Monday, October 12, 2015

Thirst Quenching the Organic Way...

From time to time I receive products to test in exchange for my honest opinion.  Recently I received, from Influenster, a vox box containing Apple and Eve juice drinks.  I received three juice box sized Organic Quenchers, and a quart sized package of 100% organic no sugar added juice. 

Before I got a chance to try the juice box in earnest, my kids had blown through them.  And they loved them!  My daughter, who is quite verbose, explained to me that her thirst was quenched and that the drink had just the right amount of raspberry flavoring to it.  I quickly grabbed a sip.  The flavor is not what I expected, as I am used to non organic juices. I expected a more fruity flavor, but this was more like water with a hint of juice.  And I love that for my kids!  I try to give them natural when I can, and I like that the juice has 50% less sugar than other juices out there.  It makes me feel good giving them this juice as is also FILLED with vitamin C. 

Also in the box was Apple and Eve Organics Orange Pineapple.  This was for the grown ups in our house!  We loved it!  Perfect packaging to fit in our already full fridge, it is also designed to keep the juice fresh and is designed to protect the environment too. No sugar added, but it still tastes good, probably because of the blend of 6 organic juices that are in the package.  It is 100% juice and is USDA certified organic and Non GMO certified. 

The only issue I had with this is that because of the packaging, some of the juice is left inside, I tried to get it all out, shaking, turning and whatever else I could do to get the last drops of juicy goodness, but alas no luck. 

Definitely going to look for these in my supermarket on the next run!

If you want to give the juice a try, check out this printable coupon!  Enjoy!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Faith is restored....

For Christmas, my mother purchased me this beautiful jewelry box (see here)

I didn't open the package until much after receiving it, but when I did, there was no key.  I sent an email to the company and promptly sent me a key, which I then proceeded to lose.

Once again, I contacted customer service, who told me that it had been too long for me to receive a replacement key.  I was fine with that.  I asked if I could purchase a key, being that I had already put all my jewelry in there.  It was just staring at me on my wall, laughing at my carelessness.

The friendly customer service agent said they would get back to me about purchasing a replacement key.  I eagerly awaited more information. It is a beautiful piece, and I'm looking forward to adding the pictures to it, but I am slow like turtle.

So today I leafed through the mail and found a letter with hand-written  addresses instead of the computer generated kind. It was heavy, and I didn't know what was inside.  Guess what friends? This was inside!

Oh happy day! The company had sent me a replacement key!  Free of charge!  Talk about customer service! Thank you so much Hayneedle!  I actually pawed my jewelry, now that I'm able to access it again.  It's so colorful and pretty!  I missed my beauties every so much.

My preciousssssssesssssssss!

So for customer service alone, I suggest you visit Hayneedle and drop some cash there! Give them your email address and you'll receive a discount off your purchase. They have all kinds of cool items for the home at reasonable prices.  Have fun kiddies!

Friday, June 26, 2015

My Love Affair with my Vox Box

As part of the Influenster Nation I often receive products to test out in exchange for my honest opinion.  Recently I was able to participate in the #Nuture #VoxBox

Here's the box that arrived for me!


with each of the products descriptions and social media information
There were some really great items in the box.  Some of which I enjoyed, some of which I did not.  Check out the previous posts for some of the items I reviewed.  But here's a sneak peak at some...
A lot of the products in the box are environmentally friendly, like the Attitude shampoo, or skin friendly like the Hada Labo Tokyo face mask, which I reviewed here and the Blue Lizard sensitive broad spectrum sunscreen (visit here for a coupon code) The cap of the bottle turns blue in UV light, reminding you to reapply.
Lots of food items in this vox box.  I received a package of Red Vines, which are made with only 5 ingredients and no preservatives and as always, they are fat free.  They are the perfect snack for our upcoming road trip.  As is the non-drowsy, natural dramamine that was in the package.   Some of the other food items include:
Chili cheese fries from the microwave?  We shall see.  Also #gotitfree in my #voxbox


Even Goldie the Goldfish was excited for my chicken korma with garbanzo beans and Uncle Ben's Basmati Rice, which I got free with the coupon that was enclosed in my #voxbox

Great box this time!  I love testing out products and sharing my opinions.  Plus, #swag is always fun!

