Clean Eating Cliff Notes

If you’re plugged into social media at all, including following me on Instagram (tjandjessie), you may come across a plethora of pictures of food lately. People are obsessed with taking pictures of what they shove into their mouths.

There are a few reasons for this phenomenon:

  • Accountability
  • Educating and motivating others
  • Practicing mad photo skills

I document what I eat for all of the above reasons, but mostly for motivating others. So many think that eating healthy has to be expensive, and I so badly want my pictures to show that what we eat is real, clean food that is still within our measly budget.

We’re not hungry.

And we’re certainly not at the drive-thru eating from the dollar menu.

So what is clean eating, you ask?

Here’s your Cliff Notes guide to clean eating:

CRAP. Yes. CRAP. I said a bad word, can you believe it?!

  • No Carbonated drinks. That Coke, Root Beer, Dr. Pepper and even diet soda is filled with either a ton of sugar or a huge amount of chemicals. Your body doesn’t want it or need it, so ditch it! The amount of money people will spend on empty calories that do nothing for their nutrition boggles my mind. Don’t throw away your money.
  • No Refined sugars. Cookies, muffins, candy bar, cereals. They all have refined sugar that will just add inches to your waistline and slow you down. Even flour. Switch to whole grains for breads and pastas and brown rice.
  • No Artificial sweeteners. If it has any dyes, preservatives, additives, etc. you can bet it’s full of artificial sweeteners. Stick to natural sweeteners like Stevia, honey and agave and even apple sauce.
  • No Processed food. If it’s in a box or a bag it’s been processed. Stick to the outskirts of your supermarket or your local farmers market instead. If God made it, you should have ate it! You will find when you stop buying so many snacks, you’ll have room in your grocery budget for those apples on sale you can eat for a snack instead.

I’ll calm down now and say, just eat FOOD!

  • Eat Fruits and Veggies. Anything from the trees or in the ground is fair game. Shop weekly sales and stock up.
  • Eat Organic Lean Proteins. We limit our meat consumption and stick to plant-based proteins for the most part at the Brown Bag, but if you are going to eat meat, make sure it came from a happy, organic cow or chicken who wasn’t pumped full of antibiotics, was sick in it’s sub-par living conditions, or wasn’t pumped full of who knows what just to make it sell fast to the public.
  • Eat Omega 3’s. Salmon, nuts and nut butters are great ways to get them into your routine. Canned wild salmon is by far your best bang for your buck. Buy nuts in bulk and save on the packaging. Then go home and portion them out into small bags for a quick snack in between meals.
  • Drink water. Hey, it’s free and it’s going to benefit you in so many ways.

Following these guidelines will help you feel energized, clear-minded, happier, and will kick those bad cravings to the curb.




Three Frugal Tips to Stretch Your Meat Budget

Meat is an expensive commodity in our home since we only buy the organic variety. Because we only buy it sparingly, I stretch it out to make it last so I only have to buy once a month what most households probably buy for one week.

Here are the top three ways I stretch our meat to last:

  • Eat meatless meals more often. Some people start off with a simple commitment to have “Meatless Mondays” in their homes. This is a great way to start and increase from there to lower your grocery bill by having more plant-based meals. Not to mention the increasing evidence for lowered health risks and decrease in disease that keeps arising surrounding plant-based diets.


  • Only use half of what the recipe calls for. It’s not necessary to have an entire pound of meat for lasagna, burritos, tacos, hamburgers, etc. Substitute half of the meat with beans, lentils, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, rice, quinoa, etc. Not only will you be varying your nutrition, but you’ll be able to save the other half of the meat for another meal while bulking up the amount of food you have for the meat you are using for that particular meal.


  • Buy in bulk. Even though your initial cost will be high up front, it will be cheaper in the long run to buy your meat in bulk, especially when it’s on sale.

