Category Archives: Informative

My Frugal Beauty Manifesto

 

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

And we pay dearly for the things we want.

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

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

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

Think about that.

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

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

Enough already.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Natural Beauty Ideas

Makeup

If you MUST wear makeup…

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

Hair

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

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

Nails

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

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

Some more frugal nail tips:

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

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

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

Grooming / Whole Body

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

 

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

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

The best beauty weapon in your arsenal is your smile!

You. Are. Beautiful.

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

 

Do you guys have any great frugal beauty tips?

Weekly Eating #4 – 7/10

 

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

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

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

Monday:

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

Lunch – leftover stirfry

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

Tuesday:

Breakfast – KIND bar

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

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

Wednesday:

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

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

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

No way!

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

Frugal fail turned into something edible.

Ahhhh, the sweet taste of success.

Lunch – out with a work colleague, pesto chicken panini

Dinner – tortellini with pesto and frozen mixed veggies

Snacks – brown rice cakes

Thursday:

Breakfast – chocolate oatmeal creation

Lunch – black beans & rice with salsa

Snack –  These Amazing Date Cookies!

Picture courtesy of Hip Fit Foodie

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

Friday:

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

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

Dinner – leftover buffet!

The Weekend:

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

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

Total:  $77.60

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

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

Lessons Learned

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

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

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

Weekly Eating #3 – 7/2

 

 

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

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

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

Monday:

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

Lunch – leftover stir fry

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

Snack – fresh cherries, hummus + cucumber/carrots

Tuesday: Fourth of July!

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

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

Dinner – leftover buffet

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

Wednesday:

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

Lunch – out with a work colleague; rosemary chicken panini

Dinner – chicken and dumplings with some of my homemade foccacia

Snacks – brown rice cakes

Thursday:

Breakfast – homemade yogurt with peaches and granola

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

Dinner – ravioli per hubby’s request

Friday:

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

Lunch – pasta salad

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

The Weekend:

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

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

Total:  $116.91

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

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

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

Lessons Learned

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

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

How to: Make Homemade Yogurt in Mason Jars

 

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

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

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

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

But who has time for that?

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

Turns out, it truly is SO SIMPLE!

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

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

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

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

 

You will need:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to: Make Homemade Yogurt in Mason Jars

Yield: 2 quarts

How to: Make Homemade Yogurt in Mason Jars

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Make sure your jars are washed and clean. Fill 2 jars with milk, leaving 1-2 inches of space at the top. Place them in a pot of water that covers them at least 2/3 of the way. Bring the water to a gentle simmer.
  2. Go do something else while you wait for the milk to reach about 180 degrees. If you have a thermometer, great, you can check it every half hour or so. They took about an hour to reach 180 for me. If you don't have a thermometer, the milk will be ready when a thick "skin" forms on top of the milk. Throw this skin away, and remove the jars from the water.
  3. Preheat a slow cooker on high, this will be your incubator later. You can be lazy like me and just leave the hot jars on a surface to cool, this will take about an hour also. Or you can put them in a pot of lukewarm to cold water, to cool them faster. You want the jar to reach 110-120 degrees before adding the starter culture.
  4. Take about 2 tbsp of plain yogurt, pour 1/2 cup of the warm milk into it, and mix well. Then pour half of this mix back into each jar. Give it a nice stir to distribute the good guys all around the milk, but not too violent. Unplug your slow cooker, put the jars in the warm crock, cover, and wrap in a few towels.
  5. That's it! Let your jars sit, undisturbed, for at least 8 hours up to overnight.
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http://www.budgetepicurean.com/less-than-5/mason-jar-yogurt/

 

Disclaimer: I am not a health professional, no content on this blog is intended to diagnose, treat, or cure and ailment or condition. I am also a member of Amazon Affiliate program, some links will lead you to products which, if you choose to buy, will give the blog a portion of profits without affecting your experience. It helps keep this great content coming for you! 

Weekly Eating #1: 6/19

 

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

 

Monday:

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday:

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday:

Breakfast – everything Bagel Thin with 1 tbsp cream cheese

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

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

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

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

OMG. Can’t. Even.

