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Save Money

Beyond Beans and Rice, How to Save Money on Groceries

Many of us focus on budgeting and paying off debt at the beginning of the year. I am a Dave Ramsey fan and have worked his plan for many years. It is a very good plan , and although I did not follow every step exactly as he presents them in his book The Total Money Makeover, I have successfully become debt free. This article is not intended to help you become debt free, just to help you save money on one of your biggest expenses, groceries. Dave pushes for a diet of beans and rice while working his plan. I’m pretty sure he does not mean that you literally have to live on beans and rice alone. Beans and rice are both inexpensive foods that can really stretch a meal. In other words, fill you up for less money. There are plenty of other inexpensive foods that can stretch a meal and other ways to save on food.

Save money by wasting less

Food waste can be a huge drain on your grocery budget. A study published by the American Journal of Agricultural Economics found that the average American household wastes 31.9% of the food it buys. This works out to be over $150 of wasted food per month per household on average. If you feel you may be wasting too much food it definitely worth taking a look at some strategies to help you stop the waste.

How can you reduce household food waste?

Put a list of leftovers on your refrigerator
  1. Use your leftovers! We recently started a list of leftover food on the refrigerator door. We told the kids if we end up throwing away any leftovers we will not be able to get take out for 2 weeks. Using this system we have not thrown away any leftovers in 4 weeks! Download my leftover list below.
  2. Use up your produce. Unfortunately those produce drawers have a way of hiding your fruits and veggies. Out of sight out of mind. I like to keep a few fruits on the counter in a fruit bowl. Most fruits can be kept at room temperature for a few days. If they are in the bowl, they are more likely to be eaten. I also cut up a tray of fruit and leave it on the counter each weekend. It really disappears fast this way. Smoothies are another great way to use up produce quickly. Make sure you have a plan for the produce you buy. Dig through those produce drawers often and make sure you rotate stock.
  3. Use your freezer. Use this chart from foodsaftey.gov for guidelines on how long your food will be safe to eat. Note that the freezer recommendations are for quality only, the site explains that food can be store indefinitely at 0 degrees F or less. So don’t start throwing out food in your freezer based on that chart. If you do not think you will be able to finish a food fast enough, then freeze it if possible.

Save money by packing your Lunch.

How much can you save by packing your own lunch?

Packing your lunch can be a huge cost savings over buying lunch every day. Only you can determine your actual savings. There are savings estimates out there, but it really depends on what you personally have been spending. You should be able to prepare a meal at home for less than half of the cost of the same meal as take out. For example if you buy a taco salad at a restaurant for $10.00, you could make that same salad at home for less than $5.00. Even if you could manage to save just $5.00 per day, that would be a savings of $25.00 per work week or $1300.00 per year.

Don’t just take your lunch for a ride either. You have to eat what you packed, resist the temptation to order out with your co-workers or choose that favorite dish at the cafeteria. If you end up ordering out and taking your lunch home, you may end up having to waste what you packed. Then you will have paid for 2 lunches!

How do you find the time to pack your lunch?

Make sure you pack your lunch the night before. If you save this task for the morning you will inevitably be running late. If you have children any number of things could distract you from your lunch making task, a forgotten homework assignment, a spill you have to help clean up, a lost shoe, or you name it. Trust me, if you want to save money you need to make your lunch the night before. Teach your kids to do the same.

Why should you pack your kids lunch?

I know what you are thinking. Why would I pack my kids lunch? The school lunch is only $3.00/day. Sure it would be difficult but not impossible to pack a lunch or less that $3.00/day, so why do it?

  1. It teaches responsibility. Kids can learn valuable skills by packing their own lunch. How to make a sandwich or salad. Knife skills for chopping fruit. Even how to add items to a grocery list when they are getting low.
  2. It’s healthier. I know Michelle Obama tried really hard to make school lunches healthier, but they could still use some work. Currently these lunches are free for all and my kids are still packing their lunches at home. My son tolerated the low quality tasteless food the longest. He finally gave up and started packing his own lunch after reading the ingredients on the Uncrustable in his school lunch. He said “It had too much added sugar and 50% of my daily fat. I just can’t continue to eat that food.”
  3. You will waste less food. Leftover dinners make great lunches. We try to use up our leftovers within 4 days. It really helps if every family member helps. If you end up throwing out leftovers because you bought that bargain $3 lunch, you have not saved anything.
  4. You can save money by buying in bulk. It’s easier to buy in bulk if your whole family is packing lunches. Once you open a bulk package of lunchmeat, you should use it up in 3-5 days. If only 1 or 2 people are packing sandwiches, you may end up throwing some of it out.
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What should you pack for lunch?

