans VERY WELL and layer on top of canned tomatoes.*
    Layer mashed potatoes thickly on top of green beans.
    Cook in oven for 30 minutes.
    Broil on high for 2 minutes or until mashed potatoes are golden brown.

    *It's important to drain the canned vegetables really well or the "pie" is runny. A mistake I will not make again. While this tasted wonderful, it was not pretty. Next time I know what to do.

    This is one of those recipes that's fast and a good use of "pantry" items or leftovers. You could use corn, mixed frozen veggies, sauteed peppers, ground turkey, whatever you have on hand. N and I enjoyed this, but Monkey did not. Lately, he has this Thing for not liking his food being mixed up. (Shelia, I think just talking about your kids being like this, jinxed me. LOL!)

    *kicking myself for not taking a picture of the meal, yet again*

    Tuesday, April 14, 2009

    Weekly Shopping Trip - 4/13/09

    This week's shopping trip was MUCH more successful than last week's. Not that that took much. Ha! But the menu plan was fairly simple and I didn't have any high cost items that were really needed, so extra money was spent on some meat I found on sale. I am SOOO wishing we had a deep freeze so we can put some of this stuff away without filling our freezer too much. One of these days...

    I also hit a different store that I don't frequent. It's on the same corner as Target, so it's not out of my way. Nature's Grocer/Vitamin Cottage. It's an all natural health food store. Honestly, I've been pretty impressed with them. I would venture to say that their selection of gluten-free items comes close to, if not rivals, Sprouts. And they're cheaper! A bag of my GF Tinkyada pasta is 50 cents cheaper and their Pamela's cookies are 80 cents cheaper. Also, I noticed they had a sale bin in the back where they had cookies and crackers close to expiring on sale for really, really ridiculous prices. That makes the trip worth it! So for those weeks where I REALLY need to be watching the pennies, they will probably win the bid for the week. Like I said, it's not out of my way. The drawback: Their produce selection is VERY limited and I don't see myself purchasing produce there. Sprouts just has everyone beat in that area. So, who knows...I might be frequenting them more often.

    I don't necessarily enjoy hitting FOUR stores like I did this time, but all four stores are at three corners of ONE intersection, so I don't feel like I'm counteracting my savings with gas-money. It IS more time-intensive, but my goal is to stay under a certain amount every week. I don't think an additional 15 minutes a week to hit that goal is really much of a sacrifice. I'm comfy with it.

    Target Total - $37.42
    Ruffles 3.50
    Hebrew National hotdogs 3.29
    1 lb split peas 1.00
    Malt-O-Meal Wheat Spooners 4.83
    Frosted Flakes (on clearance) 2.08
    Bananas .85
    Small gala apples 2.89
    Lean Cuisine 2.25
    Apple juice 1.19
    Generic orange juice 1.32
    Dozen eggs 1.67
    4 Generic yogurts 2.08
    Wax paper 1.19
    Generic paper towels 3.49
    3 boxes lotion Kleenex 4.99

    Natural Grocers Total - $5.98
    Pamela's Mini Cookies 2.99
    Tinkyada GF Penne Pasta 2.99

    Tom Thumb Total - $10.31
    Stouffer's Panini 2.50
    Red Baron Pizza 3.00
    2 Top Sirloin Steaks (on sale) 4.81

    Sprouts Total - $16.15
    .05 used bag credit
    Rice Cheese 3.49
    GF Waffles 2.49
    2 lbs Ground beef 4.12
    Bulk baby spinach .94
    2 yellow onions .81
    3 HUGE oranges 1.40
    Red bell pepper .88
    2 lbs grapes 2.07

    Weekly Budget - $75.00
    This Week's Total - $69.86
    Difference - $5.14 under budget

    I'm realizing as I'm typing this out, I might need another trip to the store, as I've forgotten I signed up for a breakfast item at a baby shower this coming weekend. Either way, it'll still be fairly inexpensive and I'll still be under budget. I'm still in decent shape for the month, despite what happened last week! Yay for good weeks!

    If you get a second, visit Gayle over at her weekly GCC Shopping Round Up! I'm so wishing I lived close to her...I'd be attending that workshop she's hosting. Boo!

    Monday, April 13, 2009

    Menu Plan Monday - 4/13/09

    I really tried to keep costs down this week since last week was such a bust. Although it might take a few weeks to get caught up on going over so bad. Eeks.

    Monday - Grilled porkchops, mashed potatoes, grilled onions & 'shrooms (I'm writing this AFTER I've cooked dinner. Yum-o!)
    Tuesday - Shepherd's pie
    Wednesday - Grilled chicken salads
    Thursday - Gluten-free Baked Ziti
    Friday - Split Pea Soup
    Saturday - Breakfast Tacos

    Some of these I've never fixed before, so I'm not entirely sure if all of these will work. I keep a few frozen meals in the freezer for nights like this. I made a Cuban black bean soup last week that was a DISASTER. Probably my worst meal I've ever cooked. Boo! I'm so grateful I've got such a laid-back hubby...he's forgives me easily for bad meals. (And is still willing to let me use him as a guinea pig a few nights later. LOL!)

