My Frugal Beauty Manifesto

 

Everyone likes to look good. Whether you are a top-paid model spending 80 hours per week on your looks or a mom of seven who has never owned a lipstick, we all want to look and feel our best.

And we pay dearly for the things we want.

The beauty industry is well versed in how to play on people’s dreams and fears in order to make a buck. An ad may ostensibly be about blush, but what they really hope to evoke is thoughts like: Am I pretty enough? What would my life be like if I looked like her? Can this product make me happy?

The entire beauty industry is worth an astounding $382 billion globally. And we are handing them our money as fast as we can in the hopes of looking like the hopelessly unrealistic, and in fact totally faked, models we see all over magazines, TV, and billboards.

Connecticut and New York actually tie for the most expense per person on makeup, with an average of $11 per day over a lady’s lifetime. ELEVEN DOLLARS PER DAY ON AVERAGE. The same study showed that the average woman in America puts on SIXTEEN products before leaving the house.

Think about that.

Sixteen different lotions, potions, and powders containing all kinds of chemicals and costing you an average of $8/day over your lifetime slathered all over your face. Every day.

Cleaner, soap, toner, foundation, bronzer, blush, highlighter, lotion, concealer, acne cream, eye shadow, eye liner, lip liner, lipstick, lip balm, moisturizer, mascara… And that’s just your face, don’t get me started on the rest of the body!

Enough already.

I have never been a big fan of makeup or beauty products in general, and the more I learn about them the more thankful I am.

These products are terrible for the environment with their aerosols and propellants and literal tons of waste generated per year.

They are terrible for your long-term skin and organ health and endocrine system, containing things like petroleum, mercury, pthalates, formaldehyde, paraphenylenediamine, and vague terms like “fragrance” which means who knows what.

Check the labels on your shampoo, lipstick, or lotion. You might be surprised by how many ingredients there are, and how many you can’t pronounce.

In better news, it is so awesome and wonderful and about. dang. time. that we are seeing things like the Body Image Movement, Dove’s Every body is Beautiful” campaign, and Jessamyn Stanley’s “Every Body Yoga” empowering people of all races and shapes to believe they are beautiful and capable.

It is a beautiful thing to see initiatives like L’Oreal’s commitment to reducing waste by 60% by 2020, the EU outlining Good Sustainability Practices for the cosmetics industry, and waste management and reduction and sustainability becoming more of a priority to the beauty industry as a whole.

You can do your part for the world, your health, and your wallet, by simply buying less stuff. By believing your natural beauty is all you need, you are taking a huge step towards reducing landfill waste, reducing the amount of toxins and chemicals in our water and air and your own body, and keeping dollars in your bank account rather than the industry’s pockets.

But, girl, c’mon we still wanna look good!

I know, I know, and honestly I do care a little. I don’t want to look like a neglected ragamuffin either.

My solution? Use the most natural products I can, the majority of the time and as sparingly as possible. To DIY as much as possible, to re-use or use smart packaging and storage to get the most out of my products. And to maintain a generally healthy diet and regular exercise, with tons of water daily, to nourish my skin and body’s natural glow as long as possible!

Below are my favorite beauty tips and tricks. Hopefully some will be useful to you too.

Natural Beauty Ideas

Makeup

If you MUST wear makeup…

  • Make mascara last longer by adding a few drops of saline into a dry tube
  • Vaseline is great at keeping eyebrows in check. Just a tiny dab is all you need, swipe it along your brow from the middle of your forehead to the ends. It is also a wonderful lip balm to keep chapped lips at bay.
  • Coconut oil is a great makeup remover. Just rub in a dollop, and wipe clean with a towel. You can use a q-tip for lips or eyes or small spaces. If you can’t handle the smell, try Vitamin E oil.
  • Rather than use oily lipstick full of chemicals and petroleum, try beet juice! Use it from an open can of beets, or fresh by roasting some beets in the oven and rubbing the root on your lips. Same goes for rosy red cheeks, just blend gently afterwards.
  • You can also give yourself a little color by rubbing or pinching your cheeks, or biting your lips a little bit. This gets the blood flowing to the surface, but is short lived. Useful for pictures or when you are about to meet someone for the first time.
  • Use toilet seat covers to absorb face oil. Why pay for packs of face blotters when you can snag a few for free??
  • Make your own totally natural, delicious smelling powdered foundation using ingredients from your kitchen!
  • Clean your brushes with a 2-ingredient DIY makeup brush cleaner

Hair

My favorite hair tip is to plan for a 2-day-‘do; this only works for medium-long hair. Shower as usual, and let your hair dry halfway. Then, braid into two French braids. Wear that style all day, and enjoy having your hair out of your face. Sleep in it too. The next day, undo the braids, and tussle. You can add a bit of mousse, hairspray, or gel if you need it. Then enjoy your second-day waves!

  • Use coconut oil as a treatment for dry scalp or excess frizz. Coconut oil is super hydrating. All you need to do is massage 1-2 tbsp into your hair from tips to top and let sit 5-10 minutes. Then shampoo & wash as normal.
  • Tame oily second-day-hair with baby powder or cornstarch. It works pretty much like dry shampoo, by soaking up excess oil near your scalp, leaving you looking fresh.
  • Sleep with your hair in a top knot/bun to give it more volume
  • Plain apple cider vinegar is a great rinse for your hair. It can help restore the pH balance of your scalp, and remove product buildup, perfect for after a big event like a prom or wedding, that requires a can of hair spray to keep your do in place. (Not that you should do that in the first place…) Use 1/4 cup cider to 2 cups water.
  • Herbal hair rinses claim a whole host of benefits. Just google it, you’ll see. Try making a nice cup of plain herbal tea, and rinsing your scalp with it, to see what works for you.

