Category Archives: Informative

Dollar Tree Meal Plan

 

It should come as no news to anyone that access to fresh produce and quality food is a good indicator of overall health. It is further not surprising that poverty and food insecurity are strongly linked.

If you do not have the financial means to pay for fresh food, it is likely your diet will consist of fast food, packaged and processed foods, and frozen meals.

If you live in a “food desert”, whether you can pay for produce or not doesn’t matter because there isn’t any for you to buy.

There is more and more evidence that this can become a vicious cycle as well. You or your family is at or below the poverty level, and the only places you can afford to live lack access to food and the money to pay for, and this contributes to poor nutrition and obesity, which in turn may stifle earning potential and opportunities further.

The issues of poverty, food insecurity, and the increasingly wide-spread and frightening rise of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and other ‘lifestyle diseases’ has been on my mind more and more.

It seems we have lost our way, as a country, and things keep happening to make it seem worse and worse.

How do we fix this?

How do we keep ourselves, our family, and our children fed and healthy, without going over budget?

It is a long road, and not an issue I can tackle and solve myself. But I can try to do small things to help. Like creating as healthy of a meal plan as possible that would be relatable to the people who need it the most. So I went to my local Dollar Tree to scope out the options.

Most households in America, even if they are not near a grocery store, should be within walking or bus distance of a Dollar Tree or Dollar General or similar type store.

I figured this would be a good base to work with, and provide the best ‘bang-for-your-buck’ that most people on a very low income are looking for.

Let’s be real, even as a dual income family with more than enough room in the budget to not have to care what we spend on food, we still care a lot, and stick to a budget. We are all potentially just one disaster away from poverty.

Whether you are a single mom or dad trying to feed your growing family on a part-time income, a struggling college kid paying your way with a scholarship, part time job, and a ridiculous loan, a newly married couple just trying to figure out how money works, or a retiree on a fixed income, I hope that this information can be helpful.

 

Dollar Tree shelves frozen section

If the store has a frozen section, this can be a great place to start. Though there will be options to avoid (I’ll mention more about that next) you will be most likely to find the healthiest choices here with frozen fruits and vegetables.

Produce that is frozen is usually picked at the peak of ripeness, and then flash frozen for storage and transport. Though it isn’t right out of a field, it will still contain much of its original nutrition, and sometimes even be more nutritious than fresh, similar produce.

Frozen fruit makes a great snack, addition to smoothies, or are perfect to add in to oatmeal for a filling and healthy breakfast or anytime meal. When it comes to potatoes, just be careful about the ingredients and amount of added fat. French fries are still fries, even if you make them in your own oven.

Frozen vegetable blends are my personal favorite. They are great to heat quickly in the microwave as an easy side dish, you can mix onion and peppers into scrambled eggs, top baked potatoes with broccoli, add mixes to soup and stews and tacos, or toss into stir fry. Try to eat at least 5-7 servings of vegetables every day. A serving is about 1/2 cup frozen, or about 1/6 of a bag of frozen vegetables.

I noticed at my store that they had frozen fish filets as well. Salmon, tilapia, and flounder were on offer. I can get into all the details about how to choose sustainable fish, but at this level I think any fish is a luxury and you don’t care where it came from, as long as it’s cheap.

Fish does provide lots of lean protein, and is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids. Fish is also an important protein in the Mediterranean diet, and a far better choice in general than red meats, or even lean meat like chicken or turkey. So if you are able, add one to two servings of fish per week to your diet.

dollar tree freezer

This is an example of some of the less desirable frozen food options, nutritionally speaking. Pancakes, biscuits, and waffles can be made healthy if you make it yourself from whole grain flours, but these pre-made and frozen options are likely full of preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, and other ingredients you don’t want.

Try instead this simple blender pancake recipe, this slightly healthier one with added banana and oats, or this one with only 3 required ingredients. Even the box of mix from the store with some milk or water would likely be healthier.

Pudding and granola bars may seem like a good ‘convenience’ item to pack in lunches and have on hand for breakfasts or snacking. But be wary of the sugar content. Some granola bars can have a sugar content equal to or greater than a candy bar!

You can easily make your own granola bars too using just oats, honey, peanut butter, and maybe some bananas or dried fruits or nuts. The best news is that oats are generally pretty cheap too, so per serving regular oatmeal for breakfast, granola bars, or plain baked granola are really affordable options.

There are a lot of packaged beverage options, especially juices. Kids in particular tend to adore juice, at breakfast, after school, with dinner, before bed… but you need to be careful of the sugar content.

Many juice types these days is only 5% actual fruit juice, if that! They are instead colored and flavored sugar water, with the vast majority of their calories coming from high fructose corn syrup.

The healthiest beverage, always, is water.

And the best part is, water is free from the tap! If you are trying to get your kids (or yourself) to drink less juice, for health or financial reasons, try diluting it with water slowly over time.

Pour one glass of juice, about 80% full, and top it off with water. Then work your way to half and half. Eventually you have a glass of water with just a splash of juice for flavor.

Another good source for fruits, if you don’t have access to fresh produce or it is not in season, is canned fruit.

I most often see canned pears and peaches, but I also saw pineapples and mandarin orange slices. These are all awesome snack or side options. It is best to choose “packed in water” or “packed in its own juices” over “canned in syrup” or heavy syrup.

It is worth glancing at the ingredients list as well, and the total sugar and calorie content.

Dollar Tree shelves canned vegetables

Canned vegetables are another good choice in lieu of fresh produce.

Cans last even longer and store better than frozen options, and better yet do not require a freezer or electricity. Canned vegetables tend to be overall pretty healthy, just check the sodium content.

Similarly with canned soups, check the salt levels. Some can contain nearly 100% of your daily recommended sodium in one serving.

Canned corn can be tossed into soups or burritos, or eaten with some butter and salt alone as a side dish. Canned green beans make a similarly easy and delicious side, can become casserole, or be tossed into minestrone or veggie soup.

Canned beets are surprisingly delightful on salads, or even eaten plain. And plain canned pumpkin is a great baking option, it can be mixed into waffles, pancake mix, cakes and pies and cookies.

Pasta, a definite frugal food favorite. At some grocery stores you can find it even cheaper, 0.95, 0.88, or even 0.50! But here, everything is a dollar. That doesn’t change the fact that when money is super tight, pasta becomes a life-saver. Maybe literally.

Pasta can be made healthier by pumping it up with extra vegetables.

It goes well with just about any frozen mix you can find, and most canned vegetables as well. Just dump the veggies right into your pot with the pasta during the last 3-4 minutes of boiling.

If you want to be sneaky healthy and have a blender, you can also blend canned or frozen veggies or beans into the sauce, and no one will even know!

And where would pasta be without its best friend, sauce!

Most people cannot fathom one without the other. The good news is that pasta sauce is relatively good for you, since tomatoes actually become more nutritious after cooking.

The bad news is, all the packaged sauces probably contain high fructose corn syrup as a cheap filler…

You’re better off just simmering a can of diced tomatoes as your sauce, and adding any spices you enjoy such as Italian seasoning, thyme, basil, garlic salt, etc.

Dried beans and rice are classic frugal favorites, and for good reason. Beans are a powerhouse of nutrition, containing lots of micronutrients, magnesium, iron, protein, and tons of great-for-your-gut fiber. One cup of dry beans plumps up to 2-3 cups once cooked, giving you even more value for your money.

The same can be said of rice, white or brown, which provides 200-250 calories per cup for roughly $0.10.

To cook beans from dry, you simply let them soak in water overnight or for 8 hours, then change the water and boil them for a few hours, until soft. Or cook them in a crock pot, if you have that luxury.

Now that you have cooked beans, layer as many different types of beans as you can find into a hearty chili, toss them into tacos and burritos and enchiladas, whirl them in a blender to make homemade hummus, or cook up some hearty red beans and rice.

Ah, rice. The food all frugal foodies sing praises to. And for good reason as well.

Rice is cheap per pound ($1/lb here, you can get it much cheaper in bulk but also sometimes you just can’t swing $15 for 25 pounds) but delivers tons of carbs (aka ENERGY) and a nice punch of nutrition in return. You can easily have a full week of meals for a dollar or two and a couple minutes of simmering.

To cook rice, simply mix rice and water in a one to two ratio (for example, 1/2 cup rice + 1 cup water) and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover with a lid and simmer 20 minutes. That’s it!

It is also super easy to cook, as noted, and ridiculously versatile.

It can bulk up just about any meal to make it stretch: burritos, tacos, soups, stir fry, casseroles, curry… It is also the partner in crime to the other frugal foodie favorite, beans.

Try adding some to bulk up vegetable soups, add some simple spices and a can of tomatoes, corn, and/or beans for Spanish rice, or mix with frozen broccoli and some cheddar cheese for a delicious side dish or casserole.

Canned ravioli, Spaghetti-Os, and chili is not the best bet, they will have sky-high sodium, but if you are desperate for protein in an easy-to-open and store container, you could do worse.

I would highly recommend making actual pasta rather than go for the cans, especially for double the cost (1 box pasta + 1 can sauce vs 1 can of spaghettios). You get way more than double the food; more like 5 times as much!

As for soup stock, you can make your own for almost free! Just save vegetable scraps like potato and carrot skins, the ends of onions and celery stalks, pits of peppers and tomatoes, in a bag in the freezer. Once you have enough to fill a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for an hour or so, and strain the solids out.

That liquid is pure homemade vegetable stock! You can use it to make soups, to fry instead of oils, and to cook rice in for extra flavor.

Dollar Tree shelves canned tuna and meats

Canned fish is definitely a great low-cost protein option. When you are on a seriously-ridiculous-bare-bones budget, you cannot worry about needs as high up the chain as ethically sourced mercury-free fish. You just want cheap sources of proteins.

Canned tuna and salmon makes great sandwiches, tuna noodle casserole, or latkes. Flake it over a salad or into any pasta dish, even adding it to soups or casseroles. Canned clams can make a frugal knockoff clam chowder, clam linguini, or top a pizza with them.

Boxed mac n cheese has all kinds of additives, fake cheese-like product, preservatives, and colorants.

You are better off cooking a box of actual pasta, and adding in a block of actual cheese to make your mac n cheese. But if even $3 is out of your price range (1 box pasta + 1 block cheese + 1 bottle milk) then the boxed kind will keep your belly full for a while.

Boxed pasta salad mixes are also not really worth the “extras”, which includes anti-caking agents, dehydrated flakes, “flavoring”, etc.

Just make a box of pasta, and add a bag of frozen peppers & onion mix. If you have one more dollar, get Italian dressing and mix it in too. It will taste better and be better for you, with actual vegetable pieces.

As mentioned above, if you have enough wiggle room in the budget to add dressing, Italian is my favorite. It is very versatile, bringing flavor to pasta salads, actual lettuce salads, or roasted chicken.

The Dollar Tree does not have any fresh produce, so we won’t have any real salad to go with it… but it does perk up pasta salads well, and is great over steamed frozen veggies.

For your baking needs, they do have smaller packages of salt, sugar, flour, and even shredded coconut. If I was on a super-tight budget, shredded coconut would not top my list. But if you have room and enjoy its taste, it is a great addition to oatmeal, soups, and baking.

Flour and water together can lead to your own super-frugal tortillas for your bean and rice burritos.

You can whip up you own naan for scooping curry and chili.

And if you can get ahold of any yeast, or a fermented sourdough starter, you can be well on your way to homemade bread, biscuits, pizza dough, and rolls as well.

For $1, this is a decent size jar of jelly. It makes me cringe just a little to see the high fructose corn syrup and how much sugar per serving is in there, jam made with actual fruit would be so much better.

But, again, this is about survival.

Food that will fill bellies and keep kids happy (or yourself) while keeping the lights on and gas in the car.

So when a PB&J is the compromise, you need the J part. It can also make a great topping for biscuits, toast, or pancakes.

Dollar Tree shelves - peanut butter

And of course the PB part of a PBJ. I was a little disappointed to see how small these jars were… 10 oz compared to jelly’s 19 oz. Can you tell we subsidize corn syrup in this country and not peanuts?

Oh, and if you have peanut allergies, well, tough luck. There is nothing fancy like almond butter or sunbutter options here.

I was pleasantly surprised at the wide variety of bread options!

Obviously, making your own without sugar or preservatives is healthier. But who has time for that nonsense between jobs and childcare?

