The Sweetest Thing.

" I feel there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people" ~Van Gogh

Living Well On Less- Thrift Shopping Tips. June 12, 2015

Last week, I talked about some tips for finding brand new clothes at cheap prices. This week, I am talking about my true shopping love- thrift stores! I have been thrift shopping since long before it was “cool”. Some people are still resistant to it, but I am telling you it is the best place to find a great wardrobe at an affordable price. People are often shocked to know that so much of my clothing comes from thrift stores, but I know I donate plenty of perfectly nice clothing to thrift stores and others do the same.  I love thrift stores because you really just never know what you are going to find. I walk out of thrift stores with so much brand new clothing with the tags still attached and even more items that may have been worn a few times but still look brand new. I love the variety and inspiration that comes when digging through the racks of your favorite thrift shop. I love scoring “high end” items for a few bucks and my favorite brands for about 90% cheaper than they were in the store. I have done a lot of thrifting in my life, so here are a few of my best tips-


  1. Don’t expect to find classic, staple pieces at thrift stores. I do occasionally score a pair of great black dress pants but staple pieces (think white shirts, black shoes etc) often get pretty well worn before getting donated. I usually buy staples at regular stores and use thrift shops to add fun novelty items to my wardrobe.
  1. Get to know your thrift stores. Some stores put out new items every day, some have designated days each week. Many thrift stores have a 50% off or bag sale day weekly or monthly. Since thrift shopping is usually not for anything I really need, I make it a point to only go on these sale days and I save even more than I do at the regular discounted prices.
  1. Check items out thoroughly. Most items I find at thrift stores are 100% fine, but some items are donated due to small holes, stains etc. Some things can be fixed- a missing button or a falling hem but it is still important to make sure it is something you will actually fix instead of sending to the mending pile to sit forever.
  1. Know how the store is organized. It seems every thrift store I am in has a different system of organization. Some are done by size, others by style and some even by color. There is usually at least some distinction between men’s and women’s but that is about the only guarantee. I wear an XL and I usually check out the XL section and the plus size section because some XL items inevitably get put in there. I do find the more organized a thrift store is, the more expensive it is, so I try not to get too frustrated with the chaos. Having some idea how it is organized helps.
  1. Give yourself plenty of time. I will certainly pop in to one of my favorite thrift stores with 15 minutes to spare, but I don’t recommend it. Thrifting takes time. There are racks to dig through, items to inspect, lines to wait in and decisions to make.
  1. Give yourself a budget and stick to it! It is easy to get carried away at a thrift store. Things are so cheap and you just keep finding one more thing. All of those $1-$5 items add up though and you can easily blow your budget. Know what you can really afford to spend beforehand.
  1. Thrift stores are great for accessories too! I find a lot of purses this way. Shoes are kind of hit and miss. Most shoes that I do find in good shape are not the most practical but I have definitely found some great special occasion shoes.
  1. Check how the tags are attached!!!! This is my thrifting pet peeve and something many people do not think about. Some stores will attach price tags right to the garment with staples (I am talking to you Salvation Army) and it is impossible to remove the tag without damaging the item. Be sure price tags are attached to the inside tags of shirts or with the little plastic things that can just be easily cut.
  1. Bring Cash. It is not uncommon for a thrift store to not be able to accept payment cards. Those machines cost money and there is a fee for business to take cards and most thrift stores have very limited budgets.
  1. Once you get your items home- Wash Them! Better safe than sorry is my theory here. Clothes get washed and dried or dry cleaned. Shoes get sprayed with antibacterial cleaner inside and out and wiped down.
  1. Donate to your favorite thrift shops when you are getting rid of things. Most thrift shops are through charitable organizations and the money you spend goes to help others. Once you are done with an item, give back. It is the best way to keep the cycle going.


Do you thrift shop?


Snacks. June 11, 2015

Filed under: Snacks — Jessica @ 7:00 am
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Recently, I have talked about my usual breakfast and lunch choices so you could get a clearer picture of my overall eating habits, instead of just the dinner plan I post each week. Snacks are the last piece of that puzzle. Most of the time, I try to keep snacks pretty healthy and use them to fill in nutritional gaps in my other meals, but occasionally I have a “treat” instead.

