Always Aubrey: February 2014

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Budgeting Bloggers: February 2014

February is a short month, so I figured that should make it an easier one to budget.

  1. J. Crew Double-strand Seahorse Necklace (originally $150, paid $45):  Purchased via Poshmark from my pal CM!  I'd loved it since I saw it on her blog/Instagram posts, and when she listed it I had to jump on it.  I think it's a great statement, and now that my jewelry is organized so I can see it every day, I think it will work well in my closet.
  2. Carhartt Portland Down Jacket in Empire Blue (originally $165, paid $130):  I blame it on the polar vortex.  I spent an entire weekend at the end of January seriously considering a pricey new coat.  But when I read the reviews and saw the prices, I just couldn't bring myself to spend $300+ on a jacket when I live in Nashville.  I know Carhartt as a reliably high quality brand, and I liked that this jacket had great reviews for being both comfortable and functional.  It's not your typical fashionista brand, but it was the right price point, and it's waterproof and WARM!  I'm very happy with it and wear it all the time.
  3. Fabletics Kingston Sweatshirt in White ($32):  I noticed that I need more long-sleeved workout layers, and this sweatshirt fit the bill.  Part of my monthly Fabletics VIP membership with free shipping.  (Read my review here.)
  4. Fabletics Suki Cycle Short in Black Snake Print ($24):  I wear a lot of workout capris, but I knew these would be nice once the weather warms up.  Part of my monthly Fabletics VIP membership with free shipping.  (Read my review here.)
$231  - $96 Posh/Blog Earnings = $135

Quarterly Budget: $500 - $260 January - $135 February = $105 remaining

I will note that I am not counting wardrobe purchases that I have had to make for an upcoming DAR event, which requires me to wear a white suit, white formal gown, white shoes, and carry a white handbag.  I decided that since these are pieces I will be wearing for the next 7 years as a DAR page, I would designate them as independent/special occasion; in fact, they have a separate section in my closet!  #DARPageProblems right?  I'm super excited to page, but I did choose investment pieces (Limited suit, leather handbag) and tried to leverage online sales and promo codes at every turn.  Also, I had to buy a bridesmaid dress.  Again, not counting that against my budget because BRIDESMAID DRESS.

Wishlist Update:
  • Red Classic Toms
  • A-Line Skirts like Heart of Haute
  • Pair of Khakis
  • Plaid Button-down Shirt
  • Gingham Button-down Shirt


P.S.  Here's an outfit pic!  Free cardi from my Mom, Old Navy dress, and my Sam Edelman boots.


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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Crepe a Diem (@crepeadiem)

The food truck bug has bitten me you guys... now I'm following a bunch on Twitter and stalking them.  Fortunately for me, both Biscuit Love and Crepe a Diem frequent the Franklin Farmers Market, just down the road from where I live.  I decided to go for breakfast on a chilly Saturday morning, accompanied by Dan.


I decided to go with their breakfast crepe, the Crepe Complete. They totally complimented me on my correct pronunciation, which made this French major way too happy. I guess my studying paid off, LOL. I love the combination of eggs, ham, and cheese. It came out so perfectly; it's the best crepe I've had in the greater Nashville area, done the right way like they do in France.  I cut the crepe in half and rolled it up to eat it as we walked around the market.


Dan had a crepe with Nutella and strawberries, as he's the one with the biggest sweet tooth.  He really liked it.  I wouldn't hesitate to head back to Crepe a Diem to get my crepe fix and a little foodie escape back to my time in France!


Crepe Diem on Urbanspoon 

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Two points for honesty

Ah, life lately.  I haven't been great about prioritizing.  A bunch of things I said "yes" to a while back all came to a head recently.  FIVE straight nights and days of social commitments and work events, compounded now with a short-notice business trip and finals week for a class I haven't been so great at.  Don't get me wrong, I loved the time I spent with my friends and coworkers and participating in some amazing projects.  It made me realize how lucky I am to be living this exhaustingly great life.  Even though every morning I'm like this:


But in the end, it resulted in two days of me feeling pretty terrible.  I felt body aches, chills, congestion, and overall pain.  Like a full-blown flu, over a weekend.  I spent so much time trying to do it all, it landed me flat out on my back.  I'm happy it was over the weekend so I could recover, but unhappy I didn't accomplish everything I'd planned.


