Category Archives: Family & Relationships

Earth Day: Camping is Fun

Happy Earth Day 2010!

Earth Day started as a grassroots movement in 60’s (yes, the hippie era) to bring awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s environment; it was brought about as an effort to protect the environment.

But to me, Earth Day earmarks the beginning of camping season. I LOVE camping! I think it is the smell of crackling wood fire in the morning, the waft of fresh coffee from mug, the crisp chill and dew of the morning, the complete and utter silence held my nature as the sun is coming up. Well, those are some of the things I enjoy about camping. 🙂

What are your favorite things about camping?

Camping is a fun and exciting experience. But unexpected things may happen; therefore, it is better to be ready at all times. Equip yourself with camping gears and essentials to make your camping experience worth remembering.

Camping gears include the vital things used when camping like tents, sleeping bags, lights, and spare parts. Camping essentials refer to the supplies needed to sustain us during our stay namely the foods, drinks, toiletries, and more. Some of the basic things for camping are listed below.

Camping gear and equipment


It would be a big mistake if you will forget one of the most important things used when camping, the tent. You may survive by not bring a pillow or a blanket but, not without a tent that gives you shelter during the night. Make sure it is weatherproof and heavy-duty that can withstand any weather condition. [Here is one we just bought at Costco…]

Sleeping bags

Another important thing to bring is the sleeping bag, which comes in various thickness and size. This can give you both warmth and protection against creeping creatures while sleeping. Plus, the extra blankets and pillows. Hey, we family camp in comfort!

Sleeping pads and air mattress

Some people can’t sleep under uncomfortable conditions like in the presence of bumps or holes. It might be a wise idea to include an air mattress or a sleeping pad to ensure an undisturbed sleep. [The cheap twin size air mattress, found at Kmart, also makes a great floating device for the Kern River].


As a camper, it is important to bring several sources of light like flashlights, lamp and match. This will give you a little brightness while waiting for sunrise. [Tip: bring a propane lamp, because the fluorescent battery operated lamp puts off such an annoying light!]

First aid kit

A survival kit should always be part of the camping adventures. Freak accidents happen anytime and anywhere without a warning. Make sure you are equipped with first aid essentials such as Band-Aid, sterile gauze, betadine, alcohol and the like. [If you already keep a first aid kit in your car or camping supplies, make sure to update/replenish supplies annually. Old band aids just won’t aid in wound care.]

Tools and spares

It would be nice to be ready for anything. Bring tools for repair in case your lamps become busted or a sewing kit when tents are torn. [A sewing kit is awesome to have on hand when you get those nasty splinters from hiking or handling the firewood!]

Portable stove and cooking utensils

Two-burner camping stoves are pretty easier to operate with a matchless lighting system. Just be sure to bring a couple extra cans of propane along. Find a good quality stove is made of a highly durable and long lasting material designed not to rust and extremely easy to clean.

Don’t forget the percolator. Which is essential if you plan on having that great cup of coffee in the morning.

Aside form camping gear and equipment, camping supplies are very much necessary to keep you on the go. These are foods, drinks, toiletries and miscellaneous items needed for your stay, which are also called camping essentials.

[Other items we have on hand: biodegradable cleaning soap, foil, lighter, paper towels, plastic bags (for trash), eating utensils, can opener, bbq utensils, steak knives, skewers for smores & hot dogs, mugs, cups (Amazon carries a great enamel dinnerware set for cheap – bought a set for my husband’s Christmas present, last year)]

Personal hygiene and grooming

Everything pertaining to hygiene like biodegradable soap & shampoo, deodorant, toilet paper and toothbrush & toothpaste should be packed ahead. Not to mention the basic skin care essentials such as cleanser, toner, moisturizer, and sunscreen. Do not forget any vital piece because this might spoil the rest of your camping experience. [Tip: Don’t forget to bring the toilet paper!]

