Vegan Rice ‘n Cheese

Once when Sam had to leave for work I insisted he eat something.  The problem was we didn’t really have anything to eat besides some leftover rice.  Still in the pot…

So, I did what any sensible person would do:

We had leftovers.

It basically came down to this:  hot chili oil + soy sauce + sesame oil + nutritional yeast.  Throw it on top.  Spoon into mouth.  Easiest thing in the world but trust me, it tasted like a sheer gold mine.  Kudos if you actually have warm rice.  Gives a more mac ‘n cheese feel.

I decided that all around, this might be a boring post.  So I also included a picture of what to do if you find yourself in a similar predicament:

Step 1:  Make or Find Rice

Step 2 & 3:  Gather Ingredients and Dump on Rice

Step 4:  Eat.  Enjoy.  Relax a bit.  Think about your next meal.

~*~

I like to eat simple and easy foods.  If you notice, I don’t give any explicit amounts for ingredients it is simply because that is completely up to preference.  In my experiences…

2 1/2 Cups  Cooked Rice

1 TBS          Soy sauce

1/2 TSP       Sesame oil

1/8 TSP       hot chili oil (for heat)

3-5 TBS      Nutritional Yeast or “nooch”


I like mine to be a bit on the salty side.  The Korean in me absolutely loves that heat and sesame oil taste – mixed with soy sauce and you have my personal rice concoction.

Experiment.

By the by, Sam agrees that it tastes like mac ‘n cheese.  Aside from the nutritional yeast (which can get a little spendy) it’s a relatively cheap meal.  I like that.

~*~

Today’s post was really short, and before you go (if you came down this far) I’d like to spend some time talking to you.

“Hunger is the best spice” – I heard that once from a video game.  I was playing Tales of Symphonia:  Dawn of the New World.  But isn’t that so true?  When you are hungry, or even thirsty, just about anything you have next has such a profound impact on you.

That morning we didn’t eat anything in particular.  Sometimes we are bad at looking after ourselves in that regard.  This morning we just didn’t feel like eating and got so sidetracked that we forgot until the last hour.

I don’t like letting Sam leaving without eating because the job requires quite a bit of manual labor at times.

Somehow, this simple rice with toppings made us feel really indulgent.  It felt special.  And it just came out of randomly throwing things together.

Since, I have recreated this recipe several more times to check if I were delusional.  I am not, I am proud to say.  It definitely tastes the best if the rice is warm – it helps being out the toasty sesame flavor and makes it a lot easier to mix it all together.

And this brings me to my closing questions:  what’s the most random thing you ever made?  How did that turn out?  What did you learn from it?

Leave your answers in the comments below as well as any suggestions!

 

Save Money: 3 Simple Rules for Food Shopping

BAM!  Our mountain of bananas.  Sam and I returned from shopping and we came home with oodles of bananas in our bags.  Excited and proud we shared our deal prowess with friends who returned with messages like, “Those look bruised”.

Pffft!  Plebs!

While I jest about our friends (mostly) our bananas only cost us $0.29 / pound!  That’s incredible savings.  During our grocery trip we’d bought about $4.50 worth of bananas.  All together.  Let’s do some reverse math!

(0.29 * x lbs) = 4.50, which evolves into 4.50 / 0.29.  That equals…

15.52 lbs

By the by.  According to My Fitness Pal, 15.52 lbs of bananas equals…

We won’t eat these all in a night.  Realistically we’d eat 4-5 blended in a smoothie (that we share) and probably 2-3 as snacks throughout the day.

Bananas are also super versatile.  Outside of eating them as mono-meals fruitarian style, you can bake with them, substitute them into baked goods (such as cakes and muffins), and I’m sure the Internet can enlighten you to many more options.

We eat a lot of bananas.  A.  Lot.


The point of this post isn’t to brag or to tell you to buy masses of bananas. What this post is about is showing you 3 simple rules we follow when shopping around.

