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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

We Have A Brand New Website!


I Made the Leap!


Yes, after 2 1/2 years on Blogger, I have purchased the Under the Median name and domain!

Don't worry! The name, focus, and content of the blog will remain the same. However, the new website will allow me more versatility, along with a cleaner, more professional look and the ability to offer eBooks and courses for sale.


Check out the snazzy, new logo! I love the clean lines and elegant look! 



I will keep this site active and all the archives will still be here. But, I'd love to invite you to head over to https://underthemedian.com/ to see the brand new logo, new content, AND brand new newsletter!

New Newsletter!


When you sign up over at https://underthemedian.com/ for the newsletter, you'll receive a FREE copy of my new eBook, "Cut Grocery Costs in 10 Easy Steps."

New eBook!





Even better, I'll send you weekly updates with tips, deals, and links to the latest posts at https://underthemedian.com/


Monthly Freebie!




Best of all, as a newsletter subscriber, you'll receive exclusive access to a new, free resource every month. 

I hope you'll love it!

I really hope you like our new website. I'm so excited to be able to expand the ways that I offer you information, tips, and strategies for saving money in nearly every category of your budget. Most of all, I want to continue to offer you HOPE and STRENGTH as you journey through life. 

Remember: 

All the archives will stay in tact here on the original blog!


But, I do hope you'll make the leap with me and join me at https://underthemedian.com/

My best to each of you both now and always, 


Do all to the Glory of God, 


Hope


The 30 Day Christmas Cash Challenge!



I'm hosting a very special FREE, 30-Day Challenge over on Facebook. Beginning, Monday, November 25h through December 24th, I'll be active in our private group, giving you tips, strategies, and encouragement for paying cash for Christmas!

Want a sample of what you'll learn? 


Sure! Here's a link to a brand new post on our brand new website! I, literally, published it moments ago. So, you are some of the first to get to read, "4 Extraordinarily Easy Steps to Paying Cash for Christmas." 



The tips in this post will whet your appetite and they are just a small portion of the in-depth information and insights I will share in the Facebook group. 


But, wait! There's More!




Yes! As a member of the FREE Facebook group, not only will you get access the daily tips and one-on-one encouragement, you'll also receive a FREE participant eBook! It's filled with page after page of forms, check off lists, and calendars, and more!



You read that right. It's all FREE! All you need to do is request to join, make yourself a cup of holiday tea, sit back, and enjoy all the fun and interaction. 



Ready to join? It's FREE. All you need to do is click on the photo above and it will take you directly to the group. Sign up and I'll approve your membership. It's that easy. 

I hope to see you there!

Hope


Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Abundant Autumn Squash Recipes




Brrrrrr! We've actually had our first frost in Illinois, but squash is known for actually getting sweeter when it has been "frost kissed." Squash tends to be pretty hardy, despite falling temperatures. As a result, we are still glorying in the last produce of the growing season.


How do you cook a squash?




If you've never done it before, don't be afraid. It's actually very easy. Cut the squash in half with a sharp knife. Remove the seeds and then roast on a parchment paper lined pan at 400 degrees for 45 - 60 minutes. Be sure you line your pan with foil or parchment paper! The natural sugars in the squash will caramelize and stick to the pan. Clean up is much easier when you line the pan!


SAVE THE SEEDS! 

Soak them in salt water for a few hours and then drain, removing any extra flesh or strings. Place on a parchment paper lined pan, sprinkle with spices or salt, and bake at 300 degrees until dried and browned. Cool and eat. Yum!

How about a whole bunch of unique ideas for preparing squash? 


Sweet and spicy red kuri squash bowl 





Kuri squash is a beautiful thing to behold!  The flesh is a shade or two lighter than the hubbard variety and appears like a cross between a butternut and acorn squash.  The seeds are not connected with stringy material.  I always like this trait in a squash because it makes it easier to save the seeds to toast later.After being roasted, the squash flesh literally melts in your mouth. My kids said it was "buttery".  This recipe got an enthusiastic two-thumbs up from every member of my family. The white sauce on top is tahini mixed with some fresh lime juice, a few drops of hot sauce, a splash of real maple syrup - then thinned with water to make it the perfect consistency for drizzling over the top of the rice and squash.



Kuri Squash Marinara Sauce 





The 15 year old sous chef and I created this recipe last year.  Although we used kuri squash, you can sub acorn squash quite successfully. 