Snacks – hummus, carrots & cucumber slices

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

Thursday:

Brekfast – 1/2 a big homemade KIND nut bar

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

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

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

Friday:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday:

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday:

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

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

ALL THE PRODUCE!!! Nomnomnom

Total: ~$98

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

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

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

Lessons Learned

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

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

 

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

Restaurant Review: The Cowfish, Raleigh NC

 

How often do you have the “what do you want for dinner?” conversation? Whether with friends or a significant other, it can be fraught with peril. Someone wants pizza, someone else is in the mood for burgers, I desperately want sushi, meanwhile this other guy is gluten-free and she’s vegetarian.

What to do?!

The Cowfish in Raleigh has struck a whimsical compromise: they offer not only both burgers and sushi, but also a menu full of confusing, creative fusion they call “burgooshi”. Now the fish eaters and the cow eaters can all be happy and fed together.

Obviously, as a sushi-aholic married to a die-hard beef lover, I knew as soon as I heard of this magical place that we must go there. I could literally eat sushi every other day and be happy about it, but my Mr tolerates it just often enough so that I don’t die from sushi deprivation. This seemed like a perfect compromise.

And The Cowfish did not disappoint! We went to the Raleigh location, one of four current locations (Charlotte, NC, Atlanta, GA, and Orlando, FL are the other two, with plans for future expansion. If you’re lucky enough to be near one do stop by and let me know what you think!). They had a nice outdoor seating space decorated with lights that I’m sure add a nice touch at night, as well as cornhole boards to occupy yourself while waiting to be seated.

We were smart, and showed up around 4pm, missing the lunch crowd and long before the Saturday dinner rush. Though as soon as we walked in, we noticed it was still pretty full with couples and groups sitting about, enjoying the wide array of music and goofy decor.

Impossible to miss, a gigantic fish tank shaped like a cocktail glass dominates the center of the spacious open dining room. All manner of brightly colored fish swim around, oblivious to their cousins being devoured nearby. And the walls are lined with cartoony paintings that riff off of many well-known pop culture icons & symbols.

You have your choice of seating, an outdoor covered patio, inside in the open floor, at the bar, or at the sushi bar. The sushi bar comes equipped with mounted in-table touch screens, which I can only assume are for ordering another round of Cheeseburgooshi. We sat elsewhere, but maybe next time.

The menu spans a wide range of tastes. They have typical Asian appetizers like gyoza and edamame, as well as classic American options like onion rings & nachos. They also have salads and sandwiches if someone in your party is not feeling very adventurous yet. There is definitely a seafood emphasis throughout.

The burgers range from lamb and bison, to mushroom and swiss, to an Elvis inspired peanut butter/banana/bacon concoction. Sushi rolls include classics like the California and Spicy Tuna roll, as well as some specialty rolls you won’t find anywhere else. And then the crowning achievement, the “Burgushi” menu, which is a unique fusion that involves bison sushi, southern style BBQshi,  the Turfin Surfer roll, and several types of sushi sandwiches.

Possibly their most famous fusion is the “All-American Bacon Double Cheeseburgooshi”. This little gem is like a bacon double cheeseburger, but with a twist: “Seasoned Certified Angus Beef, yellow cheddar cheese, white cheddar cheese, applewood bacon, and red onion, wrapped in soy paper and potato strings then flash fried. Topped with ketchup, mustard, dill pickle and Roma tomato. Served atop Cowfish sauce. Served with house seasoned fries”

But for your first culinary journey in this magical place, the staff recommends the “Fusion specialty bento box”, because it includes a little taste of it all. You get a mini slider, your choice of a 4-piece Fusion specialty roll, and sides: spicy cucumber, edamame, and the world’s most amazing sweet potato fries.

Yeah, I said it. In a place known for burgers and sushi, the sweet potato fries were the surprise sweep, both of us absolutely inhaled them. I loved the edamame, and the cucumber, though hubby pushed both my way. I wasn’t complaining one bit.

We chose the blackened tuna roll in our bento box, which was an awesome decision if I do say so myself. Crabcake and cream cheese inside, coated in tempura and topped with seared tuna, avocado salsa, and jalapeño slices, this was probably my second favorite part of the box. I could eat a dozen of these rolls!

