Posted in Uncategorized

How to Decide if an Instant Pot is Worth the Money to You

  1. Do you or would you like to start cooking more meals with plant-based proteins like beans and lentils?
  2. Do you hate how the oven heats up your entire kitchen when you’re cooking?
  3. Do you hate to use your huge oven when you just need to cook something small?
  4. Are you trying to save money on your electric or gas bill?
  5. Are you trying to reduce the amount of fat in your diet?
  6. Do you need extra motivation to try new recipes and get out of a I cook-the-same-food-all-the-time-rut?
  7. Do you have the patience to read a fair amount of directions before you start using an appliance?
  8.  Do you want to bake cheesecakes, but get frustrated with the difficulty of doing so?
  9.  Do you often decide last minute what to make for dinner and need to thaw out frozen meats quickly?
  10. Do you often forget about food you began to cook only to find it burned up in the oven or on the stove?
  11. Do you cook boiled eggs often?
  12. Do you cook rice often?
  13. Do you not have access to a stove or burner for an extended period of time?
  14. Do you not have a microwave?

If you answered yes to a few of these questions with #7 being especially important, you will probably make use of your instant pot quite often. I’m still learning to use mine to fit my needs, but I have been using it almost daily or multiple times a day.

Instant pots are energy-efficient, won’t heat up your kitchen, and make cooking beans, lentils, rice, veggies-including spaghetti squash, boiled eggs, cheesecakes, and cornbread much easier. It has also served as a good motivator for me to try new recipes and switch up my routine, because anything I put money into is an investment that I make sure to give some of my energy to.

They are not cheap, but especially if you are trying to cut back on your meat intake and use less oil in your cooking, instant pots are a big help. Cooking beans and lentils yourself will also save you money and allow you to have complete control over what is going into your beans.

The instant pot takes time to learn about, and requires some trial and error cooking, but it has some features which I love.

Pro’s

The saute feature- If you don’t have a stove or burner this is a life saver!

The automatic hold warm feature- I can take this pot to church functions like you would a crock pot and plug it in to stay warm, or it seems to retain heat well with the lid on. And it didn’t leak in my car either like crock pots have the potential to do!

Trivet- Allows you to cook things like cheesecakes, chicken, veggies etc. up out of the water so that they are not cooking through boiling, but through the heat of the steam surrounding them.

Cons- Chicken thrown into the Instant Pot doesn’t have the same flavor as meat cooking in a pan or the oven, but when you are cooking chicken to put into something else and want in to take on the flavor of whatever you are adding it to, this is a quick and easy way to cook frozen chicken breasts without having to defrost them and then cook them in a pan or throw them into the oven.

If your food isn’t done the first time, prepare to patiently wait while the pot reheats back up to temperature and then cools down enough that you can open it up again when it is done.

Learning Curve- Be prepared to read long directions before using this guy! It is not intuitive to use in my opinion, but with a bit of effort it gets easier.

Pre-heat time, but I can’t think of an appliance besides the microwave which doesn’t require time to warm up.

Want one? I’ve seen stellar deals on Instant Pots on Amazon around Christmas time, Cyber Monday, and on Amazon Prime Day. With brick and mortar stores preparing to run ads to bring people through their doors, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them deeply discounted in January and February. If you move you can also try applying the Amazon Move Discount.  Credit Cards will also offer cash discounts when you spend a certain amount at a particular store. You may look into a few of these options.

Enjoy!

 

Posted in Cheap Super Foods, Instant Pot Recipes, Uncategorized

Cheap Super Foods: Lentils

Cost per serving: 18 cents!

Lentils cost anywhere from $1.25 to $1.50 per pound and provide aproximately 7 servings loaded with incredible nutrients.

1 cup of lentils includes:

  • 18 grams protein
  • 15 grams of fiber
  • 3.5 grams sugar
  • less than 1 gram fat
  • 358 milligrams folate (90 percent DV)
  • 1 milligram manganese (49 percent DV)
  • 6.6 milligrams iron (37 percent DV)
  • 356 milligrams phosphorus (36 percent DV)
  • 0.5 milligrams copper (25 percent DV)
  • 0.5 milligrams thiamine (22 percent DV)
  • 731 milligrams potassium (21 percent DV)
  • 71 milligrams magnesium (18 percent DV)
  • 0.4 milligrams vitamin B6 (18 percent DV)
  • 2.5 milligrams zinc (17 percent DV)
  • 1.3 milligrams vitamin B5/ pantothenic acid (13 percent DV)

Nutritional Information taken from https://draxe.com/lentils-nutrition/.com

Cookin lentils with and Instant Pot they become surprisingly easy to cook as well. I like to saute some onion and garlic in my instant pot, put lentils in the pot, cover them with water and 2 teaspoons of bouillon and then cook for 15 minutes on manual mode with a natural pressure release for 10 more minutes. Now you have lentils ready for nearly any recipe you’d like to make.