  1. Soup or chili. I like to make a big pot of homemade soup or chili every week. Find my favorite soup recipe here. I use a CorningWare meal mug for packing soups. When my kids were younger I always packed their soups in a Thermos Funtainer. We would heat them up in the morning and the soup was still warm at lunch time. This way they could skip the microwave line and had more time to eat.
  2. Leftover Dinner. You have to pack up your leftovers anyway, why not just pack them for lunch. Casseroles and pasta make great leftovers for lunches.
  3. Salads. You can really get creative with salads. Try pasta salad, coleslaw, bean salad, Waldorf salad, or just a traditional lettuce salad. Check out my article about quick and easy packable salads.
  4. Sandwiches. Meat and cheese, PB &J, leftover pulled pork, leftover meatloaf. Have some fun! Get creative.

Save money by shopping sales

How do I find time to save?

I know you are probably thinking you don’t have time to shop several stores to get the best prices. I’d like to say that you probably do. There have to be some high use non perishable items in your home. Maybe a particular sauce, or salad dressing. These are the items you want to find the best prices on. For example, I always buy Smuckers natural peanut butter at Walmart. It’s cheaper there than sale prices anywhere else. I don’t stop there every week, I just stop in and buy 3-4 jars when we are getting low. Just a few trips a year. Take the time to find the best deals on you highest use items, this will be worth your time.

Never pay full price.

I never pay full price for pasta, canned soup, BBQ sauce, mayo or any food with a long shelf life. When I grocery shop weekly, I’m mostly there to pick up fresh produce, eggs, and dairy items like milk and yogurt. I only buy meat if it is a really good sale, otherwise I defrost some meat I bought on sale earlier. Lastly, I always pick up a few nonperishable sale items for later use.

Save on Chicken breast during Super Bowl week.

By the way, the week of the Super Bowl is a great time to stock up on chicken breast. Chicken wings are so popular for the game that the rest of the chicken parts are usually marked down for quick sale.

Why coupons are not so great

You were probably expecting an article on saving money on your grocery budget to include a bunch of ways to save with coupons. I’m not saying that I never use coupons or that they will never save you money. I’m just saying that in my experience they have not really been worth the time. It takes a lot of time to search for, clip and sort coupons. Then to keep track of expiration dates. I believe that time could be better spent saving money in other ways like meal prep or managing leftovers.

Most of the time when searching for grocery coupons they tend to be for name brand products I don’t buy. There are usually coupons for laundry detergent, but I make my own. Toothpaste, which I buy in Canada because for some reason it is way cheaper there. Brand name non-prescription medications which I always buy generic. Pet food for the pet I do not have.

There is nothing worse than spending your time clipping a coupon, finding the product in the store, only to find that the store brand equivalent is less expensive than the brand name product even with the coupon.

Save money by planning your meals

Meal planning seems like a daunting task, but it’s not. Start by checking the grocery store ad for produce sales. I always start my plans with what ever produce is on sale. If there is a big sale on mushrooms, I’ll plan to make my favorite recipe with mushrooms. Big sale on broccoli and cauliflower, then stir fry will be a great choice. A sale on bell peppers would be a great time for stuffed peppers.

Meal planning is not just about shopping the sales it’s about finding the time to prepare the food. If you know you will be too busy to make dinner on Wednesday night due to soccer practice, then plan that to be a leftover night. There is nothing worse than having a house full of hungry family members and no plan for dinner. These are the nights that will cost you a lot because you will cave under the pressure and order take out. There goes your food budget! Make the meals on your less busy days. Make sure you defrost your meat, you might even be able to trim the meat ahead of time. Chop a few onions on the weekend, you can use them in recipes and on sandwiches and salads throughout the week.

How to stretch your grocery budget with low cost foods

There are some foods that are budget friendly and can be used to feed your family for less. Here are some examples:

Low cost food #1, Potatoes

There are plenty of recipes that include potatoes. Soups and casseroles like Shepherd’s Pie. If you are trying to save on your grocery budget you can add a couple extra potatoes to these recipes to expand the number of portions. A baked potato can also be a very easy and inexpensive side to any meal.

Shepherd's pie on the smoker
Shepherd’s Pie on the smoker

Find my Shepherd’s pie recipe here.

Low cost food #2, Pasta

Pasta. It is not difficult to find a sale on pasta. This ingredient can easily be added in excess to most recipes to expand your number of portions. It also makes an inexpensive side dish or salad.

better than rachel ray's Italian mac n cheese

Click here, for my favorite pasta recipe.

Low cost food # 3, Zucchini

I stopped growing my own zucchini a few years ago because I noticed that I was having to turn down so much free zucchini from friends, family, and neighbors. I’m sure you have seen a pile of free zucchini on your breakroom table each summer. Just one plant provides more zucchini than most families can consume. Take the free zucchini, make bread or add it to your stir fry or just grill it up next time you make burgers. My favorite zucchini dish is zoodles! You will need to invest in a zoodle maker, but it is worth it to make a delicious pasta dishes with zucchini as noodles. We sauté onions and garlic in olive oil then add the zoodles to the pan. Sauté until warm then add capers and olives. Top with some shredded parmesan and you have a tasty meal or side dish, the bulk of which was free!