Nails

Do your own! Duh. Set aside an hour or two, and get to it. This will only cost you the total of: 1 top coat + 1 color you like

  1. Apply a bottom or clear coat.
  2. Apply 1 coat of your color. Wait patiently 15-20 minutes, read a book or watch some Netflix. If you touch it and it is not tacky and is fully dry, you’re ready for step 3.
  3. Apply a second coat if it is a thin color, or apply top coat.
  4. Optional if you did 2 coats, now apply top coat. Done.
  5. Enjoy your fabulous, frugal nails!

Some more frugal nail tips:

  • If you run out of nail polish, or just want to create a custom color, you can mix eye shadow crumbles with clear top coat! A great use for broken or almost-used-up palettes.
  • Don’t shake polish, that creates bubbles. Instead, roll it rapidly between your hands to mix it up.
  • Put vaseline around your cuticles before painting. Then you can just wipe off any paint outside the lines!
  • Use tape or a rubber band for perfect French tips. Just make sure the bottom coat is dry first.
  • Make your polish last longer: If your polish is dried out or too thick to use, add a few drops of polish remover and roll it around to loosen it up.
  • Use coconut oil or Vitamin E oil on cuticles for silky smooth hands

If you require professional nails, or don’t have the time/ patience / steady hand to do it yourself…

  • Look for a Groupon. Maybe there’s a new salon opening nearby that needs new customers and is offering half off. You can also try calling the place offering the Groupon, and asking if you can get the Groupon price in the store. They have to pay almost half in order for Groupon to run their special, so they may be more than happy to make you that deal and keep the whole profit! Win-win.
  • Try to barter. You never know when a nail salon employee would be happy to give you a mani/pedi in exchange for a massage, doing her taxes, helping move…
  • Ask a friend, or multiple friends! Have a spa day where you do each other’s nails, put on face masks* (see below) pop some corn and watch a girly film. Everyone will leave feeling pampered and loved and looking fine.

Grooming / Whole Body

  • Coconut oil is marvelous as a moisturizer and/or lotion
  • Make your own body scrubs! You can use a whole range of natural ingredients and scents to fit your fancy, like peppermint or vanilla or even coffee
  • Never buy shaving cream again! Any old conditioner works just fine, I promise. Buy an 89 cent bottle, or a bigger container of your normal conditioner (props for more savings by buying in bulk!) and rub a dollop on your wet leg. You can do the same thing with (you guessed it) all-purpose coconut oil.
  • *Create a hydrating face mask at home: mix 1/4 cup plain yogurt, 2 tbsp honey, and 1 small mashed banana. Smooth all over and leave on face for about 20 minutes, then rinse off. The honey is an antiseptic to help clear or prevent acne, the yogurt is a great hydrator, and the banana helps smooth and tighten your skin.
  • To make your razors last longer, shake them dry after each use and let them soak in some baby oil to keep them sharper longer
  • Witch hazel is a great natural skin toner / cleanser
  • Tweeze your own brows! It is so easy and takes only a few minutes every few weeks, there is no excuse not to. If you already have them done by a professional, it is even easier because you just have to maintain the shape they already have

 

If you are afraid to go totally “naked”, just try dropping or changing one product in your routine per week. Eventually, you may realize you never needed that second layer of cover-up, or hated the smell of toner or the cakey feel of eyeshadow anyway! Plus, as you wean yourself off of products, you may notice your skin is even healthier, as it has fewer things to smother it and fewer chemicals to absorb.

And don’t forget to drink WATER! Keep a reuseable bottle or cup at your desk, in your purse or backpack, in your car, in your refrigerator. Wherever you are going to remember to keep on drinking it all day long.

The best beauty weapon in your arsenal is your smile!

You. Are. Beautiful.

Look in the mirror, every day, and smile. We only get one body to live in, we should love and take care of it. Be kind to yourself, and to others, and let your naturally beauty shine, inside and out.

 

Do you guys have any great frugal beauty tips?

Weekly Eating #4 – 7/10

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

Monday:

Breakfast – yogurt parfait with frozen strawberries & cherries & a crushed up Nature Valley Oats & Honey bar

Lunch – leftover stirfry

Dinner – BBQ pork ribs & leftover mashed potatoes. I grab boneless ribs anytime I see them on clearance, and keep some in the freezer as a special treat, these are one of hubby’s absolute favorite things. I defrost them overnight, then boil in some chicken stock, then sear them in the pan. We then eat them slathered in BBQ sauce, and ended up so messy by the end that I didn’t get a photo.  🙂

Tuesday:

Breakfast – KIND bar

Lunch – leftover salmon summer salad from the weekend’s dinner party. This stuff is so darn good I swear I could eat it almost daily.

Dinner – Pork & White Bean Soup in the slow cooker using the broth from yesterday’s ribs. It was so simple, but so tasty! Served with biscuits from the freezer.

Wednesday:

Breakfast – chocolate PB oatmeal: funny story. This was actually a rescued “Frugal Fail” to borrow a term from Mrs. Picky Pincher. I meant to try a recipe for no-bake energy bites. It called for oats, and PB and honey. But I only had honey PB (twofer, awesome!) and steel cut oats (They’re the same thing, right? Wrong.)

