Posted in Mississippi Things to Do and Food to Try, Travel, Uncategorized

3 Things To Do Near Ridgeland/Jackson Mississippi For Under $10 Per Person

1. Mississippi Agricultural Museum: Jackson, MS

Cost: $10 per person or $4 for children, seniors, and military

Tip: Consider visiting the town first thing in the morning or evening and then enjoying the air conditioning in the museum. We struggled to walk around the town in the heat of the day in August..

This museum was extremely informative. The museum explains the progression of several major industries in Mississippi including timber, cotton, catfish, and aerial crop dusting. There are artifacts, exhibits depicting the industries mentioned above, model trains, videos, and restored airplanes. The information in each exhibit was extensive and interesting.

There is also a small town built around the museum which depicts what life would have been like in Mississippi in the 1920’s.  The town has a quaint general store with old-fashioned Coca Cola and other sodas, toys, and candy. The town also has an old church, a barn, a lumber mill, a doctor’s office, a blacksmith shop, and a cotton gin, among other buildings. We visited in August and not everything was open in the town, but during certain times it looks like they have more people doing demonstrations and manning stations within the town. They also have animals too, but we didn’t see any while we were visiting.

This was one of my favorite places to visit in the area. You could easy spend up to 2-3 hours here reading all of the information at each exhibit and exploring the town. Kids will love watching the model trains in the museum and walking through the 1920’s town.

2. Natchez Trace Parkway trails  Ridgeland, MS

Cost: Free!

Tip: Wear plenty of bug spray and pants because some of the trails are overgrown.

There are several trails but I tried the paved walking path just off of the Natchez Trace Parkway near Highway 51 and Rice Road. The path was paved and would be perfect for a quick walk or bike ride. There are parts of the trail under construction so to get a long walk or ride in could be a little bit tough, without having to cross several busy roads to do so.

The Yockanookany trail/Cyprus Swamp Trailhead is the starting point to several trails, but there is a short loop you can take if you just want to take a quick hike. The trail winds through trees and while mostly clear, has some long grass on each side of the trail. I saw and heard several birds, frogs, bugs, and butterflies. I went in August, in the evening, but didn’t see anyone else on the trail.

3. Mississippi Petrified Forest- Flora, MS

Cost- $10 a person or We found a Groupon that admitted two people for $8.25

Tip: If you can go in the fall it is less busy

The visit begins with a trail that is about 6 blocks in length, which winds through the trees and takes you past a series of petrified logs. Petrified wood is wood that has completely been replaced by different types of minerals, changing the log’s appearance and composition. The logs in this forest weigh hundreds to thousands of pounds and were formed millions of years ago from different types of trees.

While the path was nice, and the information written about the wood was interesting, I think my husband and I’s favorite part of the forest was the museum which features gems, fossils, and petrified samples from all over the world. Above are a few pictures of some of my favorite samples.

Kids under 8 probably wouldn’t appreciate the forest and museum much, unless of course they have a special interest in geology. However, the collection inside the museum was awesome to look at and while quite small, has impressive specimens.

If you’re not in this part of Mississippi, check out fun things to do in the Greenville, Mississippi area

Do you know of other fun things to do in this area? Please share some below in the comments section.

Posted in Get More Veggies, Inexpensive Main Dishes, Instant Pot Recipes, sides, Uncategorized

Got Extra Veggies? Make Veggie Chicken Soup

Veggie Chicken Soup

  • Cost per serving: .70¢
  • Cost per batch: $7.09
  • Servings: 10 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 C purple onion diced
  • 1 t minced garlic or 2 cloves of fresh diced garlic
  •  2 T. olive olive oil
  •  2 cubes Knorr Chicken Flavor Bouillon (or 1 cube for every cup of water if you are using traditional bouillon cubes)
  • 5  C water
  • 3 medium sized red potatoes (peels on)
  • 2 medium sized carrots
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 medium sized zuchini (peels on)
  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach (optional)
  • Any other veggies, celery, squash, pumpkin, bell peppers, etc.
  • 1 frozen chicken breast
  • salt and pepper to taste