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Rule #1:  Never Buy More Than You Can Eat

This is probably the hardest rule for me to overcome.  When I go shopping and see a good deal – I want to buy it.  But there are times when the deals are for foods that we don’t eat regularly, if at all.  This can add up to huge amounts of wasted food and therefore wasted money.  Personally I’ve scraped a lot of money into the trash because I never got around to eating something I bought on sale or thought I was going to eat for x reason.

Be a person who is an authority in your life. Ask yourself two very important questions: “Am I actually going to eat this?” or “Will I eat this before it expires?”  If the answer is no, you’re better off putting it back and buying less, even if the bulk price is “unbeatable”.

~*~

Rule #2:  Buy Staples in BULK

If you eat something on the regular, check to see if they have a bulk option.  Oh, especially if it’s a dried good like beans or rice!  Many times, there are cheaper.  It sometimes take a quick calculation on your phone to double check, but some places, like Walmart, will offer a unit price.

$2.93 / 3 lbs vs. $9.84 / 20 lbs.  In this picture, the unit prices are 97.7 cents / lb and 49.2 cents / lb, respectively.  For fun, I’m going to scale these:

Let’s say you eat 60 lbs of rice over the course of several months.  If you kept buying the 3 lb option, you would pay $58.60 for 60 lbs of rice.  If you bought the 20 lbs of rice, you would only pay $29.52.  That’s a savings of $29.08!

Our staples include:  soy sauce, sesame oil, rice, oatmeal, dried beans and bananas. : )

~*~

Rule #3:  Buy Food, Not “Treats”

I will never say, “Don’t buy yourself a treat ever!” because that’s ludicrous.  I want my tub of ice cream every now and then.  But that’s the key:  every now and then.  Treats, which includes snacks like chips, chocolates, candies, and so on, are major bill busters.

The bulk of your grocery trips should be to gather food that will keep your household fed, healthy, and satisfied.

It’s OK to love food. Maybe even worship it. In the end food should serve you and your nutritional needs.  Not your whims.

~*~

Bonus Rule:  Before you start, track your spending!

This is probably the simplest and most effective way to help you manage your groceries.  And it is also the hardest.

Keep track of what you spend your money on, and how much.  Keep in mind how the things you buy are serving you.  Chances are there are some routine spending habits you have that you could be reviewing and axing later on if they break your budget and lack value.


When I first starting living on my own, these three things were what I struggled the most with.  My food expenditure was crazy.  By myself, I spent nearly over 150+ on groceries on top of eating out.  Yikes.  At the time, I didn’t really have the luxury of spending that much money without running into debt.

The worse part?  Some of that food sat in my pantry for over a year.  I never touched it.

I went into debt over wasted food and “treats” because I thought I was handling my money well.

You don’t have to be that person.  It took a lot of trial and error before I reached the point where I was consciously spending money on what I actually needed versus what I thought I needed.  And you can get there too.

If you have any other ways you save money, leave a comment down below and share it so that others can read it!  If you have used these same rules or similar, did they help?  Why or why not?  I’d love to know.

Otherwise, be cozy!

*We do not condone the use of banana-centric violence.  We do condone the consumption and sharing of bananas however.  Please eat responsibly.

What is iHerb for?

Nothing throws off your programming schedule quite like a beloved YouTube channel taking a break.  Thankfully, they’re back and looking so much more rejuvenated!

In their latest video however, they mentioned a thing that I had been hearing a lot about.  It’s called iHerb, and you’re probably wondering what the heck iHerb is for.  Me too.  So I did some research!

iHerb is an online store.  Packed with natural goodies.  For the health-conscious and eco-aware, iHerb is a dedicated supermarket to supplying people with natural, and/or organic goods that range from the pantry shelves to your bathroom counter to even your pets’ bowls.  Not only are they an online health foods store – they claim to sell their goods between 30-40% less than your average ground operation.

We visit our health foods store on the regular.  We don’t buy much in the way of goods because it’s not cheap.  So really, any savings on the things we do get is divine.  But are they actually cheaper?