At least you can choose whole wheat bread and rolls, and they even had a really nice looking multigrain option. For $1, this is actually much cheaper than a regular grocery store.

If you’re on a very limited budget, I highly recommend you switch to water as your main, or only beverage.

Actually I recommend that in general.

Water is the healthiest liquid you could drink, and has the added benefit of being free and clean from your very own tap. 24/7.

However, sometimes a warm or sweet beverage can be a needed pick me up, and I get that.

I noticed they had pre-cooked pizza crusts, and pizza sauce and small pepperonis. Any processed meat like sausage, pepperoni, etc. is not the best. But if you are going to have pizza anyways, making your own is FAR healthier and cheaper than going out. Even a $5 hot-and-ready is $5 compared to $3 to make your own.

In the refrigerated section, you will find 8-count eggs and yogurt. If you and your family does eat dairy, a 4-pack of yogurt for $1 is a pretty good deal, and will provide calories and some protein. Eggs are a good cheap source of protein. Though sometimes you can find better deals at ‘regular stores’, we are assuming there isn’t one.

 

The Meal Plan

I designed this plan to serve 2 people with average adult appetites for 3 meals for 7 days.

This may not apply to you, and you may need to change the amounts a little if you have little kids, or hungry teens, or a large family, or more or less meals per week to provide.

Scale up or down accordingly.

It is also designed with the least amount of cooking required as possible, which is not the best financial move.

But I understand that when times are tough and time is tight, making things from scratch is not the priority.

Grocery List:
  • 1 pack of 8 eggs
  • 1lb margerine sticks or a bottle of oil
  • 1 box mac n cheese (or 1 box pasta, 1 small jug of milk, and 1 block of cheddar cheese)
  • 1 box pancake mix
  • 1 bag frozen fruit: tropical blend, strawberries, mango
  • 4 bags frozen vegetables: stir fry blend, spinach, broccoli, California blend in 10, 12, or 14 oz
  • 3 cans sliced pineapple, mangoes, oranges, peaches, or pears
  • 3 – 1 lb pasta boxes, any shape you like
  • 1 34 oz pasta sauce can
  • 1 bag of 2 lbs white rice, or 1lb brown rice
  • At least 1 bag: 1.5 lbs pinto beans, kidney beans, black eyed peas
  • 1 16oz can or bottle tomato juice
  • Bottle of chili powder
  • 10 oz peanut butter
  • 19 oz jelly
  • 2 loaves of bread
  • 1 can tuna
  • 1 can cream of mushroom
  • 1 pizza base
  • Optional beverages: tea, coffee, hot cocoa, hot cider
  • Optional snacks: granola bars, 25.4 oz jar applesauce, yogurts
  • Optional seasonings: Italian blend, garlic salt, soy sauce

Grocery total: $27 (+ depending on your optional choices)

Day One

B – 2 eggs scrambled per person, plus toast

L – PB&J sandwiches

D – Make a big pot of chili

Day Two

B – Toast with PB and/or jelly, 1/2 can fruit

L – leftover chili

D – Mac n cheese using the box, or 1 box pasta + cheese

Day Three

B – Fruit pancakes (make a big batch, and refrigerate enough for the next 2 days)

L – Chili mac! Top leftover macaroni with leftover chili. Very filling.

D – Red beans & rice

Day Four

B – Leftover pancakes – you can pop them in the toaster to reheat!

L –  Leftover red beans & rice

D – Pasta with veggies (save about 1/2 cup sauce for pizza)

Day Five

B – Leftover pancakes

L – Leftover pasta with veggies

D – Pizza night! To make it extra healthy, microwave a bag of frozen mixed vegetables and drain. Top pizza with sauce and veggies, then bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Day Six

B – 1/2 can of fruit plus toast (with PB) per person

L –  PB&J

D – Veggie stir fry

Day Seven

B – 1/2 can of fruit plus toast (with PB) per person

L – Leftover stir fry or anything else left in the fridge

D – Tuna noodle casserole

 

How Do I Make That:

Vegetarian chili: 2-3 cans different beans (or ~4 cups from dried), 1 can diced tomatoes or bottle tomato juice, chili powder = $4. Put all ingredients in a slow cooker on low 6-8 hours, or simmer on stove top for about 1 hour up to 4 hours, stirring often to prevent burning.

Macaroni and cheese: 1 box pasta, 1 block cheese, 1 small jar milk = $3. Boil pasta noodles and drain. Return noodles to the pan, add the cheese (cutting into smaller pieces or shredding will help it melt faster) and 1/2 cup milk. Stir on medium heat until cheese melts. You can also add a bag of frozen mixed veggies for extra nutrition.

Fruit pancakes: 1 bag or can fruit + 1 box pancake mix = $2
Either drain a can of fruit & chop into small pieces, or microwave 1 cup of frozen fruit and drain. Add to the pancake batter in place of some liquid. For example, if you need 1 cup of water, add 1 cup fruit and about 1/3 cup water instead. Adjust liquid to your desired batter thickness. Cook on hot pan or griddle until brown, flip and cook the other side.

Red beans & rice: Cook 2 cups rice, cook 2 cups beans (or 1 can pinto /kidney), optional 1 cup frozen pepper & onion mix = $3. The key to this one is to simmer on low for a long time. It makes the beans break down a bit and thicken, add some chili powder for extra kick.

Pasta with sauce & veggies: 1 box pasta, 1 bag frozen mixed veggies, 1 can pasta sauce = $3. Boil pasta according to directions, add frozen veggies at the last 3-5 minutes to thaw. Drain, add sauce.

Pizza: thin crust, bag pepperoni, (optional) mozzarella cheese sticks or shredded cheese, can of sauce = $4. Top crust with sauce, toppings, and cheese if using. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Stir fry: rice, frozen mixed veggies, 2 eggs = $3. Cook 2 cups of rice and set aside. Microwave or boil veggies to thaw and cook. Scramble 2 eggs, and mix into the rice. Top with veggies. Soy sauce optional.

Peanut butter & jelly: 2 slices bread, 2 tbsp peanut butter, 2 tbsp jelly = $4 (not quite, because you only use 2 slices bread not the whole loaf)

Tuna noodle casserole: 1 can tuna (drained), 1 can cream of mushroom soup, 1/2 box pasta: $3. Mix together and either bake at 350 for 20 minutes or just stir together while pasta is still hot. For extra nutrition, add a thawed bag of frozen mixed vegetables.

 

And there you have it, 3 meals per day for 7 days for 2 people, or 42 meals for just $27 or just 64 cents per serving.

You can also at any point make a big pot of vegetable soup with a bag or two of frozen mixed veggies and stock or water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes to a few hours, adding whatever spices you like. This can be easily just a few cents per serving, and you can add rice and/or beans or serve with bread/rolls to bulk it up further.

Yes, it is quite carb heavy and not the healthiest ever. But you have to do what you have to do sometimes. And sneaking in some canned fruits and frozen veggies is better than pop-tarts, or nothing!

 

Please share with the class! What are your classic frugal meal ideas? Have you ever experienced hard times? Is this at all realistic and useful?

Why Blogging Will Probably Never Make Me Any Money

 

There are basically two reasons people get into blogging: to have an online ‘journal’ of sorts, a record for themselves or a future generation, and/or to make money. It is quite true you can make money blogging, possibly a lot of money. But like most areas of life, the super successful people are the minority.

I love blogging, clearly, as I’ve been doing it for coming up on 7 years.

However, blogging can also be tough, and time consuming, and even the best of us get burnt out sometimes. That’s why I’m even more impressed by those who have the grit, talent, and determination to make a real income from blogging, perhaps even enough to retire and live off of.

Sadly, I have come to terms with the fact that that is simply not me.

I will not publish blogging income reports, because I don’t have any.

And I’m okay with that. Want to know why?

I’m bad at niches

As any long-time reader can tell you, I write about a LOT of different things. I’ve written posts about why asparagus makes your pee smell, all about breastfeeding, delayed onset muscle sorenesshow to make a $10 holiday wreath, affordable destination wedding planning, and so much more.

But the internet tells new bloggers “the riches are in the niches”

This essentially means that the best way to make a profitable blog or webpage is to find an underutilized niche and target it relentlessly.

That way you know the people reading are interested enough to probably buy from you (or your sponsors/affiliates).

But I don’t do focus.

I don’t do boxes.

I cannot fully call myself a “food blogger”, nor can I really call myself a “FIRE blogger”.

I’m not a “food blogger” because I don’t have a fancy camera with zoom and ‘soft focus lenses’, hundreds of dollars worth of pretty props, I don’t use Instagram, and I suck at Pinterest so far.

I just like food. And writing about it.

variety of vegetables

I’m not a “FIRE blogger” because I write about a lot more than just how to make or how to save money, I don’t have a budget, or an FI number, or obsessively track and/or share my net worth.

I just like money. And writing about it.

And I’m okay with that.

Because this blog is definitely for all you guys, I want to share my lessons, meal plans, money saving tips, and life story. And I want to hear your comments, ideas, and stories too! We have some great discussion points in the comments and offline.

But, this blog is also for me. It is fun. It is a creative outlet. It is a recipe book and record of my life for posterity.

And it’s mine.

So I’mma write about whatever I want to, and you can’t stop me!

I hate advertisements

Most sites that make money, are not making money on the content itself. The top sources of income are paid courses / items (like cookbooks), and advertisements / affiliate programs.

I personally get very annoyed at a site cluttered with ads.

To be honest, several old favorites of mine I have completely stopped going to, because they sold out and put up tons of ads.

If I can’t read an article on my phone because there are so many ads loading it slows it waaaaay down, we are done.

If I get more than one popup per page, we are done.

If I try to click the little X to close the ad and it somehow takes me to a video of a new car Honda is trying to sell me, we are done.

So, if it annoys me so much, why would I do that to my own readers?

laptop reflection on white desk

I have only a few loyal readers, and I want to keep you guys happy! So to me, a couple bucks a month is not worth it.

Bye bye, blog income!

I refuse to plug goods/services I don’t use

Sponsored posts or affiliate programs is another way to make money blogging. Basically a company pays the writer some amount of money to write about how awesome their product or service is.

I have done a few of these, for example the Keurig cold brew, or Walmart Grocery To Go.

I do honest reviews all the time, and these are usually not paid.

But I will not make big money, because I will only do honest reviews of things, places, or products I actually have and use and like (for example the Tea Spot Steep & Go. Love that thing).

I tried to do Amazon Affiliates.

Apparently averaging 700 daily page views isn’t enough to get clicks and purchases, because I think I made a total of $4 before they kicked me out.

Yup, if you don’t make them enough money and/or have enough clicks per year, they can terminate your agreement and kick you out.

Oh well.

I’ve been approached by a few places to be a “brand ambassador”.

But I have some pretty strong opinions when it comes to food, and I’m not just going to write about how awesome your sausage or cheese or fancy sauces are. Not even for hundreds of dollars.

Our ‘food system’ is misleading enough, I don’t want to influence people to eat and drink things I honestly think are terrible for you.

I think the more whole foods and fewer labels in your life, the better your health will be.

And companies won’t pay me to say that.

 

 

What do you think, is it worth the trouble and potential dishonesty to make money as a blogger? Do you make money blogging in a better way that any of these?

Balance in All Things

 

So I was talking with a Health Coaching client recently, and we were discussing how important it is to keep up with self care (no, not the ridiculous “treat yo-self” kind).

It is so easy in our world today to get overwhelmed.

We are assaulted from all sides all day long with the idea that we are never “enough”; we need to be smarter, sexier, earn more money, be better looking, and always be “busy”.

If you have ever been enjoying a walk, a good book, a soak in the tub, or a mindless TV show and felt guilt and anxiety because you were not being productive right that moment, you know what I mean.

If you’ve ever caught yourself, past midnight, still replying to work emails in bed even though you’re exhausted and have to go in early for a meeting tomorrow, you know what I mean.

If you’ve ever gotten so overwhelmed and burnt out on your writing, or blogging, or side-hustling, or maintaining your homestead you early retired to that you just cannot even, you know what I mean.

We need balance.

Balance in all things.

This applies to all areas of your life.

How do you feel if you’ve worked overtime for three weeks straight, you have yet to get more than 6 hours of sleep per night, you haven’t seen your wife or husband or kids or friends in a month?