Prep Time: aprox. 30 minutes

Directions:

  1. Saute your onions until transparent (2-3 minutes). I reccomend doing this in your instant pot or in the soup pan you’ll be putting the rest of your ingredients into. If you have celery to put into your soup, saute it with your onions.
  2. Add the garlic to the onion and saute for 1 minute then turn the Instant Pot to the warming mode or if using a stove turn off your burner.
  3. Put in your 2 bouillon cubes and 5 cups of water.
  4.  Turn your Instant Pot back onto saute or the burner on your stove to medium and let the broth heat up while you gather and chop your veggies.
  5. Add all veggies listed above and more if you’d like–except the spinach!
  6. Add your frozen chicken breast into the soup to boil. I like to do this to avoid needlessly creating extra dirty dishes–especially since we don’t have a ton of cookware here in our hotel. But you could thaw and then cook the chicken however you like before adding it to the soup.
  7. Let your soup boil for about 10-15 minutes depending on how cruchy you like your veggies.
  8. Fish out the chicken breast with tongs or a large spoon and dice it or shred it with a fork and then put it back into the soup.
  9. Throw in the two handfuls of spinach right before you are about to serve the soup.
  10.  Add salt and pepper as needed.
  11. Switch the instant pot setting back to hold warm.

I can’t say enough about minced garlic! You can buy it in small jars in the store and it lasts forever. Or you can buy it fresh and mince it. It adds a ton of flavor to food and lasts for a long time in the fridge. It was one of a few ingredients  I bought to cook with in our hotel over the two months we’ve been here. I use it with meat, veggies, and in fresh salsa all of the time. I use the brand shown above and have seen it at almost every grocery store I’ve been too. Consider picking some up.

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Posted in Mississippi Things to Do and Food to Try, Saving Green, Travel

5 Fun Thing to Do Near Greenville Mississippi For Under $20

Check out what the Northwestern side of Mississipi has to offer!

1. Jim Henson Exhibit in Leland, MS

Cost- Free!

Tip: Don’t visit too close to the time they open or they may not be open quite yet. We went by during the first hour of their normal business hours and the doors were locked and the building empty.  Things move at a slower pace in this sleepy town of Leland so wait until they’ve been open an hour or so to go by and visit.

This fun little exhibit focuses on the life of Jim Henson and is a nod to his Mississippi roots. The exhibit is all in a small room and features pictures, anecdotes, and newspaper clippings about Jim and his family. There are also a few muppet displays, a short video, and a small gift shop. I found it fascinating and very well-run for such a small exhibit. The woman running the shop is friendly and helpful. They do accept donations, but for being free it is pretty awesome.

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2. GreenVille Cyprus Preserve- 

Cost- Free!

Tip- Wear bugspray!

This lovely preserve taught us about the Cyprus trees responsible for turning the Greenville water brown. Yes, the water coming out of the fossits is brown and perfectly safe to drink–just a bit unnerving when you first see it leave the faucet.

This preserve features a well-kept walking path, brideges, and platforms built right over the water. The trail also has signs describing the names of the plants and wildlife of the area.

3. A Southern Bazaar LLC

Cost- Free!

I don’t usually like to put stores on lists like this, but this charming antique shop was full of fun items both old and new at reasonable prices. We bought some historical items for Matt’s mom who teaches history and I purchased a few home decor items. Give yourself at least 20 minutes to browse and appreciate all of the interesting items this shop has to offer.

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4. Lakeport Plantation

Cost- $10 cash or check only

Tip: Bring cash, the nearest working ATM is a few miles away.

According to their website, Lakeport Plantation is “the only remaining Arkansas plantation home on the Mississippi River.” Yeah it’s technically in Arkansas, but it is about 30 minutes away from Greenville, Mississippi and worth every minute of the drive.

The house is focused on the history of the home, the families who lived within it, and the rich history of the area. It doesn’t contain very much furniture inside, but the information provided was fascinating and enlightening. Features of the house reveal so much about what everyday life was like for the people living there. A blog that recommended I visit here suggested listening to the podcast, “The History of American Slavery” on the drive to the plantation. It helped me think more deeply about the implicatications of this lifestyle on the hundreds of slaves who lived here.