Compared to our local health foods store?  Yeah.  Like 90% of the time.  How about when compared to giants like Wal-Mart who basically screams they have the lowest prices?  Or Amazon, with it’s stupidly massive online marketplace at some to-die for prices?  How does iHerb stack up against those guys?  To check, I’ve chosen three items.  And we’re going to compare them across all platforms.

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Oatmeal.  It’s a staple in our pantry.  We eat it almost every day in some form – mostly as breakfast and cookies.  To start, I picked an item that had to be found at all three retailers.  So I found this Bob’s Red Mill, Gluten-Free, Rolled Oats.  32 oz of it.

 

 

Amazon: $5.45*

Walmart:  $6.92 

iHerb:  $5.62

 

Actually, I’m pleasantly surprised that iHerb isn’t as expensive as I thought.  Both beat Walmart, and Amazon is in the lead by $0.17.  Pretty neat.


What about something else?  I super like chia seeds.  Like oatmeal they provide you with some good fiber and protein, but chia has an added benefit of “gel-ing” up so you can use it as an egg-substitute in many recipes.  This one from Nutiva looks good – organic, 12 oz and black chia seeds.

 

 

Amazon:  $7.03*

Walmart:  $7.17**

iHerb:  $11.70

 

Funny thing.  Yesterday when I was doing research for this article, Walmart was actually selling it at $11.28.  So it’s kind of neat seeing how the price dropped after a day.  However, the real story is the Amazon price.  Holy bologna, it’s actually $0.17 cheaper than Walmart and a whole $4.67 cheaper than iHerb.


Since peanut allergies are so prevalent, let’s take a look at an alternative:  almond butter.  I actually like almond butter a lot more than peanut butter.  It can get pretty pricey.  So for fun, how about we look at the most expensive almond butter I know?  It’s from Justin’s, and his Classic Almond Butter at 16 oz costs us…

 

 

Amazon:  $11.25* / $17.95*

Walmart:  $17.95

iHerb:  $13.29

 

So I find this really interesting.  Amazon leads again with $2.04 less than iHerb and a whopping $6.70 less than Walmart.  I could leave it at that.  But you should really know that a lot of these prices are available to me because I’m an Amazon Prime member.  I’ve found that while I get some pretty awesome discounts for being a Prime member, that might not be applicable to everyone.  I’d also like to add that there are many Amazon Pantry exclusives. that only Prime members get access to.  That would include the oats from Bob’s Red Mill on this list.


Conclusion?


It could be argued that Amazon is still the better choice.  It has 480 million+ versus iHerb’s 35,000+.  That’s a ridiculous amount of products available to you.  Amazon also has deals in most categories and ongoing sales in an effort to push grocery sales with perks like Subscribe and Save and Prime Pantry.  It’s also hard to beat free 2-day shipping with many orders.

For us, whenever we turn to the online markets for food we have very specific requests.  Sam and I are shopping around for “exotic” items that are hard to find or extremely expensive.  So let’s talk about nori/gim/seaweed.  We LOVE seaweed and in the Midwest the demand is pretty much nonexistent.  So instead of paying around $7-8 for 10 sheets, we pay about $26 for 100 sheets.  They’re also organic.  So why give iHerb a chance?

~*~

iHerb is a very specific niche market.  What it does is offer goods you would typically find at a health foods store at a discounted price.  They are indeed cheaper than my local health foods store.  For many of the items I would personally buy, it actually competes with Amazon price wise, even with my little perks.  And that’s a lovely thing because iHerb doesn’t ask you to pay-in for a membership.  You do need to create an account in order to order things, but that’s free.

iHerb also has a rewards and loyalty program for frequent shoppers and sharers.  You’re auto-signed up when you make an account (but participation is of course, voluntary).  You can earn 5% of your shopping value back in credits which can be used to keep shopping at iHerb.  You can also share links to specific products, carts, or pages on iHerb and for whoever clicks through they get 5% off their first purchase.  That 5% comes back to you, helping you generate even more income.  Which I am always for.  Not only are you helping others, but you are helping you. (I’ll talk more about this as I dig deeper in a separate, future post)


Verdict


I’m trying it out.