Many of these are things I also eat for other meals, but I keep portions smaller for snacks. I try to choose from the first column 95% of the time.


What is your favorite snack?


Loaded Nachos. June 10, 2015

Filed under: Dinner — Jessica @ 7:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

This is not really a recipe. It is more of a point of inspiration for your own creation. There are no measurements, just a suggestion of ingredients and a method. You can adjust to the size and preferences of your family. We eat these Loaded Nachos a couple of times a month. They are one of the few meatless meals I can sneak past Tiffany. (You could easily add some meat if you wanted). I love that it is an all in one dish that requires no extra side dishes to be complete. Something about this meal is always so satisfying. They are also gorgeous!


Loaded Nachos

Servings Vary


Tortilla Chips (we prefer the organic blue corn ones from Aldi)

Black Beans (or leftover taco meat, shredded chicken, pulled pork etc)

Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese- shredded

Lettuce- chopped

Tomato- diced

Red Onion-diced

Sweet Peppers- diced

Avacodo- diced

Black Olives


Plain Greek Yogurt or Sour Cream


1. Spread single layer of tortilla chips on cookie sheet. Try to leave as few “holes” as possible.

2. Sprinkle with beans or protein of choice. (Be sure to rinse and drain beans very well or chips will get soggy)

3. Top with Shredded Cheese.

4. Bake at 375° for 7-10 minutes (until cheese is melted)


5. Use spatula to scoop nachos on to plate and top as desired.

6. Enjoy!



Weekly Meal Plan 6/8/15. June 9, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jessica @ 3:46 pm

Hey guys!

I am late with the meal plan again this week. Honestly, I was hoping some inspiration would strike because I am feeling a little bored in the kitchen lately. I have a date with my cookbooks and the Food Network this weekend to get me out of this slump, but in the meantime I am just trying to keep things easy and healthy.

I did have a pretty amazing weekend. I have been really good at weekending lately. My favorite weekends are ones that balance fun and productivity. I got plenty of both in over this last one. Friday was uneventful as usual.

Saturday, I woke up and took a break from my to do list. I made a bagel and a cup of iced coffee and grabbed my book and crawled back into bed for 2 hrs. Once I got up, I got to work on the weekly cleaning and then took the dog for a quick walk before Book Club. Book Club was on a boat this month! Per usual, we spent more time chatting, drinking wine and eating snacks than we did discussing the book but none of us really seem to mind too much. We spent most of the afternoon on the lake and once I got home I had to get ready for a fun evening! My friend kindly comp’d us some ticket to see Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers at the Reg Lenna. I only started listening to them when I saw they were coming to town but I really really like them! The show was fantastic! Before heading to the show, we grabbed dinner at the Cuban place downtown and ice cream at The Sprinkle Cone.

Sunday we slept in a little (meaning 7:30), had a good brunch and headed out to take care of our community garden bed. We finally have everything planted/transplanted/weeded etc!  After getting semi cleaned up, we headed out for groceries and a trip to home depot. I unfortunately do not have a grocery haul post coming this month because there was just too much going on and I was a little stressed/cranky after our shopping trip. After some afternoon naps, we headed out to the backyard to get some work done out there and to cook dinner on the grill. That took the rest of the evening and we ended it with an episode of Graceland (loving this show) and couch time.


Monday- Loaded Nachos

Tuesday- Baked Chicken, Yellow Rice with beans and olives, leftover grilled veggies

Wednesday- Leftovers

Thursday- Caramelized Onion & Mushroom Stuffed Cheese Burgers with lettuce, tomatoe & onion, pasta salad

Friday- Homemade Stromboli (with our Orange is the New Black Marathon)

Saturday- We are going to get some appetizers at Forte before going to the Ballet

Sunday- Chiavetta’s Marinated Chicken Thighs, Baked Beans, Grilled Garlic Butter Zucchini

Have a good week!


