July – 2011 – Frugal Novice
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July 2011

Menu Plan Monday August 1-6

Menu Plan Monday

Right now there are piles of laundry around me and a batch of cupcakes waiting to be frosted for my friend’s birthday tomorrow. Despite a frenzy of cleaning this weekend we’re still getting everything finished up. But that’s alright, because we got to fit in a lot of fun this weekend. And fun always trumps housework, in my opinion. :)

We got together with friends Friday night for games, and miraculously were actually able to get all 5 kids asleep (eventually) and play two games – Fluxx & Guillotine. Both really fun, despite the premise of the second one! Saturday was cleaning day, but we fit in breaks to watch some Cat in the Hat (one of my favorite PBS shows right now, btw) and play. I also got to go see a movie with some friends, which is a fairly rare treat! Today after church we went over to friends’ for make-your-own pizzas and the kids all got in some good play time. We’ve learned an effect of the boys having girls as some of their best friends – they end up running around in the girls’ dress up clothes! I’ll spare them from posting photos (saving them for future girlfriends though, of course) but it was pretty cute!

Before I get on to our meal plan for the week, I want to tell you more about what I alluded to in last week’s Menu Plan Monday – something that will affect our meals. This week, I’m getting to start the Freshology GetSlim Gold plan. This is a nationally distributed fresh meal delivery program designed for weight loss, where meals are delivered twice a week in a temperature controlled cooler with insulated material. This keeps meals at the highest standards of safety and quality despite being sent long distances. Meals are color-coded to allow users to plan daily menus for maximum health and efficiency.

I’ll follow the GetSlim Gold plan for 28 days, then will do the GetSlim Silver plan for the next 28 days. GetSlim Silver is the first-ever nationally distributed flash-frozen meal delivery program designed for weight loss. Once a week, a cooler arrives via FedEx containing a week’s worth of freshly prepared and flash-frozen gourmet meals. If you recall, I’ve gotten to sample some of the GetSlim meals once before and really loved them!

So, I’m obviously incredibly excited about this opportunity. I turn 30 at the end of September, so these two months are the perfect timing to work toward a healthier lifestyle. All of my meals each day will be from Freshology, so we’re going to curb almost all eating out – and anytime we do go out, I’ll just be there for the company, sticking completely to eating what they provide and drinking only water. I’ll be blogging each day to share what I’ve eaten and how my journey is going, and once a week I’ll post a video update to recap my progress. I can’t wait to get started, and I hope you’ll stick with me through the next couple of months to follow along.

Now, on to food. Obviously I’ll still be planning meals for Brian and the boys to eat, so that’s what I’ll be sharing in my Menu Plan Monday posts each week.

Monday: I don’t start the program until the 3rd (Wednesday), so this is my last hurrah of eating out. I mentioned that my friend’s birthday is tomorrow; we’re going out for Mexican food to celebrate. I am going to stick with chicken fajitas and bypass my favorite – sour cream chicken enchiladas!

Tuesday: Grilled lime chicken, black beans, and rice with grilled onions.

Wednesday: The boys will be eating breakfast for dinner – turkey sausage links, eggs and biscuits, along with fruit.

Thursday: J’s birthday party! (I’ll be writing more about that later this week) We’re ordering pizza for the big occasion.

Friday & Saturday: Honestly, I don’t have a clue what we’ll do for these two days – the birthday party is our big focus this week!

Don’t forget, if you’re looking for some great grilling recipes, pop over to Weber’s site for their Recipe of the Week! This week’s recipe is Chiles Rellenos with Tomato Salsa and Guacamole. It sounds SO good, doesn’t it?

That’s all for now – be sure and check back later this week for my start to the Freshology program, and some fun posts about J’s upcoming party! Have a great week, everyone!

Crunch Chicken Crescents Recipe – A Family Favorite!

