Times are lean–literally!

You may have seen me commenting at Jezebel, under the name LadySoprano is a Fat-Fighting Superwoman. Well, I’m also your typical recessionista, looking to save money even as I save calories. You’d think it would be super-expensive, but it’s not.  I’m finding that it’s actually cheaper to eat well. Here’s how I’m doing it:

  1. Veggies and fruits are cheaper! It’s true. Of course, if you want fresh strawberries in April, they’ll be imported and expensive. Fresh strawberries this time of year? They’re practically giving them away. These days, I aim to make fresh produce at least half of my shopping purchase.
  2. Don’t fall for the 100 Calorie packs. It’s tempting to think, “hey, I can have OREOS for 100 calories!” There’s always a catch–and the catch here is that they don’t satisfy. Oh, and they’re expensive. Either buy the cheaper, fattier pack of Oreos and limit yourself to two a day, or start satisfying your sweet tooth with a healthier alternative, like fruit.
  3. Buy meat in bulk. I don’t have a Costco or Sam’s Club membership (hey, I cook for one!). So what I do is buy the large packs of chicken breasts at Safeway. When I get home, I immediately open the package, put together baggies with 2-3 chicken breasts inside, and then pop them in the freezer before they have a chance to defrost. That way, when I’m wanting chicken for dinner, I don’t have to cook 10 pounds of chicken and find myriad ways to eat it before it goes bad.
  4. Cut out the non-essentials. I don’t allow myself to buy Dr. Pepper at the store anymore–in fact, I only drink it as a very special treat anymore. I’ve also cut out other non-essential purchases like packages of chips, cookies, etc. If I really, really want a cookie, I buy a large, fresh cookie from the bakery, savor it, and consider it a special occasion.
  5. What about dessert? Two words: Otter. Pops. I recently figured out that one Otter Pop has only 15 calories. They’re sweet, they’re cold, and I can eat three in one sitting without feeling like a pig.

I have found that buying less processed food is not only good for my body, it’s good for my wallet. I do splurge on a few things–I bought organic peanut butter, for example, because it is healthier: unprocessed, lower in calories.

That said, I’d like to share a fabulous recipe. I’ve always loved homemade quiche, and since I’ve been on my Superwoman Fat Fighting Spree, I’ve thought I’d have to give it up.

Fortunately, quiche is one of those meals that can be tweaked. I tweaked mine, it’s delicious, and I want to share it with you.

Ingredients:

  • 3 or 4 spears fresh asparagus (27 calories)
  • 1 cup fresh leaf spinach (7 calories)
  • 1 cup Heart Healthy Bisquick (420 calories)
  • 1 package of fresh crumbled Feta cheese (320 calories)
  • 3/4 cup of Egg Beaters egg whites (90 calories)
  • 1 cup fat free milk (90 calories)
  • Total calories for the whole pie = 954

Directions

  1. Spray a 9″ pie plate with cooking spray (I use Pam Olive Oil spray).
  2. Chop the asparagus spears into small, bite-size pieces, add to pie plate.
  3. Add spinach leaves and Feta to the pie plate
  4. In a mixing bowl, whisk Bisquick, egg whites and milk until it is well-mixed. Scrape the edges of the bowl to get all of the Bisquick.
  5. Pour over the veggies and cheese.
  6. Bake at 450 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown on top. To test whether it’s done, insert a knife in the middle–it should come out clean.

You can eat 1/4 of the pie, for 238.5 calories. I aim for about 300 calories per meal, so you can have another vegetable or some fruit on the side.

I Pledge Allegiance…

June 9, 2009

…to my Pledge Fabric Sweeper.

Seriously, Jezzies, this thing is a keeper–and it’s inexpensive, too!

My mom and I found them at Target this weekend. A package of two is $4.99. I figured, since Mom was buying, I’d give it a try. My vaccuum cleaner has great suction, but it still doesn’t get the cat hair off my furniture very well. I was at Mom and Dad’s until last night, so I didn’t get a chance to try my new sweeper out until today.

It is awesome!