How do you feel after a buffet of all your favorite things, where you had two plates too many and just couldn’t help yourself, and then also there is always room for dessert too?

How do you feel when you just can’t say no, and so you are working, and volunteering, and on a committee, and helping out at your kids school, and don’t even remember the last time you showered?

How do you feel when you work your day job, and another few hours at your side hustle, and have three freelance projects due by tomorrow as well as a post you need to write before 8am?

Probably not great.

find your balance

But, how do you feel when you have one of those days.

A day where everything clicks. Flows. Is easy.

You get things done.

You’re ahead of your deadlines, you finished a big project, your boss praised you in front of everyone, you got an unexpected raise.

The house is clean, the laundry is done, the yard is mowed, the sink is empty, dinner was a breeze.

You’re in the zone.

AND there is still plenty of time for you.

To work out, do some yoga, read a good book, listen to an inspiring podcast, have a glass of wine/beer, sit and watch the sunset.

You got to spend time with the people you most enjoy, laughing until your cheeks hurt and making memories you know will last forever.

You feel fulfilled, creative, glowing, on top of the world!

Feels pretty awesome, yeah?

Yeah.

Balance looks different for everyone.

Maybe you are a single male in a metropolitan city, living in a tiny apartment with 2 roommates while you finish an MBA. Maybe you are a legal aide, renting a small apartment by yourself within walking distance of work, struggling to pay off six figures of debt.

Maybe you are early retired, living in South America on 10,000/year. Maybe you are a married couple with three kids living in a house you inherited from your grandparents in the suburbs, or a McMansion you earned through a decade of schooling and licensing and work.

In each of these scenarios, your priorities will be different.

But your needs are the same.

Everyone needs the basics: water, food, clothing, shelter.

After that, we all want to be comfortable, whatever level of income and luxury that means for you. We all want to feel loved and valued, be part of a community. We all way to feel healthy, passionate, inspired, capable, and independent.

Woman holding Freedom banner

But this is the 21st century.

We can all be Connected, all the time.

We must be On, all the time.

Reachable, all the time.

Working, all the time.

Exhausted.

All.

The.

Time.

Where is the time for you?

Health

To be truly healthy requires balance.

If you go to any extremes, that is usually where the most unhealthy habits begin and thrive.

You eat far too much and too often, you risk obesity and diabetes.

You lean on fast food, processed meats, tons of cheese and oils, and solely pre-packaged meals, you risk serious cardiac issues, high blood pressure, and strokes.

You indulge too much and too often with alcohol, and you risk addiction, destroying your liver, starving your cells of nutrition, and shattering your relationships and ruining your entire life.

However.

If you eat only raw vegetables every day, you will slowly starve from lack of proteins and fats.

If you try every herbal supplement on the market, you risk interactions with other medications and crazy unanticipated side effects.

If you become too obsessed with eating “clean” and working out constantly, you risk eating disorders, weakening your bones, losing your hair, and collapsing from exhaustion.

And so, the need for balance is clear.

healthy vegetarian avocado salad

Eat your vegetables.

No excuses.

There are SO MANY KINDS, and so many ways to cook them.

Try spinach, carrots, onions, potatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, radish, beets, collards, mushrooms, zucchini, lettuce, cucumbers, squash… you get the point.

Eat fruits too.

They are nature’s candy.

Go ahead and eat carbs, but try to make them whole grains (brown rice over white rice, whole oats, quinoa, barley…)

Get protein from the source your body responds to best, but lean heavily on legumes (black beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, split peas, lentils, navy beans, and more).

Move your body.

Every day.

As frequently as you can, and for as long as you can.

Try new and different ways of moving too. Try yoga, pilates, cycling, water aerobics, or just go run around a playground. Monkey bars are a LOT harder than you remember, I bet.

And for pete’s sake, drink water! (Especially if your name is Pete)

You will literally die without it. Don’t try to rationalize to yourself that coffee counts, or tea, or soda. Drink actual water. Like, about half your body weight, in ounces. Every day.

Add fruits, flavorings, or try fizzy water if you can’t handle tap. But please, please, drink water.

But also?

Go ahead and eat that brownie now and then.

Say yes to a 2nd margarita on Cinco de Mayo.

Listen to your body and know the difference between a healthy soreness from muscles being worked out and an actual overuse injury or something that needs medical attention.

Give yourself rest days.

Don’t forget that by eating healthy and exercising so you can live longer,  you should also be enjoying living right now. 

balanced stack of donuts

Relationships

Another aspect of life which requires balance is our relationships.

Relationships with coworkers and bosses, with our neighbors and friends, with our family, with our romantic interests.

We need a balance of personalities in our lives, people we can go to when we want to celebrate, when we want to vent, when we need a shoulder to cry on, a drinking buddy, someone who tells us the truth no matter how much it might hurt, someone we can count on to get something done right and on time.

But it can be easy to overextend ourselves too.

You know how sometimes, friends or family come to stay for a holiday or vacation, and by day 8 they have worn out their welcome by 4 days? That’s unbalanced.

You know how your significant other can become too needy if you haven’t spent enough time together, or too distant if you are around each other too much? That’s unbalanced.

You also need to nurture your relationship with yourself.

Think about it: when is the last time when you were totally alone?

Like 100%. No other people. No phone, no Twitter, no Facebook.

Just you. And your mind.

Did you love it? Did it scare you? Make you uncomfortable?

Time alone is time for self reflection, growth, recharging, release.

Struggling with the “big questions” of life.

If you feel like you need permission to be alone and not be doing productive things, schedule it into your life.

Put it on an actual calendar.

8pm - 10pm Tuesday: Massage followed by bubble bath.

2pm - 5pm Saturday: See action hero movie alone and check out that new book store.

Figure out what it is that recharges you, makes you happy, and inspires you to be your best.

Then do more of it.

When you are fulfilled and at your happiest and most vibrant, is when you are capable of giving of yourself the most.

You cannot pour water out of an empty pitcher. Click To Tweet

pouring water from a pitcher

Career

Here too is where many of us cannot find balance. We are pushed to “become” our careers.

Oftentimes the very first thing someone asks when meeting someone new is “what do you do?”

You job or employment is seen as the definition of who you are as a person. It defines you. You are not “Joe” or “a coffee lover” or “a girl who likes Left for Dead” or “the best a capella singer in this room”.

You are “an engineer”, “a teacher”, “a mom”, “a construction worker”.

And in the pursuit of money (we will talk more about that in just a second) it is all too easy to get sucked into your career and let it be all consuming.

With our smart phones and constant connected world, you can answer emails at 10 pm and 4 am, you can be on conference calls from anywhere and anytime, you can be working at the dinner table or on a train or in the toilet.

And we do.

Man Standing infront of Red Locker Using Mobile Phone

But what we need to not lose sight of is that it is just a job. At the end of the day, what you trade so many hours of your life for in order to keep bills paid is just a job.

You can get another one. You probably will.

If you love your work and are invested in what you do and you willingly work overtime because it is your true passion, that is amazing and I honestly am so happy for you!

But it is still a job.

And you still need work-life balance.

You need time to put work thoughts on hold, and engage in other areas of your life.

Stop stressing over hiring interviews, projects, looming deadlines, or presentations, and start planning a trip to Spain, a visit to an old college friend, hang out with your neighbor, or try a new hobby like painting or skiing or hiking or glassblowing.

If you are terrible about unplugging, start small.

Just try setting limits for yourself, like “no phone after 7 pm” or “no work email on the weekends”. Maybe you can even progress to the point of outright turning your phone or laptop off when you are off the clock!

Just like above with your personal relationships, your work relationship needs balance.

When you give your brain time away from work tasks to be creative and process, you never know what magical solutions your subconscious might come up with.

And you will definitely be better able to make decisions and solve problems when you are a happier, more relaxed employee.

Money

When it comes to money, it seems “enough” is not a word that will ever apply.

Even when someone is demonstrably in the top 1% of earners in the world (think those pulling down six digits per year, like 200-400, but not quite into the millions), they will still defend to their last breath the fact that they are “average” and “just getting by” and “it’s not quite enough”.

We are encouraged to compare ourselves to top earners and innovators like Elon Musk, Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs. Ads for bigger houses, flashier cars, ivy league schools, the nicest clothing, the scent that will definitely make you sexier, flood our senses 24/7.

And the bills never end.

Whether you have plenty of breathing room, or pinch every penny and still come up short some months, it never feels like enough.

So you take on overtime, extra shifts, a second job. You pick up tutoring, cleaning houses, bartending, work all the weekends.

You start hustling, building your websites and courses and ebooks, and freelance writing every spare minute.

But do you ever evaluate your ROI?

How much are you making, in dollars, but how much are you spending, in time and opportunity cost?

These are very personal choices, hence the world of Personal Finance. I cannot tell you which high-paying-but-stressful projects are worth keeping, or which pain-in-the-ass-but-pays-on-time clients you should ditch.

But I highly recommend you use the 80/20 rule which basically means that when we’re talking about earning, 80% of the income comes from 20% of the effort. And conversely for frugal living, 80% of your savings will come from 20% of the expenses you can control.

Concentrate yourself on the 80% at work which reaps the highest rewards. Ask what your boss wants the most, and take steps to make it happen. Prove your worth and ask for it.

And don’t worry about the 20%. The whole office will not implode if you don’t check email until Monday. No one will quit if you leave a little early to go for a run on a particularly stressful day (probably).

laying in a hammock, betsy jacobson quote

Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Click To Tweet

By taking concrete steps to create balance and space in your life, you are one step closer to living the life of your dreams.

Moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance.”
– Epicurus

 

 

What do you struggle to balance in life? Or are you a total “Lord of the Dance Pose” expert in all areas? Share your tips and opinions below!

Battling Blogger Burnout

 

If you habitually read many blogs, or especially if you have one yourself, you know the phrase. Blogger burnout.

This is how we describe the feeling of running out of steam.

Everything is going along great, you are building your audience, interacting on social media, promoting your awesome content, traffic is growing… and then for whatever reason, you just stop.

Staring at a blank page in WordPress or Word or Notepad or an actual piece of paper. Typing a few sentences, deleting it, trying again. You get distracted by Twitter, Instagram, the news, a car driving by, or an ad in the corner of the Google search bar.

Five hours later your wordcount is still barely double digits.

Blogger Burnout - blank page

When I first started this blog 7 years ago as College Approved Food, I had big dreams.

I was going to write a cookbook for college kids using only a microwave and recipes with 5 ingredients or less.

I was going to have my own cooking show someday.

I could live off my blog income full-time while I traveled and tasted food from all over the world.

Then I did it, and saw how much work went into blogging.

Consistently. On a schedule. Regularly.

To build a following, to create things people actually could use and wanted to read, to add value to the world.

To interact with others in the space and create a network of like minded people who support you as well.

And of course, “real life” got in the way a bit as well.

Getting through undergraduate studies while working three jobs, dealing with a broken engagement, applying, getting into, and surviving graduate school, paying off all my undergrad loans before finishing graduate school, leaving grad school, moving across the country (thrice)… Occasionally I lost focus.

Sometimes I took a break.

Sometimes it was for a few days, other times a few months.

I changed my publishing schedule from not having one, to three times per week, down to once per week, and back again, trying to find the perfect balance.

Then, for the past year or so, it seemed I’d hit the sweet spot.

I was publishing both food and finance content, and plenty that was a bridge between the two.

When I ran out of recipes for One Pan Buffalo Chicken Potato Bakes and Holiday Diets for a while, I could tell you all about how I save money on beauty and why a $1000 raise didn’t change my life.

And when I got tired of writing about how we bought our house from 1000 miles away and my top tips for saving money, I could write about how easy it is to make your own yogurt at home or our attempt to become ‘almost’ vegetarian.

I even had so many ideas flowing through my brain that I increased my twice a week Sunday/Tuesday schedule to three times a week Sunday/Tuesday/Thursday schedule.

And then, eventually, the ideas started slowing down.

Maybe it was turning thirty, or the holidays, or winter hibernation, but I started to lose focus.

Creating posts became more of a chore that I had to schedule into my days rather than a firehose of words I couldn’t turn off.