So I happily measure and mix, convinced this is a perfect quick breakfast choice. Oh, by the way, this is at 7am, and I need to leave at 7:30… Well, first, it wouldn’t all stick together. I tried using more PB, and got it wet enough to stick. But it still won’t form a ball, it was like, wet sand. Steel cut oats are cut into teeny tiny pieces, and evidently, do not make no-bake balls well.

So I tried baking it. I know, that defeats the purpose of a “no-bake” recipe. But I figured, maybe I could at least turn them into bars and salvage this. Now it is 7:20… And I try to cut a bar… and it falls apart instantly. Okay, clearly, this is not working. Do I throw out a whole 8×8 pan of oats and peanut butter and flax?

No way!

I think… well… it’s still oatmeal. May as well throw it in a jar, and pour some milk over it. Still warm from the oven, the chocolate was melty and quickly turned it into chocolate milk, with a slight peanutty flavor. Turns out, this was pretty great! Hooray!

Frugal fail turned into something edible.

Ahhhh, the sweet taste of success.

Lunch – out with a work colleague, pesto chicken panini

Dinner – tortellini with pesto and frozen mixed veggies

Snacks – brown rice cakes

Thursday:

Breakfast – chocolate oatmeal creation

Lunch – black beans & rice with salsa

Snack –  These Amazing Date Cookies!

Picture courtesy of Hip Fit Foodie

Dinner – baked potato soup. I used some leftover mashed potatoes with frozen chicken stock and we stirred in a tbsp plain Greek yogurt to make it creamy, with bacon and cheddar cheese on top. We ate it on the front porch while watching a heck of a thunderstorm.

Friday:

Breakfast – 1 egg, colby jack cheese, Bagel Thin sandwich

Lunch – last of my salmon & couscous salad. I used a small salad container and a leftover ranch dipper to be all cute too!

Dinner – leftover buffet!

The Weekend:

My plans for the weekend include rooftop yoga followed by the Farmers Market, then a quick healthy lunch of some kind of salad, and figuring out what to make for dinner. I’m sure we will have loads of fresh produce by then, so I’m thinking a vegetable lasagna, summer veggie pasta, or kebabs are imminent.

Then I will start a new batch of homemade yogurt, and homemade kombucha. I also think I will try to make ahead some mason jar meals like yogurt parfaits, overnight oatmeal, and salads in a jar too. I’m going to the beach next week to celebrate my mom’s birthday (SO EXCITED!) so I want easy meals to give me more time to pack and plan, and then I need to plan ahead some freezer meals for the hubble bubble so he doesn’t starve.

Total:  $77.60

My goal is to keep this number under $100 all the time, and eventually get down to $75/week for food.

2 trips to the store (Kroger & Harris Teeter) plus the local farmers market. The weekend Farmer Market trip will be included in next week’s total.

Lessons Learned

I did a great job at the store this week! Nearly to my $75/week goal, and that included all our staples, plus a few last-second items I asked the mister to grab prior to our dinner party last week, plus the farmers market splurge on Wednesday. Aw yeah!

And I learned that sometimes, recipe experiments don’t turn out the best. But that’s okay, we all make mistakes sometimes. Luckily, it wasn’t so bad of a fail, I could still eat the oatmeal. It was just… less than pleasing in texture, shall we say?  😉

How about you guys, did you have a great week or a learning week?

Chocolatey Banana Coffee Milkshake

 

Who loves a meal solution that is easy, healthy, and super fast??

I know my hand is raised. While I do love the occasional intricate breakfast (after all, what are weekends for if not a strata, homemade crepes, cinnamon rolls, or banana pancakes?) that is just not feasible for every day. Most mornings have between 2 and 10 minutes to devote to making sure I’m fed.

Now I know breakfast is the most important meal of the day, trust me. That’s why I simply cannot go with having nothing at all. But man, it is just really hard sometimes to make a hot, solid food at 7 am! And I hate to admit the number of time I’ve eaten pop-tarts this year is not zero…

C’mon people, I know I’m not alone here.

Why do you think there’s a Starbucks on every corner, along with Dunkin Donnuts, Tim Hortons, and all the local coffee and donut joints nationwide? And they all always seem to have a line.

Boy, have I found the perfect solution! I like a healthy breakfast, which includes protein, fiber, and nutrients. And I need coffee. Why not combine them into one easily drinkable drink!

I find it’s hard to get solid food down sometimes when it’s so early my stomach hasn’t woken up yet. But a shake or smoothie is always possible. Now I finally understand protein shakes; for so many years I was mystified how people could replace solid food with liquids. Now I know.

This shake is chocolatey because of the flavored protein powder, but you could also use non-flavored protein and simply add a tbsp of cocoa powder for the same effect. Use a plant-based milk instead of regular milk, and a plant-based protein instead of whey for a vegetarian option.

The banana is also optional, but I like knowing that I got a serving of fruit with my caffeinated milkshake (which is what this tastes like).

Ingredients:

  • 1 sm-med banana
  • 8-10 oz coffee
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
  • 1/4 cup milk (optional)
  • Handful of ice cubes (optional)

Step 1: Blend everything well, until smooth. The longer you blend it, the creamier and ‘fluffier’ it becomes because of the whey. Other protein blends may not cause this, experiment until you find the type and amount you like best.

Now go conquer your day, caffeinated and protein-powered!

