Sometimes A BBQ Is All You Need

Sometimes, having an old fashioned BBQ is all you need. Slow cooking baby back ribs slow-roasting on the grill (with your own secret BBQ sauce), home-made cole slaw (with a dab of sour creme) and an ice cold, seedless watermelon to top off the meal.

Cold brews optional but very necessary.

 

 

The Mediterranean LifeStyle

tel aviv beachIt’s no secret that the people of Italy, France, Spain to the north and Greece, Turkey, Israel and Lebanon to the east, with Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria comprising the North African countries, live and eat well. Time and time again, countless studies have proven that the Mediterranean lifestyle and diet has lower incidences of coronary heart disease thanks wholly on their heavy reliance on vegetables, grains, legumes and olive oil.

Mediterranean Diet Magnet.inddThe Mediterranean Diet Pyramid was developed for American eyeballs back in 2009. With its high amounts of heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fats, promotion of heart healthy blood sugar levels, improvement of cognitive function, prevention of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and certain types of cancer, I find it amazing that fast food joints are still in business in The United States. People who follow the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle tend to be thinner, have improved body mass indexes, lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure.

Fortunately, DH and I are both Italian and had incorporated some of the Mediterranean traits into our lifestyle and menu choices. (going to Italy three times and France once helped!) Apparently, however, whatever we were doing wasn’t quite enough. Both of us this past year suffered from heart events (brought on by stress) so we’ve decided to go full throttle and emerge ourselves into a new lifestyle change and mode. We’re going 100% Mediterranean.

I’ve cleared out our pantry of all junk. We’ve started eliminating foods high in sugars and unrefined starches out of our diet. In addition to our traditional Italian style meals, we’ve added in more foods from Jerusalem, Morocco, Africa, Greece and France. We are eating more fruits and vegetables. Less red meat and more fish, chicken and lamb. Drinking more veggie juices and Greek non-fat yogurt smoothies. I’m learning how to prepare more meals based on grains, such as farrow, bulgur wheat, quinoa and brown rice. Lunches lately have been home-made hummus and falafel based (made from ground chick peas/beans) spread out over cucumbers, red onions, tomatoes and eggplant, wrapped up in whole wheat pita breads.

This is NOT a diet per se. It’s a conscious decision to simply make better food choices. If you look at the first bottom rung of the Mediterranean Pyramid, sitting down to a meal with other people is thee most important feature on the triangle. Sharing and enjoying a meal with others, with good conversation, leads to a happy and healthy lifestyle. DH and I have spent months de-cluttering our home, freshening it up with new appliances and a more modern decor. Nothing can be more of a debbie-downer than living in a stressful environment. When we think of the Mediterranean lifestyle, we envision people relaxing on a beach along the Adriatic Sea or the French Riviera (see photo above). That’s what it’s all about.  Good food. Good company. Good friends.

The Good Life.

 

How I Keep Myself Wealthy

587fd5f944027151941214bdFor over forty-five years, the giant supermarket, Shop Rite, has been offering its customers a twice-a-year (January 1st and July 1st) savings bonanza entitled ‘The Can Can Sale‘ (click here). I’ve been going to this bi-annual event since 1987. That’s thirty years of stocking up on the basic essentials, as long as it came in a can! On each visit, I would buy enough to last me for 6 months until the next can can sale. That meant healthy caned fruit juices for my kids, oodles of tuna fish, peanut butter, fresh pasta sauces, coffee, vegetables, fruits and beans (to name a few of the many items offered at steep discounts) If you live within driving distance to the store, it’s worth the can-can sale trip!

FullSizeRenderSince it’s just DH and me now, our hoarding has narrowed down a bit. I still get cases of Tuttorossa plum and crushed tomatoes, Botticelli Virgin olive oil, Bumble Bee tuna fish, assorted canned beans (kidney, chick peas and white beans), olives and a few more canned incidentals. Instead of going twice a year, however, we go once and buy enough to last us throughout the year. The sale usually goes on for two weeks. This week I bought one case each of plum tomatoes and crushed tomatoes, a case of assorted canned beans, some cans of Bumble Bee tuna fish (packed in water) and 6 cans of small black olives. That savings came to $36.24.

Next week, Botticelli virgin olive oil will be marked down by $3.00 to only $9.99 a can. Last year this was marked down to $8.88 a can but in all honesty, over the years I’ve seen these can-can sales dwindle in value. Nonetheless, we use about one gallon of olive oil per month and if you’ve ever checked out the price of olive oil, it’s very, very expensive. Shop Rite’s can-can sales still offer great values. DH and I are both Italian, so cases of plum tomatoes and olive oil are staples in our family. Stocking up on these items alone is a great value to us. (every Sunday is still pasta night in our home!) We’ll be buying a case of olive oil which will be another savings of $36.00.