It seems I’m not the only one going through this, since just recently the intrepid Pete at Do You Even Blog posted an article with top tips from 12 other bloggers, and the illustrious Frugal Asian Finance enlightened us all with her Blogger Burnout: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

How do you know you’re burnt

<FIRE joke?>

Battling Blogger Burnout - the Budget Epicurean

The symptoms may include:

  • Inability to focus, especially when trying to write
  • Questioning why you write or blog in the first place
  • Feeling like social media is taking over your life
  • A feeling of utter exhaustion, where even getting up to go to the bathroom seems like too much work right now
  • The inability to come up with new ideas for a post
  • Wondering if any of this matters or why you keep going
  • Not even wanting to listen to yourself talk about blogging
  • Binge reading other blogger posts on blogger burnout!

I feel like this is a ripe opportunity for “You Might Be Burnt on Blogging If…” jokes… if you got any good ones feel free to share in the comments!

But truly, “burnt out” manifests differently for everyone.

You are the only one who knows when you hit the wall.

You start to procrastinate on writing. Whatever you do manage to write, you hate it and delete it and start over. You stare at a blank page for hours on end, hoping for the magical Muse fairy to sprinkle the page with words of wisdom.

You might be burnt out.

What are the Causes?

Why does “burnout” even happen? How is it that almost every writer in all of time experiences periods of a lack of inspiration?

Psychological Science writer Alexandra Michel says: “burnout results when the balance of deadlines, demands, working hours, and other stressors outstrips rewards, recognition, and relaxation.”

There are several components to what makes people willing and motivated to do something. A physical reward such as candy might get a toddler to pick up his toys. A mental reward like praise could convince hubby taking out the trash is a good idea. A raise at work will keep you at your desk hitting your targets on time.

Those rewards balance the time, effort, and mental strain to complete the task which earns those rewards.

People may do their jobs or write or side hustle for the money, for the recognition from peers or superiors, or because it is a cause they truly believe in and they get personal satisfaction from.

When those do not balance out, you burn out.

How do you Cope?

Battling Blogger Burnout at the Budget Epicurean

To battle the burnout, I attempted immersing myself even further into great content creators, reading like my life depended on it, up to 4-5 hours per day!

This ultimately made me feel like I was staring into a limitless black hole of content, most of it created by people far wiser, more experienced, and ‘better at blogging’ than myself.

The comparison game is one you cannot win.

When reading more about food and health and money didn’t work, I gave it up and started reading anything else.

I lost myself in fictional stories, mystery novels, a few non-fiction works. I escaped into video games and virtual worlds, and even tried going back to some very old stories, songs, and scripts I had started.

None of it worked.

For several weeks, I struggled just to create enough content to keep the blog going on its regular schedule. I came very close to taking it down a notch to fewer posts per week, or taking a few weeks off altogether.

Fellow blogger friends were a big help, though they might not have known it. All the reading I’d been doing helped spark a few ideas too. But ultimately, unplugging is what seemed to flip the switch for me.

I backed way off social media for a little while.  Twitter is my preferred verbal playground slash coffee shop slash news source, and I was spending upwards of 9-10 hours a day on there!

I would obsessively refresh as soon as I woke up, everytime I went to the bathroom, when I was walking between places, on my way to meetings, while watching Netflix at night, sometimes even at red lights! It was unreal. And I knew it was a problem.

I just love all the bloggers out there SO MUCH!

There are some amazing people with amazing life stories, and goals, and great writing style, and humor, and tips, and wisdom.

I NEED TO KNOW IT ALL!

But I had to set some boundaries. There are only 24 hours in a day, and I cannot get anything done of my own, if all I am doing is consuming content 24/7. I want to actually enjoy my IRL life, as well as create my own things.

So I took a brief social media break for a few weeks, followed by rules about phone use.

It doesn’t matter what my rules are, because you have a different life and daily patterns, so make your own that work for you.

But a healthy distance gave me space to go for walks, watch TV and focus on one thing at a time, connect with my husband more, and expand my social group.

And by doing more things in real life, guess what?

More ideas sparked!

More things I wanted to write about came to mind.

More post drafts were created.

But I know this may not be the last time burnout happens, and I know you may be going through this too, or will at some point in the future. So I wanted to explore a little more, for selfish reasons in case I need to refer back to this, but also to help anyone else who has been there or is there, and doesn’t know where to go now!

This advice is slightly tailored to writing, but can apply to any work situation. Whether self-employed, a consultant, or working for The Man, you can burn out.

If that happens to you, try a few or all of the things below. And in the worst case scenario, if you need a new direction from life, follow the steps to a Career Transition Without Going Broke.

What Can You Do to Battle Burnout?
#1) Set a schedule
  • One of the most important things I learned early on about blogging is that if ALL the successful bloggers say it, it is probably true. And they all say to set a schedule. I didn’t do that at first, I just published when I made something I thought was good enough to share, or when I had the time. Then after a few years, I buckled down, set a schedule, announced it, and kept to it, diligently posting on the days I said I would. And my pageviews nearly tripled within a month!
  • The beauty of blogging is, that you can choose your schedule, and you can change your mind! It doesn’t matter if your schedule is “once per month”. Start small, say you will post less often than you think you will. If you have more content that you need, see tip #3 below. Worst case, you change your mind and increase your posting frequency! But, if you start off balls to the wall saying you will write a post every day, well, that is a recipe for disaster.
  • Bless Erin at ReachingForFI, she blogs even when she doesn’t want to, even when it’s past bedtime, even when she thinks she doesn’t have anything to say. And sometimes those are the best posts! Where you are real, spontaneous, raw, and honest.
#2) But, give yourself permission for breaks
  • Sometimes, life happens! We get it. There are holidays where maybe you are hosting or traveling or just want to spend time with family not worrying about work or writing. You might go on a long vacation, and the least relaxing thing you can think of is to keep writing while there. Or you are going through a particularly stressful period of time, with a new child, or a sickness in the family, or moving and upheaval.
  • There’s no shame in taking a time-out! Stop posting for a few days, a few weeks. You can get back in the game once your head is back in the game.
  • If you are burnt from your job, make sure you are taking breaks. Set boundaries about “no email on weekends” or “no work after 6pm”. Make sure you are using your granted vacation time! Take 5-10 minutes every hour to go for a quick walk, drink some water, or do stretching exercises at your desk. It will keep you motivated and help you focus when you return to your tasks.
#3) Have some content in the bank
  • You know the story of the ants and the grasshopper right? The ants toiled away in the summer sun, saving up food in the store room. Meanwhile the grasshopper lived for today, playing his guitar in the sun. Winter came along, and the ants had plenty of food stored in their warm home, while the grasshopper was left to freeze and starve.
  • Be like the ants! When your ideas come faster than you can put pen to paper (well, fingers to keyboard nowadays) let the words flow, and catch them in jars for later. Also known as ‘draft posts’ or saved Word documents. Having a backlog of posts that can be put out anytime is a huge lifesaver when you’re due to publish (see above) in 2 hours and have yet to write a title.
#4) Automate what you can
  • Automation is the best friend to those who cannot remember things, are terrible procrastinators, or anyone who just wants life to be easier!
  • Use any automation system you can to make repeated tasks simpler. Set up auto-posts ahead of time. That way 2 hours on a Sunday and you are covered for the week, no more thinking. Set up automatic Tweets, Pins, Insta pics, whatever type of sharing platform you use. Less brain power overall, same amount of self-promotion. (But, please, do not only automate! You also need to engage with your audience and community. Or else everyone will hate you and mute you.)
#5) Find your tribe
  • It really helps to find a group of like-minded and supportive people, in real life or online.
  • These people can be there to support you in tough times, give you life advice on things that worked or didn’t work for them, be your sounding board, and help guide you in new directions. They can inspire writing, or sharing, or networking, that might be the key to unlocking a new room of potential inside your brain.
  • Reach out to those who have been where you are. Even if it seems scary, even if a blogger seems so “BIG” there’s no way they would respond to you. Sure, maybe some won’t. They are probably jerks who just want the $65 you might get them from a Bluehost affiliate link. But most of us are pretty cool. (As long as you aren’t spammy or needy. Be respectful.)
  • We have all been there, just starting a new blog, getting stoked and dancing around the room at our first comment, getting over our fears of joining in the “cool kids” talk on social media. We should all be there for each other, because we all want the same things. Savings. Investing. Encouraging others. Sharing. Thinking. Talking. Health. Progress. Financial Independence. Happiness.
Battling Blogger Burnout at the Budget Epicurean
#6) Focus on the good
  • This can mean a lot of different things. Maybe take a look at all the ways your life has changed positively in the past month, year, decade. Maybe just focus on this week, or today, and find three things to be thankful about.
  • Or maybe decide to take one day per week, or per month, to totally disconnect and unplug. Put down the phone, turn off notifications, shut off the laptop.
  • You could try a gratitude journal, where you write down things that made you happy or grateful on a regular basis. You could try writing thank you letters to significant people in your life. Or you could commit to 100 Days of Happy.
  • Just go out and live life in the real world, it will leave you refreshed and perhaps with the exact breath of fresh air and new perspective you needed.

#7) Don’t be afraid of a new direction

  • Sometimes, you reach a place where something which used to be a passion project and defined you, you have outgrown. It can be very tough to admit to. You have poured your time, money, heart, and soul, into a book or project or relationship or degree. And now, you feel it is all for naught.
  • But rather than be sad at an ending, think of how exciting new beginnings are! Like a dew-covered spring morning, the world is fresh and waiting for you to take a different path.
  • J Money from BudgetsAreSexy and formerly Rockstar Finance is a great example! As a seasoned blogger (past the decade mark, y’all!) he has been through a lot. And he has started, finished, and abandoned many projects, writing and otherwise. He knows how to re-evaluate priorities based on where his life is at the present moment, and sometimes you dig deeper… but sometimes you walk away. And that’s okay.

Battling Blogger Burnout - the Budget Epicurean

What does the future hold?

I’m still not sure where we will go from here. I do not think I would ever give up blogging completely, I love it too much.

The community is just mind-blowingly awesome, and the wealth and depth of knowledge out there is truly outstanding. I enjoy this little creative outlet where I get to connect with others and share ideas and lessons.

I do know that I have been quieter than usual on social media, and not as engaged in community projects like the #WomenRockMoney movement, “middle class” debates, or the Rockstar Throwdown.

That will likely continue for some time, as I revert back to more of a “lurker” and just keep this little guy afloat for now.

But hopefully, as seasons change, this too shall pass, and my blogger mojo will return.

 

Have you ever experienced burnout? What did you do to get over it and keep going? Or did you switch projects completely or try a new path?

Weekly Eating – 3/19/18

 

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!

 

So, remember how we had five 20-year-olds at our house for St. Patrick’s Day? Turns out they are just as much old people as we are! They got in around 8pm, we played some games, and then everyone headed for bed around ten. They are welcome back anytime! 🙂

st. patricks day preparation

I made a big green breakfast spread for them, and they hit the road early so as to get home, presumably to sleep for 16 or so hours. What is it about sitting in a car for hours that just exhausts you?

st. patricks day green breakfast

Then on Sunday, I realized Monday was the next Bull City Food Swap! I had some pierogi in the freezer so I took those out, but I wanted another item too (you can never have too much to trade), and I had found a recipe for sweet potato biscuits I really wanted to try out. So I whipped up a batch and OH MAH LAWD Y’ALL…

sweet potato biscuits

Biscuits. Are. So. Good.

Fresh and hot out the oven, drizzled with butter and honey… swoon

fresh sweet potato biscuits from the oven with butter and honey

So I packed up a few packages of biscuits to trade too, but kept a good batch for us to nom all week. I also prepped some overnight oats, since the steel cut kind is not my favorite to microwave.

refrigerator full of overnight oats

Monday:

Breakfast – Tried the overnight oats, with golden raisins, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds. I added what I thought was a “pinch” of salt but whoa boy, it was too much for even me, the die-hard salt lover. Good thing my office drawer still had a jar of my favorite breakfast. I split it in half and mixed in some non-salted oats and all was well.