We also got one Fusion specialty roll to split, the Doug’s Filet Roll. It boasts avocado, kani, and cream cheese filling, but the topping is what sold it. Thin slices of seared filet mignon, with spicy mayo, scallions, and masago (fish eggs).

The steak was delicious, and a very strange taste juxtaposed with the sushi to be sure. But very satisfying.

And of course, let’s not forget the restaurant’s namesake: the Cowfish. Yep, that’s an actual thing: an adorably weird fish of which each restaurant location boasts one.

Overall, I’d rate The Cowfish:

  • Taste: 10
  • Atmosphere: 10
  • Value: 9

 

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Easy homemade corn tortillas

 

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2017, and all the adventures that await! I hope you will take some chances, try new things, and enjoy this year even more than the last one. To start off, let’s try something that sounds more intimidating that it really is, making your own homemade corn tortillas.

So, remember how I said that I had bought this thing called Maseca to make my Chorizo Tamale Pie? I read on the bag that it can make hundreds of tortillas, and of course I had to try it! The recipe is so crazy simple, I almost didn’t believe it would work. Just the flour, water, and oil? No way!

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Maseca is a kind of dehydrated corn flour, so that all you do is add water. That must be how you need a very tiny amount of it to make a very large amount of tortillas!

I would recommend trying this with a small batch at first, until you get the hang of how much water or oil you need to create the tortilla texture you want. You can make your tortillas larger, to make big ol burritos, or tiny to make hand tacos. That is the beauty of making your own.

Well, that and eating every other one hot off the griddle cause they’re so darn tasty!

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Ingredients (makes about a dozen small tortillas, or 4-5 large):

  • 1 cup maseca
  • ~1 cup warm water
  • 1 big tablespoon shortening

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Step 1: In a large bowl, mix the maseca and half the water. Mix well, using your hands is the best way. Add the shortening and mix it throughout. Add water until it reaches a doughy consistency, where it is not crumbly nor sticky.

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Step 2: Pinch off a ball about the size of a golf ball, and roll it flat using your hands or a rolling pin. Spray a pan with cooking oil, and fry over medium heat until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.

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Step 3: Flip to make sure both sides are cooked, and remove to a plate to keep warm. You can use a wet paper towel or cloth over the tortillas to keep them soft.

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These are delicious as is, right off the hot pan. Or you can store them up to a week in the refrigerator, for use as delicious tacos or tostadas! I made some chicken tacos, and ate the rest plain right off the stove. You can add a sprinkle of salt to the dough if it is too plain for your liking.

 

 

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Restaurant Review: The Saucy Crab

 

The Budget Epicurean has a new home base, y’all! We have up and moved across the country from the lovely shores of New Haven Connecticut, to the woodsy Research Triangle mecca of middle North Carolina.

Why would you do this crazy, exhausting thing you ask?

Oh so many reasons… cost of living is way lower, taxes are incredibly cheaper, the people are super nice, the traffic is less terrible, the weather is a vast improvement, the Research Triangle is nearby with oodles of tech and scientific career opportunities…   need I go on?

So yeah, we did this crazy, expensive, exhausting thing and drove 12 hours the weekend before Thanksgiving to a new house with no furniture, heat, or hot water, and promptly hosted 9 people for the holiday. Because we are crazy people and have a reputation to protect as such!

While North Carolina does have a long stretch of seafront property, one does not normally think of the interior of the state as having good seafood. At least, when I think delicious seafood, I don’t think of Duke University… So when we were out and about exploring our new home, and saw a place called “The Saucy Crab” we just had to stop in and check it out.

saucy crab map

Nestled just off of 501 next to the Rooms to Go and across from the South Square shopping center, it sits on a hill looking over the highway almost exactly halfway between Durham and Chapel Hill. Google Maps refers to it as a “quirky hangout with shellfish & beer” and that is indeed what we found.

The Saucy Crab outside

With a tan stone exterior and a dimly lit, beach themed interior, it seems to have the quirky hangout part nailed.  Since we just came from the New England area of the East Coast, it was fun to see their beach theme, complete with upside down beer buckets as lamps over the beachy picnic tables.