    For more creative menus, visit Laura over at for this week's challenge.

    Wednesday, April 8, 2009

    Product Review: Pamela's Chocolate Chip Mini Cookies

    I've had a few of Pamela's pre-baked gluten-free cookies and have never been impressed. But I read a review lately that said these little guys were pretty good. So I thought I'd give 'em a try.

    So I got a bag today at Nature's Grocers. My verdict: TWO THUMBS UP! Seriously. These totally remind me of Chips Ahoy. From the store to home I probably ate 6 or 8 of them! I'm only like 3 miles from Nature's Grocers too, so that's a lot of cookies in a 6 minute drive. I've never been so happy to get stuck at that stupid light in the middle of a construction area. LOL! Tonight after dinner another 3 or 4. Ridiculous. I have no self-control with these suckers! They run about $2.99 a bag and I think they're worth the money. Almost too worth the money...these are a little on the dangerous side. Eeks.

    Monday, April 6, 2009

    Weekly Shopping Trip - 04/06/09

    As mentioned in my previous post, this was a tough week. I won't re-regale you with the details, but suffice it to say, I got home and realized I didn't purchase two of my larger priced items and had to make another trip. Busting our budget and encouraging the rhino-virus migraine I was trying to thwart. Oh well...Holy Week is a time to celebrate right? :-S

    As I'm typing this, I'm realizing I'll probably go even more over budget because I haven't yet been given my Easter Lunch assignment from the in-laws. Oh man. I hope this doesn't send us over the edge this month. :-(

    Tom Thumb Total - 30.78

    Hormel Cure 81 Ham - 7.18
    Starbucks Coffee (with $2 off coupon) - 5.99
    Generic Club Soda - 1.25
    Generic Sprite - 2.50
    Stouffer's Panini - 2.50
    Ground Beef - 1.96
    Pork chops - 5.32
    2 lbs Green grapes - 1.79
    Cucumbers - 1.98

    Sprouts Total - $8.97
    Rice Dream Ice Cream - 2.49
    GF Waffles - 3.98
    2 onions - .61
    1 Red bell pepper - .89
    3 Mangoes - 1.00

    Target Total - $45.82
    2 pks Extra Gum (with coupon) - 1.04
    Tostitos - 3.00
    Goldfish - 1.66
    2 bags Dole lettuce - 3.98
    10 lb bag russet bakers - 2.99
    Mission corn tortillas - 2.29
    2 pkg McCormick Enchilada sauce - 2.04
    Box Cocoa Pebbles - 2.84
    Box Frosted Flakes (with coupon) - 1.50
    Can Dole Pineapple - 1.25
    2 cans pink salmon - 4.38
    2 lbs strawberries - 3.98
    Bananas - 1.10
    Gala apples - 2.40
    Apple juice - 2.38
    1 gallon milk - 1.99
    1 dz eggs - .99
    2 cartons yogurt - 1.10
    Colgate toothpaste (with coupon) - 2.49
    Nexcare bandaid tattoos - 2.00
    2 jars Barilla sauce (with coupon) - 2.78
    $5 off coupon for entire order over $50.00 (yippy!!!)

    Weekly Budget - $75
    This Week's Total - $85.57
    Difference - $10.57 over budget

    To see more shopping trip details, visit Gayle at her weekly Grocery Shopping Roundup. Is it tacky of me to feel relieved that she too has her off weeks???

    Sunday, April 5, 2009

    Menu Plan SUNday - 04/06/09

    This week's already gone awry before it's started. LOL! Sweet MIL is out of town tomorrow, so Monkey is going to school tomorrow instead of Gramma's. The sticky part here is N always picks up Monkey on Gramma Day, so I have the few hours immediately after work to do the weekly grocery shopping. Not so this week. Momma and school's on duty, which means I had to scramble today to get the menu plan and grocery list squared away. With a sick baby, sick husband, preggo (Adderal-less) brain, tight schedule, and what I think might be my OWN cold, the menu plan and shopping trip left a lot to be desired.

    It started off with making the mistake of taking Monkey WITH me so N could rest. Wow. Big mistake. I see now why Gayle recommends NOT shopping with the kids. First he knocked two bottles of glass items off the shelves and made a disaster in the aisle. Which started a major cry fest for the whole store to hear - the crashing scared him. Then when I went to pay, I realized I didn't have my wallet. So a quick call to N to come bring me my wallet and to please fetch his son, solved the issue. But at some point in this, I lost my gumption and said "screw the list". Oy. I'm gonna pay for this.

    I read a quote last week talking about pregnancy brain being compared to feeling like a koala bear that is slightly stoned all the time. OMG, I can sooo relate to that. I think that describes me perfectly lately. Except my munchy cravings don't include bamboo leaves, but peanut butter cookies and chocolate covered raisins.

    Anyhoo, with lots of grace and patience with myself, the end of today is drawing near. Tomorrow is a new start. Onwards to the menu plan...

    Monday: Cuban Black Bean Soup with Mango Pineapple salsa (new recipe I'm trying out)
    Tuesday: Huevos Rancheros
    Wednesday: Salmon Patties on fresh greens (encore from last week's hit!)
    Thursday: Fried pork chops/black beans over polenta
    Friday: Home made pizza
    Weekend: leftovers

    For more fun menu plans, visit Laura over at! I'll be sharing my Weekly Grocery Trip details in my next post.