My Top 3 Tried and True Lentil Recipes:

    1. Lentil Shepherds Pie ( I like to add Worcestershire sauce to this recipe for flavor in place of soy sauce and put french sliced green beans on top)

    2. Lentil-Stuffed Zucchini Boats (Make sure you use a flavorful pasta sauce!

If you’re low on zuchinni make my Wrecked Zucchini Boats with some tips from the slideshow below:

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3. 5 minute Red Lentil Curry ( I use brown lentils, beef or chicken bouillon, red curry paste and add pineapple and add other veggies like carrots and broccoli for extra flavor)

All three of the recipes above have been put into my cooking rotation as Matt and I have continued to work towards eating more plant based proteins. Meatless or low meat meals can be delicious. I hope you enjoy trying these out!

Posted in DIY, Holiday DIY, Inexpensive Gifts, Uncategorized

Two Elegant Christmas Candle Holders for under $8 Using Dollar Tree Items

All of the following items were purchased in December of 2017 at the Dollar Tree. While their inventory varies, I’ve seen similar items at the various stores I’ve visited throughout the United States.

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All the materials you need: two glass bottles, 2 bags of potpourri, 2 candles, and ribbon or lace. Tools: A skewer, scissors, a sponge or rag, and a glue gun.
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If you want to get by on one bag of potpourri just add in plastic pulled from the candles you bought and use it as filler in your candle holders.
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Stick pieces of potpourri into the botttle
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Use your skewer to move the plastic and potpourri around to your liking.
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Cut large pieces of potpourri in half with your scissors.
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Large potpourri piece cut in half.
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Stick the candles into your jar, wiggling them back and forth while pushing gently down.
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Push the candles in far enough that they are snug.
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Use a sponge or rag to gently brush the candle wax off of your glass bottle.

Best of all, I can keep using these candle holders into January just by changing the ribbon and adding a few other touches. . . Although I do wonder about how the burgandy will work with the blue on this ribbon. Hmmm I’ll worry about that in January.

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Best of all, I can keep using these candle holders into January just by changing the ribbon and adding a few other touches. . . Although I do wonder about how the burgandy will work with the blue on this ribbon. Hmmm I’ll worry about that in January.
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Oh by the way they have red and green bottles which are lovely too. Consider making your holders red or green and the dark color may mean you wouldn’t need to fill them with anything. If you try out a darker color please post pictures or let us know how it goes!

Get $10 FREE on Amazon and/or 10% Off after a Move

$10 Free for Amazon Prime Members

I’m not sure how long this have been offered, but today I noticed that on Amazon when Prime members reload an Amazon gift card with 100 or more dollars they get $10 additional dollars to use. *Pst– the digital gift cards are way easy to use. I reloaded an old card and my new gift card showed up right away under my payment methods. I didn’t even have to type in gift card numbers or do anything annoying to make it work. I wish I could say Groupon worked so smoothly . . .

10% off Amazon Home Purchases through USPS

If you’ve moved or are planning to move let Amazon know through USPS and you can get 10% off of home purchases fulfilled by Amazon. After you sign up, it automatically takes off the discount in your cart before you purchase. It will even let you have this discount on top of cyber Monday deals!

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Posted in Deals, Health Improvement, Uncategorized

Cheap Exercise- Free Couch to 5K Ap from Zenlab’s Fitness

Matt and I enjoyed living in the south and eating out, perhaps a little too much. Living in a hotel I did manage to cook quite a bit, but by our second long-term stay hotel I lost some steam and we ate out a lot. Throwing all caution to the wind when it came to food, both of us have gained some weight.