I must have gotten a pound of hair off of the sofa and chair in my living room. You just brush it back and forth in short, quick motions, and the two rollers (covered in what feels like the soft part of Velcro) pick up the hair and then push it back into the little canister behind.

My sofa hasn’t looked this good in ages.

Best of all is the price. This Recessionista is on a tight budget this month, so, even if Mom hadn’t bought this for me, I would have been able to part with five bucks for such a great product.

It came with two coupons, good for $1.00 off. First two people who contact me via Facebook can have them!

Random Intermission

April 10, 2009

Sometimes, after long days such as this one, I am starving for something to make me smile. We’re all going through pretty hard times right now, and I think everyone deserves to laugh (and maybe cry a bit). I wanted to share these two videos with you guys in hopes of magicking a smile onto your faces. Also, watch them chronologically!

Validation:

Rent-A-Person:

Chag Sameach to all the Jewzebels and Happy Easter/Peep-eating Festivities to the rest of you!

- musicpup

Music!

April 2, 2009

As some of you may have gathered by now, the musicpup is a voice major. This naturally leads you to the conclusion that I like music. A lot. Not just classical, but jazz, rock, some pop, everything. Music’s gotten pretty expensive these days, as has listening to live performances for most part. This is why I want to raise awareness to a few things:

  1. Colleges! If you live anywhere near a university or college, chances are there will be a music department. A lot of them will have free concerts and recitals. This is a great way to get introduced to new music and new artists; most music departments have a lot of options ranging from majoring in vocal or instrumental performance to majoring in composition. Faculty or guests artists will perform a great variety of material. It’s a fantastic way to support your local college, become more familiar with new types of music and actually help out the artist. Nothing sucks more than performing in front of a mostly empty recital hall.
  2. Volunteer! As I am outside of D.C., I live fairly close to the Strathmore Music Center. Strathmore, like many other concert halls, is seriously hurting for volunteer ushers. By volunteering, you make yourself useful and you get to listen to great music – for free! The policy is usually that you can sit down about half-way through the first set after you’re done policing everyone up and showing people to their seats, handing out pamphlets, etc. A lot of concerts have free pre-concert lectures on the composers or style of music that will be played, so it would be educational to boot.
  3. Browse! You wouldn’t believe how much free music I’ve acquired through the internet. Many artists, especially when they are not super well-known, will have free songs up for download on their websites. The general idea is to lure people into buying their products in the long run, which you may or may not want to do, depending on how badly your wallet is faring at this time.
  4. Share! I am not advocating for download torrents or whatever the hell you kids call that shit these days, though I despise the big recording companies and the ridiculous prices they slap on their products. What I’m getting at is that you might just want to get together with friends and exchange CDs; these days, when everyone has a computer, music is easily converted into MP3 format and accessible at all times. Organize a CD exchange with your friends.
  5. Convert! Psst! There’s Video to MP3 conversion programs! ‘Nuff said.
  6. Buy Music! Honestly, it is much cheaper for you to buy songs off iTunes or eMusic than it is to buy a CD. The artists sees a larger percentage of the profits that way, too, and that’s who I personally REALLY want to support in the first place, not some jerk-ass producer or manager. My friends often mention a Russian site that sells music at much more reasonable prices than most sites do; once I wheedle that information out of them, I will post the URL to it here.

I hope any of this was helpful at all. Carry on carrying on!

- musicpup

I’m a junkie for free stuff- “If it’s Free, it’s for Me!” may as well be tattooed on my forehead.

And ya’ll- I get a LOT of free stuff.    I haven’t paid for toothpaste, shampoo or razors in over a year- I could build a toothpaste razor FORT.  I have $600 worth of skin brightening face serums in a box under my sink that I did not pay for.  Cold medicine?  Chapstick?  Lip gloss?  Free, free, free.

I know what you’re thinking- “those claws were made for pinching products!”  But it’s all 100% legit.

With a little time and effort, you can get free stuff, too!  Over the next few posts, (workload permitting,) I will tell you how to get started.