Low cost food #4, Eggs

Want to add some inexpensive protein to your meal? Consider adding eggs. I like to keep some hard boiled eggs in my fridge. They make a quick and easy inexpensive breakfast. They are also a great addition to fresh salads. You can also use them in fried rice.

Low cost food #5, Cabbage

This is a very inexpensive vegetable and it is so versatile. You can make coleslaw as an inexpensive side dish. Add it to salads, soups, or sandwiches. It can also be a meal itself. It has a very long shelf life, longer than lettuce so it can also help reduce food waste.

Low cost food #6, Beans

Add some beans to your meat. I used to add one can of beans to every one pound of ground beef when I made chili. I have found that I can add an extra can of bean per pound of beef and the chili is still delicious, and I get an extra serving.

Low cost food #7, Rice

This is a very inexpensive ingredient that can be prepared as a meal or side dish. There is seemingly no end to the varieties of ways you can prepare rice. I love fried rice, Spanish rice, and Caribbean rice. You can add it to pretty much any soup and many casseroles.

Low cost food #8, Onions

I’m not suggesting you eat a plain onion as a side dish, well maybe I am. It’s just that onions are very cheap and they are included in many recipes. If you double the onion you could add an extra serving to many dishes, plus make them healthier and more flavorful. If you are grilling, wrap and onion in some foil and throw it on the grill. Grilled onion is a delicious addition to pretty much any grilled meal.

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Healthy Home

Five Sneaky Tricks to Increase Your Fluid Intake

According to the CDC the average American adult drinks about 39 ounces of water per day. This is below the recommended amount. If you are like many adults who wish to increase your water intake, read on for five sneaky tricks to increase your fluid intake.

Why should I drink more water?

Water is essential for life. Your body is about 60% water. You need water for temperature regulation, clear thinking, eliminating waste, and proper circulation.

Drinking adequate amounts of water prevents dehydration, keeps your skin healthy, reduces fatigue, prevents constipation, and reduces the risk of kidney stones.

How much water do I need?

The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommends that healthy men consume 3.7 Liters ( 125 ounces) and healthy women consume 2.7 Liters or 91 ounces of water each day.

These are just guidelines for adults with average activity. There are other factors that could change your water needs such as physical activity, climate, age, sex, pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Warm climate could increase your fluid intake needs.
Warm climate could increase your fluid intake needs.

How can I increase my daily fluid intake?

Increasing your daily fluid intake could be as easy as just setting a goal and finding ways to stick to it. If you don’t really care for drinking plain water than finding ways to flavor it could help. Maybe you just need to find ways to fit drinking more fluids into your daily routine. Read on for some great ways to increase your daily fluid intake.

1.Set a goal to increase your fluid intake

Use an app to keep track of your water consumption goals.

If you already enjoy drinking water you may just need to set a goal and find a way to stick to it. Believe it or not there are plenty of apps out there to help you keep track of your water consumption goals. These apps will be best used with a water bottle that has measurement marks on it to help you keep track of your consumption.

2. Flavor your water to help increase your fluid consumption

Tea is a great way to flavor water
Tea is a great way to flavor your water.

If you struggle to drink plain water it may really help if you flavor your water. I like to infuse fruit flavor into my water. My favorite is lemon, but there are plenty of fruits and vegetables that can give your water a pleasant flavor without adding too may calories. I like to use a water infusion pitcher to add fruit to my water because it keeps the seeds out of my water. It is also easy to clean out and refresh the fruit. If you prefer you could drink iced or hot tea as an alternative to plain water or fruit infused water. It’s best to try decaffeinated teas if possible. I’d recommend trying several teas before you rule this out. There are so many different teas you could try; there has to be at least one you would like.

3. Make drinking water a habit to help increase your fluid consumption.

You can easily increase your fluid intake by making drinking water part of your daily routine. Jim Kwik, author of Limitless has a great example of this in his morning brain enhancing routine. He drinks a tall glass of water every morning to help replace overnight losses from breathing. You could also make it a habit to drink a tall glass of water before each meal. This can also help you to eat less and could improve your weight loss goals.

4. Eat your water to help increase your fluid consumption.

Celery is 95% water.
Celery is 95% water

Simply increasing you consumption of fruits and vegetables could help to increase your overall fluid consumption. Some fruits and vegetables are very high in water. Examples of fruits and vegetables with the high water content are cabbage, celery, watermelon, peaches, bell peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, oranges, cantaloupe, and strawberries. Other foods with high fluid content are yogurt, cottage cheese, and soup. Try adding some of these foods to your diet. You could swap French fries for coleslaw, or swap a sandwich for a salad or soup. Have a breakfast smoothie or try my Immune Boosting granola with yogurt.

Immune-boosting-granola-served-with-yogurt
Immune boosting-granola served with yogurt.

5. Keep water convenient to help increase consumption.

Find a water bottle you love and make sure to take it with you. Make sure it fits into the cup holder in your car. Find one with a handle that is easy to carry, or invest in a water bottle carrier.