I feel like the biggest challenge has been to balance work plus grad school, then be intentional from there about what I can really take on.  For example, I've stepped back from a couple of volunteer gigs to focus on my favorite, DAR.  I've joined a fantastic book club full of badass babes, but we only meet once a month and the books are always easy reads.  I try to see my friends enough to stay close, and they're always informed enough to know I'm not blowing them off.  Dan and I spend more quality time just being at home, instead of going out.

Basically, I'm a hot mess, trying to get it under control.  I don't feel like being busy is an excuse, because it's really just about prioritizing better.  I want to sew more, write more, read more, travel more, but it's just not in the cards right now.  I'm getting by.


I'm just a little dead on my feet, and I *look* tired to boot.  Like eye bag city.  One of my coworkers, watching me leave work in a cocktail dress to head to volunteer at a charity gala, asked me, "How do you find the time?"  And I told her, "I don't have the time.  I'm failing.  But it'll get better."

It will get better.  Because I'm going to say no to more and yes to myself.

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

First Watch

When I saw a First Watch opening in a new strip mall in Cool Springs, I didn't know what it was.  A coworker told me that it was a restaurant chain, a favorite of his for breakfast and brunch.  My friend Lindsey and I are breakfast/brunch fanatics, so we decided to check it out not long after it opened.

It was clean, sunny, and full of people; exactly how a delicious breakfast spot should be!  We were seated immediately on a Saturday morning.  We had a great server who was fast and kind.


I chose the Breakfast Scramble minus Hollandaise sauce: scrambled eggs, spinach, ham, cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese on multigrain toast.  It came with a side of their seasoned potatoes and fresh fruit.  It was all delicious, and I was really impressed that it wasn't greasy like many breakfast platters.  It all tasted fresh and hot.


Lindsey chose the Fruit Crepe, which was part of their healthier options menu.  It sure didn't look like it, because it was so decadent and delicious!  The crepes had fresh fruit in them, and was drizzled with strawberry yogurt and cinnamon sugar.  It came with granola and a housemade muffin, which we ended up taking home since the meals were so generous.  (I later went back and had the exact same meal.)

There are at least ten other things that I want to try on the First Watch menu, so I know I'll be back soon!  It's close to my office, so I may even make it a favorite lunch spot.  Everything was reasonably priced (my meal was under $10) and tasty.  I can't believe this is a chain restaurant!  It puts other breakfast restos like IHOP to shame.

First Watch on Urbanspoon

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Bear & Bourbon

You guys, Bear and Bourbon really love each other!  Not a day goes by that they aren't wrestling and playing.  Until recently, I never caught them snuggling, but just the other night I found Bear cleaning Bourbon.  MY HEART MELTED.  I can't believe we didn't get him a buddy earlier.  We're a happy family of four now!
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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ellie's Old Fashioned Doughnuts (@ElliesDoughnuts)

When I was younger, I would eat those pre-packaged "dunking sticks" and powdered "donettes" from the school vending machine.  I would visit my grandparents in L.A. and they'd bring us hot Krispy Kreme doughnuts, which melted in your mouth.  My Dad would bring home French crullers from Dunkin Donuts.  I love a good doughnut, or even a bad one... but now I'm ruined for them.

I ate Ellie's Old-Fashioned Doughnuts at the Franklin Farmers Market.  I can never eat a regular, processed "donut" again.  These old-fashioned, fantastic creations are as good as the small-town apple fritters we would have in Indiana.  They are delightfully cake-y without being cake.  The flavors are delectable but not overwhelmingly sweet or artificial like big chains.


Dan and I were at the Farmers Market, and the Ellie's truck always has a line.  In the summer, you literally have to wait forever in the heat to get one.  For me, the Winter Market (though smaller) is more enjoyable because of the smaller crowds.  It also means I get to visit the food trucks and not have to wait!

I chose to take home a half-dozen, two each of that day's flavors.  They were all fantastic, but the one that Dan and I went nuts for was the Blueberry Pancake.  (In fact, I only got to eat half of one, because Dan ate half of mine!)  The blueberries tasted so fresh!


The maple glaze was very sweet, so I assumed the cinnamon-sugar would be my favorite... but in the end of the delicious combo of the glaze with the doughnut blew me away.  They didn't last 24 hours, and Dan asked me when we could get some more.  The look on his face when I told him they're only on Saturdays was so funny... he went to Dunkin Donuts to attempt to feed his craving, but told me that he knew it would be the worst letdown.

Something tells me we'll be waiting in those long lines come summer, just to get some Ellie's.

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Epice

When my coworker raved about the new Lebanese restaurant in 12South, I texted my friend Lauren (blogger at Old Red Boots) about it.  Sounds like a great girls' night, right?  Lauren secured a reservation for a Thursday evening dinner.