*I received these items in exchange for my honest opinions.  Those opinions are expressed here*

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Product Review: Hada Labo Tokyo Anti Aging Face Mask

Occasionally I am given products in exchange for my honest opinion.  This is one of those reviews.

Through Influenster  I received the Hada Labo Tokyo Anti Aging Mask .  Here's a clip of me using the mask and of my honest  review

After I used the mask, my skin felt smoother and fresh.  As I mentioned in the video, the stickiness of the mask was a little jarring.  I probably would not include this mask in my skin care routine for this reason. 

Price wise the product seems fairly priced.  You can purchase a pack of four masks at Walgreens for $14.99.  The product is also available at Ulta, though I don't have an Ulta store in my area. 

*I received this product in exchange for my honest opinion*

Product Review: Attitude Color Protection Shampoo

As part of the Influenster community, I receive products in exchange for my honest opinion.  This post reflects my opinion of Attitude Color Protection Shampoo.

I do not have color treated hair, so I cannot speak to those benefits.  I used the product myself.  The shampoo is free of toxins and other chemicals that appear in other shampoo brands, though it is not stated specifically WHICH chemicals.  The product is vegan, and certified for reduced environmental impact.  There is a logo of a small bunny on the package, which I assume means this product is not tested on animals, but again, it is not clearly stated.

The shampoo has a pleasing smell and appears to be like other shampoos.  When used, it creates a nice lather, making me feel like my hair is getting clean.  I've used other environmentally friendly shampoos before, and they seem to weigh my hair down and make it feel not clean.  The Attitude shampoo cleaned my hair nicely. 

I did find that my hair, which is normally bouncy and full of volume, fell a bit limp throughout the day.  My hair did not seem to fall in its normal pattern. 

This product available at Target.  It retails for approximately $9 a bottle, which is a bit out of my price range.  The  product seemed good, but I would not pay that much money to use it on a regular basis. 

*I received this product free in exchange for my honest opinion*

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Save Money Help a Neighbor

What a great way to save money and make money! Check out what my alma mater (The best place in the world) is doing. 

Good things, good things.

If you are in the market for a dorm sized refrigerator or other items, check this out today.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Two birds, one pot...

After a long bout of tummy troubles, the family is back on track, which means, I have to start really cooking again.  Once again I utilized the one pot method this week.  What can I say, I'm a creature of habit.
Wednesday night I decided to make a dish I call "Sausage Al Forno."  Basically it is sausage, cut into small slices mixed with a whole bunch of veggies.  For this time, I used these veggies.
Mise En Place
All items used for the meal, except for the butter and the garlic (which I buy in bulk) were purchased at Aldi.  I used the Kirkwood Turkey Jalapeno sausage, which was $2.49 per package.  Here's the recipe:
1 small zucchini
1/2 can (32 oz) diced tomatoes
6 - 8 large mushrooms, sliced thin
1 large tbsp. minced garlic
1 1/2 green pepper, diced
1 1/2 tbsp. butter
3-4 Kirwood Turkey Jalapeno sausage, cut into 1 inch thick pieces
1 small onion, diced (not picture)
1 1/2 cup chicken broth (not pictured)
In a large pan, heat butter.  Add garlic, simmer till fragrant.  Add onions.  Cook till translucent.  Add peppers, mushrooms and zucchini.  Cook for approximately 3 minutes before adding tomatoes.  Add sausage and chicken broth.  Simmer until veggies are tender.  Serve over pasta or quinoa.  Top with Priano parmesan cheese.  