Another way we have saved money this past week/month/whatever was by buying a new, left-over, heavily discounted RV all set up for boondocking. What is boondocking you might ask? Boondocking is the ultimate way for any travel frugalista to well, travel. Boondocking means you are camping for free! Boondocking has been so popular that websites, YouTube videos and smart phone apps have been dedicated to it. Our RV is set up to be totally self-sufficient, solar ready (to heat water, work the fridge, keep the lights and TV on) has a large capacity water storage unit just perfect for a daily Navy-style shower, has a back up generator and enough propane to heat the RV, heat the water, run the BBQ or interior kitchen two-burner gas stove.  In other words, DH and I plan on doing a lot of traveling throughout America via boondocking; meaning much of our travel expenses will be null.

I downloaded a free app off of iTunes for my iPhone called Park Advisor (vs $9.99 for All Stays). It lets me know where all the free campsites are located (Wal Mart, casinos, military locations, public state and federal parkland) as well as rest stops, RV campsites (KOA & Good Sam’s and other private camp grounds) the nearest gas station, restaurant and help center. If there’s a phone available, I just click and call for more information. Directions are just another quick click away. On the first night we got our RV we stayed at a campground that cost $60 a night, but I got a 10% discount with my Good Sam’s card. Nonetheless, we paid $54 for a full hook up. Next night, I used the app while we were on the road, the app found the closest Wal Mart AND gave us directions to the location. DH and I had a great nights sleep, for free. Got up the next morning, DH was able to brew us some coffee and we had a few muffins for breakfast before we were out on the road again.

Total cost: ZERO. Now, that’s the new way I like traveling. Times have certainly changed.

Another bonus on the road traveling: the discovery of Panera Bread cafe’s. It’s nice to get a good, organic, clean, chilled and healthy salad on the road. We joined Panera Bread’s frequent customer appreciation program and we will be getting some nice rewards (free food) on our many trails.

Plan on hearing some more good RV savings from me in addition to my landlubber savings. Retirement is all about keeping down expenses while doing more things, adding on more activities and more adventures. At least, that is what it is for me!

Live well and prosper, my friend. Lie well and prosper.

More Frugal Gourmet Dinners

I’ve been on a cooking roll this week! Creative as ever but always with a watchful eye towards the bottom line. First up: cheddar cheese asparagus quiche (made with evaporated fat free milk) Delish. Next: sauteed chicken, onions, peas and tomatoes in garlic olive oil, tossed with feta cheese over spaghetti. Double delish!

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Aldi Is Turning Into Just Another American Rip-Off Food Store.

I did my regular weekly (I’ll use that term lightly and I’ll tell you why in a second) shopping at Aldi this morning. Have you noticed more and more products just aren’t on the shelves anymore? For instance: ready-made pie crusts. It’s been three weeks and still no pie crusts at my neighborhood Aldi. I specifically went into Aldi today (instead of Wednesday, my usual day) to buy dog food. The bag just doesn’t seem to last as long as it used to despite me feeding my doggie a bit less every day.

I was told they were out of the dog food because Aldi was having the packaging redone. That was an odd answer, don’t you think? Are they getting a new supplier? I asked. No, was the response. Just new packaging.

New packaging?

It wasn’t until I got home from shopping at Aldi did I understand what the term ‘new packaging’ meant. Take a look at the ‘new packaging’ large can of coffee I always buy at Aldi:

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‘new packaging’ means 30 less cups of coffee for the same price of $5.29

I bought a new can of coffee at Aldi, paid the same price I have always been paying, $5.29 but when I went to pour some of the old remaining coffee grounds into the new can I made a startling discovery. The new can (on the left)was much smaller than the old can (on the right), contained 3 ounces less than the old can, which turns out to be 30 less cups of coffee than the old can! I started looking around at all of the other products I had been buying at Aldi and I noticed I had been shortchanged on many other items, such as cookies (9 biscotti instead of 10) dry goods (15 ounces instead of 16) pasta (12 ounces instead of 16) and so on and so on.

Aldi has now officially become like all the other rip-off grocery stores in America.

This was probably why I had to do my weekly shopping twice-a-week vs once-a-week and why my monthly food budget rose from $350 a month to almost $500!! DH and I kept running out of stuff long before 7 days have passed. These last two shopping weeks, I have been buying double of what we always eat (such as chocolate, bread, cereal, sliced turkey and block cheese) Even with the double shopping, there just never seemed to be enough food in the pantry. DH was always hungry.

