CGjenny

4 things that I’ve learned by NOT dining out

Right after the New Year, we decided to tighten up our budget and one of the first things to go was dining out. We vowed not to eat out for the entire month of January. It worked out so well for us, that we’ve just kept on going. As of today, we’ve eaten in a restaurant exactly once (as a family) since January 1 (and we were treated to that meal by my father and stepmother).

Here are a few things that I’ve noticed since we quit dining in restaurants.

1: Restaurant food can be pretty “Meh”:

…but the company is good

If you allow yourself to be honest, restaurant food just really isn’t that great all of the time. When I sat down and thought about it, I realized that 9 times out of 10, I walk out of a restaurant thinking, “Well, that was pretty good.” That’s not an acceptable reaction to just having paid anywhere from $50 to $100 for a meal for 4 people. Now that we’re not eating out as much, when we do eat out, we will choose only the restaurants that we know are a home-run for us–the ones that never disappoint.

2: Overeating is (mostly) a thing of the past:

Here’s what a typical weeknight dinner serving looks like at our home.

How many times have you walked out of a restaurant and felt almost sick because you’ve waaaaaay overeaten? We don’t overeat as badly when we eat at home. That one restaurant meal that we had in January was Mexican food. While Mexican food certainly isn’t known for being a “light lunch” this particular meal was super heavy. I ordered some gigantic burrito, smothered in cheese. The first few bites were delicious, but then, after a while, it began to feel like a chore to eat–which is CRAZY to look back on and think about. Why didn’t I just stop eating? When I eat at a restaurant, for reasons too many to name, I feel like I need to clean my plate if possible. Being a people pleaser by nature, maybe I dread the waiter looking at my half-eaten plate, asking, “was your meal ok, ma’am?” I also have a weird relationship with taking home leftovers from a restaurant. There are precious few meals from restaurants that actually reheat well at home the next day. Many times, my half-eaten restaurant meal sits in the fridge for a days, awaiting its ultimate demise in the trashcan. Such a waste.

3: “Making do” and getting creative in the kitchen:

“Making do” in the kitchen is how my now-famous homemade pizza recipe was born–our new Friday night tradition. Recipe HERE.

 

When eating out isn’t an option, we’re much more willing to figure out something for dinner. The best part is that I’ve finally come to terms with the idea that we don’t all even have to eat the same thing! If there’s a dab of leftovers, a can of soup and a few frozen chicken tenders in the freezer, we can eat “potluck” style–which actually makes everyone happy. We can also make a killer gourmet grilled cheese sandwich in a pinch. Not only does it feel good to be utilizing our groceries, but it also clears space in the fridge and pantry for the new grocery items that are on my list to be purchased during the next shopping visit.

4: Wearing jammies at the dinner table is a real possibility

Valentine’s day dinner at home, in our comfy clothes

When you’re eating at home, there’s no need to dress up. There were many times in the past that I gritted my teeth when it was time to go out to eat and I had to change out of my comfy “house clothes” and into something a bit more presentable. These days, since we’re eating every meal at home–I get to stay in my comfy jammies if I want. This probably makes me happiest of all.

The funniest thing to come from this whole ‘experiment” is that, while it was only supposed to last for the month of January, we’ve decided to make it our personal mission to see how far we can go with it. The children are even on-board with it. It’s changed the way that we think about the money that we spend dining out and it’s made us be more conscious of how much stuff costs. It’s been the ultimate “reset” for our family. I highly recommend trying a similar experiment out for yourselves!

Have you ever tried to reign in your dining out habits? Tell us how it worked out in the comments below. Or, do you have any tips and tricks for those who are currently trying it out? 

1+
CGjenny

Frugal Friday Favorites–A beauty showdown!

(This post contains affiliate links which help to support the care and upkeep of this website.)