You can go on a self-guided tour and read mounds of information off of signs near items in the house, or you can have a guided tour. I would recommend the guided tour. It takes anywhere from 30 min to 1 hour and really made the house and it’s history come alive, after all in my opinion it’s people and their life challenges which make history interesting and I felt I got more from someone telling me about it, than I would have just reading snippets of information from the signs.

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5. The Belmont Plantation

Cost- $10 per person

This plantation was exquisit. It was decorated with period furniture, paintings, books, statues, and even some musical instruments. The manager graciously agreed to take us on a tour and told us a little bit about the history of the house and the uses of each of the many rooms. She even told us a few ghost stories about the property.

The home and the grounds were lovely and well worth the drive. This house was the perfect follow up to the Lakeport Plantation which focuses more on history, while Belmont is more about ambiance. This charming bed and breakfast gives you a small taste of the decadence plantation homes once enjoyed. I wish I would’ve know about it earlier so that we could’ve stayed there. The rooms seemed fairly priced and each was ornately decorated. At least we got to enjoy an impromptu tea party in the parlor before leaving!

Belmont Plantation
Tea Party at the Belmont Plantation

 

 

 

 

Posted in Deals, Financial, Saving Green, Uncategorized

6 Steps to Finding an Affordable Apartment

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At the end of this month Matt and I will be moving to Oregon. We’re excited to be leaving our hotel and live in our own space again, but haven’t loved the ups and downs of looking for an apartment. We’re not from Oregon and haven’t ever even visited Salem where we’ll be living. We’ve felt overwhelmed and frustrated at times as we looked for an apartment and agonized over what we needed and wanted and what price we were willing to pay for our wants. Needless to say we learned a lot by trial and error and turn over our findings to you. We hope these steps will help you avoid some of the pitfalls we encountered on our apartment hunting journey.

1. Determine Your Must Haves

  • How many rooms and bathrooms will you need?
  • How important is it to you that you have washer/dryer hookups in your apartment?
  • How important is it to have A/C? In Salem we were surprised to find that a majority of the units we were looking at did not have A/C. 
  • What amenities are important to you? Is it worth $50-100 per month extra to have access to a pool and fitness center or would you be just as happy paying for a gym membership with that money? Or could you buy your own machine with the money you’d save and then re-sell the machine when you move?

If you want to keep your monthly rental cost down, you may have to make sacrifices. Even just $100 extra each month adds up. Just think–over the course of a year, you will be spending an additional $1200 for access to these amenities. If the you know you’ll utilize the amenities then these extras are worth their cost to you. But, if you don’t think you’ll use them, consider finding a less expensive rental. 

2. Break Down the Costs

It’s generally recommended that a person spend about 1/3 or less of their net monthly income on housing. This guideline gave us a solid starting point on figuring out how much we could afford to pay in rent every month. Also, consider you may have other financial goals or aspirations which limit that to a smaller percentage of your income.

Look at your budget before you begin looking for an apartment. You can adjust it later if necessary, but start with a dollar amount that you are willing to spend first. Now take into account the other costs associated with renting. As you look at listings take note of the following about each property:

  • Are some utilities included? Some landlords will pay for the water, sewer, and garbage. Does the monthly cost include Internet access?
  • Is there an additional cost for parking or HOA? 
  • What other costs will you have in addition to your month rental payment?
  • How far away is the rental from work? How much more will you be spending in gas for a longer or shorter commute?

Get the real monthly cost of your favorite apartments so you’re comparing apples to apples. Then stick to your budget. If you don’t, the nicer housing can make it easier to justify spending more. And if you do fall in love with an apartment outside of your budget it may help you to ask yourself a few of the following questions:

  • Am I willing to eat out less to be in a nicer apartment?
  • Am I willing to spend less money on traveling, movies, shopping, and other entertainment to live in a better apartment?
  • What could I buy with the money we save on rent every month by living in a smaller or less fancy place?