Food and drinks

Keep foods simple and easy to pack using ziplock bags. Instant and finger foods are perfect for this type of outing since there is limited water supply. Avoid food that entails a lot of preparation because this will just consume most of your time. Stay hydrated especially when under the heat of the sun to prevent dehydration. [Here is a BIG list of Campfire Cooking Recipes – I usually cook via the foil wrap method. Don’t forget the drinking water, please! Stay hydrated.]


Mobile phone, batteries, camera, map and compass are just some of the miscellaneous things that should not be forgotten. Whatever might happen during the camping due to elements beyond our control, you can never go wrong with the help of this miscellaneous stuff.

When planning for a camping escapade, be sure to pack everything that you need for your stay. However, remember to bring only the light stuff since you will be doing lots of carrying all the way until you get to the camping site. Plan ahead and make a checklist to ensure everything has been packed. [I think we pack our whole house when we go camping!]


It might sound like a lot of gear and it may be (I know we harbor a lot of gear in our garage!). Plan ahead is key. My friends and I usually will buy a piece of gear each month. During the winter, look in the clearance aisle in the sporting goods section. Usually one can find awesome deals on the tents (I picked up a $160 tent for $30 this way via Target).

When it comes to cooking, take a look at bringing canned goods like baby potatoes, stews, and vegetables. Harder fruits like apples and oranges. Don’t forget to make the Banana Boats during campfire time! Kids LOVE them (so do I)!

And as for an Earth Day, please remember to pick up all trash and keep your campgrounds clean (it’ll keep the bears away, too!) 😉

You might also like: 10 Cheap Camping Tips

Menu Plan Monday: Personal Pantry Challenge

As we get ready for out trip, it is my intention to use up what’s in our cupboards and fridge. There by saving money and using stuff up before it goes bad.

Saving money means more money towards spending on our trip. My last two weeks have been living pretty frugal. And I am okay with that.

This week’s meal planning, I thought it would be frugal to combine a few items from the grocery store to go with the food already in the cupboard. Let’s see how this goes (pen and paper on the kitchen table. Let’s see what I can scribble down).

(C) Cupboard
(F) Fridge/Freezer
(S) Store

(C)(F) = 9
(S) = 5 (panko tofu & vegan sour cream are from same package)

Not bad. With more practice I will get better. As you can see, most of what I need to shop for is produce. With that, I will only buy what is needed. And most of what already have stocked is produce that needs to be used up before it goes bad.

Vegan Lifestyle

I know this is a financial blog and I am rambling raw-vegan. But I am stoked! It’s been great! I have been listening to my body and what it desires to eat. I have been whipping up smoothies and eating salads like crazy! Those salads… I have been craving. Weird! But totally delish! And my body has been quenching up the thirst with water or tea. Last night I was offered a beer and I turned it down. Like my body doesn’t even desire or want it. Tried a soda the other day and it was the sweetest un-tastiest thing I’ve had. Out to dinner and it was a baked potato and salad for me. Or I’ve had soup and salad for lunch during work. Snacks: I mix my own trail mix with cranberries, nuts, and pretzels or eat an apple. I crave yummy goodness now. I love it!

I’ve also been listening to my body when it tells me its full. And my portions are rather small now. But I also eat 6 mini meals/snacks throughout the day to keep me nourished. I haven’t lost anymore weight, but I have maintained it well. I feel great.

Financially with a Vegan diet: it is not expensive for me. I am still trying to figure out why people think it is expensive to eat healthy. I think it might be that people are not aware of how to substitute products when cooking. There are always frugal alternatives to expensive ingredients when called for in a recipe.

When I shop, this is usually what I pay:

  • A block of tofu is $1.30 – $2.00.
  • Can of beans is $0.89 – $2.00 (usually get 2 servings, at least). or buy a bag of beans to cook and freeze in individual servings. Then you’ll get a lot for your money!
  • My salad bags are $2.00 and feed for a week.
  • Soup – buy what is on sale or even better make you own! When produce is near its end and needs to be used, I whip up soups for lunch.
  • Produce/Fruit – buy what is on sale

And all those meals will make great lunch leftovers (save more $$ :)) and the extra fruit will be used up in my morning smoothies. Loving it!