Spaghetti Squash Fritters 





This is another Under the Median recipe. I must tell the truth. I've never been a huge fan of spaghetti squash. I know! I just heard collective gasps. Being a whole food vegan, it's hard to find a fruit or vegetable that I won't eat and enjoy. So, I was determined to find a way to love this autumn squash. The sous chef and I did it! These fritters are crispy on the outside and silky on the inside. Top them with salsa, marinara sauce, or just eat them plain. They are just, plain GOOD! 


Winter Squash Sauce 




Nope! That's not mac and cheese! It's my winter squash sauce, made with butternut squash. Here's another photo to whet your tastebuds. 




That vibrant color tells you that it's full of antioxidants! But, it's not full of fat, cholesterol, or salt! Nope! It's silky smooth, guilt free, and tastes amazing! Serve it over rice, pasta, or come up with your own ideas! 

It also freezes very well! 

Butternut and Apple Harvest Soup 





You don't often associate apples with soup. But, I made an apple soup last week and it was amazing! The sweetness of the apples paired perfectly with the tartness of the vegetables, lifting the soup to a whole new level of WOW! 

Enjoy the crisp, fall temperatures! 


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Do all to the glory of God, 

Hope


Monday, October 21, 2019

FOUR Strategies for Eating Healthy, But Spending Pennies!



After returning from the store today, I realized that it's been a while since I've reviewed some of the ways that I save money on feeding my family. So, let's take a look at four rules for scoring the best deals on groceries.


RULE #1: Look for store markdowns 




Today's Kroger run was nearly all store markdowns. But how do you get the best prices on markdowns? 

Tips for markdown shopping: 


1. Call your store.  Ask to speak to someone in the specific department that you want to look for markdowns. 

2. Better yet, find an employee in that department the next time you are in the store. Ask them directly when they do their daily markdowns. 

3. Most stores do markdowns either first thing in the morning or later at night. But, be sure to ask. One of my Kroger stores does their markdowns at noon each day. 

4. Don't assume that every department does markdowns at the same time.  The meat, dairy, general merchandise, and produce departments all often have their own schedule for doing markdowns.

5. Regardless of your food restrictions, visit all the departments. Plant-based yogurts, milks, and grain or bean based meats are found in either the dairy or meat departments. I don't eat faux meat. But, I do keep some in the freezer for my kids. Whether you are paleo, vegan, or something in between, check every department for markdowns which match your dietary needs. 

6. Don't assume that every department does markdowns. I had a conversation at my local Schnuck's grocery store with an employee. I visited after several Under the Median readers told me that they were scoring fantastic markdowns at the store. They were, but not in the produce department. The employee told me that for some unknown reason management had declared that no markdowns would be offered in produce.


7. Don't be afraid to voice your opinion. Just be sure to do it politely. I asked the employee to pass on to management that because other local stores routinely and regularly mark down prices in the produce department that I always pop into those stores specifically when I am passing by. Therefore, I am in those stores much more often than I am at those who do not offer markdowns in produce. 

8. Market share matters to stores! I wrote commercials for a living for many years. My job was to help the advertiser increase their market share, the percentage of the total shoppers who visit (and spend money) at their establishment.  Schnuck's happens to be known for the quality of their merchandise. If I knew that there was a chance of scoring some bargains, I'd be in their doors in a New York minute. Management wants to know how to get you in their store, gain your loyalty, and get their share of your grocery dollars. So, don't be afraid to tell them. 

9. Ask if they will mark it down for you. If you see a stop date that is within 48 hours of when you are in the store, don't be afraid to ask an employee if they can mark it down for you. The worst they can say is, "No". If they won't do it, do be sure to ask if it is store policy to not offer a marked down price. That way you'll know not to ask in the future. 

RULE #2: Buy Loss-Leader Items!




Loss leader items are those generally found on the front page of the flyer. They are sold for a short time under market value. It's a way that stores get you into their establishment, knowing that once you are there, you are more likely to do all of your shopping at one location, rather than visit 3 or 4 stores in one day. 

Tips for loss-leader shopping: 


peaches and nectarines - $.88 a pound


1. If you have a physical sales flyer, take it along with you to the store.
I circle the items that I am getting, using a black or dark blue permanent marker, to make them easier to see.
2. Decide if you can freeze or dehydrate extra quantities for later use. If so, then it's okay to get more than you can currently use of that item. For instance, I bought 10 pounds of cherries a few weeks ago, knowing that I planned to eat 4 pounds and freeze 6 pounds. (Now I wish I'd gotten more. Frozen cherries are the bomb!)
3. Whatever you decide to do, don't waste food! Seriously! If you plan to freeze or dehydrate, then be sure to put it on your schedule and get it done.