    Thursday, April 2, 2009

    Recipe: Salmon Patties

    Have you ever tried a new recipe and just been totally surprised with how easy and good it was? This is one of those recipes! N and I just finished dinner and I just had to get online to share the recipe. Tonight's dinner was AMAZING! I'm just kicking myself for not taking a picture of it before we dug in! Boo!

    I had a can of salmon in the pantry. Not sure why. We don't eat canned salmon. But it wasn't expired, so I tried to find a way to utilize it in this week's meal plan. I found this Salmon Patty recipe online and it looked easy, had strong reviews, so I decided to give it a shot! I tweaked it a smidge, of course, because I never stick with a recipe verbatim.

    Salmon Patties

    1 can salmon
    2 eggs
    3 T finely sliced green onions
    1/4 to 1/2 cup buttery crackers, crushed (I used gluten-free Glutino pretzels)
    parsley flakes (I did not use this)
    red pepper flakes (to taste)
    salt & pepper (to taste)
    large pinch of dill

    1. Drain salmon well, and remove skin & bones. (Or keep the bones in for more calcium. They soften during cooking and you can't tell they're there.)
    2. Place into medium mixing bowl & mash up with fork.
    3. Add all other ingredients & mix together (mixture should be stiff enough to form patties, but not too dry).
    4. Form into patties & place in a medium-heated skillet, with approximately 2 T of oil. (I divided the mixture into 4 parts and made 4 patties.)
    5. Cook until golden brown on both sides.

    We served this over fresh wild greens with a few cucumber and tomato slices, tossed in a homemade red wine vinaigrette. I think next time we'll use a lemon juice based vinaigrette instead of red wine. I think the lemony tartness will complement the salmon better.

    We also drizzled the salmon patties with a sweet and spicy dressing:

    2 T of Miracle Whip with a few big splashes of Tabasco, a large splash of rice milk (to thin it to the right consistency) and a pinch of dill.

    I'm not sure what a can of salmon costs, but both N and I said this is DEFINITELY coming back on the menu plan. We loved it! The patty stood on it's own, but the sweet and spicy dressing really made it pop.

    For more yummy recipes, visit The Grocery Cart Challenge's weekly recipe swap.

    Tuesday, March 31, 2009

    Weekly Shopping Trip - 3/30/09

    Another successful week! But March has been a really tough month with a few unexpected large expenses, so I've attempted to keep costs as low as possible in every available budget line item. I'm fighting the temptation to go back to the store to grab a few meat items that I found on sale to take up the rest of the budget. I'll try again next week, so it comes out of April's budget.

    As you can see, I had a darling little assistant this week, helping me dig into the strawberries. He can't say strawberry yet, but started doing a little Snoopy happy dance as he saw me pull them out of the bag. So I relented even though it was 15 minutes before bedtime. Sometimes Momma has a hard time saying no when the Snoopy dance is pulled. He's also very excited about the bottle of ketchup. He's just recently discovered the fun in "dipping" foods.

    I just love this little guy!

    Target Total - $46.56

    Ruffles - 2.50
    2 bags bagged lettuce - 5.50
    Mushrooms - 1.89
    Generic honeybear - 5.29
    Heinz ketchup - 2.09
    2 cans Generic canned tomatoes - 1.18
    Grape Nuts - 3.79
    Rice Chex - 2.99
    Generic frosted flakes - 2.27
    Generic sugar - 1.67
    Generic brown sugar - 1.27
    Hershey Strawberry syrup - 1.56
    4 Bananas - .79
    Lemon - .50
    Green grapes - 1.60
    Apple juice - 1.19
    Generic whole milk - 2.29
    Generic eggs - 1.67
    2 cartons Generic yogurt - 1.14
    Kraft cheese - 1.66
    Ziploc tubs - 2.25

    I'm excited because last week, I was given two coupons with my receipt: a $5 off $50 or more groceries. And a $1 off two jars Barilla sauce, which I purchase all the time. I didn't get to use them this week, but I know I'll squeeze them in at some point. And then this week, I got two coupons: $1 off on Colgate toothpaste and $1 Bounty, two products that know I'll need next week! Maybe I'll be using all four of them and make a major dent in the budget. Woohoo!

    Sprouts Total - $19.75

    1/2 gallon Rice Dream milk - 3.99
    GF Waffle - 2.99
    Chicken breasts - 5.13
    Cucumber - 1.25
    Green onions - .78
    Yellow onions - .89
    Oranges - .44
    Red bell pepper - .49
    Roma tomatoes - .44
    Russet bakers - 1.90
    1 lb Strawberries - 1.50
    Bag credit - .05 savings!

    Weekly Budget - $75
    This Week's Total - $66.31
    Difference - $8.69 under budget

    To see how other penny pinchers are faring in their Weekly Shopping Trip, visit The Grocery Cart Challenge.

    Monday, March 30, 2009

    Menu Plan Monday - 3/30/09

    Last week's menu items were actually really large portions, so I have quite a bit in the freezer that I plan on pulling from this week.