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Menu Plan Monday: Weight Loss Happy

How is this Vegan thing going? Great! I’ve been having oatmeal or cereal with almond milk for breakfast. Healthy snacks of carrots & hummus, grapes, popcorn or soy yogurt. Lunches and dinners consists of baked potatoes with lemon pepper & broccoli, salads & soup, Indian food & brown rice, black bean tacos… It’s all good. 😀

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been on automatic pilot, at work, with putting milk in my oatmeal and then saying, “Doh!” But, I am not going to beat myself up over it. Eating Vegan is change that takes time. However, I have replaced the milk at home with Almond Milk and the family loves it! Works great in all my cooking, too. Small changes to make a healthy difference.

Want to know what else?

Well, if you don’t I am going to tell you anyways. I’ve lost 4.5 pounds this week! And yes, my meals filled me, I didn’t go hungry, and I feel great! So, I am not giving up this Vegan Kickstart anytime soon.

Financially, my vegan meals don’t costs us anymore than normal. I buy more produce and canned beans. Doesn’t cost me so much, so far.

This week’s meal plan

I know many of the recipes call for eggs, cheese or milk. But I use Earth balance for butter, omit the eggs (with no problems), use Almond Milk… there are ways around it.

To find more great menu plans, visit

Menu Plan Monday: 21-Day Vegan Kickstart!

This week is the start of the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart. I am looking forward to it! I plan on following the menus guidelines but with some revisions, as to stay in sync with my family’s meals.

Why am I doing this?

Well, some of your hear me tweet that I want to start a Veggie Business. It partly has to do with this idea (will expand on it more later). Next it is to explore aspects of better health. Then, because I love my fruits and veggies. This type of diet is perfect for me. Finally, I want to see if doing a vegan diet full-time with a family of carnivores is possible; sort of a research project for me.

This Week’s Menu Plan

Breakfast(s): Muesli, Granola, Oatmeal, and Mango-Strawberry Smoothies
Lunches: Hummus & Veggie Pita Sandwich, Brown rice w/ Tadka Dal, Salad & Veggie Soup(2).

  • Sunday: Baked Potato topped Veggies & Lemon Pepper. Side of vegan chili
  • Monday: Crockpot Cauliflower Curry (I didn’t get to make this last week. Omitting Chicken and adding Cauliflower), brown rice, and Boondi raita
  • Tuesday: Black bean tacos and Carrot & Red Pepper Soup
  • Wednesday: Pasta with a simple vegetable marinara and a mixed greens salad
  • Thursday: Ultimate Veggie Burger, Mashed Cauliflower with roasted garlic, Veggies
  • Friday: Out to Eat. This will be interesting to see what I order

This week’s weight loss: *tisk* 1 pound

I guess it’s good I am still on the losing side. No, I did not get exercise in to the days. Which is my culprit for not shedding more.

What’s on Your Menu?

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Rise of the Women Breadwinners

Gone are the days of the woman having dinner on the table, the evening drink ready for their man, the house cleaned and children raised in the home.

Women are becoming equal breadwinners with their male counterparts. The figures show that close to 40% of women are the breadwinners in supporting the family.

To think, women were only 7 percent of primary breadwinners in 1970!

Excerpt from Heather Boushey’s article called, The New Breadwinners:

Clearly, the days of Ozzie and Harriet are long gone. Within married-couple families, the typical working wife now brings home 42.2 percent of her family’s earnings.14 And women increasingly are the primary breadwinners. In 2008, nearly 4 in 10 mothers (39.3 percent) were the primary breadwinner in their family—either because they were a single, working parent or because they earned as much as or more than their spouse. An additional quarter (24.0 percent) of mothers are co-breadwinners—that is, a working wife bringing home at least 25 percent of her family’s total earnings (see Figure 2 and Table 1). 15


Gender Roles

But one thing hasn’t moved forward as quickly, the traditional gender roles. Household chores and childrearing activities still primarily are held with the woman. The balance of labor just isn’t divided equally, and a woman comes home from a long day of work and still has to do the chores. In fact, about 2/3rds of the household work remains with the woman in the role.