The Saucy Crab inside

There was a large canoe hanging from the ceiling, beer bottle lanterns and chandeliers, and more beach decor scattered throughout. There were oars, and life preservers, and wooden crabs all over the place.  The crab is obviously their chosen mascot, and they have repeated the motif throughout.

Drawings on the walls

The tables are covered with butcher paper, and there are buckets of crayons on each table to encourage creativity.  We of course took advantage of these as we waited. And if your drawing is good enough or the wait staff takes a liking to it, you might end up on the wall! There are tacked up pictures all over, mostly of various renditions of the crab but also many other talented drawings.

I wonder if mine was good enough to make it on the wall? Guess we will have to go back and find out!

Budget Epicurean crab drawing

We got lucky, and early on a Saturday we had the place to ourselves. The waiter promptly took us over to a booth towards the back, and we knew what we wanted pretty quickly.

I ordered the sturgeon basket lunch special, and my hubby got the “surf and turf” as he put it; a burger with shrimp on top, also known as the “Saucy Burger”. Their lunch specials a great, under $10 for your fried main dish of choice and it comes with slaw, hush puppies, and potato wedges (which is really what their “fries” are, just FYI.)

spicy popcorn

And guys… they bring you spicy popcorn while you wait! Instead of chips and salsa or bread sticks, this place brings you a lovely bamboo bowl of endless spicy popcorn! Beware, it does have a bit of a kick. But it is addictive for sure, and healthier than most other pre-dinner snacky options. Plus it gives your hands something to do if you aren’t feeling your creative side and don’t want to color. 🙂

The fried sturgeon lunch basket

The food came out hot and fresh in about ten minutes, super fast. Of course, like I said we were literally the only people in the place. But it was clear that it had all just been cooked to order, not pulled out of a freezer and flash fried again. The slaw was slightly sweet and just the right amount of crunch, though the cup was super itty bitty. I would have like more of it, it was so good.

The hush puppies don’t look like much, but they were delicious! The corn bread was also a little sweet, and fried perfectly. The honey butter was amazing with them too. And the breading on the sturgeon and potatoes was light and crispy, fried just right. Of course, this is not the place to go if you’re trying to eat light and healthy! But once in a while, boy what a treat! And that sweet tea, mmmmm mmmm God Bless the South!

the Saucy burger

Hubby’s burger was slightly too cooked for my liking, but he said it was awesome. The burger meat plus big juicy shrimp was a strange combination for my brain to handle, but it was tasty. He even left the lettuce on, bless his heart! And the shrimp were cooked to perfection. A big melty slice of cheddar on top brought it all together.

Their special sauce was super tasty too, it was like a thousand island dressing, but with tartar sauce added; thick and creamy and tangy. It was great for dipping the fries in honestly! He didn’t use the mustard at all, though I have a suspicion it was just knockoff regular jarred mustard so I don’t mind.

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More shots of the interior decorations, and below is a larger room in the back which seems like it can be rented out for bigger parties. They also had a stage area set up with huge speakers, so it seems like maybe they do live music sometimes? While we were there a mix of country songs was playing, which I loved but hubby wasn’t too pleased. So hopefully you enjoy country music with your seafood! I thought it was a nice blend of ocean and southern feel.

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The bathroom was red and black and yellow, which was a little arresting when you first walked in. One sink had the faucet missing too. But it was large and clean, and there was plenty of toilet paper and paper towels, which is the truly important part.

 

Overall, I’d rate The Saucy Crab:

  • Taste: 7
  • Atmosphere: 10
  • Value: 8

 

The food was good, but I’m not a huge fan of fried things. The menu is a little limited too, but that’s to be expected from a place that specializes. I’d like to go again and try their crab, since that seems to be their pride and joy.  The atmosphere is very chill and fun, this would be a great place for a big family, a group of friends, or just a place to hang out and relax.

It felt very comfortable, I’d definitely bring a big group of people here for a fun night out. And the seafood is fairly priced, with great lunch specials. I think we nailed it by being there right around opening time on a Saturday. I’m not sure how crowded it gets in the evenings, but at least it is large enough to accommodate a pretty decent crowd.