I’m going to have to start looking at things more deeply now. I seem to be affected by a triple threat: buying twice, preparing more and eating less.  Hmmmm? In the interim, here’s what I’ve been doing lately to seemingly save some money on food:

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I’ve been making my own refrigerator pickles

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savings bits of leftover fruit in the freezer for smoothies

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here’s a strawberry smoothie, with a bit of plain yogurt

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marinated Greek chicken breasts (garlic, lemon juice, oregano, olive oil)

Some Low Cost, Prudent Meals

My first week on Weight Watchers (WW) turned out to be more successful than I thought possible. I easily lost 4 pounds this past week AND I ate all my favorite foods (in moderation, of course….which is the BIG difference). The food tracking app that WW provides for free on your smart phone is the greatest invention IMHO since sliced, whole wheat bread. When you start to see the point values of what you stuff in your mouth, you can’t help but start making better decisions. Not only are your food decisions better but you also become quite mindful of what you are eating.

WW provides 24/7 real human help to keep you on track with the click of your mouse. Yes, even when I started getting those hunger pangs at 3AM. WW doesn’t want you to feel hungry so the counselor on the other side of the chat line gave me some real fantastic food tips to tide me along.

Here are some examples of what I have been eating this past week:

spinach wrap

my lunch was a spinach wrap, avocados, arugula, goat cheese, tomatoes

greek quiche

Greek Quiche w spinach, feta cheese & calamita olives

pancakes

Sunday was blueberry buttermilk pancakes, chicken breakfast sausages, real maple syrup (NO butter!)

Why I Joined Weight Watchers

I don’t pay for anything. So, for me to join Weight Watchers and sign up to pay $19.95 a month, is a very big deal for me. I didn’t do it so much for the weight loss (despite the fact that I really do need to lose weight) I did it for my health. After my little heart attack thing, I need to get my health under control and I need to get my life back on a healthy track.

This article from Business Insider (click here) was the closer for me. This one paragraph said it all especially for me:

Studies have found that Weight Watchers members also tend to lower their heart disease risk and blood pressure, as exercising and losing weight in general have also been shown to do. An interesting analysis (by a researcher who has been a paid consultant for Weight Watchers) found that participants on the plan for a year typically paid $70 per pound lost, but gained $54,130 in quality of life improvement.

I joined the Online Program since there are no Weight Watcher meetings within 25 miles of where I live. I’m an ‘online-kind-of-gal’ anyway since I live mostly inside my Apple Computer. (figures my computer would be named after a food!) Once you answer a series of questions about your life, activity level, age, weight, height, etc. Weight Watchers designs a food point system and a fitness point system for you. Because I am over 65, I get NO points for my age!

You have to track your food intake per day, which is easy for me since I track my money outgo every day. I’m used to tracking stuff daily. I also have to track my activity level. WW (Weight Watchers) recommends I do 47 minutes of activity per day. I easily accomplish this by doing my daily housework (yes! that has value) of 30 minutes to an hour a day and I walk my dog each and every day (at least 45 minutes).

WW has a great food tracker app which can be downloaded onto your smart phone. Every food item has a set point value. It didn’t take me long to figure out that a tablespoon of butter in my daily oatmeal had a high point value BUT if I cut that pat of butter down, my points adjusted downwards too. I can still have butter with my morning oatmeal BUT a bit less. That’s all. On WW you get to eat all your favorite foods BUT the point system forces you to think and thus make better healthier choices.

oprah weight watchersThen there is Oprah. After her own years of yo-yo dieting, Oprah found herself successfully losing weight on the Weight Watcher program. After losing 42 painless pounds herself, Oprah bought out most of Weight Watchers stock and rejuvenated the company. Oprah is there for all of us daily, giving us words of encouragement and wisdom. Oprah brings on guests who share their success stories openly and honestly.

I’m part of a new community and so far, I’m loving it. I lost a few pounds my first week (WW recommends losing no more than 1 to 2 pounds weekly) and my dog is a lot happier getting all those walks! LOL!

It’s a very good thing.

The Decline Of Aldi?

I’ve been shopping at Aldi for at least the last three years. Aldi is a German-based grocery store that specializes in limited selections, under their own brand name, so as to save the customer at least 30% to 50% off their grocery costs.

I used to rave about Aldi all the time. Lately, not so much. Granted yes, I’ve saved a bunch of money over the years BUT my local Aldi store has deteriorated in cleanliness and produce quality that after today, I am hesitant to ever shop there again. The filth and deplorable shopping conditions give me pause. The floors never look like they’ve been washed let alone even swept. Dirt is everywhere. Cardboard boxes strewn everywhere. Some of the produce is crawling with mold and deterioration.

HOW DARE ALDI EXPECT THEIR CUSTOMERS TO BUY THIS CRAP?

Maybe this is the first sign of the decline of Aldi. Maybe they are slowly going out of business. I don’t know. I just know that there are more and more people shopping at Aldi and the store conditions keep deteriorating. I’ve written to corporate, shown them the following photos I’ve taken this morning. If they don’t literally ‘clean up their act’ within the week, I’m shopping someplace else. If the store interior looks as filthy as this, can you imagine what the stock must look like in the back of the store’s storage department? It’s probably crawling with mice, rats and vermin. UGH!

You decide. Click on any photo to enlarge and start slideshow. What do you think?