    Monday - Tuscan Sausage and Bean Soup
    Tuesday - Leftover lasagna
    Wednesday - Salmon Patties on fresh greens
    Thursday - Breakfast Casserole
    Friday - Leftover Stir-Fry

    Weekends are always a crap shoot. We have sandwiches, more leftovers or go out. I've stopped planning for them anymore. Again, as I get more recipes posted, I'll have those linked.

    For more savvy and economical menu planning, visit Laura over at!

    Saturday, March 28, 2009

    Recipe: Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

    At small group last week, one of the members brought some beautiful looking PB cookies. Of course, being the always prepared Girl Scout that I try to be, I took my own little dessert because I can rarely eat the desserts that are brought. But come to find out, I could eat the lovely cookies! This recipe is the bomb! I put a few little chocolate chips on a few because I just felt like it. :-)

    Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

    1 cup sugar
    1 cup peanut butter
    1 egg

    Preheat oven to 350*.
    Beat together peanut butter and sugar in a large bowl until smooth.
    Add beaten egg to peanut butter mixture and beat until well combined.
    Roll 1 teaspoon of dough into a ball and place on cookie sheet.
    Place dough balls one inch apart on cookie sheet.
    Flatten with tines of fork making a cross pattern.
    Bake until puffed and a golden pale, about 12 minutes.
    Cool cookies on baking sheet about 2 minutes and then transfer with spatula to rack to cool.
    May be kept in air tight container at room temperature for 5 days.
    Makes about 2 dozen cookies.
    Eat with a cold glass of milk.

    I won't even tell y'all how many of these I've eaten since they've popped out of the oven. I'm eating for two right?

    Wednesday, March 25, 2009

    Product Review: Generic v. Name Brand

    Are there some name brand store items that you just can’t get away from? We’ve always been name brand snobs in the W house. I think some of it stems from the fact that I grew up on generic and bulk as a child because we were very poor. So today I feel that we can splurge and get the name brand stuff, so I just do.

    But times have changed and many of the store brands are actually the exact same thing as the name brand. Remember the peanut butter salmonella scare in 2006. It wasn’t just Peter Pan that was recalled but the Wal-Mart brand too. They were the exact same peanut butter manufactured in the exact same facility, they just had different labeling. And the WM brand was sold much cheaper! This is probably when it really hit me that sometimes there isn’t much of a difference in generic, if any at all.

    So lately I’m experimenting a little with some of the generic/store brands. Some of them have been completely unnoticeable changes from the name brand, but others are different enough that l’ll probably avoid them in the future. Here are some of my latest discoveries:

    The Good

    Target Papertowels v. Bounty
    I’m a Bounty girl by marriage. N prefers the Bounty select-a-size, even though Viva has always been my brand of choice because they are SO soft. But Viva doesn’t have select-a-size, so Bounty is my compromise. Mandy recommended the Target brand select-a-size to me a few weeks ago and I decided to try them. All I can say is wow. I’m impressed. They’re thick, absorbent, come in the select-a-size, and plain. No bunny decorations on my paper-towels please. So I’d give Target brand papertowels a two thumbs up! Wondering now if their toilet paper is as good a quality???

    Target Breakfast Cereals v. Various Name Brands
    I’m not much of a cereal eater because of my food allergies, but N is a fiend for cereal. He usually eats two bowls a day as his late-night snack, which means lots of cereal during the week. I’ve experimented with some generic brands and he says he can’t tell the difference. So at $1 or $2 cheaper a box, we’re sticking with some of the following: Target raisin bran, Malt-O-Meal frosted mini-wheats, Mal-O-Meal oat circles. Sorry for the bad naming…I don’t know the actual names off the top of my head. And maybe I shouldn’t, but I’ve considered Malt-O-Meal generic only because they come in those HUGE plastic bags at the end of the aisle. I might need to rethink this one…

    Target canned goods v. Del Monte, Green Giant, Bush’s, and Ro-Tel
    So far I’ve tried the Target canned tomatoes, green beans, black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, green chiles, and rotel type tomatoes. I’ve seen no difference whatsoever in flavor, consistency, amount and are all safe for my allergy-ridden diet. But at .25 to .75 a can cheaper, this can have a major impact on your grocery budget. Another two thumbs up!

    Target frozen goods v. Tree Top, Green Giant, and Minute Maid
    So far I’ve purchased Target’s frozen apple juice, orange juice, frozen corn, and frozen peas. Again, no difference is noted except in cost. Sometimes it’s only .12 a can cheaper or .25 a bag cheaper, but that might just be the amount I need to save to stay under budget for the week. So another two thumbs up!

    The Bad and Ugly

    Target Roasted Tomato Salsa v. Arriba Roasted Tomato Salsa
    I was so excited to try this generic brand because it looked so yummy in the jar and was more than a dollar cheaper than my regular salsa. Dark flecks of roasted tomato and big chunks of peppers. Wow, was this a disappointment. Green pepper was overwhelming and the consistency of Pace. Not to bash on you Pace fans, but as a Texan, Pace is just an unacceptable form of salsa unless you’re a broke college kid with a 6-pack of Nat Light to wash it down. Bleh. Arriba is a smidge spendy on $4 a jar, but what good is the savings if the generic is going down the disposal uneaten? We went back to our yummy expensive salsa.