Weekly Eating #3 – 7/2

 

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

Monday:

Breakfast – microwaved 2 scrambled eggs on top of an everything Bagel Thin and slice of cheddar cheese. Homemade “mocha latte” (coffee + hot cocoa mix + milk, blended)

Lunch – leftover stir fry

Dinner – BBQ pulled pork mac-n-chili (?) This was a weird idea I had to use up several leftovers. 1/2 lb cooked penne, 1 cup bbq pulled pork, 1 cup pinto beans, 1 whole shredded yellow squash, 1 cup shredded cheddar, 2 tbsp butter and a splash of milk. Luckily for us, it turned out really delicious!

Snack – fresh cherries, hummus + cucumber/carrots

Tuesday: Fourth of July!

Breakfast – kind of slept in and skipped this part, mostly just had coffee, and then early lunch

Lunch – chicken, broccoli, rice casserole: this is ridiculously simple, and came out amazingly delicious! Layer chopped broccoli, mushrooms, 1/2 cup rice, and shredded chicken. Add 1/2 cup stock and 1/2 cup milk, and cheddar cheese. Top with some more broccoli, cover in foil and bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes. Done!

Dinner – leftover buffet

The holiday was nice and relaxing, we got some laundry done, played some games and I finished a book. I did also bake up some red velvet cupcakes with blueberry cream cheese frosting! I made way too many, so I took a few plates to our neighbors  🙂

Wednesday:

Breakfast – peach smoothie: 2 peaches, 2 bananas, 1 cup yogurt, 1 cup orange juice

Lunch – out with a work colleague; rosemary chicken panini

Dinner – chicken and dumplings with some of my homemade foccacia

Snacks – brown rice cakes

Thursday:

Breakfast – homemade yogurt with peaches and granola

Lunch – slow cooker “refrigerator soup”. Basically I chopped up all the veggies about to spoil, added some lentils & quinoa, salsa and homemade chicken stock in a small slow cooker on high all day in my cube. By noon, the whole office smells AMAZING and I get a nice hot, filling, super healthy and super frugal lunch.

Dinner – ravioli per hubby’s request

Friday:

Breakfast – parfait with fresh peaches, yogurt, and 1 smashed up Nature Valley Oats & Honey bar

Lunch – pasta salad

Dinner – stir friday: pork! You may wonder, why stir-Friday every week? Doesn’t that get boring? Well, no definitely not because there are so many options! And the reason is simple: it’s delicious and super frugal. It gives me the chance to use up whatever bits of veggies are in the fridge, so that I don’t throw them out.

The Weekend:

On Saturday we just hung out, cleaned inside and outside a bit, and then hosted a dinner party.

I made a recipe from my sister-in-law for a knock-your-socks-off delicious summer salad with arugula, cheese, macademia nuts (from a friend’s family farm in S America!), corn, craisins, and baked salmon. I’m drooling just thinking about it! I made some lime-ade for the drivers, and some tropical rum punch for whoever wanted it.  🙂

Total:  $116.91

My goal is to keep this number under $100 all the time, and eventually get down to $75/week for food.

Oops… This is why I’m not allowed to go to grocery stores by myself anymore…

In my defense, I did stock up on several staples I will not use this week alone, like pasta, lentils, pearled couscous, 3 loaves of multigrain bread for 0.99 that I will freeze, brown rice, sliced cheese. We also were running low on doggy teeth-cleaning treats for the pups, and that is included in the total.

Lessons Learned

I did a pretty good job of using up weird bits of leftovers and creating new meals, so that was a definite plus! But, I also let the grocery gremlin get me, and tell me that “these sales are way too good, you definitely need to stock up on 5 kinds of pasta, more salad than you can actually eat in one week, $10 of beer, and the pups are so cute they totally deserve $20 worth of treats!” All we can do is learn from it, and do better next week.

How about you guys, did you have a great week or a learning week?

Venison Breakfast Hash

 

It is no secret that as a culture, we are now so far removed from where “food” comes from. Many millions of people, in America especially, but all over the world, grow up never seeing food grown or processed with their own eyes. The only way they ever interact with edibles is at the very end of a long chain. At a restaurant, or as packaged, refrigerated, cling-wrap, boxed up “food like product”.

Seven percent may not seem large, until you realize that is how many American adults think chocolate milk comes from brown cows. Yup, the Innovation Center of American Dairy did an actual survey on it. Let us just hope the vast majority of these people were kidding… after all, what about strawberry milk?

As the number of people who live on farms or identify as farmers shrinks, and the average size of a “farm” balloons with huge corporations, it is healthy to get back to the roots (literally) of food production. Google a local farm, and just go visit. I guarantee the farmer will be glad to tell you all about his chickens, corn crops, the weather, and government subsidies. Or try out a local farmers market or CSA, to support those in your community supplying you with fresh, local, healthful edibles.

I am lucky enough to have at least 2 friends now to whom I can turn for fresh venison whenever my stash runs low! Ideally some day I want to try hunting, so that I can see the whole process. I’ve gardened a lot in the past, and am still working on convincing hubby that chickens and/or goats are a good idea…

I’ve already tried a venison pot pie, which was amazing. This breakfast hash used the other 1/2 pound I had in the refrigerator. It was well-seasoned, the hubby couldn’t even tell it was venison. And he does not like gamey meats, so I consider that a success!