So being in an apartment and without the easy access to exercisde equipment our hotels used to offer us, I’m looking for inexpensive ways to exercise. This morning I decided to go back to using an ap I really enjoyed this last summer. It’s called the C25K ap from Zenlab’s fitness. It’s based on an exercise program called the couch to 5k, which was designed to help people who haven’t been active, “couch potatoes” if you will, to get active by following a step-by-step program done 3 times a week for about 30 minutes each week. The program prompts you to walk and run in intervals until over time you are in a condition to run a 5k. It’s designed to help non-runners work up to running longer distances over time. The ap I mentioned above makes this easy by cutting into your running music and prompting you to start and stop running and letting you know how many more runs you have to complete and when you’re almost done. You just listen to your music and follow the directions to run and walk when it tells you to do so. I’m not an exercise fiend or a runner so I was amazed that this ap got and kept me running. I have never trained for more than a 5k yet, and the 5k training portion of the ap is free, so it’s been a great deal for me.

So if you don’t have money for a gym membership or the stamina to run continuously for 30 minutes, this ap could be away to get back into good habits or help you maintain good habits you’ve built. I fall on and off the exercise wagon often, but have come back to this ap a few times, so I hope it can be helpful for anyone who’s looking for inexpensive ways to get healthier.

Posted in Appetizers, Desserts, Holiday Recipes, Uncategorized

Pumpkin Maple Cheesecake Ball

I made cheesecake in my Instant Pot recently and had a few pieces left over. Gasp! Leftover cheesecake, how is that possible? I myself am shocked, but after I saw it in the fridge today, I pulled it out and spread some of this tasty cheesecake onto a cookie and had an epiphany! Why not make a sweet cheese ball instead of a savory one? A fall cheesecake ball!

This cheesecake ball is a great party treat for those of us who want to taste a little of every dessert at a party.

This ball was made from a maple pumpkin cheesecake I made from another blog. You can find all of the ingredients and directions to make the cheesecake on the blog post I linked to above. No need to make the glaze that goes with the cheesecake, unless you’re going to eat half of the cheesecake, as normal cheesecake like we did. If you’re making the cheesecake just to use for a cheesecake ball, you can make the recipe above without the crust and skip step 3 below.

Pumpkin Maple Cheesecake Ball

Makes 1 cheese ball or 2 cheese balls if you use an entire 7′ cheesecake.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pumpkin maple cheesecake
  • 1/2 bag of ginger snaps
  • 1/2 sleeve of graham crackers

1. Pull your cheesecake out of the fridge to soften for 10-15 minutes or make a maple pumpkin cheesecake without a crust and let it cool over night.

leftover pumpkin maple cheesecake sprinkled with cinnamon
leftover pumpkin maple cheesecake sprinkled with cinnamon

2. Crush up 4 ginger snaps, graham cracker, or finely chopped nuts in a sandwich bag. You may even consider just sprinkling cinnamon on the ball instead of the coating it with cookies or nuts.

3. Cut the crust off of the bottom of your cheesecake or make your cheesecake without the crust.

Leftover cheesecake
Cutting the crust off leftover cheesecake

4. Using your half of your 7″ cheesecake, roll the cheesecake into a large ball with your hands.

5. Spread your crushed ginger snaps, graham crackers, nuts etc on a small plate and roll the cheesecake ball around until it is completely covered.

6. Put your cheese ball into the middle of a plate and place cookies and crackers around it.

I think colored vanilla wafers would give the plate more color, but I didn’t have any of those on hand so this plate is a little monochromatic, but boy was this pumpkin maple cheesecake ball delicious!

Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake Ball with ginger snaps and graham crackers!
Pumpkin Maple Cheesecake Ball with ginger snaps and graham crackers!

Anyone else have other colorful cookies they think would look good around this sweet cheese ball?

Posted in Finding Qaulity Used Appliances, Saving Green

Tips from Appliance Repairmen on Buying a Used Washer and Dryer

Matt and I just bought our first washer and dryer. Since we didn’t know much about what made a good washer and dryer when we began looking, I did some research online. I found a ton of useful information on how to buy a used washer and dryer from Ryan Finlay, who earns a living refurbishing old machines and teaching others his trade.

We also learned a lot from Larry of Larry’s Appliance Castle in Salem, OR  who owns a  refurbished appliance and repair shop and who has been in the business for nearly 30 years. He was kind enough to show us how they refurbish machines, talked to us about the benefit of different machines, and then explained important tips on selecting the right used washer and dryer. The tips provided below are a compilation of information from the article I mentioned above, advice from Larry, and our experience purchasing a used washer and dryer.

