Tasty Tuesday:Garlic-buttered Kale

I know what you are thinking, “um, there is nothing ‘tasty’ about kale”, but you’d be wrong! I was recently introduced to kale and I really didn’t want to try it, especially since it reminded me of turnips and collards, which have never been my friend. But with some health issues looming, I had to figure out how to get more “greens” in my diet and less junk; but I didn’t want to break the bank either

I have learned eating healthier is less expensive than what you would think. I mean the whole reason I would share a recipe on a financial blog is for the money you can save, right? So I gave this recipe a shot and it is so good, I now cook it twice a week. It takes all of about seven minutes to cook and even my son will eat it. The best part about it is the cost, which is about$1.47 per person for 4 servings.

  • 2 cloves garlic – .79
  • 4 T butter
  • 1-1 1/2 bunch kale – $2.00
  • 1 T olive oil

Staple items: Olive oil – $4.00-$8.00, Butter $2.79-$4.88, salt & pepper-$3.00

  • Remove the ribs inside the kale and chop kale into bite sized pieces
  • Mince the garlic
  • Add 1 T olive oil to a medium high pan, add 2 cloves of garlic and a pinch of salt & pepper
  • sweat the garlic 1-2 minutes
  • Add the kale to the pan, add a pinch of salt and pepper, stir until the kale begins to wilt, add 1/4 c water and cook 1-2 minutes longer
  • Place a strainer over a bowl and empty the kale, garlic mixture into the strainer, press out as much liquid as you can; discard the liquid.
  • Heat the butter in the pan and place the kale back into the pan, coat the kale with the butter and cook another 1-2 minutes, adding another pinch of salt and pepper, taste it first, it tends to get salty!!
  • remove from heat and serve

This side dish goes great with a grilled or roasted meat. A small tenderloin will run $7-$10. If you are a two vegetable kind of family, add some steamed green beans at .99/lb. Your whole meal is $4.21 per person for 4 servings.




The True Cost of Eating Real Food

As you know, I’ve been eating more “real food” since I’ve started using Blue Apron. This weekend, my family and I visited the local farmers’ market for some fresh produce for the week and grabbed some nice rib-eyes for Mother’s Day at Earth Fare, our local whole foods store. Between both stores, we spent $81.00. We later picked all of our spring onions from the garden and decided to try this pickled green onion recipe and needed some mustard seed so we went to our local Winn Dixie. While we were there my men decided to take advantage of the low blood sugar attack I was having and load up on some snacks I normally only get in moderation and pick up a few extra things we needed like milk and bread. $160 later, I was floored! I started looking at the receipt at all the processed foods and how much they cost and was shocked. Yes, I said it! Processed foods cost more!

All I hear are people saying, “I try to eat healthy, but I just can’t afford it”.Well, I did some math, and quality and quantity are both higher with “real” food. I use to clip coupons to death, stock up on foods I didn’t really love because it was on sale. I still clip coupons, but I really only use coupons on meat, staples, and rare produce coupons. Now I find that I spend less at the store and I waste less food. I think it’s because before my brain didn’t recognize a box of something as food so at lot of it went to waste, but my brain definitely recognizes cucumbers and oranges and blocks of cheese and wants to eat them.

Here are some examples of how we wasted precious dollars buying junk at the store the other day and what we should have bought instead:

  • My son bought two packs of beef jerky, they were $7 each for about 6-8 pieces of jerky. You could get venison back-strap or top round and make your own with a much larger yield for that price. A round steak is about $6.00 per pound. You could get 1.5 lbs of meat, plus your marinade ingredients if you didn’t have them at home for the same price.
  • Next big thing we just HAD to have is ice cream which was close to $7 a quart. My husband’s favorite is banana split, so we will use this as an example. 1 bunch of bananas is around $1.31, give or take depending on how many pounds you get. Strawberries this week were 2 pints for $4 and I got a pineapple for $2.99 at the farmer’s market. Take 2 bananas, 1/4 the pineapple and 1/2 the pint of strawberries, freeze them. Put them in your Vitamix or your banana ice cream maker with a little frozen yogurt or some milk,$3.50 for 1 gallon this week, less than $3 if you drink almond or coconut milk. You can do it separate so you have 3 flavors, or all together like I do to get that nice swirly flavor effect. You’ve made homemade, healthier ice cream and you don’t even have to worry about the extra calories of the chocolate sauce you know you’re going to dump on there. If you freeze the entire bunch, berries and pineapple, you’ve doubled the amount of ice cream (about 2 qts.) for $3.80 more, if you don’t freeze them, you still have fruit left over for smoothies, pineapple whips or fresh toppings on your cereal.
  • My husband is addicted to Diet Coke. It cost him $7.99 for a 20 pack! If he drank water or tea we’d have saved tons! I only drink water with a squirt of lemon, lime, or oranges, whatever is in the fridge, it’s free almost everywhere, oh and I don’t buy bottled water at home, I just have a filtering pitcher.  When I want something fizzy I drink kombucha tea (my favorite is lemon ginger). You can make this yourself; but, eww it’s just not for me. One bottle is $3 for 2 servings, still a little high for my taste, but sometimes you just need some fizz and it’s worth it to not have to grow that THING in my kitchen; just google it, you’ll see what I’m talking about.
  • Chips! Chips are $5 a bag now – shame! Some of the best tasting chips you can make at home. Take you some flour tortillas, $2.79, cut them up into strips, toss in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and cracked black pepper and bake at 450 for about 10 minutes. So crispy! So tasty! Great with salsa, or hummus or even on top of soup. I also like to get red potatoes $2.99 and slice them very, very thin. Spritz them with olive oil spray, salt and pepper them and cook them the same way. These are very good. Lastly, cheese! Put down some parchment paper, put down finely shredded cheddar or Monterrey jack ($3.39 pre-shredded)in a little circle and cook in the oven til they are bubbly brown. When they cool, they will crisp like chips.

If I would have taken my own advice and looked at real food v. processed, I would have seen that I could have saved us $52 on JUNK in these four categories and a whole lot of calories and chemicals. It looks like it is really IS better to buy/eat real food after all.


20 Pros and Cons for Blue Apron, a Meal Subscription Service

blue apron
Courtesy of Blue Apron

A few years ago, I was using E-mealz as an alternative way to keep my grocery costs down and to have tasty new recipes to add to my repertoires. I have gone back and forth, several different times with E-mealz, each time finding the recipes tasty and budget friendly, but I never could seem to stick with the program. There were many recipes that didn’t fit our style of cooking, or there were ingredients my family just wouldn’t be caught dead eating and so, for us, it just wasn’t a cost I could continue to pay, be it ever so affordable.

Recently, I have ordered a subscription to Blue Apron on a friend’s recommendation. My friend is a bachelor, and is also quite a financial guru himself. I wouldn’t call him cheap at all, (which worried me a little)  so I didn’t know if Blue Apron was right for my family or cost-efficient. However, he and I both have sophisticated pallets (we are foodies by heart) and he swore by their recipes so I thought I’d give it a shot, they charge by the week and you can cancel anytime so I order the 2 meals a week family plan.

How Blue Apron works is they ship you fresh ingredients and recipes for either 2 or 4 meals a week. I will say the prices are not NEARLY as friendly as E-Mealz, but you are of course paying a convenience fee of having the food shipped to you, plus you are getting a high quality product with organic produce, grass fed meats, etc.  I am not sure what their profit margin is, but it can’t be outrageous with the quality of products you are getting, so I definitely don’t feel like it’s a rip-off considering you are paying about $8.62 a person per meal, which includes your organic food, nice recipe cards printed on colored card-stock in sturdy boxes filled with several ice packs so your food stays fresh. I am not an affiliate to Blue Apron, this is just my opinion and my list of pros and cons of a Blue Apron subscription.