I grew up loving Stove Top Stuffing. We had it with our Thanksgiving dinners, so I’ve loved it not only for the flavors but for the memories that go along with eating it. Now Stove Top has Everyday Stuffing Mix, available in a convenient, re-sealable canister – and in two great flavors: Chicken, & Homestyle Herb. This is great for families like ours, because we don’t always necessarily need to use a whole box’s contents. Being able to pour out just what we need helps us be more efficient and always have the stuffing on hand when we need it.

When we got the chance to review Stove Top Everyday Stuffing, I knew I wanted to use it in one of our very favorite recipes – Crunchy Chicken Crescents. We make it occasionally to have at home for a treat, and I especially love to make these to bring to parties. They’re always a hit! If you’ve read my blog for a while, you’ve seen this before!  In case you haven’t, I’ll share the recipe below, or you can walk through it with me in this video:

Crunchy Chicken Crescents

Ingredients:

  • Stove Top Everyday Stuffing
  • Two tubs of cream cheese with chives & onions
  •  Two cans of white chicken meat, drained
  • Two tubes of Pillsbury Crescent Roll dough
  • 2 tbsp. Butter, softened
  • 3 tbsp. Butter, melted

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, mix the cream cheese, chicken, and 2 tablespoons of softened butter.
  2. Separate the crescent roll dough into the eight triangles. Take one triangle and put 1-2 tablespoons of the cream cheese mixture in the center (I always eyeball it).
  3. Fold the edges of the dough up and press the seams so it is sealed well. There is no “right” way to do this – just make sure it’s sealed up well and you’re good to go! Fill and seal all of the the crescents (even though they’re not really crescents at this point… we still call them that anyway – just go with me, here).
  4. Pour some Stove Top Everyday Stuffing  into a separate shallow bowl. Dip each crescent into the butter, and then press it into the stuffing, coating on well on all sides.
  5. Place all 16 crescents on a cookie sheet (sprayed with cooking spray if you’d like, to help prevent sticking) and bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until the crescent roll dough looks golden brown. Enjoy!

Be sure and “Like” Stove Top on Facebook to find special offers and great recipe ideas!

Note: I received Stove Top Everyday Stuffing and other items, including the Flip Camera used in this video, to facilitate the review. I was not compensated monetarily for this post. All opinions are honest and my own.

 

Backyard Safari Review – An Adventure Awaits (Indoors or Out)!

Those that know me well, or probably even a little bit, know I’m not much of an outdoorsy kind of girl. I know with having two boys I’m probably destined to become one, but living in Texas with triple-digit weather doesn’t help for now.

The boys love to play outside already, and in the spring and fall it’s easy to head to the park or spend time in the backyard. Right now, though, it stays in the 90’s until late in the evening (case in point: it’s after 10pm here and it’s 92). That means we’re getting a lot more indoor play time, and sometimes it gets hard to stay creative. That’s where Backyard Safari Outfitters comes in to play.

Backyard Safari Outfitters provides a line of gear for kids to explore nature with – their site says, Backyard Safari Outfitters has everything you need to get you geared up for plenty of fun outdoor adventures! Our gear is rugged, fully functional and made for use in the field year-round. Whether your safari takes place in the park, at the campground, on the beach or even your own backyard, you’ll be geared up and ready for action!”

We recently got the chance to review some of the BSO line – a base camp shelter, camouflage netting, a lantern, two bug vacuums (one with a laser light), a cargo vest, and a hiking stick. Seriously, a fun batch of gear! J was SO excited watching me open the package that he was literally jumping up and down as I pulled each item out.

Since it’s so hot out right now, we set the boys up with an indoor camp site and they had an absolute blast. The shelter in itself is really great. It’s almost like a tent, but is open in the front with a little bit of an extended canopy overhead. It’s sturdy and efficient, with hooks to hang a lantern from, pockets to store other gear in, and a mesh screen to see what’s behind you.

As you can see, the boys were also quite enamored with the bug vacuums. These are great – there’s a clear chamber with a magnifying piece on one end, so once you capture a specimen you can examine it.