I’ve been using Rodan and Fields products for about a year. I was skeptical at first, but they won me over. I felt like my skin had never looked better. Granted, I have pretty normal, non-problematic skin, so I was coming from a place of low-maintenance skincare when I started the R+F regimen, but I really have enjoyed the effects of the R+F products on my skin.

Then, in January, when we sat down to have our “come to Jesus” budget talk, we both offered up places in the budget that we could afford to sacrifice a bit. I knew–in my heart of hearts–that, if we were willing to ask our kids to give up a few of their favorite activities, that I couldn’t (with a clear conscience) continue to slather expensive lotions and potions onto my skin every night–especially since my skin has never been an issue before.

So, I begrudgingly offered to give up my R+F addiction to see if that would help us to save money. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

I immediately began researching more budget-friendly alternatives to R+F. I kept coming up short because no one has a bad thing to say about R+F products.

So, I set out to delve deeper myself. There are a couple of R+F products that I didn’t feel were necessities for me–that I could just eliminate entirely and not feel like I was suffering, but there were 2 biggies that I swore by, that I feared giving up. These two are:

Night Renewing Serum: $91

Overnight Restorative Cream: $78

Unfortunately, these are also among the pricier of the R+F products that I’ve used. So, I knew that i needed to find a less-expensive alternative.

Upon doing the research, I found that many drugstore brands have cult-like followings that people swear by. One that I read about over and over was the Neutrogena line of anti-aging products. I decided to start with those and see how my skin reacted. I purchased the two Neutrogena products that seemed like the closest “dupes” to my R+F products.


Neutrogena Deep Moisture Night Cream $12

 


Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum, 1 Fl. Oz $20

I’ve been using both of these Neutrogena products for about a month and, the good news is that my skin looks the same as it did when I was using the R+F products–which is all that I’d hoped for. The price is certainly right too (with a savings of over $130!). My only complaint about the Neutrogena products is the fragrance. Both products have a heavy perfume-y fragrance that I don’t enjoy.

Here’s the thing though: I’ve made a vow to myself–if these products fail to impress me, I will go back to my R+F regime. The older I get, the more I’m understanding the importance of taking good care of my skin and perhaps skin care isn’t the appropriate place to cut corners?

Please share your favorite drugstore skincare items in the comments! 

0
CGjenny

On marriage

Over the weekend, a prominent figure in the tiny community that I grew up in died. While I was sad to hear of Mr. N’s passing, truth be told, I hadn’t given him or his family a thought for the better part of a decade. I don’t live in that area anymore and I never have a reason to go back, so a lot of the people who were on the periphery of my adolescence have just disappeared from my memory–Mr. N. and his family included.

It’s been interesting seeing the tributes pour in all over Facebook, honoring this man. I’m seeing posts by people whom I haven’t thought about in years. People have been sharing their stories of how Mr. N.  touched their lives and shaped who they are as an adult. It’s beautiful.

So, once this news broke, I texted one of the only friends from high school that I’m still in touch with to see if Mr. N. had been ill or if it was a sudden death. In the course of us discussing Mr. N. and his family, she reminded me of a few of the gossip-y “scandals” that had plagued his family when we were in high school. It was interesting to rehash those decades-old stories and commiserate over our shared versions of the gossip from back in the day.

Continue reading “On marriage”

2+
CGjenny

Life Lately

Do you ever have those days (weeks?) where you lack any and all motivation? Where you’re struggling to find your value in the world? Where you’re moody, crabby and just generally sad? That was me all last week. I wish I could blame it on hormones, but I don’t think that’s what it was. I’d also like to blame it on Seasonal Affective Disorder, but I live in Texas, where’s it’s been in the 80’s and sunny here for awhile. So, I’m not entirely sure what was going on with me, but as a result, I spent much of last week in a funk and didn’t have much inspiration for blog posts.

The good news is that I feel better now. I feel like I’ve turned a corner and the creative juices are flowing again, but until I get fully back on board, I’m leaving a “Life Lately” post for you today, to show you the good things that have been going on in my life.