For more frugal tips to lower your grocery bill, check out these links:

New Ways to Save on Grocery Shopping

How to Start Menu Planning

Organic Grocery Shopping 101

Picture Credit


DIY Frugal, Non-Toxic Household Cleaners

Making your own concoctions when it comes to cleaning your home has it’s perks.

  • It costs pennies in comparison to buying the chemically-based bottled stuff
  • It’s far less toxic-a great, frugal investment especially for a family like ours with asthma/allergy issues already
  • It’s an easy source of entertainment and education for the kiddos to partake in the cleaning process with no fear and fosters independence as a result

Recipes vary and people come up with different versions of essentially the same thing while playing around with ratios to fit their own needs for their own mess. Here are just a couple of handmade household cleaners we have loved using and always have on hand to get the dirty job done:

All-Purpose Cleaner:

  • Vinegar
  • Filtered water
  • Spray bottle
  • Essential oil (lemon, orange)

I have used a 50/50 ratio for a couple of years now and have been more than happy with the performance.

Window Cleaner:

  • same recipe as All-Purpose Cleaner above

Spray windows and clean with crumpled newspaper for no streaks.

Cutting Board Cleaner:

  • Lemon, halved

Scrub lemon with its juices on board and let stand for 10 minutes and rinse.

Floor Cleaner:

  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1 cup alcohol
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 3 drops blue liquid Dawn
  • Spray bottle

Shower Cleaners:

For weekly upkeep-

  • One grapefruit, halved
  • Kosher salt

Sprinkle kosher salt on top of halved grapefruit and scrub down the walls and/or tub then rinse off with water. This works well for weekly maintenance, Sadie loves hopping in the tub for this one, and it smells downright amazing.

For tougher jobs-

  • 2 drops liquid Dawn
  • 1/4 c. vinegar
  • 1/4 c. filtered water

I like to put this mixture in a dish washing wand that has a sponge on the end and a soap dispenser on the handle so we can keep it in the shower and do a fast scrub down whenever we see it needs cleaning.

Clogged Drain:

  • 1/4 c. baking soda
  • 1/2 c. vinegar

Pour baking soda down drain. Follow with vinegar. Let it sit and get foamy. Pour hot water over drain for a couple minutes. Repeat if necessary.

Color Safe Bleach:

  • 1 1/2 c. of 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/2 c. lemon, juiced
  • Gallon jug

Wash clothes in warm or hot water. To get even brighter results, dry clothes in the sun.

What are your household favorites?







$33 Grocery Challenge Results

I did it! We’re eating for $33 and we’re doing it the clean way! No packaged and processed junk here!

Let me just say that it is HARD shopping with two little ones and keeping that close of an eye on your budget. I literally brought in my $33 in cash and nothing else so I was forcing myself to succeed.

So many times it’s so easy to have the cash in hand that is allocated for grocery spending, go over budget and then just decide to whip out the debit card. Give yourself boundaries and then FEEL GOOD when you stay within them.

It also meant saying no a lot more to Sadie. She is at that age now where she is wanting her favorite snacks or wants a reward for being a good helper in each store. But with $33 I had to look at the bigger picture. I even had to say no to myself! I’m proud of her learning how to deny herself now so that later in life she understands just because you want something or you think you deserve it, doesn’t mean you should or will get it. Our society doesn’t teach that lesson well.

My biggest find today was in a clearance basket at Sprouts where I scored three boxes of TJ’s favorite cereal for .99 cents each.

My biggest “ah-ha” moment was shopping the bulk section. Normally, sale or no sale I buy as much as I will be able to store in my containers at home without much thought because I know I’m already getting rock bottom prices given I’m not paying for packaging. But when you are on that fixed of a budget, you may need to just buy enough for that meal and wait until there is a sale on that particular item to stock up big time.

I literally poured and weighed each bulk item to make sure I was getting enough to pull off each recipe, but paying no more than I needed to in order to stay within my money limit. All while holding my i-phone in one hand with my list, talking Sadie away from the peanut section of the aisle, and stopping Jonah from banging his head for fun on the back of the shopping cart.