On Thursday, I felt a stir fry coming on because at work, they were serving chicken lo mein.  (I work at an elementary school cafeteria)

In my freezer, I had some ham steak, purchased at Aldi's.  I also had some canned mushrooms and canned peas (not from Aldi's, but canned mushrooms and peas are sold there) as well as some Soy Vay Island Teriyaki marinade.  Quinoa served as the "grain" or rice in this dish.  Here's how it works:


2 ham steaks, diced
1 can peas
1 small can mushrooms
1 small onion, diced
1 tbsp. garlic
1 cup quinoa (prepared to package directions)
1 tbsp butter
Soy Vay Island Teriyaki marinade


In a large wok, heat 1 tbsp. butter.  Add garlic, heat till fragrant.  Add mushrooms and peas, with juices.  Add diced ham and 1/2 bottle of Soy Vay marinade.  Add water if needed.  Simmer on medium for about 30 minutes.  Serve over quinoa. 

(It was so good, I couldn't wait to take a picture.  Om nom nom nom)
The marinade is a bit of a splurge, costing approximately $5.49 per bottle at Lowe's of all places.  But it is worth the cost.  I use the bottle for at least two, sometimes even 3 meals, so the cost evens out.  Other items, except quinoa were or can be purchased at Aldi for minimal cost.  For approximately $6.50, I could purchase everything, minus the quinoa.  The meal served 4, with enough leftovers for 2.  Minimal cost maximum flavor. 
I would like to see Aldi carry a quinoa-only product.  They sell a quinoa brown rice mix, but I don't like to eat grain, so this doesn't work for me. 
Make sure to come back later this week to get some product reviews, more recipes and more fun stuff.  Follow me on twitter @camp3082

Raindrops and Savings

So this is what lovely Mother Nature has in store for me for the next week...

Isn't she a peach? Well, April Showers and all. 

When I went looking for my youngest child's rain boots, I noticed they had slashes in them.  Don't know how they got there, but they would NOT work for rain.  Also, my daughter came to me complaining her boots - a hand-me-down from a cousin of mine, were too tight. 

Luckily, this week on special, Aldi was selling kids rain boots.  Yeah, I know what you are thinking, cause I was thinking the same thing.  "Doesn't Aldi just sell food?"  Well my good friends and readers, they do not.  They sell a variety of different items.  Just check out their weekly circular here.

So on my shopping trip, I picked up two pair of boots.  The selection was small, and there seemed to only be one size in both boys and girls, but fortunately, that is the size I needed. 

(DH is a volunteer firefighter, so it is a requirement to purchase items that are emblazoned with firefighter logos.  Plus, they look cute on my kiddo)
The boots are roomy so the kiddos will grow into them.  They seem pretty sturdy, but we'll see how long they last on the Smith Children's feet.  For the price I paid ($9.99 plus tax) even if we get only one season out of them, it was worth it.  Rain boots in regular retail stores or online START at $12 or more.  I realize you get more of a selection, but we are simple folk and look for utility and value, which these boots seem to provide.
Plus my daughter looks super cute in hers....

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Review of Maxx Labs liquid Vitamin D3 drops with Vitamin K and Magnesium

Occasionally, I receive products, through various sources, that I am asked to try and give my honest opinion.  This post refers to one of those products.

Recently I was approached by a representative from Maxx Labs to test out their liquid vitamin D3 with Vitamin K and Magnesium product.  It comes in the form of drops, in a 1 oz dropper bottle, with 900 doses of 2000 IU per drop.  I received the product, free of charge, from Amazon and wrote the following review (located here):

I was offered a free sample of this product in exchange for an honest review.

The idea of taking my vitamin D in a drop was a good one. I live in an area with very little sunshine in the winter so I've developed a deficiency. I don't enjoy taking the big pills, so this was something I was interested to try.

I received the package quickly. The label was very hard to read because it was so small. It was a bit nerve wracking trying to figure out how much to take, since the instructions were difficult to read.