Leave a glass of water on your night stand at night. Keep a glass near you at work. Fill a pitcher with plain or fruit infused water and keep it in the refrigerator. Keep a tray of fresh sliced fruit or veggies in your refrigerator.

Prepared veggie tray
Grab and Go veggie tray to keep in your fridge.

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Healthy Home

How to Help a Friend in Quarantine

We are all getting tired of quarantine! Some are even calling it quarantine fatigue. This weekend I worked with a couple of moms who had just finished their quarantine. They discussed how awful it was to homeschool their kids and deal with not being able to leave the house. Both of these women are health care professionals and know how important it is to stop the spread. As healthcare professionals we know that we are the ones who will pay the price if this virus gets out of control. Still, the temptation to run out for a couple of groceries or something to entertain the kids is real! Especially when you have no symptoms. This is where friends can help. How can you help a friend in quarantine?

What can you do for a friend in Quarantine?

I am really want you to consider giving of your time, because isolation is really bad for mental health. This suggestion is not just for adults. Kids can help their friends the most this way. Please encourage your kids to reach out to their quarantined friends. Isolation is terrible for kids.

  1. Offer to pick up a few groceries. Open your refrigerator. Do you have enough milk to last 14 days? Grocery stores are asking people in my hometown to limit their shopping to only what they need for one week. Of course they are trying to limit hoarding so they can keep things in stock, but what if you can’t leave your home for 14 days? I’m not suggesting you start hoarding, but I am suggesting that you reach out to friends in quarantine. Some people don’t want to ask for help. A simple phone call or even a text to a friend in quarantine could really help stop them from leaving to pick up a few items. Ask your friend if you could pick up a few items.
  2. Give your friend a call. Reaching out to a friend in quarantine can really help. Remember your friend is probably bored. Maybe you could play a virtual game with your friend. Check out my post on social distancing games for a few games that can be played virtually.
Beyond Beans and Rice, How to Save Money on Groceries
Many of us focus on budgeting and paying off debt at the …
Five Sneaky Tricks to Increase Your Fluid Intake
According to the CDC the average American adult drinks about 39 ounces …
Better than Rachel Ray’s Italian Mac ‘n Cheese
It has been 12 years since I first tried Rachel Ray's Italian …
Pharmacist Shares Immune Boosting Granola Recipe
Customers are flooding into local pharmacies in search of immune boosting supplements. …

What could you drop off for a friend in quarantine?

Once again this is not just for adults. Ask your kids what their friends would like to have.

  1. Food – If I were stuck home for more than a week, the one thing I would appreciate most would be fresh produce. Think about something that would brighten your day to find on your porch. That would be a good thing to drop off for a friend.
  2. Entertainment – You don’t have to break the bank to help entertain a quarantined friend. You don’t have to go out and buy something. You could give a friend a book you read recently. Then set up a time to call and discuss it with them. Maybe you know a mom with kids younger than your own. Have your kids find a game or some books they have outgrown. Deliver it to the younger quarantined family. Maybe you have a puzzle you already completed, check the piece count and give it to a quarantined family.
  3. Care Packages – There are plenty of ideas online for quarantine care packages. Please try to support local first.

Homemade quarantine care package ideas

If your friend is quarantined without symptoms they will be wanting something to keep them busy. If they are actually sick it would probably be best to bring the healthy family members a prepared meal or take out. These ideas are for healthy people quarantined due to exposure.

  1. A fun dinner package. An example of a fun meal package would be make your own pizza. You could include store bought mini crusts and all of the standard pizza toppings. Include sauce, shredded cheese, pepperoni, onion, a bell pepper and any of your friends favorites. You could also add some bread sticks, soda for the kids and maybe a bottle of wine for mom and dad. If you really want to make it fun add a dinner game.
  2. A fun treat. Pick up some ice cream and all of the fixings. Fill a basket with chocolate syrup, nuts, fresh strawberries, sprinkles, whipped cream and more. Your quarantined friend’s family will have a blast making sundaes!
  3. An activity box. Fill a box or basket with family games, puzzles and craft supplies. You could even include a cookie decorating pack. Just bake some cookies (or buy them undecorated from a local bakery) and include some frosting, sprinkles and decorations.
  4. Movie night box. Fill a box with popcorn, movie theater candy, chips and pop. Include a DVD or a virtual movie gift card such as Amazon movie gift card.
  5. Happy hour package. Fill a box with some local beer, wine and or spirits. Include a card inviting your friend to join you for a happy hour zoom meeting.
  6. Breakfast fun package. Pick up some fresh donuts! Fill a basket with some locally made coffee, fresh squeezed OJ, jam, and farm fresh eggs. Kids would love a cereal variety pack, and anyone would enjoy some of my immune boosting granola.
  7. Health and wellness package. Include some protein bars, vitamins and supplements, a resistance band, a bottle of water, and a jump rope.
  8. Relaxation package. This package could include bubble bath, aromatherapy candles, a good book, slippers, herbal tea and a bottle of wine.