It can be done!

Here is everything I bought for a grand total of $32.49 cents:

  • 18 organic eggs
  • 3 pound bag tortilla chips (our diet splurge)
  • .75 pounds of lentils
  • .54 pounds brown rice
  • .75 pounds pinto beans
  • .40 pounds rolled oats
  • 1.25 pounds chicken sausage
  • 1/2 pound apricots
  • 1.5 pounds apples
  • 2 heads lettuce
  • 4 ears of corn
  • 1.5 pounds onions
  • 1 peach (Sadie’s pick)
  • 3 boxes cereal
  • apple crushers (kid snack)
  • half gallon coconut milk
  • can of marinara
  • 2 bananas

To see the $33 Menu Plan, go here and for a couple tips go here and here and check out the “frugal” category on the right hand side.

$33 Grocery Challenge: The Menu Plan

For the full story of what I’m doing and why, go here.

Okay…I’ll be the first to admit that shopping for 4 mouths on $33 for an entire week is no easy feat. It’s intimidating. But people all over the country who are out of work are having to face this very real dilemma with their families everyday. And most are convinced that you have to eat off a dollar menu at a drive-thru. It’s my goal to show you that is not the case.

Even though I have many of the items already on hand as a part of my frugal pantry stock, I’ll be buying every ingredient needed to pull off the recipes, with exception of spices and oils which most people buy on an irregular basis.

Is the plan glamorously Culinary Institute of America caliber? No. 

Is it well rounded? Yes.

I focused on healthy, clean eating, elimination diet friendly dishes we enjoy first and foremost and then narrowed down my menu options to ingredients I can find easily on sale and/or in the bulk aisles. I even accounted for a splurge day where we can BBQ some chicken sausages one night for the 4th of July. Yep…you can still splurge with a limited budget and you should!

Victory or failure, I will be posting my loot with my prices tomorrow so stay tuned!

Here it is:

1. Lentil Tacos & Salad

2. Chicken Sausages & Grilled Corn

3. Bean, Brown Rice & Roasted Veggie Burrito Bowls

4. Quinoa Pasta with Roasted Garlic Marinara & Veg

5. Oatmeal Blender Waffles, Fruit & Scrambled Eggs (for TJ & Sadie)

If you are planning to do this challenge with me, let me know. Or if you’re remotely interested, tell me your thoughts!

$33 Challenge Tip: Weigh In!!!

It’s not very often that you use a scale and actually want it to weigh as much as you can tweak out of it. My Dad has this running joke that he gets on the scale and it reads, “Come back when you’re alone.” The man is totally fit though. He’s just a loud, funny Brooklyn boy.

In all seriousness, I read this somewhere a long while back and it really revolutionized how I shopped for my fruits and veggies.

Weigh your produce. Those shiny, lonely scales equate to your hard earned pennies, people!!!

Just because there is a 5 pound bag of potatoes on sale doesn’t mean that every bag is really 5 pounds. Same thing goes for those clam shells full of those juicy berries. Or even for the bunched up herbs like parsley and cilantro.

Produce in these scenarios can actually vary by as much as a half a pound in my own experience! Half a pound!

I don’t know about you, but I want to make sure I’m getting as much nutrient dense food I can afford into the mouths of my family.

Why get less when you can get more for the price you are already paying?!

So grab a couple bags of onions, potatoes, berries, lemons, etc. and compare some poundage before you plop it in your cart so you know what you’re paying for.

For info on my personal $33 Challenge, read here and join in!

$33 Grocery Challenge Tip: Drink Water

Okay, everyone hold your breath. I’m going to tell you to say no to yourself. That’s right. Deny yourself.

In order to save money at the register, you have to be willing to pick and choose from your wants and your needs.