Makes enough for 2 servings, or 1 really hearty breakfast
Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound venison ground
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 sm-med sweet potato
  • 1 cup spinach or mixed greens

Step 1: Cook the venison in a frying pan with some cooking spray until no longer pink. Dice up the sweet potato. You can either microwave the pieces for 5-8 minutes to speed the cooking process, or cook them in a frying pan on medium heat with a lid for 15-17 minutes.

Step 2: Once the potatoes are soft when poked with a fork, add the spinach and a tbsp of water, cover to let it steam for a minute. Stir it around, add the venison, then add the eggs and cover again. Cook for 5-6 minutes.

And that’s it! Serve alone, or with toast for dipping. The longer you cook, the harder the yolk will become. I like just a little bit of runny yellow left, that takes about 4 minutes. You can also make this with scrambled eggs or poached eggs instead.

 

Tell me! Have you ever been hunting? Kept chickens? Gardened?

How to: Make Homemade Yogurt in Mason Jars

 

Have you ever had the Greek yogurt flips? They are so delicious, and I’ve recently fallen in love with them, as a quick breakfast or anytime snack or treat. But…

  1. They can do some damage to your budget, at about $4 per 4-pack
  2. They cause a lot of plastic waste with their cute individual serving size square plastic covered to-go-ness
  3. They contain a pretty big dose of sugar

In my first Weekly Eating post, I promised that I would try to find a more frugal alternative. Turns out, making your own yogurt at home is quite easy, if tons of bloggers are to be believed! Special thanks to Mrs. Picky Pincher, whose blog finally convinced me to give it a go.

There are so many ways to do so, from fancy temperature-controlled and timer-activated yogurt making machines to crock pots to stovetop.

But who has time for that?

Not me! I’m all about the easiest, most frugal solution that satisfies a need. Therefore when I read that making yogurt in a mason jar was a thing, my eyes lit up! Conveniently, I read this on my go-to-the-store day, so I picked up a half gallon of milk to experiment with. Even if it went horribly wrong, I would only be out $1.18.

Turns out, it truly is SO SIMPLE!

I turned on a show on Netflix after dinner, and while hubby and I enjoyed bonding time the yogurt was doing its thing. We even left it overnight to do the incubation part, and I woke up to 2 fresh quarts of delicious, additive and sugar free homemade yogurt! Talk about feeling like a badass homesteader.

This recipe makes 2 quarts of yogurt from one half gallon of milk.

You can easily scale it up for a whole gallon and make 4 quarts, or even down to make as small as one pint of yogurt. Now that I know how well this works and how easy it is, I will probably make at least one gallon each week.

For starter culture, just pick a plain yogurt that you enjoy the taste of, and use about 2 tbsp per half gallon. It can be plain or Greek yogurt, organic or not, you decide. That’s the beauty of making your own homemade staples! You can also find freeze dried or powdered yogurt starter cultures online.

 

You will need:

  • 1/2 gallon whole or 2% milk
  • 2 large quart mason jars & lids
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt to start the culture
  • A big pot to boil water
  • Optional but helpful: A thermometer, a crock pot

Step 1: Make sure your jars are washed and clean. If you really are paranoid about germs (silly, since you’re about to purposefully grow jars of bacteria, but whatever…) you can boil them or run them through a dishwasher cycle first.

Fill the 2 jars with milk, leaving 1-2 inches of space at the top. Place them in a pot of water that covers them at least 2/3 of the way. I added extra jars around them so they do not tip over or rattle as the water boils. Bring the water to a gentle simmer.

Step 2: Go do something else while you wait for the milk to reach about 180 degrees. If you have a thermometer, great, you can check it every half hour or so. They took about an hour to reach 180 for me. If you don’t have a thermometer, the milk will be ready when a thick “skin” forms on top of the milk. Throw this skin away, and remove the jars from the water.

Step 3: Preheat a slow cooker on high, this will be your incubator later*. You can be lazy like me and just leave the hot jars on a surface to cool, this will take about an hour also. Or you can put them in a pot of lukewarm to cold water, to cool them faster. I didn’t want to chance breaking the jars, so I just put them on the stovetop and we went for a walk.

You want the jar to reach 110-120 degrees before adding the starter culture. If you don’t have a thermometer, just go by feel. When the jars are cool enough that you can wrap your hand around it and hold on for a minute or so, they are ready. You want it cool enough that the good bacteria you are about to add don’t get immediately scorched, but to grow they like a nice cozy temp.

Step 4: Take about 2 tbsp of plain yogurt, pour 1/2 cup of the warm milk into it, and mix well. Then pour half of this mix back into each jar. Give it a nice stir to distribute the good guys all around the milk, but not too violent. Unplug your slow cooker, put the jars in the warm crock, cover, and wrap in a few towels.

That’s it! Let your jars sit, undisturbed, for at least 8 hours up to overnight. You can start this in the morning and let it go all day, or start it at night and let it cook while you sleep. This is a great hands-off activity that leaves you feeling so accomplished!

*If you do not have a crock pot, you can also use a small cooler for the incubation period. Just take a small, waterproof container and fill it with warm to hot water. Put  your mason jars with starter culture in there, cover well, and wrap it in some towels. Let it sit for at least 8 hours up to overnight.