You apparently need to take aim with an invisible scope when you’re off collecting bugs, as J demonstrates below:

I love that the vacuums are a fun and educational piece of equipment. They encourage kids to not just be out in nature but to interact with it and learn about it – how great is that?

You can see in the last two photos above that J is wearing his cargo vest. It’s chock full of pockets and hooks so you can store everything you need right there with you, including field guides that come with each product. Items also come with iron-on patches, letting kids earn achievements and be rewarded.

The lantern was a HUGE hit with the boys – probably one of their favorite things. They liked hanging it from the base camp ceiling but also really enjoyed carrying it around the house, using it to go exploring under the couch, and having it in their room at bedtime while they “camped.”

We also received camouflage netting to throw over the front of the base camp, but at this age the boys really liked having the openness of the base camp as it was. I know as they get older they’ll really enjoy having that to add another element to their adventures.

The hiking stick was a hit too, but more in the sense of, “Wow, this is a cool hiking stick… Oh, whoops, I swung this around and hit my little brother in the head with it! Whoops, I knocked the laundry off the dining table!” In all seriousness this stick is incredibly well-made and solid. The carved head brings a cool factor to it and I know the boys will love having this as they get older. And taller.

I seriously can’t gush enough about the Backyard Safari Outfitters products. They’re items that your children can truly use out in nature, but they’re also perfect for imagining an adventure right in your own living room. They’re things that will be used for years, that your kids can grow with. I love the potential for the gear to foster curiosity and imagination, and I’m so glad we got the chance to experience the gear for ourselves.

You can find the Backyard Safari Outfitters products online at Amazon or at the Summit online store. You can also find them at Toys R Us, Walmart, Barnes and Noble and Target. Follow BSO on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with any new gear that’s released!

Note: I received information and products that from Summit Toys in conjunction with my membership in Team Mom.  I was not compensated monetarily. Any opinions are honest and are those of myself and my family.

Friendly Friday – July 29

Welcome to Friendly Friday! Please note – Friendly Friday begins at 8pm Central Thursday nights. This will give you early-to-bed people time to enter too!

Remember, YOU can host the link list on your blog, too! Just get the InLinkz code and copy it directly into your post. The code is different every week, so be sure to get the new code when hosting Friendly Friday on your blog. Hosting the list is a great way to get even more traffic to your blog and make Friendly Friday more beneficial for everyone.

Thanks for joining the Friendly Friday celebration hosted by Christi at Frugal Novice, Xenia at Thanks, Mail Carrier and Charla at Healthy Home Blog! We invite you to join us every Friday to make more friends in blogville, get more blog followers and follow other great blogs out there.

To join in the Friendly Friday celebration, include your family-friendly link in our list, follow the hostesses in the first 3 spots and then start blog hopping! Visit other blogs on the list and comment to give them some blog love. Then take a minute to follow them through Google Friend Connect – this is a good way to keep up with other blogs, but also lets us show support to each other! Please DO NOT list your giveaways here, links must be to either your homepage or your Friday posting with your blog title. All others will be deleted.

When people comment on your blog and let you know they’re a part of Friendly Friday, return the favor and follow them back. This way everyone gets traffic and followers out of participating, and it’s a win-win situation. We would love for you to also grab our Friendly Friday button and post it on your blog and/or in a post – the more bloggers that find out about Friendly Friday and participate, the better!

Spotlight on Friendly Friday Followers! We love your participation and want to show it! In addition to gaining followers, each week we’ll select one blog at random and will feature links and a write-up for that blog in the content of next week’s Friendly Friday post. There are so many seriously wonderful blogs out there, and this will be a great way to highlight one of those each week. Say hello to the lucky chosen blog & blogger for this week (and feel free to stop by and give her a little extra love):

Ang, the blogger at Sparkles & Bugs, jumps out at you right away as an energetic and fun person. She is a wife and mom to four kiddos, and she likes to blog about a variety of things she loves, including:

  • Exercise & Fitness
  • Food
  • Crafts, DIY & Cute Stuff
  • Great Finds, Great Ideas & Great Deals
  • Organization
  • Homemaking
  • Mommyhood

Every Friday she does an event called Fitness Friday, where readers can follow along with her fitness journey and get motivated to continue on theirs! And trust us, this mom of four does not look like a mom of four – she has been working diligently to get back to her pre-baby weight. On other days you’ll find crafts that you can try yourself, like her friendship bracelets using – get this – girls’ tights! What a great way to reuse something and turn it into something fun. She posts recipes as well, so her blog is really a mix of resources for readers!