You may want to buy that bottle of soda, but the reality is that you only need to drink water. With exception of buying Sadie apple juice every couple weeks (we highly dilute it to make it last longer) and rice milk for cereals/protein shakes, or the occasional bottle of wine for letting loose every now and then, this is all you will find in our home. The best part is that it’s either free or extremely inexpensive.

The same rule applies for eating out. When you get food at a restaurant, challenge yourself to only drink water. Many restaurants have soda water so you can still get your fizz kick craving out of the way for free. Add some lemon or orange and now we’re talking major indulgence, right?!

In our own house we invested in 4 3-gallon bottles and found a good, verified water source that changes their filters on a weekly basis for .25 cents a gallon. We refill a jar to keep in the fridge and refill our own bottles or glasses throughout the day.

The great thing about water is that it’s healthy and there are so many creative ways to spruce it up. Check out the five reasons to drink lemon water. Or make yourself some sun tea in this warmer weather. Stick some fruit or herbs in and you’ll be on your way to saving yourself some cash.

Stay tuned for more ideas to only spend $33 on your groceries next week with me!

$33 Grocery Challenge

ImageThis is exactly the type of personal challenge I have been craving to do for a while now. It beautifully blends together a couple of pieces of my personal passions into one cohesive, tangible and practical thing I can do to improve myself and the lives of my family members all at one time. I AM EXCITED!

Rory Freedmanis, co-author of a book called Skinny B**** (sorry for the expletive, but it is an awesome book that got me hooked on thinking about the way I eat) challenged herself to $33 for a week of groceries. To read the entire article, click here.To some, that may seem impossible. I mean, some people pay $33 for a plate of fish at a fancy restaurant without thinking about it.

The catch was, she $33 spent on VEGAN groceries to prove that those on low incomes and on Stamps could in fact buy healthfully for themselves to avoid the high rates of diabetes you find in low income populations.

There is a strong notion that healthy food is more expensive. And while it may be easy to go over a budget buying produce (guilty), if you are smart with how you use your money by shopping sales, buying large volumes of cheaper items and avoid processed and specialty items, it is doable!

You don’t have to be on food stamps and struggling financially to do something like this. Regardless of where you stand financially at this moment, there is always a better way money can be spent (or not spent). Personally, after spending $33 on groceries for the week we will be putting the rest into our Emergency Fund.

So there you have it, I will be putting my frugal shopping know-how, my love of veggie eating, and menu planning to the test next week.

I challenge you to take the week and think about joining me! Take 7 days to think about what you eat and how it affects your body, how you choose to spend your money God has blessed you with, and do something good! Maybe use the leftover money in your grocery budget to give to a ministry, bless a friend…the possibilities are endless.

I’ll be posting frugal tips and my menu plan for next week for the next couple of days!

Recipe: Allergy-Free Energy Balls


These are such an inexpensive, healthy treat I like to keep in the freezer. I recommend doubling the recipe because sadly, they don’t last long with all of us fighting over them! They are perfect for on the go, for a sweet tooth, or for some extra energy to get you through a tough workout.

I love using flax seeds in these energy balls as an easy way for us to get some great Omega-3’s into our diet. They also contain a ton of lingnans that are fiber-like and help your small intestine absorb more nutrients in the food you eat by slowing down digestion before emptying its contents.

What you’ll need:

– 1 cup of oatmeal

– 1/2 cup sun butter (you can use almond or peanut butter if you are luckier than we are and live with no allergies)

– 1/3 cup cocoa powder

– 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened (or sweetened) coconut

– 3/4 cup of whole flax seeds

– 1/3 cup of honey (or blue agave – whatever you have on hand)

– 2 teaspoons of vanilla

– handful or two of dried cranberries or cherries

Mix well in a med/large bowl, then let chill in fridge for a half hour.  Lightly coat your hands with cooking spray then roll into little balls.  Store them in the fridge in an airtight container, or freeze like we love to do. Makes about 25-30 small-ish balls.