Do you think there can be a happy medium to be met with one’s partner in taking on some of the household responsibilities?

I see three options:

Communicate with your partner. Ask for help in taking on the household work. Could your partner help you cook some of the meals, take on some of the laundry, drive the kids to sport practice or vacuum? My husband comes home before me to start dinner. During the weekends we alternate who does the laundry. At times, he even helps me to make the kid’s lunches.

Outsource household work. You did read this guest post by Erica Douglass on Outsourcing, right? I am seriously considering hiring someone to deep clean the house twice a month just so I have time to spend with my family. Maybe even hire someone to make my children’s school lunches for me (don’t like to give them money for school lunches – bleck!). Hire a tutor to help the kids with their school work. Pay for services that will allow me to focus on the more time with individual family members and/or free up a bit of personal time.

Become a Stay-at-home parent. My husband and I once calculated the money saved if one of us stayed home. You reduce the childcare costs ($400 month), commuting charges, auto maintenance fees, etc… It is rather tempting to say, “I QUIT”, to my boss. But what is holding one of us to continue working, the two-income household still brings in more money to pay down our debts. Once our debt ratio is far down, we are going to revisit this last option for one of us to stay home. But one needs to consider if you can handle placing the financial responsibility to your partner.

My question to you: How would you resolve the stress issue? Are you a woman living as the breadwinner? Or a man supporting his breadwinner wife? What works for your family? What doesn’t work?

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Menu Plan Monday: Week of Slow Cooking

Why is it men don’t eat for a day they lose 5 pounds? Women don’t eat for a week and only lose 1 pound. LOL. Yup, that is my first week total.

1 week = 1 pound 🙁

I think you’re right, peeps, going to need to implement the exercise factor. I am going to add in 2 days of walking 1.5 miles and 1 day of serious stair climing – 12 flights of stairs! Well, the first two tries on those stairs, I may not make that climb. But after the 3rd time it should be no prob. I am expecting some serious gluteal maximus pain, but it will result in extra nice form in a pair of jeans. 😉

This week: Now that my husband has been working overtime and I get home late, it has proved extra hard to get a homecooked dinner on the table (want to eat at 7-8pm?). I have decided to implement a week of slowcooking. Put the ingredients in the crockpot during morning and wha la!, a delicious dinner at night.

Here is this week’s meal plan with delicious recipes from A Year of Slowcooking (they really are delicious):

Well, I am off to start week 2 of my portion controlled, exercise happy, kick off the weight week! 😉

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Menu Plan Monday – I am going on a diet!

Much like holding one’s self accountable for the budget, the weight also follows the same. Since October, status quo in my life has slowly been changing. Mixed with the holidays… well, I compensated it all with eating.

The problem is (and I don’t know if all women have this), I surpassed or hold borderline to the weight I told myself would never happen. Normally, I can fall back into routine and go back to the intended weight. Not this time and I am having difficulties getting myself to return.

I am going on a Diet

So, I feel it was time to share this information with you. Because I need to start holding myself accountable for my weight in order to lose it and maintain. I need to feel healthy again for me, my family, my husband, and my health.

I need to lose approximately 13 pounds. My plans are put myself on a 1200-1400 caloric diet (This number was figured using Lean Cuisine’s Keeping on Track Tools). The calories are not as low as you think, because I seldom have time for exercise.

How I figured my Diet Menu Plan

Here are my personal guidelines on how I intend to lose weight with my meal plan. *Keep it Simple*

  1. Eat 3 meals and 2 snacks per day – I enjoy eating small portions throughout the day as it aids in digestion better.
  2. Limit carbs – watch the bread and pasta intake.
  3. Fiber & Fruit – increase the legumes, whole wheat, and fruit intake to aid in digestion and health
  4. Break up calories per meal – I can have approximately 300-350 calories for breakfast, lunch, and dinner mixed with 100 – 125 calorie snacks. Or if I eat a bigger lunch meal then dinner will be lower.
  5. Use common sense – If your options are a crossaint or a bowl of granola with milk – its easy to figure out the granola is better for me.