Lunch – I made a much more successful batch of black beans over the weekend, and brought in a big container of beans & rice.

black beans and rice with hot sauce

Snack – I was an unstoppable snacking machine today. I had some grapes and strawberries just before lunch.

strawberries and grapes

Then a handful of pistachios in the afternoon.

handful of pistachios

And finally a granola bar on the drive home so I didn’t gnaw my arm off. What the heck?

granola bar in the car

Dinner – I tossed a bunch of cans into a slow cooker, and came home to Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup. Deeeeeeelish and soooooo easy.

slow cooker tortilla soup

The Bull City Food Swap was fun, even with me showing up almost an hour late! I got my times mixed up, thinking it started at 8 when really it was at 7. So I rush in at 7:45, just as the swapping part is wrapping up…

cutting fresh bacon

But, since I had high-value trades, I still made out like a bandit with 3 types of energy bars, granola, gingersnap cookies, chicken sausage, and homemade carrot cake. People went nuts over the pierogi… maybe 3 hours for a few dozen really is worth it?

bull city food swap trades

Tuesday:

Breakfast – More overnight oats, which does not make for exciting pictures, so I spared you 🙂

Lunch – Leftover refrigerator soup

refrigerator soup

Snack – A mixed berry pecan energy bar from the swap. They are sort of Larabar like, made mostly from dried fruit, nuts, and dates. And hot damn are they delicious…

berry pecan energy bar

Dinner – Since it was the first official day of spring, I made my Spring Green Creamy Gnocchi! With cut up chicken sausage added, because seriously, if I could put a scratch-and-sniff on this screen for you, I totally would. IT SMELLS SO GOOD.

spring green creamy gnocchi with chicken sausage

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Sweet potato biscuits with honey, & fresh pineapple. I love that pineapples have been on sale a lot lately.

sweet potato biscuits with honey and pineapple

Oh, and we woke up to a dusting of snow… happy Spring?

second day of spring snow

Lunch – Leftover gnocchi, and the rest of the beans and rice. For once I actually felt really full after lunch 🙂

spring green gnocchi beans and rice and salsa

Snack – I didn’t even want to snack until almost 4pm, when I cut up some mini cucumbers and had it with turmeric hummus.

cucumbers and turmeric hummus

Dinner – One pan salmon, asaparagus, and potato wedges. We gettin all fancy up in here. (By fancy, I mean lazy).

one pan salmon, asparagus, and potato wedges

Dessert – We don’t often have dessert, unless popcorn and/or wine counts. But since we had high-quality carrot cake in the house, we split a piece, and totally inhaled it. Addictive, for sure. This is why I don’t keep it around!

homemade carrot cake

Thursday:

Breakfast – Sweet potato biscuits and honey, and a protein shake

sweet potato biscuits with honey

Lunch – Last of the tortilla soup

leftover tortilla soup

Snack – Berry/nut energy bar. These things are seriously so good. On my list of things to figure out how to make now.

Dinner – Split pea soup!

split pea soup ingredients

Super easy, nice and warm on a cold day, and totally delicious with some multigrain bread.

split pea soup

Friday:

Breakfast – Sweet potato biscuits with honey. I almost forgot to take a picture I inhaled it so fast! And a bag of honeydew & pineapple.

sweet potato biscuits

Lunch – Leftover gnocchi, and the tiny bit of leftover salmon and potato wedges. Waste not, want not!

gnocchi and leftover salmon

Dinner – I looked at my fridge and realized I had a batch of slow cooker pinto beans that needed used ASAP, and had a half a cabbage. Turns out there aren’t a ton of recipes using those two ingredients, but one with pasta sounded interesting, so I did an experiment.

cabbage pinto bean and carrot pasta dish

It turned out decently too. I steamed the carrots and cabbage for about 20 minutes until soft, then added in the beans, about 1/3 lb of spaghetti noodles and 1 cup water, and simmered for 10 more minutes. Then I sprinkled on some garlic salt and cayenne, and it was actually pretty tasty! And super cheap.

 

The Weekend

This weekend I’ve a baby shower to attend, so I’ll spend a little bit on a gift for that. I think I’ve come up with the best way to contribute to the food at a low cost to me.

baby shower cake pops

I have a white cake left over from my “3/3” party (I made Tres Leches cake, but the mix made enough for 2 so I froze one). I thawed it, and made my own cream cheese icing, to create cake pops! Then I decorated them with sprinkles, and they are totally adorable, and basically free (given I already had all ingredients paid for).

And I also have a girls’ night planned, which will include dinner at a local Thai place (SO EXCITED!) and probably a drink or two afterwards. I think it is so important to have friend groups to just hang out and relax with. Whatever the expenditure ends up being I consider worth it, and an investment in my health and happiness!

 

Food Total: $27.66

WHOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

This week’s food total is something I am quite proud of! I based my meal plan havily around pantry staples, and with making my own bread products plus the trades from the Swap we ate like kings on very little cash. I needed to balance out last week’s spendiness.

Staples $7.49 Fruit/Veg $18.45
Vanilla frozen yogurt quart 3 Asparagus 1 lb 1.09
peppermint extract 4.49 Green grapes 1.5lb 3.04
Bananas 7 1.85
Kiwi 4 1
Cabbage 2.6lb 0.77
Avocado 4 1.94
Russet potato 8lb 2.79
Frozen peas & onion 1.98
Honeydew 3.99

And this is even with factoring in the “splurges” to make Shamrock Shakes (frozen yogurt, peppermint extract) and green breakfast (honeydew, kiwi, grapes) on St. Patty’s Day.

shamrock shakes

Lessons Learned

I really need to incorporate more soups in the meal plans! It is unfortunate the boy is not a big fan, but I’m slowly bringing him around. The split pea soup was something I was nervous about (he HATES peas) but he actually said it was pretty good! Soups made with pantry staples and legumes are soooooooo cheap y’all. I’m going to shoot for a similarly low bill next week too.

It can also never be said enough, but eating leftovers is so important to saving money and being frugal! I ate tons of leftovers this week, which is basically like free meals. You’ve already paid for the ingredients, and cooked the meal, so re-eating it is free. Whereas if you don’t eat leftovers and trash them, you are contributing to food waste and throwing away dollar dollar bills. Just suck it up and eat the leftovers! The world and your wallet will thank you.

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

How to Have a Gorgeous Destination Wedding for $10,000: Part 2

This is the second part of my recounting of our wedding week in a 10-bedroom cabin holding 22 people, with a total of 45 guests on the Big Day, and how we kept the total costs to $10,000.

Go back and read Part 1 for the deets on The Dress, how we found the right place in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and why we decided to do it our way rather than the standard Wedding Industrial Complex  “Big White Wedding”.

 

Food & Booze (& Cake)

My parents stepped in again and were total heroes here.

My mom bought all the food, cooked it, and served it. I know, she should be sainted someday. My aunt and other family members also chipped in and made this dream a reality!

To be fair, I did offer to find and order catering. Honestly, we were price shopping Chipotle at this point. But my mom LOVES cooking, especially for a crowd, and insisted she wanted to. I think she may have regretted that in the end…

For drinks, we had only wine and beer, local moonshine (because let’s be real, we were in the Tennessee mountains!), and anything else the guests wanted to bring to share.

This kept the costs for wining and dining 45 people pretty low, which totaled about $1000.

Before you’re all “whoa I can feed 45 people for way less than that!” keep in mind this total includes the breakfasts, lunches, drinks, and snacks for the 22 of us who stayed in the main cabin for all 5 days leading up the wedding as well.

wedding burrito buffet
We had a burrito buffet! Beef, chicken, and 2 types of beans plus cheese, salsa, and sour cream.

For the wedding dinner, we had a burrito bar!

Yes we are very cool, I’d be happy to be your friend 🙂 Burritos are their own food group to the boy, he could pretty much live off them forever. I also love me a good burrito, so I was totally in.

Mom and a few others cooked for hours in the days leading up to the wedding, to make huge batches of grilled steak and chicken, black beans and pinto beans, and grilled peppers and onions.

We had chips and tortillas, cheese, salsas, and lettuce, and let everyone build their own. It was awesome!

About the cake…

Neither of us are super crazy about cake, or really sweets in general.

Lots of family members thought we were totally nuts, but be honest folks, how many weddings have you been to where more than half the cake is still left at the end of the night and you’re begged to take a few pieces home?

Plus the thought of eating a frozen cake a year from now was not at all appetizing to us.

So we opted for cupcakes, in our colors, and found these amazing cake toppers on Etsy. This might be my favorite little detail of the whole day!

However, on the day of, I had a lovely surprise in store for me.

A family friend from way back, who is so well known in my home town it’s unreal, had baked us 2 cakes special, and my mom had driven them down from Ohio to make it a part of our day.

It was very sweet and very special.

She also had found the cake topper my grandmother and grandfather had used at their wedding in my grandmother’s basement, and had it retouched to use for our cake.

My family is pretty much the best.

grandparents wedding cake topper

Flowers / Decorations

Here again my mom was a total superhero.

She decorated basically the whole cabin herself. We had colored tulle swags on the banisters outside and all down the stairs, fabric flowers and bows draped all around the cabin, and a light-up decorated white metal arch they had bought online.

I’m not including the arch or flowers in the total, because they have used it several times since for other events back home. And because if they hadn’t bought it, I wouldn’t have used it!

It was a really nice addition to the day though, and made the photos much cuter. If you factor in the decorations, that adds only another $200 or so to the total.

I love flowers, but hate spending money on flowers that will die within days. Originally I was adamantly against flowers at all, I wanted to get a fake bouquet for me and that’s it.

But in the end, I did end up caving and buying flowers for me and my girls, along with matching boutonnieres for the guys and wrist corsages for the moms.

I searched online for all the flower shops in the area, and created a spreadsheet. The first thing I did was contact each place, and made sure to NOT mention the word “wedding”!

That instantly doubles or triples your quotes, honest.

I simply requested “five bouquets in purples and blues with silver accents”, and waited to see what they suggested. I also requested ranges for other possible add-ons, like centerpieces or corsages.

Once I had all the quotes in writing, I checked out their website and portfolio and reviews, if they had any. Then I got back to my top two to ask if that was their best offer.

The one with free delivery had the best quote as well, so that is who we went with.

They showed up to deliver the flowers on the morning of the wedding, which was awesome because we certainly didn’t have room in the refrigerator to store them overnight!

The total for 1 bridal bouquet, 4 smaller bouquets, 5 boutonnieres , and 2 corsages came to $268.89.

I think they did a fantastic job with the colors and flower types for the money spent. I really love hydrangeas, and the blue ones were absolutely beautiful.

We ended up putting the bouquets into glass vases immediately following the ceremony to use as the centerpieces on the tables during dinner too.

Music

We are blessed to have a very talented pianist in the family, his grandmother is a professional level player. She very kindly offered to play the ceremony music for us. My sister in law brought her digital keyboard, and we set it up just inside the door on the porch we used for the ceremony.

She played a beautiful classical mix as the parents and wedding party processed in.

The song for when I walked in was not Pachelbel’s Cannon in D, or “Here Comes the Bride”. It was a song we chose together that has special meaning to us, and still makes me tear up a little bit when I hear it to this day.

Then because we were having the ceremony and reception in the same place, and that place was a cabin in the mountains with limited space, we knew we would not have a dance floor and did not want or need a band, live or otherwise.

Good news for the boy, as he is very adamantly against dancing, especially in front of people.

Did I want a father-daughter dance where I was trying not to step on my dad’s toes, and towering over him in heels?

(Let’s be real, those were off the second I said “I do” and bedazzled flip flops took their place).

Did I want to torture my 6-foot-6 hubby with paralyzing anxiety about being the center of attention?

Nope.

And so during the post-ceremony-reception, we had someone’s phone playing the radio softly, but it didn’t matter because it’s not like anyone could hear it! We had 45 people packed throughout a four-story cabin and out on the decks, everyone was talking and laughing and playing games, so music was not a priority.

This was a personal choice for us, because no one in either of our families is big on dancing. We did have tons of games scattered throughout the cabin, from Jenga to cards to cornhole to pool to board games.

And so our cost for music was $0, and no one was forced to dance awkwardly in front of all our friends and family! Though as the night wore on and the drinks stacked up, there was some dancing going on here and there…

Photos/Video

So it is probably no surprise by now, but we skipped the formal ‘engagement photos’. We just dressed up while on vacation and took some sort of posed shots. A family friend had a really nice camera, so we took some serious and some goofy pics and used those in our Save the Dates.

For the wedding, I searched online for days. I compared prices and websites, and used a couple bidding sites as well to get quotes. The person we eventually used actually came through my mom, who was also looking online for deals for us.

She bid $400 for 4 hours; before, during and after the ceremony.