    Target Long Pantyliners v. Kotex Long Everydays
    Sorry to review such a personal item, but I have to share this or someone else might make the same mistake. I was very excited about it because for a box the same size as Kotex, it was about half the price. Another disappointment. They’re smaller, less absorbent, the tape on the underside doesn’t go to the edges, so sometimes they come undone, which is never a good thing. Because they’re less absorbent, you find yourself reaching for a fresh one multiple times a day. Again, a total waste of “savings” if you’re using twice as much, even if it’s half the cost. Next time, I’m going back to the Kotex.

    I’m sure there are other items I’ll be exploring in the generic side of the aisles, so as I come up with more comparisons, I’ll post about them. If you have any suggestions or have experimented with some generics on your own, please let me know.

    Recipe: Crockpot Taco Soup

    First off, thanks to my friend Karrie for this one! Secondly, this recipe is naturally gluten and dairy free if you leave out the ranch dressing and cheese topping.

    2 cans black beans (drain and rinse)
    2 cans pinto beans (drain and rinse)
    2 cans corn
    1 can Rotel
    Large can (32 oz) diced tomatos
    1 pkg taco seasoning (or 1 T chili powder, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1 tsp cumin)
    1 pkg Ranch dressing (optional)
    1 lb browned ground beef (optional)

    Drain and rinse all the beans and place in bottom of crockpot. Add ground beef. Sprinkle seasonings on top of that. Add Rotel and diced tomatos last. Cook on low for 8 hours.

    Serve with Fritos or tortilla chips and shredded cheese.

    NOTE: I tweaked this a smidge. I did not crockpot this because I wanted it the same night I got the recipe. I actually browned the beef, drained, and then just added all the other ingredients into a hard boil with 1 1/2 cans of water. Lowered to a simmer for about 15 minutes and then served. Little Monkey ate two bowls of leftovers tonight with Tostitos - obviously a hit! Which thrills me as he's such a picky eater.

    Monday, March 23, 2009

    Weekly Shopping Trip - 3/23/09

    I'm happy again this week! Since a few week's ago I was so over budget, it was going to take some work and time to overcome it. I've got a picture, but wanted to go ahead and post this first.

    Sprouts Total - $15.38

    Rice Dream - 3.99
    Rice Dream Orange Swirl - 2.49
    Guar Gum - 3.99
    Rice Flour - 2.79
    Yellow Onions - 1.05
    Red Sprouts Bag - .99

    Target Total - $52.11

    Tostitos - 3.00
    Hormel Black Label Bacon - 2.49
    1 bag snow peas - 2.99
    Organic Celery - 1.50
    Organic Carrots - 1.50
    Grapes - 2.40
    Large Can Tomatoes - 1.07
    Generic Rotel - .54
    Chef Boyardee Ravioli - .94
    Fresh Broccoli - 1.62
    Cocoa Pebbles - 2.84
    Generic Raisin Bran - 2.60
    2 cans Green Beans - 1.50
    Generic can black beans - .77
    Generic can pinto beans - .77
    Motts Applesauce - 1.97
    Bananas - .84
    Honeycrisp apples - 3.54
    Stouffers Panini - 2.50
    Lean Cuisine Flatbread - 2.25
    2 boxees GF waffle - 3.54
    Apple juice - 1.19
    Generic OJ - 1.19
    12 pack Sprite - 4.00
    1 gal milk - 1.99
    dozen eggs - 1.67
    1 cont yogurt - .57

    Weekly Budget - $75
    This Week's Total - $67.49
    Difference - $7.51 under budget

    Menu Plan Monday - 3/23/09

    Hopefully, I can stick with the program this week! :-)

    Monday - Taco Soup
    Tuesday - Chinese Stir Fry
    Wednesday - Chicken Enchiladas
    Thursday - Oven-Fried Chicken, Fried Potatoes, Green Beans
    Friday - Breakfast (Eggs, Bacon, Hashbrowns)

    As I go along with these, eventually I'll have links to the recipes.

    Monday, March 2, 2009

    Menu Plan Monday - 3/2/09

    N's out on a ski trip this week, so I'm attempting to make some items that will make two meals so I can freeze some of the extra portions. This really helps on the dash-in-dine lunches that we inevitably spend money on during the week. Plus, with him gone, I'll actually have the time in the evening to spend time cooking sans guilt. The house should be pretty spic-n-span too!

    Amazing how much I get done when he's not here. Am I the only Mom/Wife like this???