I put two drops I a glass of water - my doctor recommends at least 4000 units of D so I thought two would work. Though it says 1 drop is a serving, it does not caution me not to use more than one drop. The drop changed the taste of the water as well as the viscosity. The water seemed to have an oil on the surface. That oiliness was still in the cup when I filled it up again.

I found no information saying not to mix the drops with any other liquid, but perhaps this is the case.

I was messy in getting the drop so the bottle became very oily.
I don't see myself using this product on a daily basis. It's not right for me, though it might work for others    

Wanna test out cool products?  Check out these sites:


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Fit and Tasty...

Every once in a while I crave a good German meal.  I guess because I'm about 51% German heritage that makes sense. 

So this week I decided to make a nice kielbasa with sauerkraut meal.  Reminds me of my mother's mother. 

Luckily, I found a nice turkey kielbasa at Aldi's on my shopping trip.

It was German week, so there were all kinds of German products on sale.  Including a big jar of sauerkraut.  I paired my German specialties with some spinach that I sautéed in chicken broth, and some baby carrots, all of which were purchased at Aldi's. 

Here's the finished product. 

I was skeptical about the taste of the kielbasa because I had never tried the Fit & Active brand before.  But it looked good, smelled good and even tasted good after I cooked it in the sauerkraut.  Normally, when I buy heat and eat foods, I get bombarded with salt, but this product was definitely not overly salty.  It had a crisp bite to the meat and it wasn't too dry or too wet.  I was impressed with this product and will definitely purchase it again. 
Here's the cost breakdown for the meal:
Total Cost                              My Meal Cost
Kielbasa  $ 2.39                     $0.60
Sauerkraut  $1.69                   $0.22
Spinach       $1.79                   $0.90
Chicken Broth $0.49               $0.25
Carrots        $0.49                  $0.10
TOTALS:  $6.85                     $2.07
I cooked the meal intending to feed 4 of my 5 family members. (I have an Autistic son who only eats chicken nuggets, pizza, eggs and a few other things, so I generally don't factor him into my count for meals)  Unfortunately, that night 3 of the four of us who were going to eat were sick.  So I had the meal alone, giving myself a little bit extra, and saving about half for leftovers.  Numbers are approximate, but again, for $6.85 I could conceivably feed a family of 4 a meal that consisted of a healthy protein and 3 vegetables. 
I've also found a new, less expensive version of a product a normally buy that has less of the processed meat taste.   It's a win win in my book.
Stay tuned!  I've got more recipes, more product reviews and more tips for shopping at Aldi's coming up. 
You can find me at twitter, @camp3082 and on facebook, Toni Smith.  Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Aldi Challenge, First Recipe....

Yesterday I was hungry but didn't want to make a big mess.  Such is my life, being the messy chef that I am....

*Note to Self...copyright and pitch the show "The Messy Chef" to Food Network

Cue the one pot meals.  I love these kinds of meals.  Everything in one pot means less dishes that need to be cleaned and put away. 

I checked my fridge and my haul from Aldi's, and I found some ground beef and some beautiful looking green peppers.  I knew that I had some frozen peas, some onion, some pasta sauce and some quinoa (again, I could have purchased these at Aldi's but I didn't want to be wasteful).


The choice was obvious....


So here's what I did

Approximately 1 lb ground beef (I used 80/20)
1 cup frozen peas
1 small onion chopped
2 medium green peppers, sliced in halves
2 cups pasta sauce
11/2 cup quinoa
1 tbsp. butter
4 slices provolone cheese (optional)


1.  Cook quinoa according to package directions.  Set aside

2. Heat butter in a sauce pan.  Add onions and cook until translucent. 
3. Add ground beef and brown until done.  Drain off excess grease (optional)
4. Add pasta sauce and peas.  Simmer for approximately 10 minutes, stirring mixture.

5.  Combine quinoa and meat mixture.  Mix thoroughly.
6.  Spoon mixture into green peppers halves.  Transfer to a baking dish.  Add enough water to cover
     the bottoms of the peppers.
7.  Cook on 375 for approximately 45 minutes or until pepper is tender. 
8.  Add optional cheese to tops of peppers 10 minutes before removing from the oven.