Living Well On Less- New Clothes. June 5, 2015

Filed under: living well on less — Jessica @ 7:00 am
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Confession- I really love clothes. I have way too many of them and no real intention to stop buying more. I find fashion to be one of the easiest forms of self- expression because you have to get dressed everyday anyways. Why not wear something that makes you look and feel great? While I will “splurge” on essentials like jeans, camis or a specific item I need, 95% of my clothes are bought super cheap. I do shop at thrift stores quite often and I will cover that in another Living Well On Less post, but today I am going to share some of my tips for getting brand new clothes at deeply discounted prices.

  1. Always shop out of season- I am quite often buying winter coats in the Spring and Summer Dresses in the Fall. If I don’t need an item right now, I usually wait until after it goes out of season to buy it. Summer dresses can easily be converted into fall outfits with tights, boots and a cardigan or just save them for the appropriate season and it is like getting new clothes all over again!
  2. Head to the clearance racks immediately- If I am just doing some recreational shopping, I rarely even look at the full price section of the store. I walk in and immediately head to the clearance area (usually located in the back). I avoid the temptation of full priced items and still find plenty to buy. Stores put items out very early in the season and you can usually find many of the early season items when it is still appropriate weather for wearing them.
  3. Sign up for your favorite stores mailing lists- I save so much money doing this. If you sign up to get emails, you know when there are sales going on and quite often get sent promotional codes. I have done a bunch of Old Navy and GAP shopping online recently with 40% off codes. This is a great way to get in season clothes that you need without paying full prices. I just bought shorts from GAP at really reasonable prices.
  4. Know what you have- Despite having a lot of items in my closet, I am pretty aware of what I have in there. It helps me avoid buying items that are very similar to what I already have as well as helping me keep a well-rounded wardrobe. I also know what I am looking for if I have items that I can’t quite make work yet. This assures that I am not using up my shopping budget on items I already have and don’t need. I clean out and rotate my closet seasonally so this happens without much extra effort.
  5. Take advantage of special offers- Many stores have survey links at the bottom of your receipts where you can save a certain percentage just for taking 5 minutes to fill it out. If it is a store you shop at frequently- be sure you do it! Using a store credit card will often get you special offers. Just be sure to stick to your budget and pay it off in full-you get the special prices and you aren’t racking up debt! If you get coupons with your purchase, save your next shopping trip for when you can use the coupon.
  6. Know the sale cycles of your favorite stores. Most stores host the same basic sales each year. Knowing when In season items are likely to go on sale will allow you to get the best possible prices.
  7. Establish some price guidelines for yourself and stick with them- set a top limit on what you are willing to pay for something that is just a want- and don’t go over it. I never spend more than $20 on a dress, $10 on a shirt or $15 on a sweater. Knowing the top limit of what I am willing to spend on an item helps me stick to my budget.

What is your favorite store for great deals on new clothes? Old Navy is mine!


Weekly Meal Plan 6/1/15. June 2, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jessica @ 4:11 pm

You may have noticed I have been MIA for a week or so. I have no real reason for that- life just happens sometimes and I get caught up in it. It is one of those things I have had to make peace with in order to keep blogging. I used to miss a week and just feel like I obviously wasn’t capable of maintaining a blog and give up on the whole thing for months. I don’t want to do that anymore.

So anyways, life has been pretty good. The nicer weather has brought a ton of summer adventures with it. There have been campfires, hot tubs, huge family cookouts, park picnics, backyard cocktails and hiking to name a few. I have also enjoyed getting outside more- for gardening and after dinner walks. Despite being a bit under the weather the last couple of days, I feel so much more “alive” in the warm weather!

Tiff had several requests for the menu plan this week and I was not feeling up to thinking too much about it, so here it is~


Monday~ Crockpot Beans, Greens and GF Cornbread

Tuesday~ Pork Chops & Cheesy Bread on the Grill, Simple Spring Mix Salads

Wednesday~ Leftovers

Thursday~ Baked Chicken Thighs, Yellow Rice with Black Beans and Olives, Broccoli

Friday~ Tilapia, Coconut Rice, Lemon Garlic Green Beans

Saturday~ Rib Fest

Sunday~ Something Simple since we will be getting groceries this day and I never feel like cooking after that adventure.