3. Go Beyond Google

In our experience classifieds and property management sites offered cheaper rental options that websites like Trulia, Apartments.com, or ApartmentFinder.com which come up first on search engines like Google. We found a lot of cheaper listings on sites like:

  • Craig’s List: It sounds super sketchy I know–thanks to news stories about Craig’s List Killers–but on classified sites you’ll find small business owners tend to post less expensive monthly rentals for housing. This is probably because referral sites like apartments.com charge fees for listing rental properties. So look at classifieds first and while they are not at convenient, you’ll find great properties at lower costs.  
  • Property management sites were also a great place to find discounts and similar properties in your price range! 
    • If you can’t find enough pictures or a sufficient description of a property that interest you on Craig’s List or a the property management site, google the property address and other sites are likely to have more pictures and information, including referral sites like apartments.com.
  • If possible, talk to people in the area who may have leads on better deals.

4. Research Safe Areas

Ask/Take a Drive

Even if you’ve lived in a city for a while, you may not know everything about each area of the city. If you’re local, drive to the area and look around, ask co-workers and friends about what the area is like, and use some of the tools mentioned below to find out as much about the area as you can.

Use Social Media

Starting out we knew very little about the safe and unsafe areas of Salem. Matt read about a few areas and then reached out via social media to see if he had any friends who had moved to the area. It turns out he did. He was able to ask our friends about the area, and they were even kind enough to walk through an apartment for us and videotape what it looked like. They were also able to tell us more about the surrounding area.

If you don’t have this luxury because you are moving to a new area from out-of-state or out of the country, and don’t know anyone, I recommend using a handy tool Matt discovered on Trulia.com listings.

Use Trulia’s Anything You Could Ever Want to Know About an Area Tool

Trulia may not have as many listings as other sites, but they put together a tool that is invaluable in your apartment search. When we began looking for apartments, we pulled up neighborhoodscout.com to look at crime rates and Google maps to calculate Matt’s commute time. These sites were helpful, but Trulia has managed to merge them into a handy tool that combines almost anything you could ever want to know about your area into one easy-to-use tool and it’s free when you sign up for an account on their website. I included a screen shot of the tool bar that superimposes the information about crime, schools, your commute, etc. over the map of the area you’re moving to.

trulia moving tool
Trulia.com tool used to display invaluable information about the neighborhoods in which you’re moving

Here are a few examples of the helpful data we found on Salem, Oregon:

 

If you have a minute check out your area on Trulia.com and see what the crime stats and hazards are near you. Based on your experience, how accurate is the map of your area? Please let me know in the comments below.

Matt and I are not sure of the accuracy of the tool yet, but if the data is accurate, it is incredibly helpful. We’ll keep you posted on if our neighborhood is crime-ridden as soon as we get there. 😉

5. Look at Apartments One Month in Advance

If you look earlier than a month in advance, you’ll likely end up paying extra fees to hold the apartment. If you are particular, this peace of mind could be worth the extra fees. However, consider that most land lords only get one month’s notice that their current tenant is vacating, and may not even know if their units will be available two or three months in advance. Looking one month in advance allows for some flexibility and gives you a better idea of what units will actually be available in your time frame. It also gives you time to see how competitive the market is and snatch up a place if units are turning over quickly.

Watch the listings. You may find prices drop over time. If you notice listings are only up a couple of days call about a property as soon as you see it and then put in an application before looking at the unit and signing the rental agreement. Doing this will reserve your spot in line. Plus, many property managers are willing to refund your application fee if another renter’s application is approved before they get to yours. Just be sure their application fees are refundable before you take this approach.

5. Keep a Record

Use a Google or Excel spreadsheet to keep track of the places you’ve checked out, their prices, features, amenities, availability, and why they did or didn’t make it to the top of your list. If you don’t, you may find yourself looking at the same listings over and over again wondering why the unit wasn’t right for you the first time you viewed it.

6. Be Patient and Persistent 

Don’t get discouraged! It will take time, plenty of phone calls, and a few applications until you find the right apartment for you. But if you consider what you need in advance, break down the costs, research the area, give yourself a month, keep a record, and try to be patient, you’ll be sure to find an apartment with what you need at the right price.

