Feeding my family…healthy, easy, and on a budget

Even though my family only consists of three people (mom, dad and toddler), getting a healthy, home-made meal on the table every night is not an easy task, especially when both parents are working.  I used to struggle with menu planning.  Half the time I wouldn’t even do it and just randomly buy things at the grocery store with intentions to use them at some point in the week.  I’d end up spending a ridiculous amount of money and much of the stuff I bought would end up going bad.  When I DID try to menu plan, I would find it hard to come up with new ideas.  I’d make my grocery list before heading to the store, which helped, but I would still end up buying food that was out of season or something that I only needed a little bit of and then I’d waste the rest of it.

Then a friend told me about http://www.thefresh20.com.  The Fresh 20 is a subscription service that sends you a weekly dinner menu plan each Friday for the upcoming week.  They provide 5 meals per week so you can still do your own thing two days, whether that is go out to eat or make your family’s favorite.  The theory is 5 meals (meant for a family of four so I scale back the recipes a little and then have enough for one packed lunch) using 20 fresh ingredients, that take 20 minutes to prepare, for less than $20 per meal.  They send you the menu, the recipes, the shopping list and the nutritional data for each meal.  And so far, almost every meal has been something my (sometimes picky) family will eat!  They offer menu options such as Classic (usually three meat based meals, one seafood and one vegetarian), Gluten Free, Vegan, even Meals for One.  We do the Classic menu.  My husband is allergic to shellfish so whenever there is a shellfish based meal, I substitute fish or chicken.  You can pay quarterly or yearly.  When you pay for a year up front, you save money AND you get access to the archives, meaning you can look up any past menu.  Sometimes I do that if there is something that just isn’t going to work out for us that week or if I am in the mood for something from a prior week.  If you pay quarterly, you only get access to the prior three weeks meal.  But, the menus are in PDF form so you can download and save them all anyway.  The menu and shopping plans take advantage of seasonal ingredients and are designed to use up everything that you buy (so you aren’t left with 3/4 of a bunch of basil or half a can of diced tomatoes because you only needed a little bit for one recipe).  AND, I usually beat the estimated cost on the shopping list!  It’s like a game…  🙂

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Another awesome internet-based subscription service that I use (surprise surprise) is http://www.doortodoororganics.com.  Door to Door Organics is a a weekly organic fruit and vegetable delivery service.  You choose the day, the frequency and the size of your “box” and Door to Door takes care of the rest!  The great thing is that you can see what you are getting in your box a few days ahead of time and can make up to 5 substitutions per week (and you can add in extra produce and other groceries for an additional cost).  Cost is comparable to the grocery store and there is no shipping charge. So far, everything has been fresh and the one time there was a recall on fruit that was in my order, they notified me immediately and put a credit in my account. The only down-side is that, in my area, the only delivery day options are Tuesday and Thursday which means that timing doesn’t necessarily work out that well with The Fresh 20.  Instead of making my 5 planned meals Monday through Friday, I often end up having to make them Tuesday through Saturday because some of the ingredients I need don’t arrive until I get my Door to Door Organics box on Tuesday.  Which isn’t the biggest deal in the word, I just wish there was a Monday delivery option.  If you want to try a box from Door to Door Organics, comment below with your email address (or send it to me at mariaferris@outlook.com) and I can send you a code to get 50% off your first delivery!  It’s a great way to get organic produce that you can’t always find at your local grocery store!

Anyway, I just wanted to share these two services which have really helped me plan healthy dinner for my family while sticking to my budget!

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Stitch Fix #1 – Review

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I got my first Stitch Fix box yesterday!! (For a description of what Stitch Fix is and how it works, check out my previous post “Stitch Fix Reviews Coming Soon”) I have been looking forward to it soooo much! Even did the “sneak preview” thing by opening up the “checkout now” screen as soon as my box shipped and googling the names of all the items. Ha! There were a few things I liked right off the bat and a few things that I thought weren’t really “me”. But I was anxious to get the box and try everything on because isn’t the point of this exercise to get out of my comfort zone a little and try new things?

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Anyway, the box arrived and I immediately tore into it. I think it could have been packaged prettier but I really liked the cards that give you suggestions on how to wear the items in your box. Please don’t mind how gross I look in these photos, it was early in the morning, I have no make-up on and am generally terrible at posing for pictures. (Will try to do better next time). Also don’t mind the wandering baby…ok, here we go:

1. 41Hawthorn Maya Flutter Sleeve Blouse-Cobalt: $58
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Didn’t fit quite right and even though I thought I would like that it was longer in the back than the front, it didn’t look right on. Also, the fabric was weird, a really thick polyester. Though the quality was decent, overall, it is not something I’d normally spend $58 on.

Status: Return.

2. Collective Concepts Esten Button Up Sleeveless Blouse-Dark Purple: $54
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Looked like nothing special on the hanger but was really cute on. I like the color and the fabric. Would even be willing to spend $54 on it…but I am trying to limit myself to keeping only 2 pieces because I have already spent too much money on myself this month and this ranked #3 in the box.

Status: Sadly, return.

3. Renee C Raiya 3/4 Sleeve Vneck Floral Shift Dress-Navy: $74
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At first sight, I wasn’t all about this pattern. Out of my comfort zone. But the style of the dress screams Maria (Bobo? Hippie?). My fear was that it would just hang and be shapeless. Fears not realized! It actually was flowy but not it an unflattering way! It will look really cute with wedges in early fall and boots in late fall. And I decided to take a risk on the pattern. Plus, my husband gave it the thumbs up which I was not expecting!

Status: Keep.