Here are 20 Pros and Cons of a Blue Apron subscription:

  1. Pro: The quality is fantastic and the recipes are out of this world good.
  2. Pro: It is convenient, it’s shipped to your house every week at the same time and same day.
  3. Con: If you choose a weekend ship date and out of town for the weekend, your box sits there all weekend. (Bonus Pro: I get mine on Saturday, when I get home on Sunday afternoon, it is still cold).
  4. My grocery bill has stayed at about $250 bi-weekly (every two weeks) including my Blue Apron and my other groceries. Pro: I am spending on average $3.00 less a meal than when I eat out and I have left-overs for lunch the next day. Con: I am spending about $3.00 more a meal than what I usually purchase at the grocery store.
  5. Pro: We are eating more produce and less processed foods, hence the difference in grocery prices.
  6. Pro: My 11 year old is actually eating vegetables now
  7. Pro: My 11 year old will actually try anything from Blue Apron, and with words like “kale” and “hominy” and “Bulgar wheat” on the ingredient list, that’s saying a lot. *hint, I don’t tell him what it is until he tries it.
  8. Pro: I haven’t found a single recipe we didn’t love (minus sweet potato salad; none of us like sweet potatoes).
  9. Pro: There is so much variety, I’ve yet to receive the same thing twice.
  10. Pro: They send each ingredient you’ll need, including the staples. Con: I now have ten heads of garlic sitting next to the stove. Pro: It has gotten to be a joke and I am sending them home with friends so we have fun with it.
  11. Pro: My husband and I enjoy cooking together, spending more time together and we are learning a more efficient way to cook.
  12. Con: I only get two meals a week and still have to go to the store for other groceries.
  13. Pro: I buy less at the store and I buy fresher ingredients and healthier recipes at the store simply based on the influence of Blue Apron meals.
  14. Pro: All their recipes are on their website for free, I print several off and buy the ingredients at the store to make them for the rest of the week.
  15. Pro for them, con for you: Not all their ingredients are available at your local store so you have to substitute.
  16. Pro for you, Con for them: If you buy all the ingredients to their recipes at the store it is a little cheaper than having it shipped to your house. *Don’t be a jerk and just use their recipes without subscribing, it’s a little like stealing.
  17. Pro: Both my husband and I have lost weight. I can download the recipes into My Fitness Pal app and it will calculate the macros and calories for me, I’ve yet to have a meal that didn’t fit into my daily health goals. This may not be the case for certain dietary needs, but with fresh sides and lean meats, it’s good for most people.
  18. Pro: You can mark dietary restrictions on the website, my husband and son will not eat fish, so they don’t send us any fish. Bonus Con: You can’t mark sweet potatoes, just thought I’d throw that in there!
  19. Pro: They will send you a return shipping label for recycling boxes if you so choose. They ask that you ship two boxes together and give you the instructions on how they would like them shipped.
  20. Pro: They have plans for families of four and for the single folks/couples. Con: If you have five kids to feed, it’s probably not worth your money.
Panko Crusted Chicken with Pea tips and Sugar Snap Beans with Pink Lemon Vinagrette
Panko Crusted Chicken with Pea tips and Sugar Snap Beans with Pink Lemon Vinaigrette

If you would like to try a free meal on Blue Apron, feel free to send me your email address and I’ll send you an invite. Right now I can give away five free meals, first come first serve. Also, I am attaching this link to the press page of Blue Apron if you’d like to read more about their company.

Dear Self: Things I wish I Could Tell My Younger Self About Money

How many times have you thought, “If I could only go back in time”? What were some of the things you would have done differently? (Well, besides dating the guy/gal your parents warned you about) I think about it and I think if I had to write myself a letter about my financial future, it would go something like this:

Dear Self,

I am writing you today to make sure you don’t make the same financial mistakes I made. First, In 2000, when standing on the concourse, do not sign up for a credit card just to get a free t-shirt.

Second, learn to balance a check book and cut up the first debit card you get. It’s a gateway card to credit cards, which can be just as detrimental to your life. Online banking is great, but don’t count on the balance telling you how much money you have, that’s what your check book balance is for!

When you close your first checking account to go to another bank, remember to actually close your first checking account. They charge you $5 a month. When you leave that bank, you have $200 in that account. When it shows up as a charge-off on your credit report, you have negative $70. Remember to cash checks when you get them so they don’t expire in 90 days and you lose out on unclaimed money!