Almond milk - $1.79 each. But, I had to buy a quantity of 5 to get the price.


4. Look to see if you must purchase a certain quantity of items to receive the discount. For instance, plant-based milk was just $1.79 a half gallon. But, I had to buy 5 of them and then received a $5 discount at the end of my transaction.
5. Whenever you have to purchase a certain quantity of an item, place those items in a specific portion of your shopping cart, in order to keep accurate count. Nothing is worse than getting to the checkout to find that you have four of an item, rather than five and then missing out on the additional discount.
6. Place one of the little shopping baskets in your larger cart. This was a tip from an Under the Median reader and it's a great one! It's a great way to compartmentalize items and count them easily when you must purchase a certain quantity to receive a discount.

SPECIAL BONUSES!


For step-by-step fruit and vegetable freezing instructions, click here. 


For step-by-step herb freezing and dehydrating instructions, click here. 


For step-by-step blanching instructions, click here




RULE #3: Ask for rain checks. 


Rain checks are basically an I-Owe-You from the store. They feel bad that they ran out of an advertised item at a terrific price. So, when you visit the store's courtesy desk, they will issue you a rain check, allowing you to stop back by the store and purchase that item at the sale price any time in the next 30 days. It's a win-win situation! You get the item at the fantastically low price and the store makes you happy and gets you back in their nearest location sometime in the next month. 

Rain check tips. 



1. If the store is out of an advertised item, go to the courtesy desk and ask for a rain check. This will allow you to purchase at the sales price for up to 30 days past the date of your visit.
2. The clerk may need you to declare how many of the item you want to purchase at the sale price for the rain check.  Ask if there is a maximum. If there is, always have them write that amount on the rain check. You are not required to purchase this many, but it gives you the greatest flexibility in using the rain check when you return to the store.
3. Be sure to make note of the expiration date of that rain check. Generally they are good for 30 days.
4.  Keep it some place that you will not lose it. If you get to the store and can't find it, no discounted price.

RULE #4: Visit local ethnic stores.


Mediterranean Mart - my very favorite local ethnic store

Local ethnic markets are often owned by people who live, work, and raise their families right in your hometown. They care deeply about creating a friendly, family, atmosphere that keeps you coming back. They are all about relationships! 

Tips for shopping ethnic stores: 


1. Ask if there is a special case price. It is not uncommon for them to offer customers a discount on purchase case lots of products. 

Organic herbs from Mediterranean Mart at rock bottom prices. 

2. Ask when the new shipments arrive. Become very aware of the time of day and day of the week that they receive their new shipments of merchandise. Often, items left on the shelf will be offered at a discount.

3. Speciality items are often substantially cheaper than the very same item from a traditional grocery store. For instance, I only buy Madjool dates from Mediterranean Mart. They are the best price in town - always!
4. Ask about unfamiliar items. Ethnic grocers love to share their knowledge with customers! They will go out of their way to insure that you are happy with your purchase and know how to use it once you get it home.

Happy shopping and happy eating! 




Your turn! 

What did I miss? What are your best tips for saving a bundle at the grocery store? Leave your thoughts in the comments section. 

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like: 






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Do all to the glory of God, 

Hope

Monday, October 14, 2019

Your Grocery Bills Will Plummet When You Do This One Thing!



I've been married and budgeting on a small income for 31 years. One of the most important things I've learned is that in order to successfully reduce my grocery bills, I must use what I have on hand.

If you want to see your grocery bills plummet

take stock of items you already have on hand and use them!



It's seriously that easy!


I'm not kidding! This one, single trick can save you significant money on your grocery budget when you employ it on a regular basis. 


It's time to get down to brass tacks and see exactly how I implemented this super savvy saving tool this week in my kitchen!

Let's get started! 


(Please note: My blog posts contain affiliate links. When you make a purchase I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you.) 


Step 1: Take Stock 






Saturday morning, I threw open the fridge doors on a recent Saturday and pulled out every item that had been in there for a week. Any other items that looked slightly wilted, were also placed on the table.

I labeled the items in the photo above. I knew I needed to use all these items up quickly or I would wind up throwing them out in the garbage in very short order!


And I hate wasting food! 