We had a phone meeting to ‘get to know each other’, and I had a good feeling about it. She didn’t even require a pre-payment or down payment. We discussed how the ceremony was going down, our plans afterwards, and what type of “feel” I was going for with our photos.

We talked over email a few times, and I sent her a list of the shots that I really wanted. She also had a few great suggestions.

On the day of, she got shots of me getting dressed and primping, all throughout the ceremony, and then afterwards she did formal posed family shots, as well as casual shots for a few hours afterwards. She got all the artsy shots of the shoes, rings, flowers, etc.

artsy shot of bride wedding bouquetartsy shot of bride wedding bouquet

She also got a free dinnner for her and her daughter from the deal!

It did take about 3 months to get the final batch of edited photos back, but overall I was quite pleased with how they turned out.

We also had people all around us taking photos, which they shared with us via a free app & website, and had 2 more receptions “back home” in OH & TX months later (which our parents paid for, respectively) for those who couldn’t make the actual wedding.

For video, hubs is super into Virtual Reality, and we had a Ricoh Theta set up on a stand to record the whole thing.

Once it is all set up, all you do is press the “go” button, and it records everything as it happens, in 360 degrees.

That way, family members and friends who couldn’t be there could watch the video and feel as if they were actually present. And we have it to enjoy over and over again forever!

We probably saved thousands by doing this ourselves instead of hiring someone.

Favors / Transportation

We did not do general wedding favors, but we did get gifts for those in the wedding party and our parents.

The groomsmen all got matching blue or purple shimmery ties, purchased online weeks in advance. The girls got a nice Bath & Body Works gift set with the fragrance “A Perfect Day”. These were purchased months in advance while a huge sale was going on, to the tune of about $12 for 4 girls.

For the moms we got engraved silver cuff bracelets which said “Thank you for raising the man/woman of my dreams” with the date, and to the dads we gifted engraved “Father of the Bride/Groom” glass beer steins!

We chose not to do official favors, but we did have a bucket of bubbles which everyone used at the end to do a “we are officially married” tunnel for us to walk through.

Also, once the honeymoon was done and we settled into married life a bit, I made necklaces for my girls as a thank you. I saved some petals from each bouquet, pressed and dried them, and put them into a bevel and cast them in resin. Then I wrote a personal note and mailed one to each lady.

dried flowers and empty bevel to make a necklace

The ceremony & reception were in the same place, so no one had to worry about driving between two locations. They just had to get to the cabin and hang out for a few hours! This saved everyone the cost of a cab, Uber, etc. and the headache of logistics. It also meant that there were no double-charges for space rental.

The entire wedding party and the parents of the bride & groom were all staying in the same place together, so no one there had to worry about housing/hotels either.

A few people had driven in from neighboring states, while a few others who rented vehicles at the airport and were kind enough to ferry those without cars to and from their flights.

The Numbers

Okay, if you’re still with me by now, you probably really want me to get to the good part!

For those of you who are hard-core financial voyeurs, here is the total breakdown of all the wedding related expenses.

This does not take into account the flights and honeymoon, and thank goodness because that was a gift to us and probably was at least as much if not more than the actual wedding!

Flights $560.00
Location $7,338.56
Officiant $0.00
Rings/license $63.75
Music $0.00
Flowers $268.89
Food & Drink $955.50
Housing $0.00
Transportation $0.00
Paper $123.00
Apparel $135.45
Beautifying $39.00
Photo/Video $400.00
Favors/Gifts $120.00
TOTAL $10,004.15

And there you have it! This is how we hosted a week-long party and got married in the Tennessee mountains for under 10 grand!

If you are sure of your priorities and willing to compromise on everything else, you can absolutely have the wedding of your dreams without mortgaging your future to do so.

Please, for the love of all that is good, DO NOT ever get a Wedding Day Loan! Just wait and save up more. Or ask your folks for help. Or say no to the giant swan ice sculptures.

Let’s hear all your thoughts in the comments!

Did you do something unique at your wedding? Are you planning to do something creative? Just head to the nearest Justice Of the Peace? Did you go whole hog on a big white wedding and black tie reception?

How to Have a Gorgeous Destination Wedding For $10,000: Part 1

 

This is my personal story and lessons I learned from planning a simple yet meaningful destination wedding for <50 people. If you are dating, recently engaged, or even just dreaming of a fabulous wedding that doesn’t leave your bank account empty, pour yourself a warm beverage, get comfy, and prepare yourself to fill an “idea board” on Pinterest.

The Story

Boy meets girl*. They become friends. Really good friends.

Girl realizes she likes boy, and tells him so.

Boy realizes he likes girl too, and asks her on a first date: laser tag.

Over the next 3 years, they move in together, move across the country, change careers a few times, and adopt a pair of puppies. They both realize that this is a match made in heaven, and the real deal, and The One, Mr. and Mrs. Right, and whatever other saying you want to use.

This is forever.

Boy and Girl then realize:

  • we are super poor right now
  • we don’t want to be poor forever
  • we want to get married
  • we don’t want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on one day
  • our families live in at least 7 states, 1000s of miles apart
  • eloping is not the route we want to go
  • we want to have an epic week long party
  • did I mention not wanting to be poor forever?

Sooooooo what do we do?

Do we get married in his home town, and piss off all her relatives who have to travel? Do we get married in her hometown and piss off all his relatives who have to travel? Do a city hall ceremony in CT, with 2 seperate parties later?

Nah man, let’s just have our whole immediate family and best of friends all go on vacation together.

And then also, get hitched!

Destination Weddings

When you think of a destination wedding, you probably think of a white sand beach, with the bride in flip flops or bare feet. A tropical location with hibiscus flowers and drinks poured in coconuts and pineapples. An all-inclusive resort.

And a five-digit bill at the end of the weekend.

It doesn’t have to be that way!

A destination wedding at its simplest is just that: A wedding, at a destination. Typically, a destination which is neither of the couple’s hometown.

When you are considering a destination wedding, make sure you take into account all the different factors.

Have an honest conversation about your priorities, including: your budget, whether any family members will be contributing to the cost, who you want to invite, what you want your day to look and feel like, and if there are any meaningful places to you.

Even though some people still think “Talking about money is tacky,” (LOLOLOL), you need to get right the hell over that.

There is literally nothing more important than talking about your money, because no one cares about your money and your financial future like you do. And if you don’t trust your chosen life partner enough to talk this over, y’all are in deep doo-doo from the get-go.

So put on the big girl panties, and start throwing out real numbers. Realistic numbers.

 

Our Priorities: location in the mountains, housing for the wedding party, relaxed vacation-like vibe, keeping it frugal
Our budget: $10,000

 

Now, I won’t be mean and wait until the very end of the article to tell you (spoilers!) we basically hit our budget. Yes, we hosted a 6-day, 5-night wedding weekend in the mountains of Tennessee for $10K.

Summary

  • Total cost: $10,004.15
  • Location: Pigeon Forge, TN
  • Venue: 10 bedroom log cabin
  • Season: Spring (May) of 2016
  • Wedding party: 8 + 4 parents + wedding couple = 14
  • Guests total: 45 (including the wedding party)

 

Below I’m going to break down each area of a typical wedding celebration, and walk you through how we went about finding the right balance. We wanted an experience that stayed true to who we are as a couple, and I highly recommend you do the same.

It is a wonderful day and age we live in now, where you don’t have to stand on tradition if it isn’t something that fits with your values and desires.

Just because someone in your family did a first dance, but you are terrified of dancing in public, don’t feel like you have to do one.

And so what if your best friend had a ten tier, 6 flavor cake that cost more than your car. If you hate cake and way prefer pie, definitely go for the pie, girl!

The point of a  wedding, at the end of the day, is to celeberate the joining of two people’s lives. You are agreeing to be there to love and support one another, no matter what crazy things life throws at you. That is a unique and beautiful thing.

It is definitely NOT a carte blanche to become Bridezilla about every little detail, but yes, the day should be about you as individuals and as a couple, and to hell with anyone else’s expectations.

Location

We started the search for the right place by deciding that we were not location bound, but that we wanted to stay within the US.

Since our families were scattered all over Texas, Ohio, Arizona, Tennessee, Iowa, and Chicago, and we were currently living in Connecticut, all we knew was that there was no right or wrong answer!

People were going to be traveling regardless, and we knew we weren’t attached to CT (and their silly high prices for everything).

We both love the ocean and the mountains. As our time in Colorado showed us, the mountains are pretty much our favorite place, and guaranteed to be gorgeous no matter the weather. So we wanted to go somewhere in the mountains. That narrows down a few states.

We also knew we wanted a spring wedding, so we needed a place that would be tolerably warm in May, so likely the lower states.

Look at that perfection. Seriously. The Smoky Mountains are breathtaking.

Honest to God, we started with AirBnB and VRBO. We wanted to be able to provide a location large enough that the wedding party did not need housing. This would save everyone in the party the cost of a hotel room for the week/weekend.

We simply searched for places that could accomodate a minimum of ten, no maximum, and went from there. Options included lavish mansions in Las Vegas, oceanfront mansions in California and all along New England, a castle or two, beautiful antebellum homes throughout the South, and log cabins in several different states.

From there we narrowed by price, starting with a pretty wide band and then winnowing down into our more comfortable range. We also wanted a long celebration, not just one day, so the cost was considerably higher for nearly a full week. If you do only one day or one weekend, you can probably knock off another grand or two.

Honestly, the huge place for a whole week makes up almost 75% of the money we spent.

You could quite easily get that down to 1-2K for a shorter duration or a smaller place. But rolling the ceremony, reception, and whole weekend into one space is what we wanted, and we were willing to pay for it.

Given the price-to-value ratio of how many people a place could sleep, what level of luxury it offered, and the prices, a large log cabin in the Tennessee/Kentucky/Virginia area hit all our requirements.

After weeks of looking and pros and cons, we narrowed it to two cabins. My parents so generously offered to cover this part of the weekend. My mom was really the major factor here, basically stepping in as my de facto wedding planner.

She called them each and asked what kind of deal they would give us. One place let us adjust the dates, added one extra free night for just us to stay after everyone else left, and threw in a pre-holiday discount (it was right around Memorial weekend), so we went with a 10 bedroom cabin in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Guest list

This one might merit some input from family, if they are very invested in your celebration. We just knew that we wanted to keep it on the short side.

We agreed to “immediate family” only. What hubby didn’t know at the time, is that my admittedly very small family is still nonetheless very close, so essentially my whole family is my immediate family.

When we drew up the list, it was pretty clear who was on the “must invite” list, we were lucky that way. We ended up with about 50 people, of whom roughly 45 showed up. This was on the higher end of comfortable for us and the size cabin we had.

Paper: Save the Date, Invitations, RSVPs

We chose our date a little less than a year in advance, because we knew that people were going to have to travel. People need time to plan, book flights, arrange cars/hotels, etc. Therefore it made sense to send “Save the Date” cards.

I knew I wanted to try my hand at making all our own paper goods, because 1) I enjoy crafting 2) I hate spending money and 3) We had a small enough list of those we were inviting that it wasn’t totally overwhelming.

I would not recommend DIY with a guest list over 50!

The invitations were all hand-made, with the help of one of my indefatiguable friends. I looked through ideas online and settled on a simple design with a ribbon tying two small rings together, in our colors of purple and blue.

A good friend at work was kind enough to volunteer some of her crafting supplies (a paper cutter, hole punch, scissors, etc) and her time to help me put them all together. We cut, glued, and tied for hours.

DIY wedding invitations and RSVP

All told, the paper, glue, ribbon, envelopes, and rings cost about $100 for about 50 invitations, save the dates, and RSVP cards. Stamps were another $20 or so; I was lucky to also already have a stash from before.

Depending on the number of guests, your costs might be more or less. Many people nowadays are also opting to go paperless, for money-saving and/or environmental reasons.

Wedding events

My mom really loves me and wanted to throw an engagement party/wedding shower, but I turned it down.

The reasons were multiple: the same people who would come would also come to the wedding and after-wedding-reception, I don’t like the idea of multiple large gifts being expected of people, it was in February in Ohio and she wanted us to drive there, I just don’t like those kinds of events, and we had been living together for a few years already at this point, there wasn’t much left for a “household” that we needed.

So no engagement party or wedding shower.

For pre-wedding events, I did end up having 2 bachelorette parties. As mentioned we were living in CT at the time. We had only been there a little over a year, so I didn’t know too many people outside of work friends.