    MONDAY: Leftover chicken and potatoes
    TUESDAY: Mexican Polenta Bake
    WEDNESDAY: Gluten-free/Dairy-free Lasagne
    THURSDAY: Breakfast (Eggs, bacon, applesauce)
    FRIDAY: Egg Salad Sandwiches

    WEEKEND: We'll see. With N gone, things will be either uber-easy or we'll be treating ourselves to eating out a bit. :-)

    To meet more Menu Planners and get some dinner ideas, visit Laura over at

    Monday, February 23, 2009

    Menu Plan Monday - 2/23/09

    This week’s menu is a little aggressive. So we’ll see how it goes. But we made an emergency trip to the store for a few things that cut into this week’s budget, so I’m trying to keep things REALLY inexpensive this week. A bit of a challenge as it’s also N’s birthday week and I wanted to make him something special. But he requested Mexican and one of his favorite Mexican dishes is nachos. Such an easy-peasy hubby! Also, he’s not much of a cake guy, but his favorite dish is cherry pie or cherry crisp. So that’s his birthday dessert.

    And I’m not too worried about losing the element of surprise. I don’t think he reads the posts here unless it’s got a Monkey picture attached. Ha!

    Monday – Sausage Omelets
    Tuesday – Meatless Tacos
    Wednesday – Crockpot chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean/artichoke casserole
    Thursday – Polenta w/Puttanesca
    Friday – Mexican Nachos and Cherry Crisp
    Saturday – Chicken and Green Chile Stew
    Sunday – Super Easy Leftover Buffet

    Oh...and we FINALLY made the spicy shrimp and creamy polenta that's been on our menu for the last FOUR weeks. Two words: Yum-O! I'll be sharing this SUPER easy recipe later this week.

    To see more easy Menu Plans, visit Laura over at

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009

    Weekly Shopping Trip - 2/16/09

    This was a tough week. I had two large priced items that I knew would be hard to work around. (Laundry detergent and N's razor blades) But I did it! And not only that, but found wiggle-room to get a few items on sale. So I'm happy!

    When I got to Whole Foods, I realized there was a Dollar Tree next door. So I peeked in just to see what kinds of stuff they had. I picked up a tube of Colgate and a bottle of toilet bowl cleaner. I need to remember that this is a PERFECT place to get party stuff - tons of baby shower stuff, paper plates, cups, etc. Much better than Party City! Anyways, I knew I had two $1 bills and some change in my purse pocket. Not "technically" part of the grocery budget. I would have spent that on something splurgy. Is that considered cheating in this game?

    Whole Foods Total - $3.69

    Tinkyada GF Lasagna 3.69

    Tom Thumb Total- $14.48

    Generic Lactose Free Milk 3.29
    2 Hot Pockets 2.98
    Jennie O Turkey Sausage 1.50
    Jennie O Italian Turkey Sausage 1.50
    Split Chicken Breasts 3.86
    6 pk Club Soda 1.25

    Target Total - $56.68

    All Free Clear 12.00 (ow!)
    Sensor Razor Blades 10.30 (ow again!)
    2 Jimmy Dean Sausages 4.08
    Can of Tomatoes .92
    Clints Salsa 3.19
    Barilla Sauce 1.89
    2 Avocados 1.98
    Cucumber .99
    Bananas .77
    Lime .33
    Gala apples 3.46
    Red grapes 2.26
    Gluten-free waffles 3.68
    Frz apple juice 1.12
    12 pk Sprite 3.66
    Smart Balance 2.54
    Brown sugar 1.27

    GRAND TOTAL $74.85

    Maybe someday I'll have the courage to make my own laundry detergent like Gayle does, but I'm not there yet. And I found out tonight that N said he's trying to "help" me out by not shaving so much, thus not using up his expensive razors so quickly. What a sweet husband! LOL! If you haven't done it yet, head over to Grocery Cart Challenge to see how Gayle saves money on her weekly budget.

    Monday, February 16, 2009

    Menu Plan Monday - 2/16/09

    This week's menu:

    Monday: Brisket tacos, chips, salsa
    Tuesday: Lasagna (no, it's not because I didn't make it last week. We're doing an encore!
    Wednesday: Pizza Braided Bread
    Thursday: Spicy Shrimp and Polenta (ok, this is because I haven't made it yet. Yep, week 4. Should I even bother?)
    Friday: Tuna Casserole (ditto)

    Dessert for every night: Chocolate covered raisins

    For more creative and economical menu plans, visit Laura over at!

    Sunday, February 15, 2009

    Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free Lasagna

    FINALLY!!! After several weeks of having Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free Lasagna (lasagne?) on my Weekly Menu Plan, I made it! With the help of a friend that works at Whole Foods, I discovered that the store moved all their pastas into one area and my favorite gluten-free lasagne brand (Tinkyada) was now in the mainstream pasta aisle and no longer in the gluten-free aisle. And it was G.O.O.D y'all! I was so tickled, I thought I'd share the loveliness of it here. This is a mix of several different recipes I found online and in my trusty red Betty Crocker cookbook. If you know me, I'm rarely one to follow a recipe to the letter. Either way, I've never made lasagna and it turned out way better than I ever thought it would. (I had N on standby to make sandwiches, but surprisingly didn't need them.)

    Anyways, it is VERY hearty, positively DELICIOUS, and even better leftover! (We froze some individual portions for quick meals when I don't feel like cooking.)

    Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Lasagna


    Gluten-free lasagna - cooked to box instructions
    1 package Jimmy Dean sausage
    2 jars Barilla Pasta Sauce of choice
    1 can diced tomatoes
    1 small can mushrooms
    1 small onion
    1/2 cup frozen spinach, thawed
    1/2 cup frozen broccoli, thawed
    1/2 cup sliced zucchini (I didn't have this last week, but will this week)
    1 carton firm tofu
    shredded rice cheese


    1. Cook pasta per box instructions. Rinse in cool water and set aside.
    2. Dice onion and brown with sausage in large stockpot.
    3. Add 2 jars of Barilla pasta sauce, canned tomatoes, and mushrooms, heating through.
    4. Gently rinse and pat dry tofu. Break up with a fork to the consistency of Ricotta cheese.
    5. Mix spinach, broccoli, and zucchini in a bowl.
    6. Place large ladel of warm sauce in bottom of 13x9 casserole dish.
    7. Place lasagna noodles on top of sauce.
    8. Layer 1/3 of meat sauce on noodles
    9. Layer 1/3 of tofu.
    10. Layer 1/3 mixture of spinach, broccoli, and zucchini.
    11. Repeat with another layer of noodles, meat sauce, tofu, and vegetables a second time.
    12. Repeat with another layer of noodles, meat sauce, tofu, and vegetables a third time.
    13. Finish with a final layer of noodles, meat sauce, and grated rice cheese.
    14. Bake at 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.

    Couple points to consider:

    If the thought of cooking with tofu scares you, DON'T let it. It gives the perfect texture of Ricotta or cottage cheese and takes on the flavor of the meat sauce. Even N said it was really good and he's not a tofu type of guy.

    If you don't like veggies in your lasagna, just leave them out. I just wanted something really hearty and the veggie mixture was perfect!

    Sorry for not having a picture. We excitedly dug in without getting any shots. :-)

    For more yummy recipes for the week, check out Gayle's site at Grocery Cart Challenge.

    Monday, February 9, 2009

    Weekly Shopping Trip - 2/9/09

    Just a smidge over budget this week, but since I've been under the last few weeks, I'm still happy!


    Bulk Dark Chocolate Covered Raisins 4.04
    Rice Cheese 3.49
    GF Bagels 4.99
    2 Cucumbers 1.78

    Total $14.30

    Tom Thumb

    Oranges 1.18
    Grapes 1.72

    Total $4.48


    4 pack Monsters 5.99
    Hormel Deli Ham 2.99
    Hormel Bacon 3.69
    1 bag Lettuce 2.00
    Organic celery 1.99
    Honey Comb 2.84
    Bananas .84
    Gala apples 2.23
    Frz broccoli 1.19
    Frz corn .99
    2 Boxes GF Waffles 3.78
    Minute Maid Frz OJ 2.14
    Generic Frz Apple Juice 1.12
    1 Gallon Milk 1.99
    1/2 Gallon Lactaid 3.49
    18 eggs 2.49
    Dove Shampoo 5.99
    Dove Conditioner 5.99
    2 Qt Plastic Bottle 3.19
    Bottle Dried Parsley .89

    Total $57.47

    Grand Total $76.25

    So I got just a teeny bit distracted and strayed from my list just a little. Chocolate covered raisins, GF Bagels and the rice cheese. I don't need any of them, but Sprouts always wraps me around her little finger. I'm a little embarrassed to say that I've never realized how expensive my shampoo is. Wow. $12! One new thing I'm trying this week: frozen concentrated juice. Bought a plastic jug and I'm going to see if I save any extra money this week. I might consider doing this with generic bagged cereal as well. But will need to buy one of thsoe plastic jugs a week. They're a bit spendy. Otherwise, pretty uneventful trip.

    Menu Plan Monday - 2/9/09

    Wow. Last week was a total bust. I won't really go into details, to save y'all the pain, but two words: stomach flu. I was hit Tuesday night and never really recovered until early weekend. N and Monkey are fine (as of the writing of this post) and we're crossing fingers that it stays that way. I'm choosing to say I had stomach flu because I'm really not sure if it was that, food poisoning or reaction to being contaminated by a food allergen. The symptoms are always the same for me - use your imagination. But on Friday when my OB said that over 50% of her patients have struggled with the same symptoms this past month from stomach flu, I'm labeling it as such.

    So, to make a long story longer, I didn't cook much this past week in spite of having the ingredients.

    But I must share this one very important thing...

    Can I tell you how incredibly grateful I am for a husband that is laid-back and easy-going when it comes to his appetite?

    Popcorn for dinner?

    Ramen noodles?
    Let me cook it honey, you rest.

    Deli meat, crackers, and cheese plate?
    Can I get you a glass of water while I put it together?

    I've since quit asking myself what I've done to deserve such a life partner, because the answer is simple: NOTHING! Either way, God has graced me and I try not to take it for granted. Seriously, I have the BEST husband ever!

    So, apologies up front for some repeated items (again!!!) on this week's menu.

    Monday: Tuna Casserole
    Tuesday: Brisket, green beans,
    Wednesday: Ramen noodle/Popcorn night
    Thursday: Baked Potato Soup
    Friday: Lasagne, salad (YES - I FOUND Gluten-Free lasagne noodles!!!)

    Since it seems that every week I'm not cooking at least two meals, I'm not even scheduling anything for the weekends. We'll see how it goes this week. To meet more Menu Planning Momma's visit here.