I was a woman on a mission to use this glorious produce, for which I had paid good money, before it rotted and was good only for the compost pile or the garbage can! 

Step 2: Find recipes. 




My "budget meter" swung into fully charged mode as I used Google to create a menu plan using all of the items on my counter. 

It's so easy to look at ingredients and envision them as the main contributions to any number of soups, main, and side dishes! 

Just Google one or two of your featured ingredients together followed by the word, "soup" or "main dish" or "entree" or "casserole".  I showed you an example in the photo. I Googled, "vegan apple soup" and found a huge variety from which to choose. I then narrowed my search to include those recipes, which featured ingredients which I already had in the house.

Planned substitutions 


A note on recipes: They are not the Holy Grail! You can substitute various veggies and fruits you already have in the house without significantly changing the final dish. Trust me. I have done it for years.

Afraid to substitute? You can Google things like: "Can you substitute broccoli for cauliflower?" and find out situations in which the swap works and others in which it doesn't end so well.

You may even come up with a new family favorite. For instance, one night the kids wanted air fried buffalo wings. But, I didn't have cauliflower on hand. So, the 15 year old sous chef substituted fresh broccoli. Wow! It had fantastic flavor! We liked it so well, that we use broccoli instead of cauliflower on a regular basis now!

Step 3: Gather additional ingredients




I made a list of soups, entrees, and side dishes that I was going to make with my stash of week-old items from the fridge. There, were, of course, a few more items that I needed to add.

Here are ALL the items that I added from my fridge and pantry: 



2 sweet potatoes

3 onions

3 more tomatoes

2 small white potatoes

2 pounds dried black beans

1 large can tomato sauce

1 bulb of garlic

1 cup kickin' tomato sauce

4 bullion cubes (This is the ONLY brand of low-sodium broth cube that I recommend!)

herbs and spices

spices

Step 4: Chop and Cook!




Once, I added ingredients that I already had on hand. Since I knew that I planned to use every morsel, I washed, trimmed, and chopped all the ingredients and set them out in piles on a large cutting board.

This made for a very fast and efficient process when I began cooking.



Here's a look at my impromptu menu:

Along with photos and recipe links!


Soups:  







Vegetable soup



There is no link for this soup. I make it once a week, using up all the odds and ends of veggies remaining in the fridge. It's different every single week, but it's always delicious and always get eaten.





This is another recipe that makes a lot of repeat visits in my home. It originates from the Forks Over Knives website and, other than the black beans, I substitute and add ingredients. This week, I added small cubes of zucchini and yellow squash.


Sides: 


Salad



Yep! It's absolutely TRUE that you will eat more greens if they are prepped and ready to grab! 

TIP! To keep the salad fresh longer lay a paper towel or thin, cotton, cloth towel in the bottom of the storage container. It will absorb extra moisture. 





This is one of my recipes.  The 15 year old sous chef and I created this pesto this summer when we wanted to figure out a way to use radish leaves. I often use half radish leaves and half fresh basil leaves. The perfect combination for a tasty treat. You can serve it over hot pasta or rice for a main dish or (as we did) over hot toast.





This is another Under the Median recipe. I created it after unsuccessfully searching for a vegan version of my favorite childhood treat. I begged my mother to make her special creole green beans. They were flavored with bacon or ham. Being vegan as an adult, I desired the same smoky flavor, without the fat and cholesterol. So, the recipe for "Easy 20 Minute Vegan Creole Green Beans" was born! It really does taste like my childhood!

Main Dishes: 





This was our first time making this recipe and it was delicious! I added 1 cup of my friend, Faith's kickin' tomato sauce along with the amount of regular crushed tomatoes called for in the recipe.

Kickin' tomato sauce is so amazing! It is spicy perfection and yet contains NO added oil, sugar, or salt! We love it so much that I make a triple batch about once a month and freeze it in one cup yogurt containers. Once it is frozen solid, I pop it out, place it in freezer bags, label, and freeze. It thaws beautifully. I use this sauce in many, many recipes that call for barbecue sauce.

The finished baked beans were very "saucy" and had a wonderful hint of heat from the kickin' tomato sauce. This is a definite "make again" for our family!

The end result of my culinary adventures: 

I made enough food to feed my family for THREE days from items I already had in the house! I didn't have to go the store for even ONE item! 


Score a BIG WIN for the monthly food budget! 

If you employ this same strategy once a week, you WILL be able to slash your food budget! 



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Do all to the glory of God, 

Hope