Epice is a small bistro by the same restaurateur as Kalamatas.  (I've also heard good things about Kalamatas.)  I'd never eaten Lebanese food before, but the menu looked interesting.

Parking is crazy in 12South, so before I drove out there I Googled to figure out the parking situation.  Epice has some spaces out front and a few in the Green Pea Salon lot. White's Mercantile lot is available after 6 p.m.  No problem!  I easily found a spot at White's.  Epice is definitely on the small side, but not in a bad way!  I liked the modern/simple decor (very zen), and our waiter was attentive and complimentary.  He didn't mind us taking our time through our courses and chatting away.

We ordered the Kibbeh appetizer, little seasoned ground sirloin bulgur wheat bundles with a dipping sauce.  I immediately said they were like mini Lebanese corn dogs, but in a good way!  Our meals included nice salads as well.  (Note: I don't like salad, but I made it through a couple of bites which is a big deal.)  We also ordered red wine to go with our meals.

Please go see Lauren's nice photos.   My iPhone wasn't too great.

For my main dish, I had the Hummos Beyrouti, a chickpea purée, braised ground sirloin, and pine nuts with pita chips.  It was really good!  Everything came out so fast.  After the appetizer I was only able to eat half of my meal, which pleased Dan immensely because he devoured my take-home box later.


We decided to indulge in desserts, so we share the Roz be-Haleeb (rice pudding with orange blossom infusion) and Katayef Lebanese crepes (one with a mild, sweet cheese and the other with walnuts).  The desserts were soooo good.  I would recommend it for a couple on a date, because it's quiet, intimate, and has good ambience.  The prices aren't unreasonable, but it is definitely a little more upscale-focused than Epice.



Epice on Urbanspoon

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

My Life in GIFs, v.4

What a week!  It feels incredibly good to have a weekend with zero plans aside from a class lecture.  Weeks like this I sometimes make silly mistakes, I'm tired, I don't have motivation to do anything more, and I look like a hot mess too.  Good thing I can binge watch the new House of Cards season on Netflix to cope, or I might turn to the bottle...

I'm going to entitle this one, "Moments that I Contemplate Alcoholism Because I'm Annoyed".  I consider myself to be a fairly reasonable person, but sometimes I just need to kick back and forget.

When someone makes a meeting go long because they just want to hear
the sound of their own voice, in my head I'm like:

When that meeting is an end-of-day meeting and they're getting between me
and Happy Hour, my mind's like:

And when that Happy Hour is being put on someone else's corporate card, I feel like:

When someone sends me a meeting invite for 8am meaning I have to skip my morning gym time, the night before I'm annoyed and tempted to be like...

When I'm in an online class and a fellow MBA student starts adding pretentious commentary to the chat box, lengthening the lecture, I'm like...

When I finally get a break from work and school, and I'm reading my favorite food blogs and they do ENTIRE ENTRIES of just photos of their children and NO FOOD, before I delete them from my Feedly I'm like...

Yeah, sometimes you just need a stiff drink to help you forget about those little things that are driving you nuts.  Oh, I'm sorry, is that the wrong response?  Well, then here's one last GIF for you:



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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Biscuit Love Truck at the Franklin Farmers Market (@BiscuitLuvTruck)

I haven't hit up the Nashville food truck scene... until now.  I've been tracking a few of them on Twitter, and I found out some come by the nearby Franklin Farmer's Market.  Biscuit Love Truck was definitely my wishlist, with its scratch-made biscuit sandwiches.


As I waited in line, the chef asked me if I like kimchi.  I told him that surprisingly, I don't like it even though I'm Korean.  Undeterred, he handed me a bowl of kimchi soup with noodles.  I skipped the cabbage, but the spicy noodles and broth were great!  It kept me warm as the snow flurried around.  (I noticed later that this broth and noodles are part of the Old Sober sandwich a play on New Orleans' yaka mein craze.)


For Dan, I took home the Gertie (named after the owners' daughter), which had caramelized banana jam, houseground peanut butter with pretzel crunch, and Olive & Sinclair chocolate gravy, all on that scratchmade biscuit.  It was soooo rich!  Dan had to take a break and eat it in two rounds.  It was a decadent dessert for sure!

This photo does nothing to capture the sheer deliciousness of this decadent biscuit.