1. Buy Whirlpool Made Machines- Whirlpool made several other brands over the years including Kenmore, but only during certain spans of time, so a good rule of thumb is to stick with machines made before 2010 and of the Whirlpool brand or a brand that they manufactured (for a full list of brands Whirlpool manufactures scroll to the end of this article).

2. Buy 2010 and Older Used Washing Machines- They tend to be made to last longer than newer models. Why? Read about it here.

3. Get a GuaranteeMany appliance shops offer warranties. Look for one who offers a year warranty. The guarantee provides an incentive for the shop to provide you with a machine in good working order–after all they won’t want to have to come by to repair the machine on their own dime later.

The guarantee on our machines is only 90 days, but Larry assured us he would take care of us for the year if anything goes awry. He seems trustworthy and we believe he will honor his promise, but getting a year guarantee in writing is probably best.

3. Buy from a Local Business who Inspects their Appliances Before Selling Them- While I know many people purchase appliances secondhand, I read articles that advised against this practice. We were also told by Larry, that the reason buying from others is risky, is that there are many ways that machines can get damaged during the process of moving them. Having the right tools to move washers and dryers keeps them upright and doesn’t put pressure on the wrong parts of the machines leaving you with a damaged machine. He also mentioned that like used cars, people can be misleading, or possibly aren’t aware of the issues their machines have when they sell them to you. So, if you do buy from an individual you must be more informed and inspect the machine more closely.

Look for used appliance shops that take their machines apart, clean them, repair and replace parts, and then test them before selling them to you. It is in a small business’ best interest to provide good service and quality products since negative reviews could easily destroy their local business and this means better customer service for you should you have trouble with your machine down the road. Referrals and reviews are the lifeblood of small bussinesses like these and customer service is where they can truly differentiate themselves from large appliance stores.

5. Buy a Set- If you ever need to re-sell your machines, a set is easier to sell. An employee of Larry’s informed us that people are more much more likely to want to buy a matching set, even though as far as functionality goes it really doesn’t matter.

6. Ask for a Discount for Paying in Cash- Larry offered to give us a $20 discount on the delivery fee for paying in cash. I’ve learned with many bussinesses that it never hurts to ask about discounts and specials, especially small businesses, the worst thing they can say is no! Maybe we should have tried to negotiate a free delivery, but we felt were receiving a good value with the discount, the low-cost machines, and free instillation/testing so we didn’t push for free delivery.

7. Don’t Buy Samsung Brand Washers and Dryers. They manufacture great phones and other electronics, but are known for making terrible washing machines and dryers in the appliance repair community.

8. Be careful Transporting your Used Machine- If you opt to save money on the delivery fee, read about how to transport washers and dryers properly.

Best of luck in your used washer and dryer search! I hope this article and the links I included provide you with some helpful information. For more detailed information about how to buy a high quality used washer and dryer check out How to Buy a Used Washing Machine.

Thinking about  buying a new washer and Dryer? LGWhirlpool Duet brand, and Speed Queen have been mentioned as being high quality options.

Do you have a favorite brand and model you would recommend when buying a washer and dryer? Please tell us about what you like about it in the comments below. 

Click on the following link for more information on Whirlpool Brands and how to figure out the age of a Whirlpool washing machine or dryer using its serial number.

Whirlpool Brands:

 

  • Kitchen Aid
  •  Roper
  • SinkGuard
  • Estate (This is the type of machines we ended up purchasing)
  • Inglis (Canada)
  •  Norcold
  • Partners Plus
  •  Conquest
  •  Coolerator
  •  Crystal Tips
  • Hampton Bay
  • Jordan
  • Sub-Zero
 In 2006, Whirlpool bought Maytag, whose brands are listed below: 
  • Admiral
  • Amana
  • Caloric
  • Crosley
  • Glenwood
  • Hardwick
  • Imperial
  • Jenn-Air
  • Maycor
  • Magic Chief
  • Menumaster
  • Neptune
  • Litton
  • Modern Maid
  • Norge
  • Speed Queen
  • Sunray

The lists shown above were found on Electrical Forensics.com

I participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites, however the opinions expressed in the article are my own. 

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.