Here’s what I’ve got in my arsenal:

  • Deal websites  (ebates.com, slickdeals.net)
  • Coupons, (I know, I know- get over it!  I just got 4 boxes of Life cereal for $3, TYVM!)
  • Mail-in-Rebates
  • CVS (most of my free stuff comes from here.)
  • Survey sites (I got paid $50 to do my taxes, thanks SurveySpot!)
  • Product testing (The $600 of face brightening serums came from this.)
  • Free Samples (Great for traveling!)

Every Saturday, I clip my coupons and plan my shopping trips while I watch The Soup on TIVO.  It’s NOT THAT TIME CONSUMING and it’s totally worth the savings.  My boyfriend used to make fun of me, but now he’s just amazed that I can walk into a CVS and get $40 worth of stuff for $8 out-of-pocket.  My last trip to the grocery store, I spent $39 and saved $49.

If you want to get started NAO, start at slickdeals.net.  It’s the most comprehensive deal site I’ve come across and it’s where I got started.  This website saved me HUNDREDS of dollars over Christmas and continues to be my main source of deal information.

You might know about my recent conversion to a healthier lifestyle. I hired a personal trainer (NOT recession-friendly but worth every penny) and started working on getting my over-200-pound weight down.

The first obstacle was completely changing my diet. B. the Sadistic Trainer immediately admonished me to get rid of the butter, oil, soda, and other crap that was in my daily diet. To make things easier, I gave up Dr. Pepper for Lent and then dutifully got to work.

So how does one cook when her options are somewhat limited and her wallet a little low? Let me share how I’ve been doing it.

Today I went to the grocery store to stock up on lots of fresh veggies. Here is my receiptReceipt. The Laughing Cow cheese wedges are a splurge at $3.09 (but still cheaper than Safeway, where they’re almost five bucks), but they’re worth it. Each wedge is 35 calories, and I can spread them on a whole-wheat mini-bagel for a snack.

The whole-wheat pasta is trainer-approved. I am to balance each meal with one protein, one carb, and plenty of veggies. I also bought some fat free hot cocoa mix for the occasional treat.

The magazines are for reading while I sweat away on the cross-trainer.

You can see that the majority of my receipt is produce.  I bought a ton of stuff because come Sunday, I’ll be cooking for the whole week.

So, what do I do with this? Here’s a simple idea that is super-easy and delicious.

Ingredients:

Boneless/skinless chicken breasts

Whole Wheat pasta

Mushrooms (white, or portabella)

Tomato (Roma, Hothouse, whatever you fancy)

Fresh spinach (I love the salad packs that come pre-washed, but those are a splurge)

Green bell pepper

Zucchini

Onion

Garlic (I splurged on the jar of minced garlic today, but I’ve also minced a clove of garlic or just used garlic powder).

Parmesan (shredded)

Directions:

1. Cook pasta according to directions on package.

2. Slice uncooked chicken and add to a pan that is lightly coated with cooking spray (no oil!).

3. As the chicken browns, add garlic, green pepper, onion, zucchini, and mushrooms. When these are almost done, add the tomato and spinach.

4. Serve chicken/veggie mix over well-drained pasta. Add 1/4 cup of Parmesan. Bon apetit!

 

Please note that each serving consists of 2 oz (dry) of pasta, 4 oz. (cooked) of chicken, and about 1 cup of vegetables.

The groceries I bought today and the chicken I have in my freezer will make enough for a whole week of lunch and dinner.

Truefax: I sweat. A lot. This is not, “tee hee! I haz a sweat!” This is “holy beetlejuice, batman! That’s sweatacular!” levels of sweat.

Excessive sweating is not only embarrassing, it’s costly. I have a box full of antiperspirants and deodorants that I have tried and tossed aside and I have ruined more bras, camisoles and light colored shirts than I care to admit.

So what’s a Recessionista to do? Continue buying and tossing?

Bish, Plz!

Even if you’re a dainty sweater, you’ve no doubt faced the dreaded Yellow Pit’s of Shame. I can’t keep you from sweating, but I can save your clothes.

1. NEVER wear clear gel deodorant with white/light colored clothes. The chemicals alone will cause yellowing. Add sweat and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

2. Invest in Oxyclean. TRUST. This miracle powder will get you out of ALL KINDS of fixes. I buy the dollar store brand- it’s the same exact thing Billy Mays is shilling on the TV.