How to: Make Homemade Yogurt in Mason Jars

Yield: 2 quarts

How to: Make Homemade Yogurt in Mason Jars

Ingredients

  • 1/2 gallon whole or 2% milk
  • 2 large quart mason jars
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt to start the culture
  • A big pot to boil water
  • Optional but helpful: A thermometer, a crock pot

Instructions

  1. Make sure your jars are washed and clean. Fill 2 jars with milk, leaving 1-2 inches of space at the top. Place them in a pot of water that covers them at least 2/3 of the way. Bring the water to a gentle simmer.
  2. Go do something else while you wait for the milk to reach about 180 degrees. If you have a thermometer, great, you can check it every half hour or so. They took about an hour to reach 180 for me. If you don't have a thermometer, the milk will be ready when a thick "skin" forms on top of the milk. Throw this skin away, and remove the jars from the water.
  3. Preheat a slow cooker on high, this will be your incubator later. You can be lazy like me and just leave the hot jars on a surface to cool, this will take about an hour also. Or you can put them in a pot of lukewarm to cold water, to cool them faster. You want the jar to reach 110-120 degrees before adding the starter culture.
  4. Take about 2 tbsp of plain yogurt, pour 1/2 cup of the warm milk into it, and mix well. Then pour half of this mix back into each jar. Give it a nice stir to distribute the good guys all around the milk, but not too violent. Unplug your slow cooker, put the jars in the warm crock, cover, and wrap in a few towels.
  5. That's it! Let your jars sit, undisturbed, for at least 8 hours up to overnight.
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Disclaimer: I am not a health professional, no content on this blog is intended to diagnose, treat, or cure and ailment or condition. I am also a member of Amazon Affiliate program, some links will lead you to products which, if you choose to buy, will give the blog a portion of profits without affecting your experience. It helps keep this great content coming for you! 

Weekly eating #2 – 6/26

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating. Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep me on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting. Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

Monday:

Breakfast – a piece of spinach/zucchini strata I made on Sunday, half an heirloom tomato with salt, and a handful of blueberries from the Farmers Market

Lunch – the last leftovers of the One Pan Buffalo Chicken Potato Bake

Dinner – Burgers (from the freezer) with fresh tomatoes, roasted cabbage quarters and zucchini/sweet potato fries

Snack – cut up honeydew and cantaloupe from Farmers Market

Tuesday:

Breakfast – homemade KIND nut bar

Snack – coconut almond yogurt flip

Lunch – free Margarita pizza at a work event!

Dinner – BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, roasted cabbage, & corn from the Durham Farmers Market

Wednesday:

Breakfast – homemade yogurt  with blueberries, walnuts, & agave

Lunch – leftover white fish over brown rice with homemade salsa on top & sauteed zucchini

Dinner – hamburger stew in the crockpot (freezer meal!)

Snacks – homemade KIND nut bar

Thursday:

Breakfast – homemade yogurt with a cut up fresh peach, walnuts, and agave

Lunch – black beans & rice with salsa from Farmers Market. It was so tasty last week, I had to make it again! This may be a new favorite.

Dinner -Stir Friday! (What?!) Chicken fried rice stir fry with zucchini, onion, and cabbage. We ended up planning dinner with friends for Friday, so today’s planned mac-n-cheese got the boot, and we moved Stir Friday to Stir Thursday! … Stirsday?

Friday:

Breakfast – smoothie: 2 bananas, 2 peaches, 1 cup of homemade yogurt, OJ, and protein powder. MAN, fresh peaches really make a smoothie sing! This may be my favorite breakfast all week. I slurped it down so fast I didn’t even get a picture  😉

Lunch – baked sweet potato with black beans and salsa, blueberries

Dinner – pasta & meatballs, with garlic bread & salad

Snack – hummus with carrots & cucumbers

The Weekend:

Breakfast – 1 egg + 2 egg white omelet with leftover zucchini & sweet potato from Monday & tomato

Brunch – Dim Sum! After Saturday morning rooftop yoga (yup, I’m totally hooked on this now), we went to Hong Kong Dim Sum in Durham. Cozy, quaint little place with deeeeelicious food!

Dinner – Leftover pasta & roast chicken. Will shred the rest of the meat for next week, and make stock in the crock pot overnight.

I’m also using the whey from making my own yogurt to attempt my first ciabatta bread! We will see how that goes…  Sunday will be something with the leftover chicken most likely, and depending on weather a soup or a big salad.

Total:  $33.62

My goal is to keep this number under $100 all the time, and eventually get down to $75/week for food.

Lessons Learned

We did stay pretty close to our meal plan this week, which is great! I see meal plans as a simple guideline, but we often switch things up, like on Thursday we had mac n cheese on the plan, but swapped stir fry to make room for a different dinner Friday. I also try to leave at least one night a week for a ‘leftover buffet’ or take-out meal.

I spent very little at the store this week, I was quite proud of myself for sticking to the list and the budget! I have a bad habit of being unable to help myself around sales and produce… but I did it! And at the farmers market, I did spend $5 on fresh heirloom tomatoes, but by golly that is a worthwhile expense. The little yellowgold cherry tomatoes were so sweet and perfect I nommed nearly half the container at my desk before I even got them home.

Although…. confession time. ALDI had a 3L box of summer sangria on sale for $9.99 this week! I couldn’t not buy it, so $20 of that total may have been wine. And I don’t regret it one smidge, it was DELICIOUS! I need like 20 more haha

 

How about you guys, did you have a great week or a learning week?

Yogurt Dipped Blueberries

 

Are you ready for the 4th of July?!?

Weird how it’s on a Tuesday this year, but Monday isn’t a holiday… maybe if we all sign a petition, the government will declare a 5 day weekend?

Hey… a girl can dream.