Living Well On Less- Summer Entertainment. May 22, 2015

Last Friday, I introduced my intention of starting a “Living Well on Less” series to the blog. With the warm weather sticking around these days, I thought covering some free or almost free summer entertainment options would be a good place to start. One important thing to note is that I consider bringing your own food along to an otherwise free event, to be a free activity. You are going to be eating your food from home regardless, so I do not see it as an extra expense.


Summer is really the best time to try to save some money in the entertainment department. I work much less in the summer and I have to be very careful with our finances. I budget very little for entertainment purposes because it is just not necessary. Doing most anything outside makes it seem like more of an occasion. On top of that, there is just so much going on!


Most towns host a variety of summer festivals and concerts that are free to the public. Some of my favorite local events are the Yassou festival at the Greek Church. Motor Mayhem/old car show, Fitness in the park, The Chalk Walk and Third Thursday concerts downtown. The Yassou festival costs a couple of dollars to get in and you will definitely want to buy some food but the rest of the events are totally free. Beyond events, there are parks, beaches, backyard cookouts and garage sales to keep you busy. Here is my “summer adventure” list for this year.


Free Summer Entertainment-

  1. Make Homemade Ice Cream
  2. Go Camping
  3. Go Kayaking
  4. Go out on a Boat (if you have a friend who owns one)
  5. Invite friends over for a fire in the backyard firepit. Have everyone bring a s’mores ingredient
  6. Have a cookout for your family & one for your friends (Keep the menu simple)
  7. Go Hiking
  8. Go to the Beach
  9. Take a book and a blanket and find someplace beautiful to spend the day reading (& napping)
  10. Have a blanket picnic at a local park
  11. Fly Kites (the beach is a great place for this)
  12. Attend local festivals and outdoor concerts
  13. Go for a long bike ride
  14. Have a water balloon fight (be sure to pick up after yourself as balloon pieces can be dangerous to children and animals)
  15. Spend time in my friend’s hot tub on the lake
  16. Go for a country drive and enjoy nature in all its splendor
  17. Take children to the park and actually play with them
  18. Go fishing
  19. Go on a long walk with your family after dinner


Almost Free-

  1. Start a Garden, even a small herb garden. Seeds are cheap. Dirt is cheap. Growing things is awesome.
  2. Make Boozy Popsicles (alcohol isn’t the cheapest but you don’t need a lot and boozy popsicles are fun)
  3. Go to a Farmer’s Market- go to all of the different ones in your area. It is totally possible and worth it to just go and look at all of the beautiful offerings at your local market but I am personally incapable of leaving the market without some small treasure. I just consider part of the grocery budget if it is food. Supporting local farmers and artisans is important to me.
  4. Berry Picking/Jam making. Berries can be kind of expensive, even when you pick them yourself. If you consider this part of the grocery budget and take care to preserve them, it is definitely worth putting out a little money for. I pick gallons and gallons of blueberries each summer. I will usually spend $30 doing so but I stick them in the freezer and add them to smoothies, oatmeal and desserts for the rest of the year. It is a money saver overall. I also pick strawberries every summer. I love to make Jam. Again, it requires a little investment now but saves money in the long run.
  5. Yard Sales- Give yourself a small budget ($5-$10) and see what treasures you can find. This also works well at thrift stores and rummage sales.
  6. Go to the County Fair. This can be pretty cheap. It is less than $15 to get an all day pass to rides and special events. If you pack your own food and don’t really care about games, that is a great deal for a day of fun!
  7. Host an outdoor potluck dinner party. Keep things simple and have everyone contribute and this is a cheap way to entertain. (more on entertaining on a budget in another post)
  8. Check out the local wine trail. You can sample wines for free at many wineries and it is only a couple of dollars for several tastes at the rest.
  9. Go out for ice cream at your favorite local spot.


Hope this gave you a few ideas to add to your own summer adventure list! Please share your favorite free or cheap way to enjoy the summer in the comments section.