Be creative, reach out and pay it forward. Remember the more people you help, the more help you could receive. We are all in this together.

Please share your ideas in the comments.

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Recipes

Better than Rachel Ray’s Italian Mac ‘n Cheese

It has been 12 years since I first tried Rachel Ray’s Italian Mac ‘n Cheese. A friend from my mom’s group brought me the dish after I had my third child. It was part of a meal train we put together to help out moms for the first couple of weeks after giving birth. Of the meals I received, this one was by far my favorite. I asked my friend for the recipe and for the past 12 years I have been modifying this recipe. I believe I have perfected the recipe now, because it is always a hit at my home. I am now ready to share with you my Better than Rachel Ray’s Italian Mac ‘n Cheese recipe.

Please feel free to compare my recipe with Rachel Ray’s Italian Mac & Cheese. My recipe is better because it has onions and because it has more sauce. The sauce in my recipe is also more flavorful due to the addition of more tomatoes and seasoning.

Beyond Beans and Rice, How to Save Money on Groceries
Many of us focus on budgeting and paying off debt at the …
Five Sneaky Tricks to Increase Your Fluid Intake
According to the CDC the average American adult drinks about 39 ounces …
How to Help a Friend in Quarantine
We are all getting tired of quarantine! Some are even calling it …
Pharmacist Shares Immune Boosting Granola Recipe
Customers are flooding into local pharmacies in search of immune boosting supplements. …

Italian Mac ‘n Cheese Recipe

Ingredients:

1 Pound of Penne pasta

1 Pound bulk Sweet Italian sausage

12 Cremini Mushrooms (1 package), sliced

1 onion, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 Tablespoons butter

1/2 Cup flour

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 can of each: chicken broth, diced tomatoes and tomato sauce

2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

8 ounces of whipping cream

8 ounces of Italian Blend shredded cheese

1/2 Cup shredded Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper

Directions:

Prepare the pasta according to package directions. Drain and pour into a casserole dish.

Brown the sausage, drain and set aside. Add the olive oil to the pan and sauté the onion until slightly softened. Add the mushrooms, garlic and butter. Toss to evenly coat, add salt, and continue to sauté until the mushrooms begin to soften. Stir in the flour until evenly coated. Slowly add the chicken broth, add a little and stir until the sauce thickens, then add more and stir. Repeat this process until the whole can is incorporated. Add the undrained can of diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian seasoning and pepper. Mix until well combined and return to a simmer. Return the drained sausage to the pan and add half of the shredded Italian blend cheese, mix until melted. Add the whipping cream and mix constantly until the sauce returns to a simmer, then remove from heat.

Pre heat the broiler to high. Pour the sauce over the pasta and mix. Top with remaining Italian blend cheese. Place the dish under the broiler for 3-5 min until the cheese in lightly browned. Serve with parmesan cheese.

If you like the recipe, you may also like my Better than Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana.

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Healthy Home Recipes

Pharmacist Shares Immune Boosting Granola Recipe

Customers are flooding into local pharmacies in search of immune boosting supplements. Many of these immune boosting ingredients can easily be included in your diet. I’m a pharmacist and I would love to share my recipe for Immune boosting Granola.

Disclaimer: The statements made regarding this recipe have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of this recipe has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. This recipe is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Immune Boosting Nutrients

In order to make an immune boosting recipe, one first needs to know which nutrients are known to boost immunity.

Vitamin C- There is research to support Vitamin C supplementation in reducing the length and severity of respiratory infections.1 Vitamin C plays an important role in immune response.

Zinc – Plenty of research is available supporting zinc supplementation in reducing the length and severity of infections.1 Zinc is an important player in immune response.

Vitamin D – There is some evidence that vitamin D could reduce the risk of Influenza and COVID-19 infections and death.2

Vitamin B6- A deficiency in Vitamin B6 reduces your ability to make antibodies to fight off infection. Vitamin B6 could help strengthen immunity.3

Vitamin E- Immune response is enhanced by Vitamin E. It can provide protection against infections.4

Selenium- The immune system relies on adequate dietary selenium.5

Immune Boosting Ingredients

I selected my granola ingredients to include as many immune boosting vitamins and minerals as possible. Here is a list of my ingredients and a quick explanation for why they were included in my recipe.

  1. Elderberry syrup: Elderberry syrup is used to enhance immunity. Elderberries are high in flavonoids, Vitamin A and Vitamin C. It may help reduce symptoms of viral infections by stimulating immune response.6
  2. Matcha: A natural superfood, matcha is green tea powder. It is made by grinding green tea leaves into a fine powder. Regular consumption of green tea could decrease influenza infection rates and cold symptoms.7
  3. Hemp hearts, pumpkin seeds and Flax Seeds: I included all of these mostly for the zinc and omega 3 and 6. These polyunsaturated fats have been extensively studied for their role in immune health.8
  4. Nuts: These serve as a good source of selenium and zinc. I chose Brazil nuts because they have the highest amount of selenium. Cashews are high in zinc.
  5. Sunflower seeds: These seeds also have some healthy fats, but I chose them mostly because they are an excellent source of vitamin E. They are also a good source of selenium and vitamin B6.
  6. Ginger: Has been found to help reduce the severity of respiratory infections.9
  7. Blueberries: Another natural superfood. Blueberries are a good source of Vitamin C. They are one of the best sources of antioxidants, mostly flavonoids.