1/8/17- Update- The neighborhood our apartment is in seems great, but unfortunately we don’t live in it yet because we are waiting for all our stuff from the storage units to arrive. But as far as crime goes, we met a cop at the church and he let us know that where we are living should be fine.

 

Posted in Get More Veggies, Ground Turkey Recipes, Inexpensive Main Dishes, Recipes, Uncategorized

Easy Ground Turkey Cabbage Wraps

Cost per serving: 42¢

Yield: 8-10 servings

Cost per batch: $4.63

I love thai food and lettuce wraps! The crunch of the lettuce with the flavorful meat makes me drool just thinking about it! But did you know you can make them using cabbage, ground turkey, and just two sauces?

These wraps are great if you are trying to eat more veggies and don’t have a lot of time. You just brown up ground turkey, make brown rice or use left-over brown rice, and then put the meat and rice into a cabbage leaf and then pour on your sauce of choice (or mix the sauce into the ground turkey beforehand). I made two different kinds using the two sauces shown below.

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Sweet Chile Sauce and Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbeque Sauce

I cooked my brown rice with a little chicken boullion. Want to add more veggies? Throw a diced carrot in with with your brown rice as it’s cooking for more flavor and veggies!

Easy Ground Turkey Cabbage Wraps:

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of green cabbage
  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 1/2 cube chicken buollion (optional, but yummy!)
  • 1 package of ground turkey
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Barbeque sauce and/or Thai red chile sauce
  • 1/4 C green onions (optional)
  • pineapple (optional)

Directions:

  • Cook brown rice with a 1/2 cube of bullion for every 1 C of brown rice and 2-3 cups of water (water amounts vary depending on how you are cooking your rice). Cook until soft.
  • Now brown your ground turkey and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add Thai sauce or barbeque sauce to as much of your ground turkey as you want or just allow people to add their own sauce as desired when serving the wraps.
  • Gently pull the leaves from your head of cabbage and stack onto a plate or cut the leaves in half for smaller wraps that are easier for kids to eat.
  • Stuff each leaf with meat, rice, green onions, and pineapple if desired.

Enjoy!

thai wrap
Ground Turkey Thai Wrap

 

Posted in Desserts, Dorm Room Delicacies, Instant Pot Recipes, Recipes, Uncategorized

Eggless Banana Bread for a Toaster Oven or Instant Pot

Instructions for cooking this bread in an Instant Pot included below!

Cost: 33 cents per serving

$2.60 per loaf/cake

With only a few more weeks left in our hotel room, I’m trying to get through as many of my remaining ingredients as I can. I have a lot of pantry type items left and I hate wasting food. I also have two lovely spotty brown bananas, so in an effort to use up some ingredients this recipe was born. It doesn’t contain any animal products because I was out of one important staple, eggs. However, thanks to the almonds in it every derving has 5 grams of protein!

Since I don’t have loaf pans here in my room I used my 7″ cheesecake pan.  My finished product was incredibly moist, saturated-fat free, and full of protien and fiber from the almonds, whole wheat, and oats. Enjoy!

Eggless Banana Bread Recipe

2 medium sized ripe bananas

1/3 C Canola or vegetable oil

1 T maple syrup

1/2 C almond or cow’s milk

1 t vanilla

1/2 C sugar

1/4 C finely chopped almonds (mine were salted)

1 C whole wheat flour

1/2 C oats

1/2 C almond or cow’s milk

1 t baking powder

1 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

2 t. apple cider vinegar

Banana smashed up by the beaters
Banana smashed up by the beaters

Beat the two bananas until most lumps are gone. Add the veggie oil, syrup, and vanilla, milk and apple cider vinegar. Add all dry ingredients. Beat until all ingredients are combined.

banana bread mixture
The mixture after all ingredients have been added

Pour mixture into a 7′ round cake/cheesecake pan or a bread loaf pan. Cook for 20-25 minutes in a toast over or for about 35 min. in an oven,  or until a toothpick comes out clean after being inserted into the bread.