This recipe gave me a TON of leftover mixture.  I froze half of what remained for another night.  The rest I gave to my kids, who do not enjoy eating peppers.  They chose to top their mixture with "Chinese cheese" which to the layman is grated parmesan in a shaker. 

It was super tasty and super filling.  Cost wise, here is the breakdown:

Ground Beef: $4.35 (but more like$2.20 because I had leftovers)
Green Peppers: 66 cents
Peas:  50 cents for a can (based off prices at Aldi)
Pasta Sauce: $1.50 (based off prices at Aldi)
Onion: 50 cents (based off prices at Aldi)

*The quinoa I used I could not find at my store.  I will have to look for it again on my next trip.  I paid approximately $10 for a 2 lb bag, of which I used approximately 1 cup, bringing my cost to roughly $2 for the quinoa.

That brings my grand total for this meal to $9.51, leaving off the provolone cheese (which I don't have a price for), which I will divide in half, since I have leftovers.  The total cost is $4.75.  That fed two hungry adults, and two not so hungry kiddos. 

WOW!  I can't believe how little it cost to make so much!  As you can see, one pepper half is enough for me.  My husband ate 2, and we had one half leftover.  The meal is full of vegetables (I count 4 different vegetables, which includes the tomato sauce), protein and vitamins and minerals.  It's quick and easy, and involves minimal dishes. 

Let me know what you think of the recipe! 

TOMORROW NIGHT:  Turkey kielbasa, sauerkraut and sautéed spinach, all purchased at Aldi

Monday, April 13, 2015

April is Aldi Month...

A few weeks (could it be months?) ago, I said that I would take on the challenge of shopping exclusively at Aldi for my families groceries.  Well ladies and gents, week one of that challenge has begun!

This Saturday, I spent a quick trip shopping at my local Aldi store, located in Plattsburgh, NY.  And by quick I mean run through the aisles with my ASD son in the cart hoping to get everything I needed.  Well, I did.  Almost.  The few things I left off the list I picked up today, bringing my grand total of shopping to just under $120.  For a family of five.  For a week. 

Now, I wanted to be as authentic as possible, so I bought things that I would need for the week even though they were already in my pantry; things such as cereal, some canned goods and other items.  I did NOT buy condiments (ketchup, mustard, mayo) because those things have a shelf life and I didn't want to open a new container when I had one at home.  Same goes for some of the vegetables I already have in my crisper (Brussels sprouts for dinner tonight!)  Some items I could not purchase at Aldi, like the meal replacement shakes my husband and I enjoy for breakfast or the particular brand of yogurt I enjoy.  Those items I picked up at my usual place.  Just a caveat to my methods, friends.

What I DID buy is listed on my receipt:

But if you don't have magnifying spectacles, he's the rundown:

     - 1 package of 16 ground beef hamburgers
     - 1 package of turkey kielbasa
     - 1 package of chicken breasts (3 breasts in pack)
     - 1 package of 80/20 ground beef (approximately 2.25 lbs)
     - 1 pack of turkey sausages
     - 1 16" cheese pizza
     - 1 package roast beef
     - 1 package shredded cheese
     - 1 package frozen chicken nuggets
     - 1 container Parmesan cheese

Fresh Vegetables/fruit
     - 6 bananas
     - 1 package mushrooms
     - 1 bag baby carrots
     - 1 package of green peppers (3 in pack)
     - 2 packages of zucchini (3 in each)
     - 1 package cucumbers (3 in pack)
     - 1 bag fresh spinach
     - 1 bag spring mix salad
     - 1 medium sized seedless watermelon
Canned Goods/Dried Goods
     - 1 can corn
     - 1 jar sauerkraut
     - 1 can tropical fruit salad
     - 1 can sliced beets
     - 1 bag dried lentils
     - 2 cans black beans
     - 1 package whole grain spaghetti
     - 2 cans chicken broth
     - 1 large can organic diced tomatoes

I was also able to purchase snack items for my children (to go in their lunches as well as eat at home) and myself and my husband.  Also, I purchased what I call go-along items for my meals: hamburger buns, taco seasoning.  Round the order out with a bottle of juice and that's what we got for our $120.