Now that you know about this wonderful blog, it’s time for you to join in! Add your family-friendly link below and we’ll see you back here every Friday! And don’t forget, you can get the InLinkz code to share Friendly Friday on your blog!

All three hostesses appreciate followers through GFC and Twitter, and we’ll follow you back – be sure to leave a comment with your URL and/or Twitter username. Hope everyone has a great weekend! Don’t forget – Friendly Friday now begins at 8pm Central on Thursday nights!



Six-Ingredient Pesto Chicken Pasta Salad Recipe – Quick & Delicious

My work is having a potluck lunch today and I needed something quick and delicious to bring, so I relied on my tried and true, super-fast pasta salad. This is SO good and no one will ever know it only took you about 10 minutes to make!

Saute a can of drained (white breast meat) chicken with some fresh basil and a little salt.

I keep this tube of fresh basil on hand – it is by far my favorite ingredient “find” since basil leaves go bad so quickly!

Cook up your choice of pasta – I went with a tri-colored rotini:

Then add a jar of pesto & 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts.

Mix together, and voila! Pasta salad. Right before serving, I crumble feta cheese over the top of it. It makes for a really pretty presentation, and the saltiness of the cheese is just perfect with the other flavors.

Enjoy! Here’s a pic of my finished salad, pre-feta.

Please Vote!

Today is the last day for voting in the Better Homes and Gardens State Cookie Contest! I’m currently in fifth place with my Mississippi Mud cookie recipe.

All top five recipes win a prize, so I really want to hang on to top 5. Please take a minute to go vote, and then pop over to my blog post about the cookies and get the recipe to try these yourself. They’re a sure crowd pleaser!

Thank you guys! I really appreciate everyone who has voted for me over the course of this contest!

Weight Watchers Fresh Meals Review

I’m sure many of you have seen the Weight Watchers Smart Ones meals in the frozen section of your grocery store. Well, now you don’t have to just rely on their frozen meals, because they’ve recently introduced their line of Fresh Meals – refrigerated foods that you can quickly heat and eat. In the case of the pasta salads and a few other options, you can just eat them as they come.

My good friend Amanda (pictured above) and I got the opportunity to try several of the Weight Watchers Fresh Meals. We each got sent the same meals, which were:

  • Three Cheese Ravioli
  • Macaroni Salad
  • Potato Salad
  • Chicken Salad
  • Baked Ziti
  • Roast Chicken with Stuffing
  • Three Cheese Macaroni
  • Mediterranean Style Chicken

I’ll share Amanda’s comments with you first, and then my thoughts.

Amanda:

Hello to everyone out there in blog-land! My name is Amanda and I’m very excited to be participating in my first guest post on the Frugal Novice blog! I have known Christi for many years and gladly said yes when she asked if I wanted to join her in this review for the new Weight Watchers Points Plus meals. I have participated in the Weight Watchers program before, and I found it to be a great resource for watching out for portion control, which really has to be the key to any great weight loss program. Here I’ll highlight four of the meals I received.

I received my meals at my home, and my first surprise was that none of meals were frozen dinners! In the past when I’ve purchased pre-packaged meals that follow the points system, they were always frozen dishes. Each of these meals however needed only to be refrigerated, and the only reason I point this out is that I think it’s actually a better way to buy. Knowing that these meals had a limited shelf-life motivated me to stick with eating these, rather than being tempted to eat something else in the house. Frozen meals can last forever and be forgotten, but these meals were front and center each day when I made my choice as to what to eat for lunch or dinner.

