Sep 212015
 

Hello, and happy Monday! How’s everyone doing today? I had a fun little weekend up in New York!

As you may know, Fabio’s dad lives in Queens, NY, but he has recently made the decision to sell his house and downsize to a smaller space that better fits his needs. Fabio’s childhood home is pretty large and used to have a lot of people living in it, but now that the kids are grown up and out of the house his dad doesn’t need as much room. On Friday evening, Fabio, Jack, and I drove up to New York to help pack everything up!

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this on the blog before, but in case you didn’t know, Fabio used to be a ball boy and bat boy for the New York Yankees and Mets.

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It was a pretty cool part time job, especially since Fabio LOVES baseball and played all throughout his childhood.

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While he worked for these organizations, he spent a lot of time in the visiting clubhouse, meaning he had access to pretty much every player in the MLB at one point or another. Being the baseball fanatic that he is, he collected a ton of autographs during his time working there.

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We spent most of the weekend sorting through boxes and boxes of autographed baseballs, jerseys, pictures, etc. Phew! He has a LOT of stuff!

I told him that one day when we have a house with a basement he’s free to go crazy and hang everything up, but until then we just don’t have room in our one-bedroom apartment for all his baseball gear (we already have two huge frames hanging in our bedroom and a few other baseballs/helmets on display. That’s definitely enough for now.). Looks like it’ll all be staying in storage for a while. (I hope…)

In the midst of packing, we took a break for lunch at Gyro World, our favorite Greek place near his house! I ordered a traditional gyro and was not disappointed. Everything we get there is always delicious!

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Luckily Fabio’s dad is just moving right down the street from his current house, so we can still frequent Gyro World whenever we visit. 🙂

Later on in the evening, Fabio and I met up with his best friend from childhood, Jonathan! We went to Press 195 for dinner, which is another one of our favorites. This restaurant has a cute outdoor patio with great ambiance…

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…as well as the most delicious paninis! I ordered a panini with turkey, brie, and a pear/cranberry compote. It was delicious!

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Fabio and I also shared a basket of fries with three dipping sauces: pineapple/sriracha, roasted garlic, and chipotle mayo. The pineapple/sriracha was my favorite!

After dinner the three of us went out to two bars nearby: Bourbon Street and Sullivan’s. Both were a lot of fun and I had a nice time meeting some of Fabio’s friends from high school and middle school.

On Sunday we finished packing up boxes and then made the long trek home. We got back to DC around 7:30 pm and we were both pooped!

Luckily I had planned ahead and ordered groceries online using Relay Foods so we didn’t have to hit up the grocery store! Woohoo!

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What is Relay Foods?

Relay Foods is a healthy online grocery store that delivers groceries right to your door for $15, or to a nearby pickup location for free. They are an innovative company with a mission to make eating quality, healthy, sustainable food simple. With simple online ordering, an integrated meal planning service, and convenient home delivery or free pick up, Relay Foods is changing the way people get their groceries, simplifying the process and raising the standards for local quality.

How does it work? 

Relay partners with more than 50 farms and 200 local artisan producers to bring customers the freshest sustainable produce, grassfed meats, and artisan foods. They actively add more local producers every month.

To use Relay, all you have to do is create an account on their website, and start shopping around! There are a ton of different ways to shop on Relay: you can browse the freshest seasonal produce…

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…you can shop local products…

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…and you can browse aisles just like in a grocery store! I personally love this feature because I think shopping online for groceries can be a little overwhelming otherwise. I like being able to click “produce” or “dairy” to find exactly what I need. You can also search for products right in the search bar.

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There’s also a sale section you can browse, or take advantage of the meal planning and recipe feature! All you have to do for that is click on a recipe you like, and the ingredients will be added to your cart. So easy, right?

Here’s a peak at what I ordered – it’s a mix of staples I would usually buy plus a few items that were local or on sale that I think we’ll enjoy. For example, I usually buy kale for salads and fresh juice, but Swiss chard was on sale so I decided to try that instead. I love that this service pushes me out of my comfort zone a bit!

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Another feature I loved? When ordering bananas I got to choose how many yellow ones I wanted and how many green ones I wanted. Yes! Such a great idea.

In addition to finding tons of local, fresh produce, Relay Foods also offers other staples like Bob’s Red Mill Oats and Avalon Organic Shampoo. Basically, pretty much anything you could find at Whole Foods you’ll be able to find here.

Once I had everything in my cart, I selected whether I wanted my groceries delivered to my house ($15) or wanted to pick them up for free at a nearby location. Since I knew we’d be traveling over the weekend I opted to have the groceries shipped right to my door, but it looked like there were a bunch of pick-up locations near me as well (there are more than 150 pick-up locations at schools, gyms, workplaces, and other partner locations) so I think I’ll give that a try in the future.

Once you place your order, your groceries will be delivered the next day. Awesome, right?

Where does Relay serve? 

Relay currently serves twelve markets: the Washington, D.C. metro area; eight Virginia cities and towns (Charlottesville, Richmond, Williamsburg, Fredericksburg, Lynchburg, Harrisonburg, Staunton, Stafford); Annapolis and Baltimore, MD; and North Carolina’s Research Triangle.

Discount Time!