Amazon is pretty amazing, don’t get me wrong.  And there’s nothing out there preventing me from taking advantage of the deals on both sites.  But iHerb as a company shares many of my same values:  altruism, environmentally friendly and conscious, access to healthy food.  Their rewards program is actually pretty amazing and is enough to get me to try it out, plus they have their own deals which you can check out by clicking here.

Is it perfect?  No.  But it does offer some sweet perks.  Such as the rewards program, some wickedly sick deals that not even Amazon can top, it’s got a pretty simple layout that’s easy to use and hey, I’m not bombarded with products “I might be interested in…”.  iHerb is definitely intended for health-conscious people who want access to good products.

If you are interested in checking it out, you can click on this link to get 5% off your first purchase here.  Because why not?  In fact, you can keep using that link to keep getting 5% off.


If you have used iHerb before, what did you like or dislike about it?  Why did you choose it and do you continue to shop there?  Let me know in the comments!

Otherwise, thanks for reading and take care dearies.

My Life With the Diva Cup – Review

Before I begin my review I’d like to begin with a small caution for readers who are not comfortable reading about blood and sexual organs.  While these are natural processes and parts, they can still be upsetting or uncomfortable to read about.  I try to minimize some of this by using more medically and scientifically appropriate terms, but it’s there.  And it is there because I wanted my review to be honest.

~*~

It happened one insignificant day, when Sam and I were strolling through the aisles at Safeway.  At that time, I made a point of staring at the Diva Cups on the shelf most every grocery trip.  All the research that I’d done at the point pressed on me.  I should get it.  I finally had enough money.  And finally I did.

I will never go back.

In this personal review, I’m going to go over the reasons that led me to buying and trying the Diva Cup, my first experiences, and my 6 months later (which is presently at the time I am writing this). Rewrite this.

Let’s start!


Why I Wanted It


When I first heard about menstrual cups, it came up during a conversation in which a coworker related her sisters’ experiences.  That was five years ago and it took me up until this past year in order to actually buy the darn thing.  Reason?  Two.  Money – I was broke and availability – I only found them at one store where I live.

And maybe I was a little scared.  Like when I first tried tampons.  I adamantly told a friend I would never use them!  Pads all the way.  I converted by the end of high school because sleep.

Anyway, there are a lot of benefits thrown around about menstrual cups.  You’ll hear things like:

  • less chemicals in your vagina
  • reusable
  • easy to clean
  • easy to use
  • can wear for long periods of time
  • can measure menstruation
  • odorless

Many of these are intertwined with one another.  The biggest factor that turned me was saving money.

Which might sound odd because I listed being broke as the main reason I didn’t buy it.  At a price point of roughly $34 dollars, they were definitely more expensive than the tampons I was buying.  Up front.  But if you keep adding in all the pads, tampons and feminine hygiene products you do purchase throughout your lifetime, $34 seems pretty cheap.

Especially when considering that some people keep their menstrual cups for ten years.

At the time of purchase, I was experiencing better financial health.  It’d been a long road to financial recovery which also netted me a new mindset:  spend out of need, not want.  And purchase items that are durable and will last me a long time.

Lastly, Reddit convinced me to take the extra step and buy.  I unfortunately can’t remember the name of the subreddit I read, but a quick search will yield quick results! (If the search is working).

So.  I bought the Model 1 Diva Cup which was the recommended size for women in my category.  The “under the age of 30 who have never delivered vaginally or by cesarean section” category.  Apparently, there isn’t too big a size difference according to the Diva Cup website, but the bigger size is to prevent leakage.


My First Experiences


The first time I tried using the Diva Cup I was nervous, intimidated.  I was faced with an unknown situation and armed with instructions I made my attempt.