One of the meals that really stood out to me was the Three Cheese Ravioli. I’m a sucker for Italian food anyway, so I knew beforehand that I would either love or hate this meal. The meal is only 6 points, has 230 calories, 12 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber. Let me just say it was delicious! The first thing I noticed was the texture – with a lot of frozen ravioli meals I’ve had in the past, the texture was always weird (though I suppose it’s weird that I noticed things like texture in the first place) – the Weight Watchers Three Cheese Ravioli had a consistency much like that of ravioli I’ve had in great Italian restaurants! At the same time, this meal had a great light taste that didn’t leave me feeling too full or bloated after I was done. And of course, it’s a Weight Watchers meal, so the portion size was perfect and it was only 6 points!

Next has to be the Weight Watchers Macaroni Salad. In fact all the other meals in my review were the salads that were sent, because they were amazing! I enjoyed the Macaroni Salad as a full meal. The salad has only 190 calories and 5 grams of protein per serving. Since the container comes with 2 servings inside, you’ll need to double those numbers if you eat the whole thing as a meal like I did. One serving is 5 points, which means the entire container was 10 points. That may seem high to some people but believe me the taste was so worth it! The macaroni was well cooked, not too mushy at all, and the seasoning was great. I shared some of the meal with a couple of co-workers who are on the Weight Watchers plan, and they loved it as well.

Next up is the Weight Watchers Potato Salad. I’m always fickle about potato salad – I either seem to love it or hate it depending on how it’s made, so I was a little wary about trying a pre-packaged potato salad. Let me just say that I can’t wait for this product to come to my grocery store, it was delicious! Once again, I have to comment on the texture – it was light, the dressing wasn’t overpowering at all, and it wasn’t slimy like some store-bought salads can tend to be. The flavor was great, as I mentioned the dressing was in a good proportion to the potatoes, and it had a nice dill flavor. And definitely a great alternative if you know you’ll be attending a summer cook out and want to avoid the high calorie alternatives! The Weight Watchers Potato Salad has only 130 calories and 3 grams of protein per serving (again 2 servings in the container), and at only 3 points per serving, you can get away with eating the whole container like I did for 6 points!

Saving the best for last, or at least my personal favorite, is the Weight Watchers Chicken Salad. The entire description on the box says it best “Diced White Meat Chicken with Cranberries, Celery, and Onion with a Seasoned Light Mayonnaise.” If that doesn’t give you an idea of the great flavor in this salad, please let me vouch. Once again the taste and texture were great – the dressing was not overpowering at all, and there wasn’t too much so the salad tasted very fresh. I loved all the different flavors, especially the cranberry, so this salad was anything but bland. I threw a little cracked pepper on top and dug right in!

All in all there wasn’t one meal in the test samples that were sent my way that I did not enjoy – each of the meals were well balanced and left me feeling perfectly satisfied. But I have to say that obviously the salads were my stand out favorites – I felt like I had so many more choices with those beyond the regular boxed meal, and I thoroughly enjoyed each one. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for these at my local grocery store!

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Christi:

I too had tried Weight Watchers before, following the point system but typically cooking my own food. I tried some of the frozen Smart Ones meals but didn’t find many options that fit with my somewhat picky tastes. I was excited to try the refrigerated meals to see how they compared and if they’d fit more into my food needs in general.

My favorite meal was the three cheese ravioli. I felt like there was a lot of good flavor in this dish, and the cheese was still a great texture while not being high in calories or fat. The pasta heated well and there was plenty of sauce, so the flavors were really nice.

The cold meals, i.e. the salads, were a nice difference from having heated dishes. I liked the chicken salad a lot – the flavors were bright and fresh, and the texture of the celery and onions was nice with the chicken. The pop of tart cranberry was great – I’ve generally only had chicken salads with apple or grapes, and this almost combined the best of both worlds.