Most importantly: We had a big birthday in our house over the weekend.

Jack turned 8 on Saturday. He typically likes to go into the nearest big city to us (San Antonio) and stay in the tallest hotel on the Riverwalk and have a weekend away. However, this year he opted instead to go play Laser Tag, go see the Lego Batman movie and then have his friend spend the night. It was a full and fun day and just what Jack wanted.

Before all of that though, was Valentine’s Day week. Since Valentine’s Day was on Tuesday this year, and we had an event to attend at the kids’ school that night, we opted to do a low-key Valentine’s Day dinner at home the weekend prior.

It was nice, quiet and we all got to wear our comfy clothes. Man, how our Valentine’s Days have changed!

Before kids, Valentine’s Day was an excuse to drop a lot of money on a subpar meal at a restaurant, where we would typically be seated finally about an hour and a half after our reservation, only to find that they were out of all of the good stuff on the menu. We’d also drink entirely too much and end up miserable with each other by the time it was all said and done. I wouldn’t trade these days for those for absolutely anything in the world.

I’ll be back on Wednesday with an “On The Wagon Wednesday” post for you and already have some good leads for a Friday Favorites post as well.

Chime in below about how you battle the occasional bout of “The Sads,” like I had last week. 

1+
CGjenny

Friday Favorites

(This post contains affiliate links which contribute to the care and upkeep of this website. Thanks for your support!)

You might’ve noticed that this week’s Friday Favorites are not “Frugal Friday Favorites.” Here’s why: All of the items that I’m featuring this week wouldn’t necessarily be considered “frugal.” Truth be told, I haven’t been shopping in months, so I’ve been using stuff that I’ve accumulated over my past shopping trips. Technically, I’m still exercising “frugality” but, this week’s items require a small initial investment.

First up are my grocery-shopping-game-changers:


Natural Home Reuseable Produce Bags 5 Pack–$4.99

Have you ever struggled with those flimsy little plastic produce bags at the grocery store? I have a college degree and–generally speaking–consider myself a fairly intelligent person, but damnit to all hell if I can not get those stupid plastic produce bags opened at the grocery store.

I do the whole, “rub-between-your-index-and-thumb” maneuver to no avail. I even blow on the (alleged) opening of the bag, in the hopes that it’ll relent and open for me. Nope. Never. I stupidly turn it over and upside down, thinking that surely I’m yanking on the wrong end of it and the actual opening is on the other side of the bag? Nope.

Then, let us also discuss how utterly useless those bags are when you get them home. At least with grocery bags, you can reuse those for all sorts of things, but the little plastic produce bags are the bane of my existence and I usually end up tearfully throwing them away because they’re so useless.

Enter these reusable produce bags. I love these bags so much. The best thing is the awesome drawstring. So,  you open your bag, throw in your apples, yank on the drawstring then turn on your heel and leave all of your fellow grocery shoppers, huddled round the plastic produce bag dispenser looking on in disbelief, as you throw your reusable produce bag over your shoulder and proceed to the dairy aisle.

It’s uncommon for me to NOT be asked about my reusable produce bags when I’m at the grocery store–either by fellow shoppers or by grocery store employees. Oh, and did I mention that they’re also machine washable? All the heart-eyed emojis.

Next up: Makeup game-changer


RUIMIO Makeup Brush Cleaner Silicone Brush Egg with Handy Hook Pink Mint Green–$6.99 for 2

In a recent trip to TJ Maxx (that I mentioned HERE) I picked up a silicone makeup brush cleaner. I had been struggling with my eye liner makeup brush. I use gel eye liner (THIS) and, while I love it, it also gets so caked in my eye liner brush that it leaves the brush brittle and gross, making it impossible to use it the next time.