 

Have you ever been to the Saucy Crab?  What did you think?

One Week of Meals from One Pork Roast

 

Do you ever wish you had more time?  Do you feel like you spend too much time at the grocery store, or in the kitchen, or waiting for delivery? Does you bank account look emptier because of all the ordering out you do?  Do you want an easy way to make a week’s worth of homemade meals, for less than $100, with minimal prep and cook time from one grocery trip?

I thought so. Here is your answer!

This post is created to show you how to get a week’s worth of dinners (with some leftovers for lunches too) from a single 4 pound pork roast.  All recipes easily feed 2 adults, with many recipes making much more food for leftovers and re-make meals.

By planning ahead to use one main dish all throughout the week, you can get creative and ensure that none of your food dollars get wasted by literally throwing them away. You will save time throughout the week by not having to go to the grocery store to pick up “just one or two things” and not having to worry what to make for dinner, it’s already planned out. And you can eat healthy, whole food, home cooked meals all week long!

Here is the list of recipes you will be making if you follow this plan:

As far as cooking equipment, you will need at least a frying pan, and preferably a slow cooker. You can slow cook the pork in the oven, and make the casserole in the oven as well, but that requires slightly more hands-on time from you. The full grocery list can be found at the bottom of the post, and you can go to individual recipes by clicking on the links throughout.

The first thing you’re going to need to do is assess your pantry and freezer situation.  If you have plenty of Italian dressing, some frozen mixed veggies, noodles, and plenty of spices, you’re already halfway there on this week’s grocery list. Then make your list of what you still need to make the recipes, and head to the store.

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You will need to pick up a nice pork loin roast, or other pork roast. I recommend 3-5 pounds for 2 adults for one week’s worth of meals.  You can adjust to larger or smaller sizes if feeding a larger crowd, or just one, or if you wish to double recipes or omit certain recipes this week.

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Once you have your pork roast, use a sharp knife to cut 2-4 pork chops off the end. You can also ask your butcher to do so if you go to a regular grocery store. These pork chops can be frozen for later depending on when you want to make the Italian Pork Chops.

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Once you have your chops cut, take about 1 pound off the remaining roast. This will be diced up into cubes.  You can also freeze these chunks for later, depending on when you want to make the Pork Lo Mein Stir Fry.

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As for the remainder of the roast, put that guy into your crock pot.  This is gonna become one delicious, fall-apart pot of BBQ Pulled Pork. If you’re game, add a sliced onion and a can of beer, then cook on low for 8-10 hours or high at least 4 hours.

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Shred the pork roast with two forks.  I recommend removing half of the meat to a container in the refrigerator, and adding 1 cup BBQ sauce to the rest and cooking another hour on low.

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Now you have about a pound each of plain pulled pork and BBQ pulled pork! Plus 2-4 chops, and a pound of diced pork in the freezer. And that’s after less than an hour total of hands-on prep time.

Now you can use the shredded plain or BBQ pork for:

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Pulled Pork Burritoes (above) or Quesadillas:

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And slow cooker pork and rice and broccoli casserole:

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And the diced pork chunks for a delicious homemade lo mein:

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And the best part is, you can choose when to make these recipes and in what order, because the pork chops, diced pork, and shredded cooked pork all freeze very well. You can turn these into breakfast and lunch too, pulled pork omelettes are great, as are BBQ pulled pork sandwiches on nice thick buns.  Enjoy!

 

Full Grocery List

  • 1 4-5 pound pork roast
  • 1 cup Italian dressing
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • Frozen or fresh vegetables of your choice
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce (or more, to taste)
  • 1 package tortillas
  • ~1 cup white or brown rice
  • 1 can beans (black or pinto)
  • 1 package lo mein noodles
  • Soy sauce
  • Shredded cheese
  • Fresh or frozen broccoli
  • 1 cup milk (optional)
  • Burrito toppings – sour cream, guac, salsa, etc.

And seriously, that’s it! I guarantee you can buy all of these items for under $100 (at least everywhere I’ve lived from Colorado to Connecticut).