I took a more traditional breakfast sandwich combo, the S.E.C.  My biscuit had a locally smoked sausage patty, fried farm egg, and Sweetwater cheddar cheese.  It was perfect!  The sausage had a fantastic spice to it, and the egg (which I ordered over medium) was one of the best parts.


Biscuit Love fulfilled all my expectations of a good food truck.  It was locally sourced, fresh, and creative.  You could tell that the Worleys are cooking up something special, and you can tell they are dedicated as they showed up in spite of the cold and "weather" we've been having in the area.  Next time, I want to try one of their other awesome combinations of flavor!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

@Fabletics - Outfit Review v.2

So you already know from my previous post that I loved my first Fabletics experience.  Well, I already got my 2nd order (since new outfits come out on the 1st of the month) and I am STILL LOVING IT.  Finally, a subscription service that I can truly get behind every month without a doubt!

This month, I decided not to purchase an "outfit" but to choose two pieces I liked.  The cost was still similar, and my VIP membership yielded free shipping.  SCORE!  I chose the Kingston Sweatshirt in White and the Suki Cycle Shorts in black snakeprint.  I needed another warm layer for my workout wardrobe, and I felt the shorts would be a nice break from capris.  I love the subtle snake print in the leggings I got last month, so I had to get them this time too.

     

I was a little worried the sweatshirt would be too big, as the top I first chose last month didn't fit how I thought it would.  It was definitely a loose fit, but I actually liked it because of the layering factor.  The shorts are great too.  I like the length, surprisingly, as most of my pants are capris. I may have to get another pair of these shorts in another outfit!  I wear the Large (size 10) in all the pieces I have so far, but I like to feel less constricted.  (5'4", 157 lbs)  I think that from now on with the loose, layering tops I will choose the size 8, but stay with 10 in the rest.  My tank top last month in a Large was perfect for the way I like to wear them.

My apologies for the interrupting cat.  Bear loves Fabletics too.

Fabletics customer service did a great job with my exchange last month.  I sent back two out of my three items, and the new pieces were shipped to me within the same week.  Awesome!  (It helps that I'm not too far from their warehouse in Louisville.)  I've already worn all of my new items, and they have held up to my treadmill running workouts.

I did this on a Sunday AM, so forgive the face!

In addition, I've racked up enough rewards points from purchases, reviews, and referral sign-ups (THANK YOU!) to earn a FREE outfit in March.  Love!  Thanks for the birthday gift, readers!  Basically, if you can get TWO friends to purchase through your referral link, you can earn an outfit up to $50.  How cool is that?  (Here's my link for you to use.)

I swear, this year I am going to accumulate the fiercest workout wardrobe ever... and it's actually helped motivate me to get to the gym more often.  Funny how a new outfit can really get you excited to sweat it out.

UPDATE on 3/2/14:  I have gone running in BOTH of these pieces recently and LOVE them!

Disclaimer:  I subscribed to Fabletics on my own, and did not receive anything in exchange for this review.  If you're interested in signing up for Fabletics, I would LOVE if you'd use my referral link!  For every two friends of you who purchase, I can earn an outfit.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Watermark

A few weeks ago, it was Restaurant Week again in Nashville!  I love trying new-to-me spots during the twice-annual Nashville Originals promotions.  It's a great excuse to check out someplace I might not otherwise have eaten.

August 2013:  Mere Bulles
January 2014: Watermark

This year, Linds and I decided to make dinner plans since we hadn't gotten together in a bit.  After browsing menus, we made a reservation at the upscale Gulch restaurant Watermark.  They had a fantastic Restaurant Week three-course menu, with plenty of options, for $30.14, about the price of their typical entree.


For my first course, I had the Potato Chowder, a cheddar creme soup with scallions.  It also came with an adorable ham biscuit on the side.  It was good!  (Although as gauche as it may be to admit it, O'Charley's will always have my favorite cheddar potato soup.  LOL)


For my second course, we both chose the Hanger Steak Au Poivre on a bed of spinach and bacon, which came with pomme frites and a roasted red pepper ketchup.  The steak was fantastic!  It was cooked as I wanted (medium) and very tasty and tender.  The fries were top-notch.  Isn't it funny how at a fancy restaurant they can really nail a "fast food" like fries?  Perfectly crispy and not greasy.  The spicy ketchup was interesting too; I am not a spicy-leaning person, but it was a great flavor on the fries.


Finally, for dessert, I chose the Profiteroles with chocolate sauce.  Delicious!  Linds chose the Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with dulce de leche, which she preferred to my dessert.  I agree that her dessert was delicious, and I love anything with dulce de leche!  If I came back I would want to try that dessert again.