Immune Boosting Granola Recipe

Ingredients:

4 Cups Oats

1 Cup mixed nuts (cashews, almonds, and Brazil nuts)

1/4 Cup sunflower seeds

1 Cup shelled pumpkin seeds

1/4 Cup hemp hearts – find it here

1 Tablespoon matcha powder – find it here

2 Tablespoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt

2 Tablespoons flax seed

1/3 Cup dried cranberries

1/2 Cup shredded dry coconut

1/3 Cup dried blueberries

1/2 Cup honey

1/3 Cup Peanut butter

2 Tablespoons Elderberry Syrup – Find it here

1/3 Cup coconut oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix together the oats, nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts, matcha, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and flax seed. In a separate bowl mix the peanut butter, coconut oil, honey, elderberry syrup. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix until evenly coated.

Cover a Jelly Roll pan with parchment paper. Spread the granola over the paper. Bake for 15 min. Remove from the oven and mix in the dried coconut. Bake for 10 more minutes. Remove and mix again. If the coconut is not completely toasted, bake for 2 more minutes. The granola is ready when most of the coconut is toasted but not burnt. Remove from the oven and stir in the dried fruit while the granola is still warm. Allow the granola to cool to room temperature. Store in an air tight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Immune Boosting Granola Served with Yogurt

References:

  1. https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/90495
  2. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/4/988
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28367454/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6266234/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30200430/
  6. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1271/bbb.120112
  7. https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/23/7/1795
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6834330/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7019938/

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Healthy Home

Do Masks Work? A Pharmacist Compares Mask wearing to Pregnancy

As a pharmacist, I’ve been asked a lot of questions about the treatment and prevention of COVID-19. The information about this novel virus is constantly changing and updating. Nobody is an expert right now. We don’t have all of the answers. My most common question is “Do masks work?” Read on and I will explain how mask wearing compares to pregnancy.

Will wearing a mask protect you from COVID-19?

Do Masks Work?

“Do masks work?” Yes, there is evidence to support universal mask wearing as a way to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Lancet published recent review of 172 studies across 16 countries in 6 continents that concluded face mask use could result in a large reduction of risk of infection.1 None of the studies reviewed were randomized but the review concluded that until better information is available this information is convincing enough to recommend face mask use to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Another recent study published in JAMA evaluated the spread of COVID-19 in healthcare workers before and after a universal mask mandate.2 This study concluded that universal mask wearing does help prevent transmission of COVID-19. The authors also pointed out that masks are not just for personal protection. They indicated that masks are for source control, meaning that masks protect others. They compared masking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to surgeons wearing masks to prevent surgical infections. Nobody would want an unmasked surgeon, just like nobody should want an unmasked cashier.

In addition to these studies, The CDC is recommending mask wearing along with social distancing and hand washing as ways to protect yourself and others.

Another common question I hear is: “Why should I wear a mask?” You should wear a mask because, until we have a vaccine for COVID-19 universally available, mask wearing along with social distancing, and hand washing is our best defense against this virus. If you don’t want to wear a mask for your own health, please consider wearing it to protect the health of others. That leads me to my pregnancy analogy.

How is wearing a mask for COVID-19 prevention like being pregnant?

I first came up with this analogy when I was tired of all of mask complainers. This pandemic is not the first or only time a health recommendation has been implemented to protect the health of others.

Pregnancy is a perfect example of a temporary time in life when the healthcare community makes recommendations to protect the health of others. Pregnant women are advised to abstain from certain freedoms and encouraged to obtain prenatal care not just for their own health but mostly to protect their unborn child.

Like pregnancy, pandemics don’t last forever.* Just like pregnant women are encouraged not to ride roller coasters and avoid drinking any alcohol, we are currently encouraged to social distance and wear masks. Also like pregnancy these recommendations will not last forever, and our personal freedoms will return. In the case of pregnancy the mother is protecting her baby, in the case of mask wearing we are protecting our mothers and grandmothers. Pay it forward! Wear a mask to protect our mothers and Grandmothers.

*Some still refer to HIV/Aids as a current pandemic, but I based this statement on the World Health Organization’s current classification of HIV/AIDS as an epidemic.

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For some great social distancing fun, check out my post on social distancing game ideas.