3. Act fast. You want to get at the stain while it’s still damp, (this goes for most stains- the sooner you get to them, the better.) Fill your sink with hot water, add Oxyclean and a dollop of detergent, (I usually use a squirt of shampoo or body wash since it’s right there,) give the pit area a quick scrub and soak. Sometimes I add bleach, if it’s a particularly stubborn stain. Check back in 10 minutes or so, rinse and hang over your shower rod to dry.

This is slightly annoying, but it really doesn’t take long. If I’m wearing white, the first thing I do when I get home is put that shirt in the sink. I let it soak while I’m taking my shower or getting dinner ready, rinse it and hang it to dry. Done and Done. This little routine has saved me from having to buy new white camisoles, nude bras, light button down shirts, etc. every month or so and that’s worth the effort.

Let me repeat- GET THEE SOME OXYCLEAN POWDER. You can put the powder directly on the stain to make it extra concentrated, just remember to wet it or it won’t work. Oxy has saved me countless times. Red wine spill? Permanent marker on the duvet cover? A monthly *ahem* accident? GONE, SAVED, FIXED.

It’s almost summer, ladies. That’s sweating season, but it’s no reason you can’t enjoy that white flowy tunic you got on super-sale at TJ Maxx.

I’ll be up front about it. I am a bit of a make-up whore. It’s a legit way to paint on your face. Short of drawing penii on your cheeks with eyeliner or whatever, no one will look at your war paint and wonder what the hell you were smoking that morning. Since I’ve always been a cheap bastard, I figured I might as well share some of the brands I use hat still yield good results. I have very sensitive skin and I’ve fared very well with these.

  1. Wet n Wild: Yes, yes, I know, the name sounds dirty. For the longest time, I assumed it was kid’s make-up because the name was a turn-off. The prices were always so damn tempting, though, so I gave in. And lo and behold, it is not a bad brand at all. They also sell cheap make-up accessories such as brushes, pencil sharpeners, etc. that are a necessity.
  2. N.Y.C. (New York Color): Another one I underestimated for a long time. Again, the target group seems to be teenagers, but if you pick the right items, you’re good to go. Plus you know you always wanted to try funky eyeliner colors.
  3. Rimmel: This seems like a no-brainer, but it isn’t necessary. Rimmel are a very reliable brand. Some of my favorite items in my make-up bag come from that shelf.
  4. CoverGirl: Ignoring the controversy where their current cover girl is concerned, this actually is a good brand. I was a little worried about some of their perfumed products setting off skin allergies, but it wasn’t the case.
  5. Revlon: With Revlon, you might actually have to look at the price tag on occasion. Generally they are cheap, especially when it comes to eye shadow, but they do sell higher-end products. They have a diverse color palette I find wonderful.
  6. Maybelline: The same rule a above goes for Maybelline, even though I will faithfully buy their damn mascara until my wallet shrieks and dies because it actually yields results I like.
  7. L’Oreal: We’re working our way through the upper end of the drugstore spectrum. L’Oreal actually has an affordable line called HIP that entails very highly pigmented eye shadows, which very few other brands do.
  8. Almay: Not quite as “low-end” as the others, but I know for a fact that Almay does not test its products on animals, which I cannot necessarily guarantee for the others. If you are pale like myself and have issues finding foundation that matches your skin-tone, you might want to check them out just in case. Their make-up also covers a broad spectrum of skin types.

Some obvious tips when buying: check for coupons whenever you can or just randomly drop into a drugstore if you have the time. A lot of times they will have certain items on sale or even clearance at almost ludicrous percentages; Rite-Aid, for example, convinced me to actually buy something rather than stare longingly by putting make-up on 75% discounts.

Have fun!

-musicpup

Arm & Hammer

I love baking soda. It is one of the most awesome substances on the planet. As a little girl, I learned to add a teensy bit of water to it to make a mystery goo (who says science in our schools is dead?). As an adult, I have learned that it is an awesome cleaning/deodorizing agent.