I was surprised that I spent that much money, but I had never purchased meats at Aldi before, so that is probably where most of my money went. 

It would have helped me to get to know the store before shopping, as I missed some of my essentials the first time around (couldn't find the tomatoes or chicken broth on the first go).

I would be open to switching brands of items I use (like the yogurt and shakes) as long as it was cost effective, which is really the basis behind this whole "challenge" (if you want to call it that).

I'm excited to see what I can do with these vittles this week.  I will post pictures and recipes for each dinner meal I make, complete with what I used. has an AMAZING box of recipes.  I found a yummy zucchini roll up recipe online that I can't wait to try out. 

Wish  me luck friends!  Stay tuned for more!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Exercising your muscles not your credit cards...

While enjoying my Sunday paper this cloudy winter day, I noticed that most - if not all - of the sales revolved around weight loss equipment.  Sales on dumbells, kettlebells, ellipticals and scores of workout tapes.  A virtual cornucopia of products you NEED to buy if you want to get in shape. 

(Buy me!  cries the Total Gym, right before Chuck Norris roundhouse kicks you into submission.)

What these big stores DON'T want you to know is that you can do a lot of the exercises they are pushing WITHOUT the big equipment.
Got a second floor to your house or a set of basement stairs?  Perfect, my own private stairmaster awaits me in the comfort and privacy of my home.  I just turn on my MP3 player and my cardio is done for he day.
Have some heavy bottles, cans or boxes?  Free weights for free!  My personal favorite is using the bottle of pancake syrup as a free weight.  36 ounces of buttery muscle building.  When I'm comfortable, I plan to graduate to a 12 pack of soda cans. 
If you are like me, you like people yelling at you to "Keep moving!" and "Don't give up!"  Exercise tapes can be fun and help you be successful, but they can also be expensive!  Most retail somewhere in the $15 range, though some can go as high as $30.  I'm not looking to spend any money on anything, whether I use it every day or not.  My local library is a great resource for all things, including VHS (yes, I know it is 2015) and DVDs.  Borrowing tapes is free, plus I get a variety of different kinds of exercises.  Free is for me!
So, my loyal readers (and hopefully you are out there) save some cash this Winter, and get creative while you get in shape!
PS - Still in the market for some "new" equipment?  Check out these sites for some great at home fitness deals and tips for those on a budget - here you can find exercise equipment and or videos that people are looking to GIVE away.  check here before spending any money in the stores.  but buyer beware, and be careful folks! - a plethora of at home workout videos abound on this free site.  pick and choose to make your perfect workout

Friday, January 2, 2015

Welcome Back!

Welcome to 2015!  The  year went by super fast, and I can't believe what has and, more importantly, hasn't been done by the Smith Family. 

The DH and I have been talking recently about plans for the year ahead, and the ones after that.  We've never really been "planners" in the sense of writing things down and sticking to them.  We've always just flown by the seat of our pants and gotten by, even if getting by meant using a credit card to get what we needed/wanted and worrying about the cost later.

We've decided that this year we are going to work toward solvency.  We've got a hefty credit card debt that I'd like to see vanish.  We're not behind on our bills or delinquent, but I'd still like to stop paying interest on a bed I purchased 3 years ago.

(PS - I despise that bed, so still having to pay for it makes me ANGRY!!!!)
So once again, I invite you to join us on this journey as we work toward getting a better grip on all things financial in our household.
Throughout the year you will see posts about saving money, changing spending habits, couponing, and much much more.  So welcome to The Penny Pinchers!