The macaroni salad was good and flavorful, but I felt like it would have used up a lot of points if I had eaten the entire container (10 points, when my daily allotment was 23 points), and even then I would have still been hungry for something else to accompany it.

All in all, the quality of the meals was good and the flavors were great. I liked these much better than the frozen counterparts. My only concern is that these are just entrees, so sometimes using up points with one of the meals might mean that you’re still hungry afterward and left to be creative with a minimal amount of points left over. That said, I think these would be a great way to supplement your Weight Watchers plan – especially when you’re busy and on-the-go.

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Final Notes:

Between the two of us, I think Amanda liked the meals overall a little bit more than I did. I would rate them a 7 out of 10, and Amanda said she would rate them an 8 out of 10. They provide convenience which can be crucial for weight loss success, and you get a fresher feel than you do with their frozen meals. It would be very easy to grab one of these from the fridge in the morning and have it with you for lunch at work, saving you from giving in to the temptation of the vending machine or going out to eat somewhere.

You can see below the variety of meals offered from Weight Watchers, which are offered at stores nationwide:

Note: Amanda and I each received meals to facilitate the review. We were not compensated monetarily. All opinions are honest and are our own.

Rubbermaid Giveaway!

Remember those great Rubbermaid glass containers I wrote about yesterday? Well, I completely forgot the best part – one of YOU gets the chance to win a set of your very own!

Be sure and check out yesterday’s post to find out more about the containers and see photos of them in action. Now, on to the details for the giveaway:

One lucky reader will win an 8-piece set of the Rubbermaid Glass Containers with Easy Find Lids! This contest is open to all U.S. residents. Entries will be accepted until the end of the day (midnight CST) Tuesday, August 9.

Mandatory Entry: Visit the FAQ page for the containers on the Rubbermaid site and comment on this post telling me one fact you learned from the page.

(Only valid after the required entry has been completed)

Please leave a comment for each extra entry – if you blog about this giveaway and get 2 entries, for example, comment 2 times.

Rubbermaid Glass Containers Review

I have been a big fan of Rubbermaid products for a long time. As someone who really likes organization, this company is just right up my alley! In our house we’ve moved from using plastics for food storage as much, so I was really excited to learn that they now have a line of glass food containers with stackable, easy-to-find lids.

These are GREAT containers. I seriously love them! They’re a nice rounded square shape, really attractive to use for serving bowls as well. They stack neatly and the lids nest right underneath, making them great for storage when not in use too.

  

We put ours to use recently when we grilled out fajitas with some friends. The large container was perfect to hold salsa:

We grilled up some pineapple and used another container for that, and then used a smaller container for avocado. It looked great, and it was SO easy to just pop the lids on and put leftovers in the fridge.

Yes, this next photo was taken this summer and not last Halloween. Buzz Lightyear came to visit us for fajita night, that’s all!

The containers are great for reheating in the microwave, too. I’d 100% recommend buying the Rubbermaid glass food storage containers – and will likely be buying more for us soon! You can buy these online or at your local discount store.

Note: We received a set of the Rubbermaid glass food storage containers to facilitate the review. All opinions are honest and my own.

Menu Plan Monday – July 25-30

Menu Plan Monday

Hola! I should totally be asleep right now. I have to be up in 7 hours to get on the road for a work-related trip and will be in meetings all day. Being well-rested would probably be a good thing, right? Oh, who am I kidding? I haven’t been well-rested in forever. Why start now? :)

We had a busy weekend, but it was a lot of fun. My brother came out to visit us his girlfriend and we got to hang out with him some too since he stayed with us. He’s 10 years younger than me but now that he’s almost 20 and I’m almost 30 the gap has closed and we get along really well.

Saturday morning Brian, the boys and I took a mini-road trip to Midlothian, which is south of Dallas, for an air show. The purpose for being there was blogging-related, but we figured we’d make the most of it while we were there.