Wash your hands.

First, I squatted down really low and let my knees flare out to help open my lips up and basically bare myself out.  It sounds awkward.  It felt awkward but it helped.  Then I worked the Diva Cup into a “U” shape as suggested by the instructions, and tried slipping it in.  The aim is to have it sit low in your cervix, with the opening facing towards your tailbone.  It took both hands:  one to further open up my vaginal canal and the other to slip it in.

At first it was a struggle.  Kind of like when I first used tampons.  And eventually I got it to go in!  It felt weird.  Then, you’re supposed to turn it so that it unfolds and seals against your vaginal walls preventing leakage.  Using my middle and pointer fingers, I did so and pushed it up a little higher to a more comfortable height and so that stem wasn’t sticking out as far.  And kept turning.  No way I was going to have leakage.

I was very, very aware of the cup inside me.  I walked around the bathroom a couple times, and shook my legs a bit.  As if I were trying on new pants but I couldn’t help but feel just a little weird.  Meh.

Taking it out was another story.

Now, when you go to take it out to empty it, I basically followed the same method.  Wash hands.  Squat.  Using my pointer finger, I gently slid it inside to press down onto the  cup itself to break the seal.  Then you’re supposed to be able to use the stem to pull it out.  But that sucker wouldn’t release!

It took both my middle and pointer fingers to achieve success.  Which meant I was pinching the base of the cup and I held my breath and waddled over the toilet a bit.  I was afraid that the blood had spilled over top and was not basically going to waterfall out of me.

Now this may sound gross, by strands of bodily fluids met with blood stringed out with the cup and I quickly used my hand to gather these up so I wouldn’t taint my new bathroom rug.  My cup was actually quite full and the noise it made when I poured it into the toilet just sounded like I was pooping.  A really big one.

I ended up using a square of toilet paper to set my Diva Cup on while I used more toilet paper to wipe some of the mucus-y blood off.  Then I washed my hands and my cup with some hot water and mild soap and inserted it again.

I wondered about what I would do if I were in a public restroom?  I’m not sure any woman wants to be at the sinks washing out their cups with any chance there will be a stranger there!  Plus, sometimes blood just clings inside the cup and clots, so it’s like getting out little snot boogers.

~*~

It took me about two cycles to get used to it being inside and decent at pulling it in and out.  It also took some time for me to just get used to not hurting myself.  Either by pinching myself (holy hell that is such a weird sensation) or by inserting the cup which my vagina was not accustomed to having in so suddenly some days.

During my period, my vagina is super sensitive.  And the first two days are filled with cramps galore plus bloating.  My lady bits are also very sensitive so that generally anything up it in those precious first days just hurts in general.  When I tried forcing myself to relax the muscles didn’t got very well.

I hope that I’d get used to it.  I mean, I spent like nearly a half my grocery budget on it.


After 6 Months…


I’m wearing it right now.  And it feels completely natural to me.  I’m glad I stuck with it.  Here’s a small list of things that I experienced since using the cup regularly:

1) No Worries:  My gosh.  No more going to the bathroom and peeing on your tampon string.  No more worrying about running out of tampons.  I can just go about my day and empty it twice a day!  No more crinkly packaging that you have to rip through in public restrooms.  No more worrying about if people can see your pad through your underwear and pants.

2) More Money:  I would say I can’t remember the last time I purchased any other feminine hygiene products, but I do because I sat down and looked it up before writing this post.  I can say that there is more money in my budget for other things that I enjoy doing – like yarn for crochet.  More money is always nice.

3) Health:  I’d also like to take the time to mention that my particular cup is made of medical grade silicon.  Many cups are.  If not, they are listed on their product.  Silicon is what gives it that flexible texture and what makes it more healthy for your vagina that conventional products (like tampons and pads).  It is also safe for people with latex allergies because it is not made of latex.

~*~

Let’s talk a little about some cons.  Because they are there.