Speaking of dream, these little treats are a dream come true! They are tiny (a favorite for kids), chilly (great on a hot summer day), and healthy (a win for everyone!). They take some prep time, just because you need to freeze the berries ahead. But you can also buy frozen blueberries, and have these babies ready to go way faster! Try different yogurt flavors, or different berries.

yogurt berries and honey

Ingredients:

berries in yogurt

Step 1: Freeze your berries a few hours to overnight. This is so the yogurt sticks better and freezes faster. I’m not sure if this would work with fresh berries, I haven’t tried it. Or just use frozen berries.

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Step 2: In a bowl, mix the yogurt and honey. Or use an already flavored and sweetened yogurt. Mix the berries around so they are coated on all sides, then use a fork to put them on a plate lined with wax paper. Freeze for at least 2 hours.

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After they are frozen, you can put them in a bag or container. Then you can pull them out for any party, picnic, get-together, or afternoon snack attack. You can definitely feel at ease feeding these to little ones, and not at all guilty sneaking a few yourself. Go ahead and have 2 handfuls, these are super healthy for you!

 

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Thank you to the stranger on the bus

 

Sometimes, the world gets you down. Every day we hear of new shootings, stabbings, bombings, hate crimes. It seems everywhere we turn, there is political dissent, unrest, dissatisfaction, and anger. People cut you off in traffic, break into a parked car, or lie in their online dating profiles.

But then, there are other days that give me hope.

Let me start by saying, if you pay for a parking pass, probably don’t ever remove it. Even if you think you’ll remember to put it back. Because you won’t. (or is that just me?)

So I went somewhere and cannot recall why at the moment but I took down my hanging parking pass. Just for the day. I swear I will put it back up on Monday.

Nope, totally forgot it at home.

I do pay for it, and am allowed to park in my lot. So I just followed my normal pattern and parked. I got lucky, and nothing happened. Ok, I’ll put it in my work bag, and remember to put it in the car on Tuesday.

Nope. Still forgot.

On the bus back to the lot, it’s in my bag, in the front pocket. Surely I will remember, because I have to go into that pocket to get my keys out. Well, that is also where my phone lives, and naturally I had to check my phone and play games on the bus.

Almost to the lot, the guy a row of seats behind me is talking. I’m reading my kindle, not paying attention. But the end of the conversation finally drills through my laser-like reading focus “…parking pass, guess I’ll turn it in if no one claims it…”

Uh oh

Check my bag, yup, sure enough the pass is gone. Must have fallen out when I checked my phone.

Everyone is filing off the now stopped bus, and in a panic, I whip around and raise my hand, like a kid in school. THAT’s MINE! I wave my hand around too, for good measure. He looks a bit startled, and then smiles and hands it over. I thanked him about a dozen times. As we walked down the steps he made some comment about “good thing, those are expensive to replace if you lose them!”

I put that bad boy up on the mirror the second I sat down.

It didn’t hit me until later, how sweet of this stranger to not just ignore it. Pretend he didn’t see it, say “it’s not my problem”. Or worse, take it and keep it, or throw it away.

The simple act of seeing it, knowing the significance, and pointing it out loudly hoping to find the owner, saved me a huge hassle and probably a large fee. I also had a warning ticket on my car, for “improper display of permit”. So I surely would have also had to pay a ticket in addition to a replacement fee if I hadn’t put the permit back up the next day. This stranger’s minute of time saved me potentially a hundred dollars.

I will likely not see that guy ever again, but I want to send out a THANK YOU to the universe. For every small, quiet, kind act. For every door held open for someone with their hands full. For every toll or cup of coffee you pay for a stranger behind you. For every smile, friendly hello, lending a quarter for the Aldi’s shopping cart.

We need more of these little moments of humanity, to restore the faith that we are a planet of kind people, who care about others, even if we don’t know them and never will. They are people just like us.

What can you do today, to make someone else’s day a little better?

Weekly Eating #1: 6/19

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the first edition of the new series Weekly Eating. Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise.

 

Monday:

Breakfast – 1 egg + egg whites omelet with the last 2 mini bell peppers, diced onion leftover from quesadillas & spinach

Lunch – leftover noodle stir fry with tofu & a soy sauce packet I found in my desk drawer

Dinner – 1-pan pork chops, broccoli & sweet potato fries (OMG delish! Recipe coming soon)

So simple, so delicious, and like 5 second clean up!

Snack: Popcorn! It’s no secret I’m a huge popcorn addict, but the homemade stove-top-popped stuff is WAY cheaper and (mostly) healthier so I don’t feel bad about eating a giant bowl full. I make a big batch, and pack it up in Zip-locks for days of happy snacking.

Tuesday:

Breakfast – drive thru breakfast wrap. Sometimes, you just cannot morning.

Snack – coconut almond Greek yogurt flip (I know, packaged brands are WAY too expensive but guys, seriously, this is SO GOOD! My mother-in-law got me hooked. I promise, I’m gonna try to find a way to make it myself cheaper, but for now, forgive me my guilty indulgence.)  UPDATE: I did it! And so can you!

Lunch – leftover slow cooker black beans & rice & salsa from a weekend party. This was basically free because it was all bits of leftovers that ended up being amazing all together

Dinner – pasta with vodka pink sauce, leftover bread sticks, salad. The sauce was a little pizza sauce leftover from Saturday’s pizza night plus a 1/3 jar of alfredo rattling around the fridge with a tbsp of pasta cooking water to thin. I love using up all the bits of things to make something new and delicious! Plus not throwing away food makes my heart sing.

