Archives for November 2010

Tips for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Here are some helpful tips to getting what you want at the best price on Black Friday and/or Cyber Monday.

  1. Make a List of Gifts – Compare your list to the Black Friday/Cyber Monday ads. Are there gifts on your list you want to buy on either of those days?
  2. Set Target Prices – How much are you truly willing to spend to get the deal? Make sure this falls within the budget you set for yourself!
  3. Find Your Retailer(s) – What stores have the make and model you want?
  4. Go Early or Set Your Alarm – Whether you’re shopping at the stores or from home, in order to get the best price, you need to act fast! Find out when the store opens, or when the deals will be posted, and plan your schedule accordingly. Either way, it may mean getting up in the middle of the night!
  5. Become an Existing Customer – Most online retailers will save your address and payment information, allowing you to log-in with just an email and password. If you think you might want something from any online retailer, I suggest you become an existing customer ahead of time. Then, when the deal happens, you have less information you need to enter.
  6. Stick to Your List – Focus on only buying the items you need at the price point you set. Do not get caught up in the buying frenzy! Just because something is a good deal, doesn’t make it a good deal for you!

Will you be heading out Black Friday?

Reading Nutrition Labels: Supermarket Strategies

Do you read nutrition labels? What do you look for?

As I’ve been documenting on this website, I’ve been Feeding My Family of Four a Green Diet for $15/day. Part of my definition of Green Diet is buying products with ingredients that are recognizable, pronounceable and nutritious. All that information is on the nutrition label! That’s the focus of this week’s:

When buying a product, try to take the time to read the label first. What to look for:

Short Ingredient List

First, read the label to make sure the product is not high in transfats, sugars or salt. Next, remember the fewer the ingredients in a product, the better. If you see a long list of unrecognizable ingredients, it indicates added chemicals and fillers you don’t need or want. Finally, check the serving size. You may be astonished to see how small the serving size is!

Ingredient List You Can Pronounce

Again, if you can’t pronounce an ingredient you probably shouldn’t be ingesting it or using it on your body. Who knows what that stuff is?

Look For Whole Grains NOT Multi Grains

Buying a product made from whole grains means you are getting all three parts of the grain kernel – the bran, the endosperm, and the germ. Multi Grains are made from several grains, but these grains may have been refined – meaning the grain kernel may have been stripped of some of its nutrients. Look for labels that identify 100% of a grain. For example, pick 100% Whole Wheat bread to get a whole grain product.

Avoid Labels with MSG, High Fructose Corn Syrup, or Artificial Colors

MSG (monosodium glutamate) is a food additive that has been linked to allergic reactions. Best to steer clear rather than to risk an adverse reaction.

High fructose corn syrup is made from chemically altered cornstarch. It is high in calories and low in nutrition. It leads to weight gain, tooth decay and poor nutrition. And it shows up in the most unlikely places (like 100% Whole Wheat Bread!) So be sure to check your nutrition labels.

Artificial Colors are man-made dyes that can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Some of the worst culprits have been banned. (Remember the Red Dye scare?)

Look for Non-GMO Labels

Looking for the label “NON-GMO” is particularly important. GMO stands for genetically modified organisms, which is a way of saying science tampered with nature. The absolute best way to avoid GMOs is to buy organic.

I am by no means perfect in my buying. I did buy Pillsbury crusts this week. And I struggle with my desire to buy Gatorade. It’s so cheap this week! However, I am consistent in other areas – like only buying organic milk and eggs. My weekly strategy is to shop the perimeter of the store for most of my groceries – focusing on single word foods – like banana. That way, I always know what I’m getting.

Twice Baked Acorn Squash Recipe

Slightly sweet and nutty. Easy to make with impressive results. Plus, with hard squash in season and readily available at low cost, this acorn squash recipe is a Must-Make. The sweetness totally won my kids over. And check out its slight heart shape. Looks like love, tastes like love. It’d make a great addition to any holiday meal – particularly if you have any vegetarians attending.

TWICE BAKED ACORN SQUASH

2 C  Cooked Wild Rice

2 Acorn Squash, cut in half and seeded

1/4 C Butter (can use vegetable oil to make vegan)

2 C Chopped Onions

2 T Fresh Lemon Juice

1/2 C Slivered Almonds

1/2 C Dried Cranberries

1/4 C Parsley, minced

1 T Brown Sugar

Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375.

Place squash halves cut side down on oiled baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes, or until tender. Let cool. Scoop out squash carefully, leaving a 1/4 inch shell. Place the squash pulp in a large mixing bowl.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute onions until very tender. Add the cooked wild rice, squash pulp and lemon juice. Break the squash up until in small pieces. Stir in cranberries, almonds, parsley, and brown sugar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Mound the rice mixture into the empty squash shells. Bake for an additional 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Serves 4

Submitted to Tasty Tuesday

Eco-Friendly Green Holiday

Thank you to Nikki at Coupon Cookin for letting me guest post this week! I had the great pleasure of meeting Nikki this summer at the Savvy Blogging Summit – and I assure you she is every bit as delightful as her blog!