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Sources:

1.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7263814/

2.https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2768532

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Recipes

How to Make Fabulous Smoked ribs

Finally, after multiple attempts, I have been able to perfect my fall off the bone smoked baby back ribs. These ribs are fabulous! Believe it or not I managed to do this on one of the busiest weeknights this Fall. I found this recipe to actually fit in well with a busy night of running the kids to and from their evening activities. It’s always nice to sit down as a family for dinner, but that is often a challenge in the Fall with the kids involved in multiple activities and my husband and I acting as taxi drivers transporting kids here and there. We managed to get the ribs on the Traeger before school was out, so before the craziness began. Then we managed to find time to be home for just a couple of transfers in between. We ended up having a nice dinner together once everyone was home around 8:00 pm. Better late than never. I want to share this wonderful recipe for how to make fabulous smoked ribs with you.

How to prepare fabulous smoked ribs

The first step is to remove the silver skin from the baby back ribs. This may have been done by your butcher, but if not it’s a really simple process. Just turn over the rack and use a paper towel to find the skin and pull to remove. Once the silver skin is removed season both sides with garlic powder and a generous portion of Traeger pork and poultry rub.

How to prepare the Traeger Silverton 620 for ribs

Clean the Traeger from any previous cook. Ribs can be really messing so you should use a Traeger tray liner to protect your grill. This Trager grill liner is slightly wider that the liner that came with my Silverton 620 grill, but it is bendable and actually provides more coverage. You could just use foil for this step, but the tray liners do work better. Initially I tried to clean the tray between cooks, but I ended up finding the best cost saving option to be lining the tray with foil. This way I just remove to foil and reapply clean foil to the tray. I get several uses out of each tray, and keep my grill clean. Fill the hopper with Traeger Signature Blend Pellets. Preheat the Traeger to 200 degrees F.

How to make fall off the bone ribs on the Traeger Silverton 620

Place the prepared ribs directly on the rack of the preheated Silverton 620 Treager grill. Smoke at 200 degrees F for 2 hours.

Baby Back ribs prepared to smoke

Line a 21 x 13 Inch foil pan with aluminum foil, make sure there is excess foil to wrap the ribs.

Remove the ribs from the grill, use a hand held probe thermometer to check the meat as close as possible to the center between two ribs. The internal temperature at this step should be approximately 150 degrees F. Turn the Traeger Silverton 620 temperature up to 235 degrees F.

Smoked baby back ribs

Place the ribs in the foil lined pan. Drizzle the ribs with honey, approximately 1/3 cup.

baby back ribs drizzled with honey
Baby back ribs drizzled with honey

Pour one cup of warm apple juice over the ribs. Then sprinkle each rack with dark brown sugar, approximately 2 tablespoons each.

baby back ribs with dark brown sugar
Baby back ribs with dark brown sugar

Tightly wrap the foil around the ribs and return to the Traeger.

Baby back ribs wrapped in foil

Smoke the foil wrapped ribs for 2.5 hours.

How to make your own BBQ sauce

While your ribs are smoking prepare your own BBQ sauce.

BBQ Sauce Recipe

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons mustard

3/4 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

2 tablespoons apple juice

Mix all ingredients together in a sauce pan over low heat. I highly recommend the Ballarini Parma Sauce pan for this. If you choose to buy one you will thank me when it comes to clean up time. Stir occasionally while maintaining a simmer. Taste your sauce. If it is:

Too sour? Add more apple juice or brown sugar

Too sweet? Add more apple cider vinegar

Not enough mustard, garlic, onion? Add more of those ingredients.

Continue to simmer until sauce is slightly thinner that you would desire your BBQ sauce to be. It will continue to thicken as it cools.

homemade BBQ sauce
Homemade BBQ sauce

Final step for perfect fall off the bone baby back ribs

After your wrapped ribs have smoked 2.5 hours, remove them with silicone gloves from the Trager Silverton 620 and once again check a temperature with a hand held probe thermometer. The temperature at this step should be approximately 200 degrees F.

Use a silicone basting brush to coat the top side of each rack of ribs with your homemade BBQ sauce.

Smoked baby back ribs coated with BBQ sauce

Return the ribs to the Traeger. This time they go right on the rack, unwrapped. Continue to smoke at 230 degrees F for 30-40 minutes or until the sauce is tightened.

baby back ribs with sauce on the Traeger
Baby back ribs with sauce on the Traeger

Remove from the Traeger with large tongs, slice or break apart and enjoy!

smoked baby back ribs
Smoked baby back ribs

Hope you enjoyed learning how to make fabulous smoked ribs.

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Recipes

Zuppa Toscana – Better than Olive Garden

I’m not intending to share an Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana copy cat recipe, because I really like their Zuppa Toscana. However, I feel my homemade Sausage Kale and Potato soup is better than Olive Garden. I’m sure you will too.

This soup has been a favorite at my house long before I even tried the Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana. It all began with a recipe for Sausage and gnocchi soup, that I modified and modified until it became in my opinion, perfect!

Read on and you will find directions for my version of Zuppa Toscana, but if you prefer I also have a link to a video and a printable recipe below.

Zuppa Toscana (Creamy Sausage Kale and Potato Soup) Recipe

Ingredients:

2 Pounds ground bulk Italian sausage

8 medium potatoes peeled

2 bell peppers, chopped

2 tablespoon olive oil

8 cups chicken stock

2 cup heavy cream

1 bunch of kale, stems removed

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Brown the Italian sausage in a frying pan until cooked through.