When you get your first “big-girl” job and you are holding your pay checks for a month before you cash them, don’t. Cash those suckers and start saving some interest on that unused money while the interest rate at the bank is still above 5%, it won’t be that way two years from then. In 2002, when you see that shiny new Dodge Ram sitting in the parking lot, don’t buy it. Your salary that year is going to be $19,800. The truck costs you $19,000. When you get those $379 a month payments, you’ll only have $32 a month after bills to live off of, including your gas and food. Drive the paid-for explorer your parents bought you until the wheels fall off, then go buy a used car with cash!

When you get back that HUGE tax refund check, save it. Don’t go out to eat three meals a day and blow it. You’re throwing away really great money!

Remember the store credit card you got about that time with the $250 limit that you charged up and then paid $50 a month on for the next  six and a half months before you did it again? Don’t do that! The APR was almost 30%, you could have saved the $50 cash for 5 months, made some interest off of it, then went and bought yourself new clothes, instead you paid someone else an extra $75.

Let me save some time, don’t use a credit card, not a single credit card. I don’t care if you need tires or diapers, don’t charge a single penny to a credit card. Don’t charge a single penny to start a business on a credit card either! PS, while they are good for some people, you can’t do a part time business and a full time job, it just doesn’t work, just don’t even do it. If a bank thinks the business is worthy, they will loan you the money at a much lower interest rate.

In 2003, you’re going to tell your husband you want to buy some land in the county and he’s not going to want to. Buy the land anyway! In five years, the land is going to be work quadruple what you’ll pay for it.

You’re also fixing to have a baby and you’re going to quit working for a year. Do NOT remove your retirement! You’ll go back to the same job and have to work there another five years to make it up.

In 2004 when you want to go back to school for another degree, don’t. Wait until your son is older, you just can’t juggle a full time job, a baby and school, also, if you decide later to go back to school, choose business, not accounting, you don’t like the morals, or lack there-of of a lot of people you’ll come into contact with. PS, that’s another $3200 your going to throw down the drain, instead, take that $3,200 and pay for a new used car, the explorer you’re still driving (I hope) is probably on its last wheel by now.

This same year your grandmother is going to offer to put a down-payment on a nice brick home on the same street you live on now without her help. Take it! Take her up on the offer, she won’t be here to help you if you wait. When she sends you a large monetary gift a year later, take half of it and save it, use the other half to go see her every chance you get. PS, call her every day and get every piece of investing advice you can from her, the woman is a monetary genius! When she sends you coupons, use them and the $25 for groceries she sends too. Now take that same money you just saved and put it with the other money from her you are saving.

When you want to invest in any money-making schemes and warehouse shoppers clubs, don’t. That will save you thousands over the years. You’re a sucker for anything that might make or save your family some money, simple is best and high risk investments fail. When in doubt, investment wise, don’t.

In 2009, the economy is going to really tank, do not try to start a business during this time, it’s just not going to work. Just stick to simple saving and your full-time jobs. PS, your husband will have a second job that’s just frosting money. Save every penny of it!

Stop eating out so much! Learn to dumb down that sophisticated pallet. It’s killing your pocket book! Use coupons every time you shop. This could save you hundreds of dollars at the store. Stop robbing your savings account to keep your checking account afloat. Just account for every dollar and you won’t ever have to worry about your account going in the negative.

When YNAB comes out, get it! Don’t waste your money on any other finance software, they’re overly expensive and you won’t stick with them because they are complicated and take up too much of your time.

If you will do all the things I have warned you against, you will have saved yourself on the low end, drum roll, $262,050 without interest and that’s on the low end. A house and two cars, paid for, debt free, plus another $125K towards retirement. I also will have saved you countless hours worrying about every dime and more free and happy time with your family and time to do things you enjoy to do.



You 15 years older


What would your letter say?