There are many obvious uses for baking soda, like placing an open box in your fridge or freezer to help with food odors, or keeping it near the stove in case you have a grease fire. But baking soda has so many other uses—and at $0.99 a box (or thereabouts) at Target, it’s very easy on a Jezebel Reccessionista’s wallet.

Here are two of my favorite uses for baking soda:

1. Sprinkle it on your carpet, wait a few minutes, and then vacuum. There are fancy carpet powders that are way more expensive, but baking soda does the trick. For fun, I like to walk around in (clean) old socks, stamping it in to absorb odors.

2. Put a couple teaspoons of baking soda in a microwave-safe mug, then fill it halfway with water. Zap in the microwave for 45 seconds, wait for it to cool, then remove. Voila! That cooked-in tomato sauce that’s been stuck to the walls of the microwave will wipe right off. Added bonus: your microwave will smell fresh again.

And here are some uses I found courtesy of Google:

1. Wash garbage cans with baking soda.
2. Soak and wash diapers with baking soda. (I’m assuming they mean cloth diapers!)
3. Oil and grease – stained clothing washes out better with soda added to the washing water.
4. Soda absorbs kitty litter odors. Cover the bottom of the kitty box with 1 part soda; then add a layer of 3 parts kitty litter on top

5. Run you coffee maker through its cycle with a soda solution. Rinse.
6. Sprinkle soda on barbecue grills, let soak, then rinse off.
7. Sprinkle soda on greasy garage floor. Let stand, scrub and rinse.
8. Polish silverware with dry soda on a damp cloth. Rub, rinse and dry.
9. Reduce odor build-up in your dishwasher by sprinkling some soda on the bottom.
10. Run your dishwasher through its cycle with soda in it instead of soap to give it a good cleaning.
11. To remove burned-on food from a pan: let the pan soak in soda and water for 10 minutes before washing. Or scrub the pot with dry soda and a moist scouring pad.
12. For a badly-burned pan with a thick layer of burned-on food: pour a thick layer of soda directly onto the bottom of the pan, then sprinkle on just enough water so as to moisten the soda. Leave the pot overnight, then scrub it clean next day.
13. Rub stainless steel and chrome with a moist cloth and dry baking soda to shine it up. Rinse and dry. On stainless steel, scrub in the direction of the grain.
14. Clean your bathroom with dry soda on a moist sponge – sink, tub, tiles, shower stall, etc.
15. Keep your drains clean and free-flowing by putting 4 tablespoons of soda in them each week. Flush the soda down with hot water.
16. Soak your shower curtains in water and soda to clean them.
17. To remove strong odors from your hands, wet your hands and rub them hard with soda, then rinse.
18. Sprinkle baking soda on your wet toothbrush and brush your teeth and dentures with it.
19. Sprinkle soda in tennis shoes, socks, boots and slippers to eliminate odor.
20. Add 1/2 cups or more of baking soda to your bath water to soften your skin.
21. Putting 2 tbsp. of baking soda in your baby’s bath water will help relieve diaper rash irritations.
22. Apply soda directly to insect bites, rashes and poison ivy to relieve discomfort. Make a paste with water.
23. Take a soda bath to relieve general skin irritations such as measles and chicken pox.
24. Take 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda in 1/2 glass of water to relieve acid indigestion or heartburn.
25. Gargle with 1/2 tsp. baking soda in 1/2 glass of water. Freshens and cleans your mouth.
26. Used as a mouthwash, baking soda will also relieve canker sore pain.
27. To relieve sunburn: use a paste of baking soda and water.
28. Bug bites: use a poultice of baking soda and vinegar.
29. Bee sting: use a poultice of baking soda and water.
30. Windburns: moisten some baking soda and apply directly.
31. Making Play Clay with baking soda: combine 1 1/4 cups water, 2 cups soda, 1 cup cornstarch.
32. Use soda as an underarm deodorant.
33. Repel rain from windshield. Put gobs of baking soda on a dampened cloth and wipe windows inside and out.

Aside from being budget-friendly, baking soda is environmentally friendly, too, and much healthier to use for cleaning than bleach. I, for one, can’t wait to try out #33. After a long, rainy winter, my windshield is filthy!

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