    Saturday, February 7, 2009

    Grocery Budget Definition

    This will be my third week on the Grocery Cart Challenge Shopping Diet. I've had quite a few of you girl friends email me with questions and pointers about what I'm doing, what's included in my budget, etc. So I decided to just put them out here for everyone to read.

    Couple points on what the definition of "grocery budget" is in our household and how I do things:

    • Food, basic toiletries, paper goods (TP, papertowels, girl stuff)

    • Right now I'm keeping make-up, spa-type needs in my "personal" spending budget. Neil has his own too. I use department store stuff and if I run out of base and mascara in one week, our grocery budget is shot. Since most of you know I'm not a fashionista when it comes to clothes, this is one area I allow myself to splurge. I like nice makeup and skincare stuff. :-)

    • We keep pet food in a line item with other pet stuff (grooming, medical, litter, etc.)

    • We keep baby things in a line item with other baby stuff (diapers, wipes, cuppies, formula, etc.)

    • We keep baby gifts for baby showers in a line item for gifts. The simple fact that we have this as a line item shows you where our social circle is right now. Ha! If that budget line item doesn't get used for the month, we continue accruing it every month for special needs. There is always someone in your life that could use some financial help. And when you've automatically been saving every month for that purpose, when a need arises you're not scrambling for cash. It's already there. I imagine at some point, this could also be used for a charity, should we feel led down that route.

    • So what does this mean if I need diapers, kitty litter, and groceries at the same time? I ask the clerk to make three different transactions. This might be trouble-some to some of you, but for me, I'd rather do this than try to figure out general ledger changes once I'm home. If any of you know me, I'm REALLY bad at math. Talk about confusing. I'd have our budget so screwed up.

    • Do I ever purchase pre-packaged snacks? Yes. Admittedly, not much. I purchase just enough for the week. Why? Because Monkey goes to school full-time, his tuition provides him breakfast, lunch, and two to three snacks a day, as well as all the milk he wants to drink. So we don't really need a lot of snacks in the house. But if we do, stuff we have is: dry cereal, goldfish, pretzels sticks, cheez-its, soda crackers, fresh fruit. Simple stuff we always have in the house, although not all of this at once.

    • Do I spend more because of my allergy issues? Yes. I try to keep things manageable, but that's just one of the things I need to consider in my list. Gluten-free items are expensive. A box of penne pasta for N and Monkey costs me 88 cents. For me, $3.59. Just part of the deal. Eat cheap and get sick, or eat healthy and it cost more. *shrug* I will say that Monkey prefers the gluten-free stuff. I've attempted saving money by cooking two pots of pasta, one for me and one for the family. But it hasn't worked. He refuses to eat regular glutenous stuff. Not sure why, but again...another thing I just have to consider in my list.

    • I don't really cut coupons. I simply don't have the time or patience right now. The only exception to that rule is the diaper coupons I get mailed to me. I will say a pointer I learned on another money-saving blog: keep the coupons IN THE CAR. How many times have you been to the store and realized your coupons are at home? Agggg! So anytime I get coupons, I put them in an envelope in the car. Same with those 20% off coupons at Bed Bath and Beyond. What good are they at home?

    • As of right now, I only go to Target and Sprouts. I haven't found good enough deals to make an additional stop to CVS or Wahlgreen's, as they are rather out of my way. With working full-time, I literally have about 45 minutes a week to shop at my two stores before I pick up a baby from school, so my time is pretty limited. Should I find a deal that I cannot pass up, I'm sure I'll adjust for the week. But if I make this too complicated, I will say it won't be fun anymore and I'll quit. And right now, it's important for me to stay in budget and do it EASILY, otherwise I'll give up.

    We might find these things changing at some point, but that's how it is for now. I've read Gayle's GCC for around a year now, feeling inspired every week to do something, but just haven't had the courage to actually put a plan into action. Part of why it took me so long was that I was expecting my plan to look exactly like hers. Which I finally realized, I JUST CAN'T DO. We have different circumstances, different needs, different goals. So I decided what I WASN'T going to do is look for perfection. This was going to be something that I could tweak, change, and mold as our needs were discovered through the process. When I mentioned this in a previous blog post, Gayle emailed me and congratulated me simply on the effort and confessed that it took her about 6 months to figure out what was best for herself. SO...with that...I felt even more permission to do what was best for our family. Nor more pressure, no more guilt, I am in charge of this and the only expectations I need to meet are mine. Which I've finally loosened that ridiculous noose around my neck and decided to let this be an experiment for awhile. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. But so far, it IS and I'm learning a TON of stuff in the meantime about our spending habits. (Like, that first I really need to buy two pounds of chocolate covered candies. Holy cow, was that embarrassing to post on my list. LOL!)

    All of that to say, if you're reading my Weekly Menu Plan and Shopping Trip journals every week, wondering if you can do this, JUST TRY IT. I encourage you to NOT be like me and wait until next year before you realize this is YOUR program. Do not expect yourself to do what the W household does, like I expected me to do what Gayle does. It probably won't work, which means you'll get discouraged and give up before you've really given yourself a chance.