I picked up a similar silicone makeup brush cleaner when I was out and about last week and it’s saved the day for sure. It takes just a second or two to clean my eyeliner brush with this thing, then I leave the brush to air dry. The next time that I need it,  my eye liner brush is soft, supple and ready to go. Game-changer. Plus, I understand that you should clean all of  your makeup brushes often (oops) and this little tool certainly facilitates that for me.

And last, an answer to your winter skin doldrum:

Tan Towel Face Tan 15 Count–$30 

Now, these definitely don’t fall into the “frugal” category. I bought these self-tanning towelettes (what a funny word, huh?) last year. I used them occasionally but then summer arrived and I was getting enough natural sun to skip this extra step.

Fast forward to this week. My face hasn’t seen the sun in months. I felt like my face could use a little oomph so I reached into the way-back of my under-the-sink cabinet and retrieved these long-forgotten self tanning towelettes.

I used one application and, by the end of the day, I looked so much better. Now, understand that I wasn’t going for a “I just returned from a week in Maui“-look but simply a remedy for the, “No, I don’t actually have the flu, but thanks for your concern” conversations that I felt were imminent, given the pallor of my face situation.

These are easy to use, leave just the right amount of color and aren’t as messy as regular self-tanning creams and mousses. They’re perfect for this time of the year. When I run out of these, I will likely try a drugstore version (probably THESE), but given how long these have lasted me, if the drugstore version isn’t up to snuff, I would save my pennies and purchase this brand again–they’re that good.

What are your thoughts on my Friday Favorites? Any Friday Favorites of your own to share? If so, leave them in the comments below. Or, find me on Facebook or Instagram and let’s chat over there! 

1+
CGjenny

Talking to kids about alcohol

I stopped drinking when my kids were 3 years and 1 year old. I’m very proud and (frankly) humbled by the fact that they don’t remember ever seeing me drink–Lord knows that I did–but they don’t remember it.

My babies…

 

As they’ve gotten older, I’ve had a tough time talking objectively about alcohol to them. I have pretty strong feelings about the abuse of alcohol and the flippant attitudes about alcohol use (and abuse) in our culture (perhaps you’ve noticed? Links HERE and HERE)

Here’s the thing though: I’d love nothing more than if–when my children are adults–they can go to Happy Hour with work friends and drink responsibly.

Have a glass of wine on a first date.

Go to parties and let loose (a little).

I want them to have a normal life. I don’t want the burden of alcohol hanging over their heads.

But, I also know that they have–encoded in their DNA somewhere–the potential to have a problem with alcohol. I want them to be mindful of that as opportunities to drink come flying at them from left and right as they get older.

2013, almost 7 years and almost 5 years old

 

So, I talk to them about alcohol sometimes. I want them to know that it can be a problem for some people and that they might be one of those people. But that they also might NOT be. I’ve toed the line between talking about alcohol too much and probably not enough. It’s complicated and seems premature to have these discussions, but I don’t want them to become a certain age, where alcohol is suddenly everywhere, and not know how to handle it.

I’ve talked to them about how a little alcohol isn’t always bad, but that a lot of alcohol is a really dangerous thing…not just for them, but for everyone.

As a result of my teetotaling, they see drunk people on tv and at the occasional outing and they judge them harshly. They get upset when  someone accidentally sloshes  a drop or two of beer on them at a baseball game or when they smell alcohol on the breath of a loved one.

17 month old Jack, hanging out at the keg at a family reunion

 

For that, I feel guilty. I hate that I’ve had to turn alcohol use into a “thing” that they’re aware of, even at the tender ages of 8 and 10.

After mulling it over and over in my head for the past few years, I’ve come to the following conclusion about talking about alcohol with my kids:

I feel like it’s important to keep an open, casual dialog about alcohol going. I don’t want the topic of alcohol use to ever feel like a secret in our home. I want my kids to be able to ask me any questions that they have about alcohol; I want them to know why I don’t drink but I also want them to feel as though it’s their decision to make (when they’re old enough, obviously) as to whether or not they want to drink. I’ll also tell them that, if they find themselves having trouble moderating their alcohol use, that I’m here and will never abandon them and that we can face any problem head-on.