But these work friends were amazing people, and decided I needed a party. We planned a great day of winery-hopping (there were three relatively close together) followed by a downtown New Haven bar crawl. I didn’t pay for a thing, and I’m told it was a lot of fun! 😉

Then we also had a smaller, quieter party in TN with the wonderful ladies of the bridal party: my sister, my cousin, my best friend from grad school, and my sister in law. We are all such laid back women that we opted to just hang out at the cabin and drink wine and play games!

The guys went out in downtown Pigeon Forge at the same time to do their thing, then we all met back at the cabin for general merriment.

I wore dresses I had already owned, no special clothing, shoes, or accessories were purchased by me for these events. Some of my friends did go all out and got me a “Bachelorette” tiara and light up sash, which was quite fun to wear.

bachelorette party swag

2 days prior to the Big Day, the boy and I went downtown together to get the marriage license, which was $41. This was the easiest part of getting married! And our officiant very kindly took care of signing and mailing it afterwards to complete the ‘make it official’ part.

The rehearsal was quick since we were holding the ceremony at the cabin, and it was to be very short and simple. We all just lined up in order of who we were walking in with, and practiced processing in, standing, and then walking out 2-3 times.

The rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding was covered by my wonderful in-laws, and was held at a restaurant downtown.

We had a great time sitting and talking, our two sides of the family and closest friends getting to know each other better and make memories. A few toasts and speeches were made, but there was nothing “official” about it and no pressure. It is also much easier to sit everyone at one long table and actually hear each other talk when there are about 20 of you.

Apparel & Beautifying

Everyone knows the big white dress is an important part of the day.

But honestly even that is up for discussion now. I toyed with the idea of a non-white dress, like a pale peach or champagne. I tried on dozens of dresses in all different styles, at every boutique within driving distance.

And while I loved the look of the mermaid, the A line, the curve hugging slinky kinds, the puffy ones with huge trains… they just weren’t me. I felt uncomfortable, like I couldn’t walk or dance or sit.

Then I tried on a shorter ‘tea length’ dress, and (I’m told) my face and eyes lit up and I couldn’t stop smiling. Clearly, 3/4 length dresses are my thing. The swirliness of the skirt and lightness overall felt so right; I knew I would have a short wedding dress.

Tea length bridal gown
My face hurt from smiling so big all day! This exactly captures my love of this style of dress.

But, as I only planned to wear it for a few hours, and probably not pass it on to anyone, I didn’t see a point in paying several hundreds of dollars. Those boutique dresses were just to try different styles, no way was I walking out with a 4-digit charge on my credit card.

The Dress was purchased at the end of season, online, and was the last one they had, in my size. The total was just over $100. Turns out it fit like it was made for me, so no altering was required!

My shoes were purchased on sale from Payless, with a coupon, and the jewelry was borrowed from my sister. I got a crinoline online to make the skirt poofier, for less than $10. And there was no veil; I just didn’t like how they look on me, and didn’t want to do the whole ‘guy uncovers your face’ thing.

So once I was clothed, we had to figure out the rest of the party.

We decided to let the guys wear a suit they already had (black, with a white dress shirt to keep it super simple) and the girls could wear any dress they chose as long as it was approximately knee-length, and a shade of grey to go with our colors.

This way everyone gets to wear something they love and look and feel good in, and almost all of them didn’t even have to buy anything new for the event.

**It will always be appreciated if you take others’ budgets into consideration!!**

I’m so glad the mismatched-but-same-color-palette thing is a trend, because it looked amazing on my girls! They even magically chose half silky and half lace (2 each) so it looked almost planned anyways.

We like it and wanna put a ring on it!

Let it be known, that you do not HAVE to have wedding bands, or engagement rings either. This is a personal decision for each person and each couple. No judgment here. A piece of jewelry cannot summarize your feelings for your person. Obviously, not having wedding bands will save you this expense completely.

But, we did want that outer symbol of our commitment to each other. I also wanted a simple band I could still wear when I didn’t want to wear my larger bling and tempt fate. Our wedding bands were bought online, in tungsten, because it is so durable.

I simply did a few minutes’ of research on different metal types and price compared across a few companies. The boy picked his favorite, and we clicked “order”.  We even sprung for the extra few dollars to engrave the wedding date inside the matching bands.

engraved wedding bands

Mine was a super slim 2 mm and hubs had a larger size with rounded edges. We both love how comfortable they are to wear, except when playing video games for long periods of time.  😉

Though I was of the opinion that we could do our own hair and makeup thank you very much, on the day of the wedding, the girls did all go to the salon together to get our hair done in matching styles, and I even got upgraded to makeup as well.

Which is probably for the best, as I don’t use makeup and would likely not have worn any otherwise!

The salon we used did a fantastic job, I loved the curls and braids! And the makeup was enough without making me look like a whole different person. It was also extremely reasonably priced (the girls were sweet and chipped in to cover my cost).

Officiant

The cost for this was $0 because hubs’ cousin is a pastor!

He has done TONS of weddings, so he was not at all nervous, and was very well prepared. His words were beautiful and heartfelt, and he brought a special perspective to the ceremony since he had such close lifelong knowledge of the groom.

If that sounds like a nice idea, but no one in the family currently is “of the cloth”, you can have a family member or close friend become ordained quite easily online.

For example, my brother, who recently got engaged, has two close male friends. He wanted to involve them both, but wanted only one best man. One of them is very religious already, so it was an easy choice to ask that he become ordained and perform the service, while the other stood as best man.

This way, both are integral to the process and close to my brother on his special day. And he doesn’t need to pay a pastor either!

Ceremony

We kept the ceremony short and sweet, since neither of us is particularly religious. If you have a faith you grew up in or live in now, there may be traditions you keep.

There was no rental fee, because we had the ceremony in the cabin we had already rented. If you choose to use a church or other venue, there may be a location fee.

We had our sisters do a short reading on love, and we did have a “unity” thing, because “you have to make it at least symbolic of joining your lives”. This did seem like a legitimate suggestion, so we thought long and hard about what we could do that would be actually meaningful to us.

There are all kinds of ideas out there on the interwebs if you just search. We debated a few different ideas including candles, building things, breaking things, planting things, and then the idea of a sand sculpture made something click.

But instead of sand, we wanted to use spices!

(Because I’m the Budget Epicurean, duh)

So we created a mixture of garlic powder and salt, to “spice up our lives together”.  🙂

 

 

 

*Intermission*

In the interest of pausing this novel and giving you all a chance to catch your breath, I’ll cut this article off and continue in Part 2.

Be sure to come back and catch How To Have a Gorgeous Destination Wedding for $10,000: Part 2. It has all the goodies on food, drinks, gifts, and the all-important final reveal of the numbers!

 

*Disclaimer: This story is in no way meant to alienate readers who may be gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, transgender, transexual, or polyamorous. This is also not meant to imply or insinuate that any- or every-one should enter into a legally binding marriage. I am also not saying that a wedding celebration/party is required to have a meaningful and lasting marriage.

 

Let’s hear all your thoughts in the comments!

Did you do something unique at your wedding? Are you planning to do something creative? Just head to the nearest Justice Of the Peace? Did you go whole hog on a big white wedding and black tie reception?

Weekly Eating – 2/26/18

 

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!

 

This was the best week for meal planning yet! I put together a complete plan, compared the ads for all three of my favorite grocery stores (Kroger, Harris Teeter, and ALDI, in case you wondered) and discovered that neither of my two closest had good enough sales or coupons this week to justify them. So ALDI it was, even though it is (sadly) the most out of my way. It is 90% of the time the cheapest overall option, though, so I wasn’t too torn up about it.

storefront of ALDI in Durham NC

I mentioned it was recently remodeled right? Good lord do I wish I lived closer, I would be here almost daily. Okay, maybe I don’t wish I lived closer… But, it is gorgeous inside, and I found all the things I needed and then some. They had hemp hearts! And some cool rice and quinoa blends. And lentils and split peas on sale. I am 99% sure you could live off this week’s groceries for at least a few weeks.

Oh and remember how much we liked the Raleigh Beer Garden last week, even though it was rainy & gloomy? We went back again and it was sunny and 70s and perfect! Yeah we spent 2 weekends in a row here, what of it? Tell me you aren’t jealous.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

I also finally made chana saag (spinach & chickpeas), which I had been jonesing for ever since my trip to Sitar. It wasn’t quite on par with theirs, but I’ll work on it. I just love the flavor combo here, it’s like the Indian version of red beans & rice.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Oh, and I made a new batch of my favorite granola bars! Sure they have processed pretzels in them, but when they satisfy the same craving as a Snickers bar with far less fat and ingredients I control, I’m okay with it. Balance, people. This batch came out quite oily, which is disappointing. But it won’t stop me from nomming them all.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Oh, AND, one more thing, it’s the last weekend update I swear. I made pizza dough, which was fine. It was the toppings I was particularly proud of. My family visited a few months ago, and one thing they bought was a jar of BACON JAM for the boy.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Yup, you read that right. And it’s been sitting in my cupboard, because I’m at a loss as to what to do with it (for some reason I got a weird look when  I suggested he eat it with a spoon…) BUT. Turns out, it makes a really great pizza topping!

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

With some shredded Brussels sprouts and goat cheese, OHMAHLAWD y’all. To. Die. For. Pizza.

Monday:

Breakfast – the last of the Cracklin Oat Bran! I’m sad to finish this box off, it made fast mornings so easy… but, alas. I cannot allow myself to get into a $5 per box habit.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Lunch – Chana Saag and brown rice. Deeeeeeeeeelish.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Oh and I saw this ad in the hallway! Super exciting, and since we don’t eat many eggs anymore, I only buy about a dozen every other week. I think this is do-able, and will be a great step towards eating as locally as possible.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Snack – Hummus & cut veggies. Isn’t it so pretty?! Carrots, celery, and cucumbers.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Dinner – Brussels Bacon Goat Cheese Pizza <3<3<3

Tuesday:

Breakfast – A Rainbow Smoothie! Not a Rainbow Of Smoothies, that’s an ongoing series. It was one smoothie, with a s*#t-ton of different fruits and veg! This is what happens when you have a LOT of fruit in the house.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Lunch – Brussels Bacon Goat Cheese Pizza

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Snack – Bagel & pear. I forgot I even had these bagels, and needed to eat them before they went bad, as well as the pear. So it made for a great snack time.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Dinner – White bean soup. This one was sans ham, but I added some wheat bran to thicken it up more. It’s even better overnight.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Sweet potato, lentils, & spinach. This is one more step on top of one of my favorite simple hot breakfasts. Just simmer sweet potatoes and lentils together in water for 25-30 minutes while you get dressed and pack lunch. Toss in some spinach at the end and boom breakfast is served.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Lunch – The rest of the Chana Saag, with some quick tzatziki

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Snack – Fruit & nut goji trail mix. I’m slowly working on the last of this travel mix. I think I got my money’s worth for how long it’s taking me to finish this.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Then I got hungry again near quittin time, good thing I also had a Nature Valley bar and some blueberries.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Dinner – I decided to try a new recipe, and used this one for Turkish Koftes. It’s basically wheat and red lentils and onions, formed into patties and wrapped in lettuce leaves.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

I whipped up a quick lemon tahini yogurt dressing to go with, and I thought they were pretty great. They were a bit too watery (my fault, I just didn’t want the lentils to burn…) so I baked them at 400 for 15 minutes and that helped solidify them.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Ohhhhhhh and fresh chocolate chip cookies for dessert! We rarely have dessert here in the BE household, because neither of us is crazy about sweets (I know, I know, what kind of monsters are we… the kind that thrive on salt, apparently). But I’d had these in the freezer for a while, from the Dec Food Swap, and decided it was time.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Boy, am I glad I did! Straight from freezer to oven, they came out slightly brown outside but ooey-gooey-chewy on the inside. Be still, my beating heart. I want more. Like now.

Thursday:

Breakfast – Corn grits with spinach, white beans, and an egg. I don’t know where I come up with these things either. I had some grits left from the weekend, and I think the internet told me that savory grits go with spinach well, so I pulled that from the freezer.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

I decided it needed more protein, so I threw in a handful of white beans (I had a huge batch I made in the slow cooker over the weekend) and a fried egg on top. It was surprisingly tasty!