With the holidays right around the corner, how about implementing a plan that makes you feel good about both the planet and your budget?

Head on over to Coupon Cookin to find out how to make everything about your holidays green – from your invitations to your decorations to the gifts you give!

Cloves and Oranges photo by Meg Nicol

Three Ways to be a Savvy Shopper

I’m sure you’ve seen it too. Families who have “couponed” their way out of debt. Or families who have used coupons to trim their budgets so they can pay off their house early or put a kid through college. But how do you know if what you are doing is Savvy Shopping or just engaging in Consumerism? That’s the topic of today’s:

Couponing is fun. It is a great feeling to push a cart full of groceries out of the store and to know that you probably got some groceries for free or super cheap AND you stayed within budget.

However, it’s important to make sure we aren’t confusing savvy shopping with rampant consumerism. Here are 3 ways to make sure you are in charge of your shopping and not the other way around!

1. Prioritize

Did you spend your day addicted to the couponing sites? Stalking message boards? Frantically looking for coupons? Printing coupons out by the dozen? Meanwhile, is your family waiting for dinner? Are your kids parked in front of the tv for just “one more minute”?

Coupons are meant to help you get the products you need or want at a discounted price. If you are consumed with how to get the next best deal, its not savvy shopping. In fact, it can actually feed an addiction to shopping, which is how many people get in debt in the first place.

Prioritize your couponing. Be ready to walk away from some deals because you know you simply don’t need the product.

Collect coupons for the products you love and know you will use. Don’t worry about printing/collecting every single coupon just because a good deal might come up and you don’t want to miss out.

2. Organize

Have you found yourself throwing away expired items in your stockpile? What about having to garage sale or donate the excess? Make sure you organize your stockpile so you know what is in there and when it is set to expire. Who cares if you only spent .25 on something if you end up throwing it away!

Savvy Shopping means being in control of your spending. Excessive consumption means buying things just because you can. And really, wouldn’t you rather have the money to spend on other things you also need or want?

3. Recognize

Recognize what makes a good deal for your family. If you are pursuing healthier eating, stop buying the junk! It might only be .49, but .49 can also buy you a pound of bananas!

Buying something because it is perceived as a bargain is not Savvy Shopping. Buying something because it benefits your family is.

Do you consider yourself a savvy shopper? If so, why?

Do-It-Yourself Christmas Gift: Preserved Lemons

I’m back with another great Do-It-Yourself, Do-It-Ahead Holiday Gift! This time I’ll show you how to Preserve Lemons.

All you need for this project is a clean jar, 4-6 lemons – preferably organic – and kosher salt. The video will show you exactly how it is done. You won’t believe how easy this is!

Can’t view the video? Head to The Natural Green Mom YouTube channel!

As promised in the video, here are some great ways to use your lemons once they are preserved:

  • Chop them and put them in a salad
  • Use some of the liquid to make a salad dressing
  • Add to cooked rice with some almond slivers
  • Mix with melted butter and pour over steamed broccoli
  • Muddle some in a glass, add ice, and pour sparkling water over

I hope you make these and save some for yourself! If you’ve never had them, you won’t believe how delicious they are!

Recipe: Hot Tropical Lemonade

This Hot Tropical Lemonade not only tastes AMAZING, but it has surprising health benefits too!

First, the lemon. Its a good source of vitamin C. And when mixed with hot water, it helps with digestion by easing bloating, heartburn and nausea. It also is great for the skin, for relieving sore throats, and for easing a fever.

You can check out all of the Amazing Health Benefits of Lemons.

Next, the coconut oil. Forget everything you think you know about coconut oil. New studies are showing that instead of making you fat, coconut oil actually aides in weight reduction! Coconut Oil contains short and medium-chain fatty acids that help in taking off excessive weight – not adding it. Add in the fact that coconut oil aides in your immunity and can help keep you healthy this cold and flu season, and you’ve got a great reason to try this drink!

Don’t forget the cinnamon! Cinnamon helps to lower blood sugar, reduces heart disease risk factors, and offers antioxidants.

I like to buy cinnamon sticks and grate them. Did you know you can reuse cinnamon sticks?

HOT TROPICAL LEMONADE

3 C Water
1/4 C Honey (optional)
1/2 Lemon
1 T Cinnamon
2 T Coconut Oil

Add water, honey, and cinnamon to saucepan on stove. Squeeze in lemon juice then drop the lemon into the pan. Bring to a low boil over medium-high heat.

To 4 mugs, add 1/2 T Coconut Oil. Pour lemon mixture over, which will melt the coconut oil. Stir and serve!

Makes 4 Servings