Image courtesy of: www.babble.com

 

I think that the key is to remove the stigma of alcohol abuse and make sure that my kids know that I will support them no matter how they find a place for alcohol in their adult lives.

What about you? How do you talk about alcohol with your kids? 

2+
CGjenny

Finding a church

We’ve been going to church every week for about a month and a half now. If you’ll remember from my 2017 Goals post (link HERE), finding a church was on my list. Well, we’ve tried out two different churches since January and have found one that seems like a good fit for us.

The initial search began shortly after we moved here, (3 years ago) actually. I started doing exhaustive research online and had narrowed it down to two churches that I was interested in. But then life got in the way and finding a church fell to the bottom of the “to-do” list.

When I decided to resume the search recently, my husband and I sat down and discussed what we hoped to find in a church.

Here were our specifications:

Continue reading “Finding a church”

3+
CGjenny

Frugal Friday Favorites

So, I have 3 Frugal Friday Favorites for you this week. One is a game-changer recipe. One is a favorite bargain shopping haven and one is a favorite cleaning product.

(This post contains affiliate links which help to support this website. Thanks!)

First up is a homemade pizza crust:

Confession time:

I’m not a baker. A cook, yes, but baking scares the pants off of me. If I see a recipe that calls for dough or yeast, I’m immediately like, “Nope…too bad. That would’ve probably been delicious too.

 

image courtesy of: www.teaspoonofgoodness.com

Recipe HERE

So, imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon this recipe for homemade pizza dough recently and discovered that we had all of the ingredients (which, really is only 2 items) and decided to go for it. I had a store-bought pizza crust waiting in the pantry in case this was a huge fail, so I decided to give it a whirl.

It turns out? It is the easiest. You really and truly can not mess this pizza dough up (because, believe this…if anyone COULD it would be ME).

Since you only need flour and yeast (and water) to make it, it costs pennies to make and comes together quickly with little forethought or advanced planning. I’ve declared that every Friday will be homemade pizza night in our house. This week, I’m trying my hand at homemade pizza sauce. This recipe is a contender.

Next up:

My favorite place to bargain shop:

Image courtesy of www.nerdwallet.com

I’ve talked about TJ Maxx here before. It’s my go-to; my end-all; my soul-mate. If there’s ever anything that I need, I typically head to TJ Maxx first because, 9 times out of 10, they have it and it’s way better and way cuter and way cheaper than anywhere else.

Hear this: I don’t love Homegoods (TJ Maxx’s sister company) as much as TJ Maxx and here’s why–I love me some home furnishings, oh, hell yes, but sometimes I like to look at beauty products, shoes, clothes and purses too. Give me all of that under one roof and I’m a happy girl.

Now that we’re doing a pretty major “Budget Bootcamp,” I haven’t been to TJ Maxx in months. (I know, right?) But, I was running dangerously low on hand soap for the kitchen this week and TJ Maxx is the best place to buy hand soap, in case you didn’t know. So, I carefully proceeded to TJ Maxx with a very short list of my “needs” and a firm grip on my cash, lest I lose my damn mind in there.

Here’s what I came out with:

A makeup brush cleaner $5.99 |  hand soap $5.99 | Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap $4.99

 

I’m always amazed when people say that they’ve never shopped at a TJ Maxx. There’s something for everyone there. And their merchandise turns over constantly, so it’s the type of place where it pays to stop in often.

Last, a cleaning product that saved the day this week:

 


Bar Keepers Friend® Cleanser & Polish: 12 OZ

Where we live, we have hard water. Even with a whole-house water softener, we still get soap scum and hard water stains in the bathrooms and kitchen. We have a glass shower in our master bath and, due to a number of circumstances (a few of these “circumstances” perhaps being laziness and/or Real Housewives of Beverly Hills marathons on Bravo) I had let our shower get a bit out of control.