Sorry my photos aren't so great, but mood lighting plus iPhones just don't make for the greatest shots.  But I promise you, it was all delicious!  I am finally adult enough to taste everything on a prix fixe menu but not feel obligate to clean every plate.  I find that it has helped me walk away from a meal feeling satisfied, stimulated, and not miserable for indulging.  Watermark was a great way to spend a girls' night out!  We found our server to be attentive and welcoming, the courses came fast, and we didn't feel rushed.

P.S.  We started with drinks at Bar Louie and took this photo on Linds' phone.  Yay!  A picture that isn't food!  LOL


P.P.S.  I noticed as we walked through the Gulch that a new Burger Republic has opened, along with a new pub.  SCORE!  Even though distance-wise the Lenox location is closer to us, time-wise it is faster to get to the Gulch on the Interstate.

Watermark on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 7, 2014

Latest Reads

I haven't posted what I've read since October!  I will note that I am reading less for fun than before I started my MBA, so there's that.  And I just joined a book club, so that may be my one book per month "for fun" reading.  Plus my Food+Wine and O Magazines, of course!

One catalyst to reading more has been the combination of my library's eBook borrowing system and my iPad Mini.  The portability of my iPad plus the OverDrive app has made borrowing books for free super-easy.  Sure, I have to wait a while to get a book that's got a waiting list, but there's plenty to read in the meantime.  I rarely pay to read books anymore.

FICTION

  • Reached by Ally Condie:  Okay, so I had to read this to find out the ending to the trilogy, which I nearly universally panned in my previous reading update.  This was the worst of the bunch, and I only skimmed/read it to find out the conclusion.  Bof!
  • Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant by Veronica Roth:  I wanted to read this YA trilogy (I know, I read all these dystopian future YA books) before the first movie comes out.  I really like the actress Shailene Woodley, so I hoped the books would be decent for her sake.  I enjoyed Divergent a lot!  It isn't as good as The Hunger Games, and sometimes things in all of these books sound like they came from The Giver (also coming to film), but this one was pretty exciting.  I even liked the love story.  I did not enjoy the 2nd and 3rd books nearly as much, and I disliked the ending of it all.  The Hunger Games books were far superior, but these are probably the next best out there in the genre.
  • Delirium, Pandemonium, Requiem by Lauren Oliver:  I'm torn on these books.  I did get excited and into them sometimes, but I also didn't feel the heroine was strong enough.  The book was all about lust and feeling, without being sexy or heart-wrenching.  I wish they were better.  Also, in similar fashion, the first book was the best and the other two felt forced.
Note:   My disappointment in these trilogies, after enjoying the Hunger Games so much, has put me off the YA train for a while.  Which is probably good, given I am nearly 30 years old.

NON-FICTION

  • Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson:  I follow The Bloggess, and she's generally hilarious.  She is a whole level of weird that I thoroughly enjoy, including her taxidermy memes.  (Long story.)  I never read her book until my book club chose it for our first round.  I'm glad they did; it was super easy, very funny, and a really enjoyable memoir to read.  It's one of my favorites in this bunch.
  • Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris by Ann Mah:  Oh, Ann.  I really enjoyed reading this book, and it made my stomach growl.  The author was living my dream, living in Paris and EATING.  Except she disappointed me a little bit in her unwillingness to try things.  I'm a very picky eater, but I try everything at least once, for the most part.  I wanted Ann to be more open to the experience, and even to be a bit tougher.  I know how hard it is having a long-distance relationship with someone in a combat zone.  For real.  So I wanted her to be less "woe is me" and more "holy sh*t I am having the time of my life in France eating"... it's almost like she included the whining so we wouldn't judge her for having a good time while her husband was on a voluntary assignment in the Middle East.  She basically gets to be a modern day Julia Child, following her husband's international job... embrace it and carpe diem, girl!
  • Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown:  I didn't enjoy this book as much as I was hoping, but I think it has everything to do with age.  I would have enjoyed it more at age 23 than 28... it would have been more relevant and hit closer to home.  I like the style of the book, talking about all the things that young people go through as we venture out on our own, but given I was just beyond the target demographic it didn't fit for me.  But I do want my younger sister to read it!
  • Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell:  LOVED this book, another favorite of the bunch.  I love to get my nerd on with Malcolm Gladwell and other statistics/analysis correlation books like Freakonomics.  I am fascinated by the idea that something like the month you're born can impact your life's path... there are things we don't think about that impact us and create the successes we see like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, professional athletes, and so on.  I wasn't disappointed, and I recommend this one.  It makes for great conversation starters too, unless you tell someone that their kid has like no chance of playing professional hockey because he was born in July.  They might get mad at you.
  • QBQ! The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and in Life by John G. Miller:  This is super short, recommended at a training event I attended.  I am trying to communicate better, and this was a great little tutorial in how to ask better questions and get to the meaning behind what people say.
  • The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement by David Brooks:  I really liked the first 1/2 or 2/3 of this book.  To me, it was similar to other books I enjoy, only it follows two fictional characters as it relates fun facts and research to the human condition.  Once the characters got older, the storyline got more contrived and they lost me.  I finished it, but it wasn't as good as I'd hoped.
Still Reading:   A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn

I'm still working my way through Howard Zinn, in the midst of all this.  I tend to read it a chapter at a time, whenever I feel like it.  It's fantastic though, and makes me think about all the things we never learn in school because of political correctness.

What are you reading lately?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Guest Post: Saving Money on Your Household Grocery Bill

This post is from Instawares Food and Restaurant Blog. Read more about the food industry, recipes, and the latest in kitchen equipment at blog.instawares.com.

Note from Aubrey: From time to time, I like to have Guest Posts about different topics, to give you guys a little variety.  The bloggers at Instawares talk about a great variety of subjects involving two topics very near and dear to my heart: food and kitchen equipment!  Today, I'm excited to let them give you some great (and creative) tips for saving money on your grocery bill, something I'm definitely trying to do these days.


Saving Money on Your Household Grocery Bill 

With the economic outlook still on rocky ground, people are trying to find more ways to cut back on their spending. If you have a family to support, this can present a bigger challenge, especially where your household grocery budget is concerned. Fortunately, there are many ways that you can save a few bucks while still feeding those hungry little mouths.

Grow Your Own Food 

If you have a little yard space or a sunny location to set a few pots, you can grow some of your own food during the spring, summer and fall seasons. Veggies like tomatoes, carrots and greens do well both in potted plants or garden beds. They're healthier and more flavorful than anything you'll find in the store, and they cost next to nothing to grow. If your kids don't like to eat their vegetables, home-grown produce may quickly change their minds.

Go Ethnic 

Instead of relying on your regular grocery store for fresh fruit and veggies, check around your area for ethnic grocery stores. These places sell a wide variety of both familiar and exotic produce for a fraction of the price of the big chain stores. Furthermore, this is a great way to foster an appreciation of different foods in your children.

Shop Low-Overhead Stores 

Grocery stores with low overhead are able to offer products for much less than their fancier counterparts.

Unfortunately, many people pass these options up because they've been convinced that the product selection is of poor quality. This is simply not the case. Much of the time, the products in these stores are made by well-known manufacturers, they've just been outfitted with the store's branding label. Although you may have to bring your own bags or use one of those quarter-operated carts, the selections are often a fraction of the cost as at other places.

Browse the Discount Bin 

In some stores, there is a special place reserved for discontinued, clearanced or slightly damaged goods. Stores mark these items down so that they can still make a profit off of them, but you're the one who truly benefits from the drastically reduced prices. Be aware that these discount bins aren't always easy to find, so if you don't see one at your local store, ask the manager where you can find it. If they don't have one, consider suggesting that they start one.

Use Natural Cleaners 

Keeping the house clean is also a significant expense for many people, with most cleaning products costing upwards of $5 per item. When you need a cleaner for every purpose, this can quickly become a huge expense. However, there are many natural and effective products that can be used in their place for pennies on the dollar. Vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, lemon oil, peroxide and even table salt can be used for almost all cleaning jobs and on any type of surface. If you feel like putting in a little more effort to save money, you can even try making your own laundry detergent. Many recipes can be found online, so try them until you find something you like.

Hit the Farmer's Market 

Farmer's markets are popping up all over the place these days, thanks to the growing demand for natural, locally-produced food. Chances are that there's one close to you, so consider taking advantage of it. While you might expect it to be a more expensive way to shop, it's usually the opposite. Because the produce comes straight from the grower, there's no distributor or other middleman to inflate prices in order to turn a profit.

The costs of living can often seem difficult to keep up with. However, by employing a few of the tips above, you can help reduce costs while still keeping your family healthy and happy.

P.S. from Aubrey:  NowI really want to try using natural cleaners, and I'm already scheduling a trip to the farmer's market on Saturday morning.  Thanks, Instawares for the guest post!
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