4) Experience:  I’m a lot more adept at taking it in and out.  It is simplistic in nature, and it does it’s job well when you get it in there right… but there is a small learning curve.  You can read your manufacturer’s website for more tips.

5) Variability:  As with many intimate items, you need to be aware of your needs.  For me, the Diva Cup works perfectly in that I really only need to empty 2-3 times a day – more in the beginning when my flow is heaviest.  But that aspects changes from woman to woman and I recently learned, more than just blood collects in your cup.  Yup.  Gross.

There is also a difference in anatomy between women, so the Diva Cup, or even a menstrual cup in general, might not be viable.  Some women mentioned that the cup placed undue pressure on their surrounding anatomy – such as the urethra and anus, making going to bathroom difficult.

I’m linking a guide on how to find a menstrual cup appropriate for you to minimize the pain of figuring out which one to buy.  Check out this link to WikiHow here.

6) Embarrassing Public Situations:  Personally, my body doesn’t generate enough blood to fill my Diva Cup in less than 8 hours.  And I’ve never had to deal with changing it when I did work because I just emptied right before and right when I got home.  But this may not be the case for everyone, and I recognize that this can be a problem.

The one time I did do it at work, I magically was super pro and taking it out and putting it back in.  However, I didn’t wash it (gross, I know) because I was in a public restroom with stalls and couldn’t lock the door behind me.  Not everyone wants to deal with that.  I don’t want to deal with it.  And I’m lucky because my flow doesn’t warrant more recent changes.

Yours might.

7) It just doesn’t work for everyone. This is pretty self-explanatory but things just might not work out for whatever reason.  And that’s all right.  More and more health-conscious products are being released that are still eco-friendly and practical.


Tips and Tricks


  • For first time users, use pantyliners or pads if you are worried about leakage.  I happened to have some left over and used them up.
  • Wash your hands and clean under your nails.  Bacteria live there and while the vagina is self-cleaning, try not to make it work harder.
  • When it comes to insertion, having trim nails goes a long way in not accidentally scratching/pinching yourself.
  • If you are having trouble getting the cup in due to dryness, use a form of lubricant.  Either natural (from you) or a non-silicone based lube.  Otherwise you will ruin your cup.
  • You can empty it in the shower.  Maybe not so revolutionary but definitely helpful while adjusting and prevents getting some embarrassing stains.

~*~

These are the things that helped/affected me the most.  And I hope in turn they help you.

If you need more help, you can always check your manufacturer’s website (if available) as they often have FAQs that address most concerns.


Should You Try It?


I actually recommend this to all my girl friends.  I’ve had such good experiences using my Diva Cup that I think that many will benefit from it.  It fulfilled every benefit that I listed in my reasons I wanted to buy it either from the get-go or with practice.

My life has become more simplified in a way I didn’t imagine when I was younger.  And it’s had some lovely effects on my life – mostly less anxiety.  For different reasons, but saving money in any way really helps iron out some of my financial dreams (like being debt-free).  It’s small, but it adds up.  I also feel less anxious from just the fear that I’ll start my period when I least expect it (because it was so irregular for a long time) and that I’ll run out of tampons because I don’t have any money.

But.  You always need to do what is best for you.  And so, if you don’t think that a menstrual cup is the best option for you or you’ve discussed this with your medical care provider and you both have determined that it’s not for you, then that’s all right.  Thank you for taking the time to read this exceedingly long post.


Where To Buy


Menstrual cups are starting to appear in more places on the shelf these days.  Which is great!  But for some people, they might not be.  There’s always online and many places you can shop at.  I’ve listed some sites to check out below!  The first two will show you where stores stock cups, and the last two are places I recommend you buy from online.

~*~

Diva Cup

Menstrual Cup Map

Menstrual Cup

Be Prepared Period – this site also has other products available, such as cotton pads!


If you have any questions or comments, go ahead and leave a comment and I’ll get back to you!

I hope you have a lovely day.

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