I won’t lie – although we had fun, it was miserable in the heat. It was hovering around 102 without the heat index being factored in. Thankfully we had an umbrella in the car to help block out the sun, and some snow cones helped us get through with minimal whining from any of us.

The boys thought it was a blast being up close to helicopters and airplanes. C was too nervous to get in anything, but he loved standing by this propeller and poking it.

J got to get up in the cockpit of a vintage plane with Brian, and they were both grinning from ear to ear. He also got to sit in another small plane and in a helicopter. That made for one happy boy! You can see how red his cheeks are from being hot, though:

All in all, a good weekend! Now, on to food for the week… I have something really great coming up for the blog that is going to affect food for a while (don’t you love my ambiguity? I’ll share more about it soon – I’m really excited about it!), so this week we’re going to be eating out a couple of times and I’m going to pick a few favorite meals for when we’re eating at home.

Monday: I’ll be on the road all day, so Brian and the boys are on their own for dinner. They have cash to go to Wendy’s, because they love eating there and I don’t!

Tuesday: Chick Fil A – we won’t be eating out much for the next couple of months (there I go being cryptic again!) so we’re going to go take advantage of the free kids’ meals AND a coupon I have for a free Chick Fil A sandwich.

Wednesday: Chicken tenders with green beans and homemade mashed potatoes (if you’re in a pinch, just use the frozen steam n’ mash potatoes for a head start)

Thursday: Grilled chicken with lime juice over black beans and rice with avocados

Friday: We’re going to eat at a local pizza buffet place (not Cici’s!) because kids 3 and under are free and we have a coupon for one free buffet.

Saturday: Breakfast for dinner – turkey bacon, eggs, hash browns and fruit

Don’t forget to check out Weber’s Recipe of the Week – Miso-marinated flatiron steaks with shiitake mushrooms. An Asian twist on a summer classic!

T.J. Maxx & Marshalls: Shopping Tips & Review

I’ve always been one that likes the thrill of the hunt while shopping (maybe ’cause this is as close to hunting as I ever want to be?) – especially when I’m looking for a good deal. Growing up, I always knew that T.J. Maxx and Marshalls were two stores that I could go to and find a bargain. Off-price retailers like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls provide a value of 20-60 percent savings on designer brands that are on-trend and in-season. Shopping at off-price retailers is perfect for passionate people who love the excitement of the hunt & of knowing that you got it for a great price. In fact, each store receives up to 10,000 new items each week!

I’ve got some fun tips from T.J. Maxx & Marshalls to help you with your shopping this summer:

In a recent Facebook survey, they learned that more than 800 out of nearly 2,000 consumers voted footwear (sandals with hot pink toenails, specifically) as their favorite summer fashion accessory. This summer’s footwear trends are as hot as the weather, and T.J.Maxx and Marshalls have all the top styles from your favorite designers – at amazing values. And don’t forget to complete your look with accessories from head to toe! Below you’ll find our best tips for polishing your summer look with all the finishing touches.

Step It Up

  • Whether you’re headed to the neighborhood pool party or a fancy nighttime soiree, this season you’ll find footwear in a number colors and prints that will fit in at any summer scene. Look for colorful palettes featuring corals, tribal prints and floral details. The really daring can take a walk
    on the wild side with animal and snakeskin prints. Espadrilles, flip-flops and ballet flats continue to be a summer staple and always look great paired
    with an maxi dress or sundress.
  • For those who spend time on the water (or like to pretend they do!), boat shoes in all colors – from neutrals to vibrant brights and metallics – make a bold statement whether you’re setting sail or staying put.
  • Cork continues to make a pop beyond your favorite bottle of wine – think cork flats and wedges to
    mix and match with any style.