Coupon Investing Experiment – End of Pay Period (PP) 1

If you have read the coupon investing experiment, you’ll know I am taking the funds that I save by using coupons and investing them. At the end of week one, I had saved $69. By week two, I saved another $16. I also went to the movies and had rewards coupons for a free ticket, $10.50, a free medium pop-corn, $8, a free small pop-corn, $6, and a small drink $6 that were all expiring by the end of the week, so I used them all. I decided to take this from my YNAB Entertainment Category  and add it to my investments. This will give me a total of $115.50 for the pay-period to invest. According to Betterment’s handy-dandy advice calculator, adding this will increase my retirement goal by $272.00. This may seem like small-potatoes, but I see it as an integral piece of the puzzle. If I can keep this level of investing each month, we are looking at thousands more towards my retirement. Just matching that same investment during PP2 of August, I will have increased my retirement by $525. That’s another $7000 added to a 15 year investment plan if I can invest at least that much extra every pay period.

While using the extra money I got from the movie coupons, I realized I can do the same for any budget category. I have gotten the “Retail-me-not” app on my phone, which sends retail coupons directly to my phone for pet stores, clothing, and even some restaurants. Even money saved from a percentage off will be a great way to save towards my investments. I also have a Winn-Dixie rewards card, which gives you cents off your gas purchases. I plan on taking that money from my fuel category and investing it as well. It has never been more important to save money now that I see the potential returns towards my retirement.


The Coupon Investing Experiment

I recently decided I was a fool. Yes, I admit it! I am a fool, I would go to the store every week for groceries, yet I didn’t take a single coupon, not even the ones I could log in and clip electronically! Since I don’t like being a fool, I  thought “what can I do to better my financial situation?” Since investing has been my new financial goal, I needed to find a way to improve my investments. At age 35, I will barely have over $100,000 by the time I retire if all I invest is the pitiful $150 a month I have been investing.  but I realized something, when I was couponing I wasn’t eating out, I always had food in the house, I was saving on my grocery bills and I was earning extra money for the price of a news paper. So it occurred to me, if I take the money I save in coupons, I could invest that money to buffer my honey pot with something extra and it wouldn’t cost me a dime more.

Could this be possible? Could I actually find a way to double my investments? I began with my YNAB budget. I looked at my expenses in restaurants and groceries and did a little trimming. First, I cut my restaurant category in half. I won’t be eating out if I’m going to the store every week. I took that restaurant money and I added it to my buffer category. If you have read my post on YNAB, you will know one of the rules is to create a buffer so you are no longer living paycheck to paycheck. At the time of my experiment, I have only been buffering at a rate of about $50 a month, give our take, so I wanted to bump this up. Admittedly, my restaurant category was morosely over funded, so switching this around will better my financial situation by paycheck one. I then turned my attention to my grocery category which I purposely have been over-funding so that I would be motivated to shop for groceries instead of restaurants. As of now, I am going to leave this category the same until I get in the swing of things.

Shopping multiple stores and sales papers seems to be my best bet for the best deals, but if you don’t have time for this, find a store (like Publix or Walmart) that take competitor coupons, ad match, or stack coupons. Matching coupons and sales papers is going to be a great way to start, but don’t be afraid to sign up with your grocery store for in-store deals and coupons. I also like to follow some coupon sights and follow them on facebook, I like hotcouponworld.com, southernsavers.com, krazycouponlady.com, and I sometimes use the service couponclippin4you.com, when I want multiple coupons of something or when I buy a paper with the coupons stolen out of them (which happens here more often than I like).

I won’t go into details on how to coupon, there are plenty of tutorials on these sights, and even on YouTube, but I will share with you some of my latest receipt information. I do have a spreadsheet that I made up for my grocery list, a price list, the coupon price, if they double, and the final price so that I can go back and check my receipt against my spreadsheet to see store savings vs. coupon savings. Sometimes when you look at your receipt, it will say something like “You saved $36.49 this trip”. I don’t count that toward my investment money because I would be paying the sales price with or without the coupons; however, if I have extra in my grocery category at the end of the pay-period, I’ll send that money over to my “Betterment-Lending Club” category, which is my investing category. This week, I have shopped at Kroger and CVS. My Kroger OOP (out of pocket) was $74.98, I saved a total of $46.99 with store savings and coupons, but I am only looking for the MFG CPN on the receipt. This is the manufacturer coupon savings. I had $11.85 in coupons.