4. 41Hawthorn Ashland Chevron Print Dress-Blue: $78
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Again, wasn’t so sure about it on first glance. The pattern seemed a bit “much” to me. But of course it fit really well and looked cute. I like the style and the fabric (which was more substantial than it seemed when I google-previewed it). Would have kept it if I wasn’t trying to be “good”.

Status: Reluctantly return.

5. Market and Spruce Elissa French Terry Motto Jacket-Grey: $68
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I loved this jacket when I google-previewed it. I have to say it ever so slightly disappointed in person. It was a little shorter and less fitted than I thought it would be. But I still loved it and I think it will be a very versatile piece for the fall.

Status: Keep

Overall, I was really happy with my first “Fix”! Nothing too risky but got me out of my comfort zone a little bit, definitely some things I wouldn’t have tried on otherwise. And my husband liked everything (except the flutter shirt) too! The style was pretty on point for me. If I had unlimited funds, I would have kept 4 things. So far success! Looking forward to “Fix” #2 which is due to arrive October 4th! Want a “Fix” of your own? Click here: http://www.stitchfix.com/referral/4005854

Coming soon…Stitch Fix Reviews!

Ok, I admit, I am addicted to online shopping…especially stuff that comes automatically every week, month, etc.  (I promise to do a food related post on all my subscription services soon…menu planning, organic produce deliveries…)  I have a small child so shopping, which was once a fun and stress-relieving endeavor, is now a race against time.  My most recent discovery is Stitch Fix!  It’s a service that sends you a box of 5 clothing/accessory items once a month (or you can forgo the automatic shipment and just request shipments on demand) to try out.  You get charged a $20 “styling fee” when the box ships.  You have three days from the package’s arrival to try everything on and decide what, if anything, you want to keep.  Items you DON’T want get sent back in a pre-paid, pre-labeled envelope that they include in your package…just drop it in the mailbox (and log into your account to let them know the items are coming back and why).  If there are items you DO want to keep, just log onto your account, select the items you are going to keep and check out.  The $20 styling fee gets credited to your total!  So as long as you purchase at least one item that is $20 or more, you avoid the styling fee.  And if you keep all 5 items, you get 25% off your total!  I know people who actually use this service and have been quite happy with their monthly “Fixes” so far!

How do they know what you want or what you like?  When you sign up, you fill out a pretty detailed style profile which even includes info on your price range for each type of item (pants, shirts, bags, jewelry, etc. – I chose the “as cheap as possible” and “$50-100” price ranges for my items).  You can leave notes for your “stylist” and when you choose to keep or return items, you can leave notes as to why or what you’d like them to focus on instead.  You can choose colors or patterns that you don’t want…they seem pretty detail oriented.  AND, the theory is that the longer you use the program, the better they get to know you and your style and the more successful your boxes become!

Click here to check out Stitch Fix!  Sign up!  Get a Fix!  And stay tuned for my monthly Stitch Fix reviews!  I haven’t really purchased any new clothes since I got pregnant and I am pumped to update my wardrobe!

Easy healthy lunches…including summer gazpacho!

So, as previously mentioned in prior posts, I love soup. Chili, stew, whatever. And yes, even in summer. Whenever I make a vat of homemade soups, I always freeze a few small, lunch sized containers for me and “C” to take for lunch at some point (she also love soup, a girl after my own heart). Well, today I made a super easy, delicious gazpacho. I froze a few containers in the hopes that it will defrost well for lunch (a little worried since it is all raw ingredients). I’ll update after the first defrost attempt. Here is the fabulous recipe which is toddler and hubby approved!

Tomato-Watermelon Gazpacho
-1 quarter medium sized watermelon
– 3 tomatoes
– 1 cucumber
– half a red pepper
– 1 quarter of an onion
-half a poblano pepper (or whatever pepper you want based on how spicy you want it)
– small handful of fresh mint
– small handful fresh basil
– half teaspoon of salt (adjust to taste).

Blend it in the blender and you’re done!

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Amazing body scrub from used coffee grounds!??

Let me share my secret wake up ritual…you wake up and have your morning coffee, right? Don’t throw the grounds away! They are a fabulous body scrub! You can literally take the coffee filter in the shower with you or make a more fancy scrub. I let the grounds dry out then mix them in a small jar with a little unscented body wash (because I like a sudsy scrub) and a little bit of essential oil (peppermint or grapefruit or slim and sassy, so many options). You could also mix with coconut or almond oil if you prefer an oil based scrub. Your skin will be unbelievably smooth and your senses will be perked up!! And the caffeine might just help smooth out any cellulite…you never know!

Note, if you want to learn more about pure essential oils, feel free to email me!  mariaferris@outlook.com

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All Natural Deodorant for sale (made with certified pure therapeutic grade essential oils)

I’m whipping up some batches of my world famous (ok, maybe not WORLD) natural deodorant this weekend and giving special orders a try!  Prices below for a 2.65 ounce tube (plus $2.50 shipping if I have to send it to you). Send me your order including oil choices if you are interested (mariaferris@outlook.com)! Below are most popular but if you have special requests or special needs (like sensitive skin, etc) let me know and we can do a special batch! All doTERRA oils being used (obviously since I am obsessed). 🙂 If you’d rather make it yourself (it’s so easy), I can send you the recipe and help you get set up with all the supplies.

On Guard/Melaleuca (tea tree) (maximum strength) – $12
Lemongrass/Lavender/Melaleuca (regular strength) – $10
Lavender/Melaleuca (for you lucky “I barely sweat” people) – $10

http://www.mydoterra.com/mariaferris