If you’d like extra moist bread, cook your bread in an Instant Pot for 15 minutes,  and then wait 10 minutes for a natural pressure release. I cooked mine on the cake setting but if you don’t have a newer instant pot, the manual mode will work as well

*If using a toaster oven- Cook the bread for 10 minutes on bake and then 10 more on the 350 degree toasting option until completely cooked through.

Enjoy this moist and healthier version of banana bread!

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Posted in Bargain, Deals, Uncategorized

Two 99 Cent Deals from Kroger

Chicken for 99 cents a pound!

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I found these in the back of the store near the deli counter. Throw this pre-seasoned chicken in your Instant Pot on saute for a few minutes  to seal in the juices and then put your trivet  in the pot and dump in 1 cup of water. Now stick your chicken on top of your trivet and cook for 15 minutes. I put in two large pieces like the one above into my 6 quart Instant Pot. It made for deliciously tender chicken. I forgot how good chicken on the bone tastes!

Or store the pieces in bags to make later!

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 Twizzlers Chocolate Licorace

Only 99 cents!

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Do you like chocolate licorice? I grew up eating these on road trips or at the lake in the summer. They are  a sentimental snack I still love so it made my day to see them in the bargain carts at my Kroger grocery store marked down by more than 50%. I do have to wonder if part of my pleasure came from seeing something that reminds me of home. I do miss a lot of things about home but I’m still really glad we chose to take this adventure!

These Twizzlers probably didn’t sell too well here in Ridgeland, Mississippi if they went on clearance, and I’m sure some of your are thinking, yeah, they’re gross. But for your Chocolate licorice lovers these may be marked down in other Kroger’s too . . .  So go check it out!

I have been trying to eat less sugar lately and was doing pretty well until these derailed me a bit. The combination of a good deal and chocolate is a powerful force! But now that they’re  all gone I can get back on track! Yeah we finished the bag in a couple of days . . .

I was thinking with Halloween being close these licorice could be a fun and inxpensive candy to add to a decorative recipe. I know last year my husband and I made Halloween graham cracker houses. It was a fun. Check out some great ideas on making them on Mel’s Kitchen Cafe where I found this cute photo of a few she made:

So go get your candy house making skills on!

 

Why You Should Give Catfish a Try

The south is known for their fried food. My first week in Ridgeland, Mississippi we went out to eat at a local southern buffet called, Mamma Hamil’s  which includes almost all of the quintessential southern dishes you could ever imagine including fried chicken, green beans (which are flavored with bacon by the way), mac n’ cheese, banana pudding etc. As I went through the buffet line putting a little bit of everything on my plate I asked a local what the fried green things in the buffet were. The woman seemed surprised and said it’s oakra. I guess I made it pretty obvious I wasn’t from around here.  I’d heard of it, but never actually seen or eaten it. It tasted great fried but then again what doesn’t?

Okra: courtesy of Prathyush Thomas via Wikipedia

I have to admit one fried food I didn’t expect to enjoy was catfish. It has a very light texture and is way milder in taste than I expected.

So on my way home from Greenville, Mississippi after passing a sign about a Catfish museum in Belzoni I decided to stop and take a look.

Here are a few things I learned about Catfish:

  • Farm-raised Catfish are mild in flavor because unlike their bottom feeding relatives these fish have been conditioned to be top dwellers through floating feed. Now instead of feeding in the murky depths and taking on a “slightly muddy” flavor, farm-raised catfish have a mild taste often described as being similar to tilapia or cod.
  • Catfish are one of the most environmentally friendly forms of protein because they require much less feed pound for pound than any other animal. See the chart below shown in Kilograms:

  • One 3 oz. filet of catfish contains 104% of the B12 you need per day, which contributes to your neurological health.

So if you’ve been holding off on trying catfish give this mild-flavored, southern delight a try. But when you do try it take the advice of the locals, if the restaurant didn’t get their catfish from a fish farm in the south, it won’t taste as good and they probably don’t know how to prepare it.

When are you going to give catfish a try? Or if you already have what did you think?