When I shopped at CVS, my OOP was $75.87, but my total coupon savings was $51.12, I also had Extra Care Bucks (ECBs) that totaled $39.00, which is like having cash in your hand. I can use these $39 to pay for some of my OOP expenses and even stack them with coupons, to buy more groceries, but I won’t be adding the $39.00 to my investment category because even if I had not used coupons, I would still earn ECBs.  In total, I used $62.97 coupons to pay for things I was paying for OOP! See what I mean? FOOL!!! Since the money was already budgeted for grocery expenditure without coupons, I don’t have to raise my grocery category to cover the cost of the investments.

I am not an extreme couponer, but I do stock up 2-4 items at a time, because it will only go on sale every 12 weeks or so. So this week, I bought enough shampoo, deodorant, laundry detergent, dish washing detergent, toothbrushes, and toothpaste to last the year, so I won’t have to buy them again, unless I have really good coupons that will make something free or $1, because I give Cotton balls for Christmas to family members. I have several other staples such as frozen veggies, rice and cereal. So next week I will really be focusing on perishable such as meat, eggs, butter and milk (which all freeze!!!) I only have about $100 left in my grocery category for next week, so I probably won’t have too much going toward the investing category, but I do have coupons for all of these items, so I may end up investing another $10. Since I get paid bi-weekly, that means I will have about $72 extra to invest this paycheck.

If I can keep this rate up, I could double my investments, but only time will tell. I would like to say I am on my way to becoming a Mustachian (if any of you read mrmoneymustache.com), but I’m not there yet. Maybe my mustache can be pencil thin at least! So far, it feels a little wrong taking money out of my grocery category knowing that I could use it on more groceries, but when I look at the long-term goal of better investments and consider I was foolishly throwing this money out anyway before I was using coupons, it is worth it!

I hope to give you an update by the end of the month.


E-Mealz – A Mom’s Dream Come True

I have recently used a service out of Alabama called E-Mealz. This service is a lifesaver. With your payment plan, you get a menu full of dinners for the week for a family up to four based on the sales paper at your store.

Since using E-Mealz, my grocery budget went from around $300 every two weeks, to $80-$90 once a week, and sometimes less. I have been able to save up to $120 on my grocery budget, per paycheck. I don’t have to make a grocery list out, unless I need staples or a few extra things, and I don’t have to plan dinner.

For example, I use the Kroger food chain. I purchased the three months 4 person family plan for Kroger for $15.00. Each week I can click on the previous week’s menu and this week’s menu. I print out my menu, complete with recipes and cooking directions, and my shopping list. From the list I can highlight what items I need to buy based on what is in my pantry at the time. I gather my coupons based on the items (which will save me even more money than what is totaled at the bottom of my shopping list), and I head to Kroger.

E-Mealz super-easy website is designed for the busy mom, and designed to please even the biggest cheapskate’s budget. There are coupon tips and even surprise freebie recipes on holidays.

Now you ask, “But what about the recipes, are they any good? What will they do to my waist line?” The recipes are all very delicious. Of course, they are all descretionary and it is up to you whether you cook them. I often have a meal or two that I didn’t cook during the week and I may carry those ingredients over into the next week. I keep a notebook with all the recipes printed out so that I may skim through them if I don’t care for a particular recipe.

I am always watching my waistline and so I opt to buy the more healthy of the varieties if given a chance. Many times, the same item is for sale for the same price with lower fat or sugar or salt.  There are also diet plan options available at E-Mealz for such the person, but I haven’t tried those receipes so I can’t comment on them.

Next you ask, “Is it worth the money just to pay for supper when you still have to buy breakfast and lunch items?” To that I say  yes! The one meal a day when everyone is home is dinner. It is the biggest meal and the most expensive. It makes your grocery bill low enough that you can still afford to buy eggs, lunchmeats, milk, etc., and often the grocery list includes many of these items that can also be used for breakfast and lunch. Also, the portions are big enough that you can have left-overs for lunch the next day.

At no more than $5 a month, saving you hundreds of dollars on your already growing grocery bill, with delicious and nutritious recipes, why would you not try it out for three months? If you have not saved at least $100 at the end of a month, I will be surprised!