(Although, my heart later broke because I threw out a 1/2 pan of homemade tiramisu :,( We just didn’t eat it fast enough, and it got stale and dried out and gross. Mreow. Also tossed 1/2 a shortcake a friend had gotten me because strawberries aren’t green. And fuzzy.)

Wednesday:

Breakfast – everything Bagel Thin with 1 tbsp cream cheese

Lunch – miso soup. Honestly, I just had a couple chunks of tofu left from last week’s stir-Friday that I didn’t want to go to waste. And I keep a tub of miso in the fridge (it lasts basically forever) so I just stirred a tbsp into some water, added the tofu and the last few sheets from a seaweed snack pack (yes I’m a weirdo but that stuff is addictive!) and called it lunch.

On a whim, I sliced a couple super thin pieces of onion to add (red, since I didn’t have green) and that was a great decision! It was warm and tasty at my desk on a rainy day.

Dinner – One Pan Buffalo Chicken Potato Bake using leftover chicken I had cooked in the crockpot on Sunday. I did half sweet potatoes and half white potatoes with a bag of frozen “California mix” veggies (cauliflower, broccoli & carrots), Ranch dressing, hot sauce, and cheddar cheese.

Guys, this stuff is so freaking good, I had to have seconds!
Sorry not sorry.

OMG. Can’t. Even.

Snacks – hummus, carrots & cucumber slices

Oh, and the hospital where I work has a Farmers Market every Wednesday! How cool is that?! I got a pint of a mixture of delicious heirloom cherry tomatoes, an itty bitty adorable cauliflower, and a big ol zucchini.

Thursday:

Brekfast – 1/2 a big homemade KIND nut bar

Lunch – leftover One Pan Buffalo Chicken Potato Bake. I can’t believe we demolished a 9×13 pan in 2 days… oh wait, yes I can. There’s a reason that’s my #1 post!

Snack – other half of the KIND bar (I brought hard boiled eggs, but turns out they were so old they became mushy by noon, and smelled awful. Whoops! It made me sad but I threw them out rather than risk food poisoning.)

Dinner – Chicken enchiladas! I had some roasted cauliflower from the market yesterday, and literally microwaved a cup of spinach to have on the side. Delicious and quite filling.

Friday:

Breakfast – cherry berry smoothie: frozen cherries + strawberries, 2 bananas (about to go bad), 1 cup orange juice, 1 scoop unflavored protein powder, 1 cup spinach. Blend for a long time until smooth.

Hubby loves waking up to a smoothie beside the bed! And I love sneaking in a serving of veggies before 9am  😉

Lunch – Panzanella with leftover homemade bread from last week, cucumber & cherry tomatoes from the farmer’s market.

This is a great example of a frugal use of leftovers, because who enjoys stale bread? But this way, the juices from the tomatoes and cucumber and olive oil (or Italian dressing) soaks in and mixes together with some fresh basil and spices it becomes a whole new delicious meal. I tossed in half an avocado too, because, duh.

Dinner – Stir Friday! This week we had garlic shrimp. AND I made my own Yum Yum Sauce! Sure did. If you haven’t had it, it totally lives up to its name.

I could probably eat half my weight in stir fried rice. For reals.

Saturday:

Breakfast – microwaved some spinach & egg whites, and put it on an everything Bagel Thin for a light, healthy breakfast before I went to a really cool rooftop yoga class downtown

Brunch – after yoga I met up with some friends to wander the Durham Farmers Market, and then we got a delicious brunch at Scratch. Oh, and the bacon jam, is totally my jam!

The Duck Egg Sandwich was outta this world, and the rosemary lemonade was so tasty it inspired me to go home and create some more fruity & refreshing beverages.

Blackberry mint lemonade (with berries from the market) and rosemary lemonade (with rosemary from my front yard!)

Dinner – Tacos at a friends house! Good food, good people, wine from Unique Pairings (which, if you’re ever in Myrtle Beach, definitely stop by!), and games combine for a splendid way to spend a summer evening. And all the food was provided, I just brought 2 bottles of vino!

Sunday:

To be determined, but I definitely plan to use up some of the goodies I got at the farmer’s market. Maybe a quiche or strata.

I’m also going to spend some time today making next week’s meal plan, using all the delicious fresh produce and trying to clear some space in our freezer. I’m aiming to not buy anything else food-wise this week except maybe some bananas (for the hubby’s addiction).

ALL THE PRODUCE!!! Nomnomnom

Total: ~$98

This is a rough estimate, because at markets where I use mostly cash it gets hard to keep track. Plus I buy things on sale or clearance and freeze or otherwise store for later use, so ‘weekly’ cost averaging can be tough.

For grocery stores, I only bought yogurt and milk and bananas this week, which is great. And I’m okay with spending a little more on fresh produce to support my local farmers! <3

My goal is to keep this number under $100 all the time, and eventually get down to $75/week for food.

Lessons Learned

So it seems this week was great in that we used up a lot of little bits and ends of leftovers, but we were also pretty wasteful with food. There were several things left over from parties that ended up in the trash. We aren’t big on sweets anyways, so we rarely buy or make them, and this just reinforces that knowledge.

When I make a big batch of something (like hard boiled eggs) I need to make sure I actually use it all up before it goes bad. I wouldn’t throw a $5 bill in the trash, but that’s exactly what I’m doing when I toss out old food.

 

How about you guys, did you have a great week or a learning week? Off to make a meal plan for next week!

The fusion of food, fun, frugality, and curiosity.