 

Also, if you’ve read this far and you’re curious, I also have a post explaining all the cuts of a pig. So next time you go to the store, you can know the difference between a rump roast, shoulder roast, and a loin. 🙂

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How do you pick a wedding location?

 

Just like when you are picking your wedding date, choosing a location should be something that you think about but not too hard, and in the end it just feels right.

People vary wildly in their ideas of the “ideal” wedding place, so you should first talk to the other party involved. Do one of you have a church you grew up in, that your parents were married in, that you just have to also get married in? Now is a good time to go over that. If you have always dreamed of a destination wedding on a sandy white beach, bring that up. Give yourselves some time and space to talk it out with no judgment (no, “oh my God, no way are we getting married in that old dump of a church!” or “How stupid, who wants to be married in a dusty barn!??” or “We could never afford Wai Ki-Ki are you crazy??”).

snowy church

Be sure to also discuss all the elements of the location that may end up being important to you. Some suggestions (but by no means a comprehensive list):

  • Is there availability at your desired time?
  • Does the location offer wedding planning or services?
  • Are there hotels nearby for guests to stay in?
  • What is the weather like in the time of year you’re considering?
  • Will the location hold the amount of people you envision?
  • Do you need to account for things like chair or tent rental?
  • Where will you have the ceremony and the reception? Same place? Two places? How far apart are they?
  • Do you want a church?
  • Do you want it to be outdoors?
  • Do you want decorations of a specific type?
  • Will there be dancing? If so can you set up sound/dance floor?
  • Can you bring your own vendors?
  • Do you need any licenses/permits?
  • Is there a deposit or location fee?

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For travel destinations, more things to consider include:

  • Do you need passports/other travel documents?
  • How will you arrange flights/trains/busses/etc?
  • Is it near where you’d like to honeymoon?
  • Is it near an airport?
  • Will you need to rent a car?
  • How many of your planned guests will likely show up?
  • What are the local laws about weddings?
  • How do you go about obtaining a marriage license?

Once you have a general idea as a couple of what you want and what you are willing to negotiate on, you can consider locations.  Think about where you live now, where you grew up, where you went to college, where your parents grew up.  For some people, this is a no brainer and they have known since childhood that a specific meaningful place would be the place they are married. For others it will not be so simple.

What matters most is to be true to yourselves as a team, a unit, your location should be somewhere you both will feel happy and at ease.  If your partner gets nauseated at the thought of crowds and attention, you should probably not plan a 400-person blow out at the biggest chapel in town and a black tie reception. If your true love cannot stand sand in their hair or clothes, sorry but a beach wedding should be crossed off the potentials list.

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If you get stuck, you can always try:

  • Asking around – you probably know tons of people who have planned or attended weddings. Ask your parents, grandparents, friends, coworkers, neighbors, the guy on the bus. Ask what weddings were memorable, in good ways and bad. Maybe they will mention something that lights a spark for you.
  • Make a list – each of you alone, make a list of places that make you happy. List random things too, like maybe you love lighthouses, or caves, or mountains, or mansions. You never know what will spark an idea. Then compare your lists and see if the light bulb comes on.
  • Google – the holder of all knowledge, Google is a wellspring of wedding location ideas. Beware here though, as wedding envy and overwhelm can easily sneak up on you as you browse front-page-worthy multi-thousands of dollars wedding settings. Always try to keep your dreams somewhat in the realm of reality.

At some point, you will narrow down your list. A few places should stand out as the most likely and most fitting.  If you are able to, definitely go visit these places. Try to get a feel for the size of the space, what their amenities are (Is there a kitchen on site or will you have to bring in all your food already prepared? Do they have bathrooms and how many? A dance floor, music and speaker system? Can you bring in any vendors you want or is there a required vendor list to work off of?).

Always remember you do not have to commit to the first or second or twelfth place you see, until it feels right.

And just as in picking the time, at some point, you pick the place. You could argue pros and cons until the day you say “I do” but trust me, as long as your betrothed is at the front of the room waiting to say it back, you won’t care very much where that happens. Point, click, and trust that it will all work out.