Accessories: One Size Fits ALL

  • From head-to-toe, get decked-out in big, bold bangles in combinations of different materials like wood, metal and plastic. Try them in bright colors or in animal prints, which work for any summertime occasion.
  • Tribal earrings, necklaces with beading, and skinny belts with geometric closures add exotic influences to summer excursions.
  • Keep the sun out of your eyes (and look good doing it) with 70s-inspired sunglasses. From aviators to oversize lenses, these looks are sizzlin’ hot in both bright-colored and tortoise shell frames.
  • Make a splash with handbags in a variety of looks and fabrics including leather or vinyl with laser cuts, printed or solid fabric, nylon and straw materials. When you need to leave the bulk behind and focus on the essentials, pick up a clutch which works for either day or night.

Explore the aisles often! Each T.J.Maxx and Marshalls store receives up to 10,000 new items each week – that’s a lot of potential shoes and accessories to find! Plus, with more than 1,700 stores combined and thousands of vendors in over 60 countries, T.J.Maxx and Marshalls are able to take advantage of their buying power and offer customers the same designer looks that specialty retailers have right now at up to 60 percent less.

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I got to experience T.J. Maxx’s bargains on a recent trip to Austin. With a gift card in hand for my review, I was determined to find a great deal on something I loved… and I definitely succeeded!

Before settling in on figuring out what to get, I walked around the store a little bit to get a feel for what all they had in stock at the time.

Bags and towels perfect for hitting up the beach:

Laptop bags to add some flair to your workplace look:

Pretty, feminine clothes you could wear to work, out to lunch with friends, on a date or just out and about:

Fun sandals to show off your pedicure:

And all at reduced prices! I eventually worked my way over to the jewelry counter and noticed some watches (I tend to gravitate toward watches like some women do toward purses. Partially because I always forget to replace watch batteries – whoops). I particularly noticed several Skagen watches, which is a brand from Denmark that is pretty pricey. I  found a great deal on a watch I really like that I can wear with pretty much anything!

Check out the price – originally priced at $85, and it was selling at T.J. Maxx for$49.99.

But wait.

It was an additional $10 off, making it only $39.00. When I got home I did some researching online and this is by far the lowest price on the watch I could find. I’m really excited about my find!

If you’ve got a T.J. Maxx or Marshalls near you, you ought to stop by and see what’s inside – you never know what you’ll find! Here are some tips they shared with me for shopping their stores:

1. Look carefully at the “compare at” value on the price tags. What constitutes a bargain? It’s the mix of the right fashion, a respected brand name, high quality, and a great price.

2. Shop often. Marshalls and T.J. Maxx receive more than 10,000 new items each week.

3. Get to know your store’s layout. Everyone has their favorite section, whether it’s the jewelry counter or Marshalls Shoe MegaShop.

4. Befriend your store manager. Get to know your store manager and they’ll be able to give you the inside scoop on when new shipments arrive so you can grab your favorite brands as soon as they hit the floor.

5. Where to start: Try shopping the displays at the front of the store before easing into the racks. Merchandise in this area is organized by style and designer on four-sided clothing racks.

6. Look for purple tags. Found on all types of clothing and accessories, these tags indicate a piece of elite designer merchandise normally found at upscale department stores.

7. Scan the single queue. Don’t forget to look for last-minute gifts in the checkout line. The “single queue” checkout line is often full of unique items that can make great gifts!

8. Don’t pass up a really good bargain. Our stores receive limited quantities of each item, so merchandise can sell out very quickly. If you change your mind, the stores have very liberal return policies.

What’s the best find you’ve gotten at Marshalls or T.J. Maxx?

Note: I received a gift card to T.J. Maxx to facilitate my review, along with tips to share. All opinions in this post are honest and are my own.

Bridging the Distance

I’m sure there are a lot of families like ours out there – we’re spread all over the place. We’re so thankful for technology that allows us to keep in touch with them. We can share photos with them, and can even email big files like video for family to view and save.

Technology is also a life saver in the workplace. The place I work has multiple locations around the state of Texas, so it’s really helpful to be able to send large files. Programs like Adobe SendNow are really amazing with their abilities to share content across thousands of miles!

What’s your most-used software for sharing content with long distance friends, family, or coworkers?

Note: http://cmp.ly/3