Set aside on a paper towel lined plate to drain, because you will not want all that grease in your soup. Meanwhile sauté the onion and peppers with the olive oil until slightly tender.

Add the chicken stock and potatoes to the pan.

Put the drained sausage back into the pan and, bring to a boil.

Reduce to simmer until potatoes are tender.

Add the half and half.

Rip the kale into small bite size pieces, or chop with a Chef knife.

Add the kale to the soup and simmer for 3-5 min. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper. Enjoy!

If you would prefer to see these directions in a video, you can find it on my YouTube channel.

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Recipes

How to make Authentic Polish Pierogi

It seems fitting to add a Pierogi recipe to my blog today because it is National Pierogi day. I happen to have an authentic pierogi recipe from my husband’s Polish mother. He was able to get the exact measurements from her back in the 90’s when he had an assignment to complete for school. His assignment was to submit a recipe for an ethnic food. It was a bit of a challenge to get the exact ingredient quantities and directions from his mother. Initially when he asked her how to make Pierogi, she said “make dough, then put in the filling, then boil them.”

He ended up having to spend an afternoon watching her and measuring everything she did in order to obtain this recipe I’m about to share with you.

Pierogi basic dough Recipe

Ingredients:

4 cups of all purpose flour

250 mL of water

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

Directions:

Mix flour and salt together and sift. Add the eggs and water and knead until dough is smooth and stretchable.

Sprinkle flour over the table where you will be rolling the dough to prevent sticking. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin until it is approximately 1/8 of an inch thick. Cut out the dough with a 3 inch round cookie cutter.

Put your favorite filling (filling recipe below) in the center of each circle.

Stretch the dough around the filling and pinch together to avoid leaking during boiling. Use the handle of a butter knife to make a decorative edge. This step takes practice.

How to boil Pierogi

When pierogi are stuffed and pinched together, put 8-10 of the pierogi into boiling water. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. When pierogi begin to float, boil for another 3-5 minutes. Continue to boil the remaining pierogi.

Pierogi Potato & Cheese Filling recipe

Ingredients:

5 Medium Potatoes

1/4 pound cheddar cheese

1 medium onion finely minced and sauteed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Boil the potatoes until tender, drain and mash. Shred the cheese and add to the hot potatoes so it melts. Add salt pepper and sauteed onions, mash to mix.

Pierogi Sauerkraut Filling recipe

Ingredients:

1.5 cans of sauerkraut, drained

2 finley chopped onions

1 package of mushrooms, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions: Saute the mushrooms and onions with salt and pepper. Add the mushrooms and onions to sauerkraut. Put the mixture through a meat grinder.

Serving Pierogi

Saute Onions and pierogi in a frying pan until lightly browned. Serve with sour cream.

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Recipes

Easy Fritos Bean Dip Appetizer for all occasions

I love this Easy Fritos Bean dip recipe, because it always goes. It works great when you need a quick and easy recipe for a party appetizer. People love it and are always asking me for the recipe. It can take on any shape and can be decorated for different for any holiday and all occations.

Bean Dip Recipe

Ingredients:

1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened

1 9 ounce can Fritos Bean Dip

4 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese

3-4 green onions, sliced

1-2 Roma tomatoes, diced

10-12 black olives, sliced

Instructions:

Blend the Fritos bean dip and softened cream cheese until smooth and uniform. Hint: If you can’t find Fritos Bean dip, try this Copycat Recipe.

Spread the mixture in a dish or on a plate. This is where you can get creative with the dip. Because the dip can take on any shape, you can put it in a football shaped dish for a Super Bowl game day party, or a Christmas Tree shaped dish for a Christmas party. Get creative!

Top with the shredded cheese.

Layer with tomatoes, onions and olives.

Easy Bean Dip
Easy Bean Dip

This is another opportunity to get creative. For example, you could arrange the toppings like Christmas ornaments on a tree shaped platter. You can also pipe on sour cream using a frosting bag to create some fun designs. See my Easy Bean Dip Recipe Halloween designs below.

Halloween Themed Appetizer

Spider Web Halloween themed Bean Dip Appetizer.

To make your Easy Bean Dip more festive for a Halloween party you could decorate it like a spider web. For the spider web I used a piping bag with a #4 tip to pipe on full fat sour cream. I topped with a couple of spider rings which I removed before serving. I still wanted the other toppings so I added them to the edge of the design. If you are really crafty you could make spiders out of olives.

Grave Yard Halloween Themed Bean Dip Appetizer

For more Halloween appetizer fun you could also make your Easy Bean dip into a grave yard. For the grave yard, I piped full fat sour cream on Wheat Thins using a piping bag and a #2 tip. Then I arranged the crackers like grave stones. I added a bat ring and a couple of skull rings too, but I removed them before serving.

If you are planning a Halloween party, check out my post on Halloween Costumes.

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