At the start, I like to write down what I have eaten through the day. Then as time moves on with a routine of sorts, I can safely eat with confidence.

My Meal Plan

Breakfast(s): Oatmeal, piece of wheat toast, and a banana; Meusli with almond milk (lots of good stuff in this!); fresh fruit, yogurt, and a piece of wheat toast; green smoothie.

Lunches: I bought Lean Cuisine 300-350 lunch meals. They were on sale for $1.99 + a free coupon for a 6 pack of Skinny Cow Ice cream sandwiches.

Snacks: Hummus and veggies, trail mix, fruit and crackers.


  • Sunday: Happy Valentine’s Day! Diet starting tomorrow. We are heading to Bucca di Beppos and off to see Valentine’s Day at the movie theater.
  • Monday: Tuna salad with mixed greens and a bowl of tomato soup with sourdough croutons.
  • Tuesday: Small portion of Mac and Cheese with (you guessed it) a mixed greens salad.
  • Wednesday: 3 bean vegetarian chili, cornbread, and mixed greens salad.
  • Thursday: Salmon, brown rice, and steamed broccoli.
  • Friday: Eat out sensibly.

Ladies, have a wonderful Valentine’s day! For more Menu Plan Monday, check out Oh ya, I will keep you updated on my progress. 😉


Menu Plan Monday – Frugal Vegetarian Meal Plan

Health and Fitness are on the tops of people’s minds at the start of the New year. With that is opting to start a Vegetarian Lifestyle – as it is known to lower cholesterol, lower high blood pressure, lower triglycerides, lower our cancer risk, etc… [read 57 more reasons here]. All that equates to feeling great!

Starting a vegetarian lifestyle can be done with a frugal budget with these simple tips:
    Buy and plan menu items around your grocer’s produce sales ad
    Make larger quantities of your staple items (rice, beans, baked goods) and freeze in single servings portions
    Plan for your meals each week
    Shop at Trader Joe’s for great prices on nuts, trail mix, dried fruits and any specialty vegetarian convenience items
    Learn to cook Indian Food [] – it is a very tasty and frugal way to eat great food
    Grow an herb garden – learning to cook with herbs is a great way to enhance flavors! Oregano, basil, cilantro, rosemary are a few of my favorite herbs. I like to dry and chop them to refill my spice jars.
    – Substitute a menu’s item for what you have on hand. If a recipe calls for tofu in the stir fry, but have a zucchini that needs to be used up – then go for it! Cubed zucchini works great for dishes requesting marinaded tofu.

These are only a few ways to living a vegetarian lifestyle on a frugal budget. Do you have a great tip to add to this list?

This week’s menu is a frugal vegetarian meal plan:
  • Monday: Zucchini Fritters, Apple Slices, and Mixed Green Salad
  • Tuesday: Broiled Polenta with Mushroom Ragout (Buy cremeni mushrooms, if on sale. If not, regular button mushrooms will work great. And to frugally substitute for the goat cheese: Kraft’s parmesan-romano grated cheese sprinkled on top works great!)
  • Wednesday: Tofu & Bok Choy stir fry served over white rice
  • Thursday: Tomato & Garlic Pasta, garlic bread,and a mixed green salad
  • Friday: Veggie Pizza (ordered) with tomatoes, garlic, onion, and black olives.
  • Saturday: Baked potato topped with chili & sourcream, sliced tomatoes with olive oil and cracked black pepper, and mixed greens salad.

Made myself hungry with this post. Remember, even if a vegetarian meal calls for expensive ingredients there is always a frugal alternative. Have fun when making your meals. Be sure your plate has lots of colors (green spinach, red bell pepper, purple eggplant) and you’ll be sure that you are getting your much needed nutrients.

To find more great menu plans, visit

To help you create your vegetarian meal plans, check out the International Vegetarian Union for many great recipes!