Lunch – Big salad with goat cheese, beets, and pepitas, and some leftover white bean soup. I love canned beets, they are so easy (no roasting or peeling required) and are awesome on salads.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Snack – Nature Valley bar. I meant to throw one of my granola bars in my lunch bag but I forgot… luckily I had one of these hidden in my desk so I didn’t have to gnaw my arm off before driving home.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

I also found out that there is a food drive happening at work! This is great news, because it makes it super convenient to donate the food I’ve been buying at each grocery trip.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Dinner – Was not feeling black eyed peas (nor had I soaked them overnight) so we had leftover buffet, which translated into tacos for the boy and leftover lentils and sweet potato with rice for me. This is why I consider the meal plan more of a guide than a written in stone requirement every week.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

I had a bunch of bananas that were turning waaaaaaaay brown, so of course that is just begging for banana bread! I whipped up a banana walnut loaf, and holy cow, fresh and hot out the oven with some butter, mmmmmmmm mmmmmm! I must say, this might be my best one ever.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Friday:

Breakfast – Banana bread, and a green smoothie

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Lunch – Last of the Brussels Bacon Goat Cheese Pizza. For the boy, to whom one large pizza is basically one meal, at best two, this is utterly confusing and disturbing that I can turn my one pizza into 4 different meals.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Also it was not quite enough to satisfy me, so good thing I planned for that and brought a few of the leftover koftes!

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Dinner – It was Stir Friday of course! I made my sweet & spicy Asian beef with a giant batch of stir fried veggies and brown rice.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

The Weekend

We are hosting the first dinner party we’ve had in months, and I’m so excited! I absolutely loooooooooove having people over and feeding them, and winter has dragged on for all of time. It’s on 3/3 so I’m planning a meal of 3s, 3 appetizer dips, 3 different pastas, 3 sauces, etc. I don’t think anyone will have met each other prior to this besides myself, so it should be interesting! I love bringing together people of all different personalities, and hope this sparks some great conversation and deeper friendships.

 

Food Total: $59.69

I totally killed it this week with meal planning. Mostly because I made a meal plan relying heavily on dried legumes and pantry items, and stuck to my list. This might be the first time I only had 2 impulse purchases (the hemp seeds and fabric softener).

Dairy $8.07 Staples $24.50 Fruit/Veg $16.39 Extras $9.46
Plain Greek yogurt 3.49 Diced tomatoes 2.48 Romaine heads 3 1.99 Fabric softener sheets 1.89
Blueberry Kefir 4.58 Chickpeas canned 2.2 Kiwi 6 1.29 Vanilla extract * 6.98
Pesto 1.99 Pineapple 2 whole 3.5 Seltzer 0.59
 white beans 32oz 1.99 Bananas 5 0.74
Split peas & lentils 2.38 Garlic 3 head 0.79
Hemp seeds 4.99 Cucumber 0.85
Rice blend 16 oz 2.99 3 Bell peppers 1.99
Quinoa 16 oz 3.49 avocados 3 1.17
20 flour tortillas 1.99 onions 2lb 1.09
Spinach 12oz 2 2.98

Lessons Learned

Practice what you preach, babe! I go on and on about how meal planning and lists save you money on groceries, but even I, with years of practice on my iron will, capitulate to the siren song of BOGO deals, markdowns, and impulse buys. But the closer to plant-based we eat, and the closer I follow my plan and list, the more we save!

 

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Types of Spam you can Expect if you Blog

 

Ahhh, spam. We all know about it, we all hate it, and yet we all seem to keep getting it.

No, I don’t mean the weird “food” SPAM.

Image result for spam

I mean of course the unwanted email messages that inundate internet users by the seemingly thousand per day. Though that brings up a good point: is there any other word in the English language with just two definitions, which are so vastly different?

Definition of SPAM
At least there is no “verb” for the food?

But I digress.

We live in an age now where random “bots” or perhaps even real people leave bogus comments all over your pages, trying to link back to their product or site, and flood your inbox if you are silly enough to publish a full email on your site, or on a “contact” page. If you are a blogger, I’m sure you are quite familiar with spam. I know Dave has started his own series on the funniest spam comment each month!

Usually, we just go in a few times a year and batch delete them. Occasionally a real comment gets mis-filed and we rescue it from the Spam folder (sorry Angela!), but 99% of the time comments filed as Spam are exactly that. And spam blockers are getting better, I very rarely now have a comment marked to “moderate” which is spam and not an actual reader.

MAY 2016 SPAM STATISTICS

Chart from UT El Paso: https://admin.utep.edu/Default.aspx?tabid=64462

Now, with all that said, it can be, dare I say, fun to read through spam comments sometimes. The wording, sentence structure, or references can be downright hilarious, occasionally insulting, and often mystifying. And many fall into more than one category too.

Here is my list of the types of spam I have gotten over the years, feel free to share your take in the comments!

 

The questionable grammar/spelling posts

These type of comments love to mis-capitalize words, notably leaving “i” as undercase or capitalizing the first letter of a random mid-sentence word. They use very poor grammar and sentence structure. And not in a “I’m not a native speaker but I’m trying to learn” kind of way, in a “I’m a computer program trying to be human” kind of way.

foreign language spam comments
types of spam comments you can expect if you blog
At least there is a shadow of Yoda humor here?
Clearly Unrelated to Content

Then there are the “clearly not at all related to what I’m talking about” posts, where they probably just want you to click their link. The article may be about “How to Save On Your Grocery Bill” and the spam mentions how to find NFL jerseys. Clearly not a thing my readers need, bro.

types of spam comments you can expect if you blog

Foreign Languages

And then we get into the weird ones, in different languages. I’ve seriously been noticing a LOT of Russian spam comments lately… coincidence?? Just kidding, no politics allowed in my happy place.

types of spam comments you can expect if you blog

lots of Russian spam comments

Just a Giant List of Links

Oh, and the ones that are just huge lists of links, or keywords. Sometimes they are all related (i.e. cheapibuprofen.net, cheapadvil.net, cheapmotrin.com) and sometimes they don’t make any sense in reference to the post or to each other. The point is they are all hyperlinks, and no guarantee the link will take you where it says it goes.

I’m not interested in clicking and neither are my readers.

link spam

Search Recommendations

Sometimes there is text, trying to get you to Google search a specific phrase. I get these most often referencing paid content, SEO, how to better monetize my site, or how to get more traffic. They usually say something like “Your site is amazing I love it but also you can do better. Just search for “Dominicks super cool SEO tips”.” Thanks for the backhanded compliment, I guess.

types of spam comments you can expect if you blog

boorfes tips
Who is Boorfe? He has unlimited content, so I’m guessing a computer…
Predictive Word Generated

Oh, a fun one I got recently was a ridiculously long novel-like comment. I was almost tempted to publish it, just to triple the word count on the page. The only problem? It was complete gibberish. I don’t think there was an actual complete sentence to be found. It may have been a very juvenile attempt at a predictive word generator for comments? Who knows, but A for effort.

types of spam comments you can expect if you blog

Swing and a Miss

Recently I’ve been getting rashes of comments that seem legitimate, almost. That compliment the content, style, or layout. But they are all comments from the same site/email, and clearly not a real reader. Thus, regardless of whether it is malicious or not, delete.

types of spam comments you can expect if you blog

Or the ones that seems totally legitimate, but then you check out the site, or send an email to the registered email, and it is undeliverable, site is not real or different than advertised, etc. Sorry, delete. At least you said nice things, to make me feel better about wasting my time trying to reply.

spam comment almost real

The X-Rated Stuff

And of course, there will be plenty of “adult” comments sprinkled in, with totally inappropriate wording, and graphic links directing you towards super shady sites. Insta-perma-delete. Those will not get a photo because they make me a little nauseated, tbh. Thank goodness they are few and far between.

 

 

 

So there you have it! If you want to start a blog, at least you know what you will probably be dealing with. If you already blog, please, for all of our sakes, share your funniest spam with us!

Restaurant Review: Magone Italian Grill

 

We were out and about, exploring our local neighborhoods, when the craving for pizza hit. As per usual, Google Maps came to our rescue. Tucked away in a plaza in Chapel Hill called the Timberlyne Shopping Center, we stumbled upon a delightful little bistro.

It’s easy to almost miss it if you don’t know where to look, even with the huge black lettering. The plaza is filled with storefronts and the trees block the front from the entrance. But as we circled the lot, “Magone’s Italian Grill” came into view.

As soon as we walked in, I loved its charming atmosphere. It was a little sparse, but the wooden floors are beautiful, and if you looked closely the photos on the wall are all vintage photographs of Italian immigrant life in America. I was a little disappointed in how tiny the space was, but I guess real estate in Chapel Hill is quite costly.

Magone Italian Grill front

Aa for the menu, their pasta dishes average $11.50 for such Italian classics as Pasta Aglio e Oilio (garlic & olive oil) to Fettuccine to dishes they’ve made their own with fresh vegetables and spices. Almost all of the “Italian Classics” dishes are $15.50, which include things like Chicken Cacciatore, Chicken Piccata, Shrimp Alfredo, and Linguini with Clam Sauce. They also have a “create your own pasta” option where you can pick the pasta type, sauce, and any add-ins.

The “From the Oven” section would tempt me should we return, this is where you find the drool-worthy dishes like Manicotti, Baked Ziti, Eggplant Parmesan, and of course, Lasagna. These will run you $10 – $14.50 for the Chicken Parm. There is also a whole page of apps and soups and salads, but since we were there for lunch and weren’t crazy hungry, we didn’t even look at those too closely.

Magone Italian Grill kitchen area

And then you get to the pizza page, now we’re talking! To create your own masterpiece, you start with a $6 (personal), $10 (10 inch) or $12 (16 inch) base, and each additional topping is $0.75, with no upper limit. They also offer gluten free crust for an additional dollar.

They have 8 specialty pizzas, with a well rounded list of choices ranging from the Meat Lovers and Magone Special, to the Pizza Caprese and Vegetarian Special. I love when there are at least options for everyone. These cost between $8 and $18, depending on topping and pizza size from personal to large.

And to top it all off, there is also a calzone and stromboli section, if you prefer your pizza rolled up and baked like a hot pocket. (You know we love calzones!)

Magone Italian Grill Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza

For some reason, the Chicken Bacon Ranch caught my eye that day, it just sounded awesome. I didn’t think I could handle the biggest one, so I decided on a “Small”. Well. They have a different idea of what small means than I do! When the waitress brought the pizza over I was speechless, this thing was GIANT.

Then she set down the large Hawaiian the boy ordered.

Magone Italian Grill Hawaiian Pizza

This pizza was easily bigger than my tires on my car. You certainly get your money’s worth of food here! (And for those haters who don’t like pineapple on pizza, consider yourself permanently un-invited to all my future dinner parties).

Both pizzas were aMAzing. The chicken bacon ranch was creamy and cheesy and salty, just the way I like it. The chicken and bacon pieces were small but abundant, which I prefer. I like getting a little of all the flavors in every bite. And I don’t want chunks of things falling off as I pick the slice up off the tray.

The Hawaiian was also delightful, though I prefer ham steaks to sliced deli meat style ham. The pineapple also tasted pretty fresh, so even if it was from a can they did a great job baking it. The crust was thin, but not too thin. And it was baked perfectly through, no spots of utter mush, and no black burnt spots, which I appreciate.

Magone Italian Grill to go boxes

We definitely couldn’t finish all of it (I personally knew I’d have at least 3 more days of meals from this!) so we got boxes to go. And they have such a “team” attitude, the cook himself came out of the kitchen to go get something from the back room, saw our check ready to be paid (you know how you stick the card out the top?) and he took it, telling us he would let the server know we were ready. How sweet is that?

I enjoyed my experience, even with the small space, and would be quite happy to return. Especially as it warms up, I’d like to enjoy their outdoor seating. Maybe I can take an extra-long lunch someday and enjoy their lunch special menu? 😉

Magone Italian Grill outdoor seating

The prices were a touch higher than I liked, but honestly you get SO MUCH pizza for your money, I wasn’t even mad after they brought out the trays. And the lunch menu, which runs only M-F from 11am – 3pm, has many of the same dishes at a discount price, so if you can make it at that time I’d recommend it!

 

Overall, I’d rate Magone Italian Grill:

  • Taste: 9
  • Atmosphere: 6
  • Value: 8

All opinions are those of the Budget Epicurean.