Here’s the thing with our shower: Our bathroom has poor ventilation. There are no windows in our bathroom (oh, how I love windows in bathrooms) and this makes it really tricky to climb into a glass shower stall and scrub the bejeezus out of it with lots of effective, albeit TOXIC AS SHIT chemicals. I’ve made myself dizzy and sick a few times attempting this maneuver.

So, lately, I’ve taken to half-heartedly squirting a vinegar solution on the water stains every couple of weeks or so and also largely ignoring them. Spoiler alert: this is a wholly ineffective method for glass shower cleaning. #themoreyouknow

Today, I got a wild hair and decided to tackle our gross shower once and for all. I started digging for long-forgotten cleaning products from under the kitchen sink and found a can of Bar Keeper’s Friend that I don’t even remember purchasing. I decided to give it a go in our shower.

First of all, this stuff is non-toxic, so I was able to sit, closed up in my shower, for an hour, scrubbing away at the tile AND the glass with Bar Keeper’s Friend, with nary a hallucination nor an asthma attack. It also didn’t leave my hands red and raw like other cleaners do.

Secondly, holy moly, this stuff worked! It got rid of the hard water spots, the mold and mildew and soap scum too. Sure, I scrubbed it hard–so it wasn’t without effort, but it worked so well and I didn’t have to worry about breathing in chemicals. I can’t wait to try Bar Keeper’s Friend in other parts of the house.

Please share your own Frugal Friday Favorites below or chime in on the ones that I discussed today…any tips for using Bar Keeper’s Friend that I need to know about?

3+
CGjenny

One True Love: Candles

(This post contains affiliate links that help to support the care and upkeep of this blog. Thanks!)

If you’ll remember, I’m participating in Megan and Wendy’s “One True Love” campaign this year where we feature a favorite item once a month. Last month’s item was my favorite jeans (link HERE). February’s installment is candles.

I need to start with a backstory. Many, many years ago, I used to be a candle fiend. I was obsessed with candles. And, I had expensive taste in candles. Don’t give me any of that Yankee Candle mess. I liked fancy, boutique-y candles in the most interesting scents on the planet. “Compost and Ylang Ylang?” Absolutely! “Diesel and Coriander?” Here’s my credit card. I was a candle snob for sure.

Then, I had kids.

Continue reading “One True Love: Candles”

0
CGjenny

Overcoming shame

…and admitting that you have a problem.

One of the hardest things for me when I stopped drinking (and still today) is admitting that it had become a problem for me.

You see, I like to uphold this lofty “Superwoman” persona. I’ve got a bit of a competitive streak in me and I like doing my best. Sue me.

So, admitting that I was failing in an aspect of my life was painful for me. Especially being a mother, I felt like I was failing my children, my husband AND myself when I drank too much. Maybe it’s the same for you?

The way that I was raised, you didn’t show your cards to anyone. Everything is perfect. I’m perfect; we’re perfect. It was all about appearances and how we appeared to be functioning in other’s eyes. This has fucked me up. Yup. Effed my ass up.

Last January, I posted a link to this article on Facebook. It resonated so much with me and I wanted to share it, in the hopes that it would resonate with someone else as well.

I got several private messages from acquaintances telling me such things as, “I REALLY needed to read this,” and “I think that I really need to reevaluate my relationship with alcohol.”

That’s when the lightbulb went off in my head: I could use my voice and my experiences to help someone else.

I have been so conditioned not to speak of my weaknesses that talking about my sobriety felt as foreign to me as trying to speak Portuguese. This blog has been a learning experience for me. If you’ll notice, as time has gone on, my posts have gotten more and more real. I hope to continue to dive deep for you.

It comes down to this: What’s more shameful–drinking too much, saying things that you’ll regret, harming relationships…

or

admitting that you’re human and you’re working on yourself?

Do you have difficulties with shame? 

2+