Ok, you didn’t think I’d go through all of that without offering you guys a discount, right? CET readers can get $30 off their first order when they sign up for Relay Foods using this link. Woohoo!

My groceries should be at my door when I get home from work later today, and I’m so relieved. Hooray for no trips to the grocery store this week!

Question of the day: Do you enjoy grocery shopping?

I usually don’t mind it at all, but after a long weekend away from home I DREAD it!

*Disclaimer: This post was not sponsored by anyone, I just really liked this service. I will also receive store credit for anyone who signs up using my link. Thank you, as always, for your support.*

 Posted by on September 21, 2015
May 292014
 

In last week’s Thursdays are for Thinking Out Loud post, I mentioned that I am following a new budget to help me keep track of my finances. Fabio put the budget together for me months ago, and although I procrastinated for a while before taking advantage of it, I now feel much more at ease about my money and am so glad I decided to start following it.

A lot of you expressed interest in hearing more about the budget and Fabio’s finance tips, so I wrangled him into sharing a few of them with us today. Although neither of us are experts in this field, Fabio was an economics major in college, and has always had a passion for learning about money and investments.  Either way, he has a lot of good tips to share and I hope this post will be helpful for you! I’ll be back with your regularly-scheduled fitness/healthy lifestyle update tomorrow, so feel free to skip this post if money bores you to tears.

Ready? Grab your notebook and a pen because there’s a lot of information in this post!

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1. Know how much you make and how much you spend. Knowledge is power for just about everything in life, and it’s no different when dealing with your finances. Before you can begin creating a budget for yourself, you have to know how much money is coming in and going out. It’s sort of like watching your calorie intake and expenditure- you have to make sure more money is coming in than going out.

My favorite way for tracking this information is through Mint.com. Mint is a free website and app that allows you to link up your bank account and track your spending. It will show you how much money you spend on each type of expense, and might make you realize that your daily pit stop at Starbucks is making a bigger dent in your wallet than you realized. Use Mint to keep track of how much money you’re making, and how much realistically you’re spending each month.

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2. Set some goals. Once you get a good idea for how much you’re spending, it’s time to do something about it! This is where Fabio had to help me out, because even though I’d been using Mint for a while, I kind of looked at, nodded my head and thought, yep, there goes my money.

According to Fabio, in a perfect world you should allocate your net-income (your post-tax income) as follows:

  • 50-60% living expenses
  • 20% personal expenses
  • 20-30% savings

Now, let’s break that down a little.

Living expenses include everything from rent, to gas, to groceries, to loan payments, and bills. Fabio says your rent/mortgage payments should be at or around 40% of your net income, with the other 10-20% going toward your bills (obviously this will be different for people who have to pay a lot in loans- just make sure to adjust accordingly so you’re still in the 50-60% range). Also make sure to include a 5% safety net for items like car repairs or health expenses.

Personal expenses are all the fun things in life, like going out to dinner, shopping, movies, etc. This one is tough to rein in most of the time, but we’ll get to some strategies for managing this bucket in a minute.

As a 20-something, your savings will initially be used as a rainy day/emergency fund, but eventually you’ll want to use it as your retirement or investment fund. For your emergency fund, you want to work up to saving 6 months’ worth of living expenses. This way, if (God forbid) you lose your job or incur some unaccounted expenses, you’ll have 6 months’ worth of back-up money in the bank. Once you have that saved up, Fabio recommends shifting most if not all of your savings into a 401k or Roth IRA. To figure out which of these options works best for you, you should check with you bank and your employers.

3. Make it happen. Once you know how much you can spend and how much you should be saving each month, it’s important to put that into practice! This can be one of the hardest aspects of balancing a budget because it seems like a lot of work, and can be intimidating.

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[Source]

The first thing Fabio recommends is creating a different bank account for each bucket (living expenses, personal expenses, and savings). Here’s how I personally manage these expenses:

  • Living expenses: Fabio and I have a joint checking account that we use for rent, gas, groceries, and bills. We use the direct deposit option at our jobs to automatically transfer about 50% of our biweekly paychecks right into that account, and then we set up our bills so they are all automatically paid through that account. We use the debit cards associated with that account to pay for groceries and gas, and try really, really hard not to use it when we go out to dinner together, though if we’re feeling bold we sometimes will do it anyway (phew, talk about wild 😉 lol). Now that everything is set up in there, it’s really easy to use, and I never have to worry about a bill being late or not having enough money for groceries. Having a separate account for these types of expenses is great!
  • Personal expenses: I got Fabio to do the math for me to figure out how much money I am “allowed” to spend on fun stuff each month, because apparently figuring out what 20% of my biweekly paycheck was just too much work for me, haha! (Truthfully, I just didn’t know it was supposed to be 20%). Now that I know how much I can spend on personal expenses each month, I make sure to keep only that much money in my checking account in between pay periods. For example, let’s say I allot $300 toward personal expenses each month. When I get paid, some money goes directly into my living expenses account with Fabio, and the rest goes into my own personal checking account. Every time I get paid, I transfer money out of my checking account and into my savings, so that I only have $300 left in my checking account. I can then spend that $300 on whatever I want, but I have to make it last until my next paycheck. Sometimes I run out before my next paycheck, and then I will use my credit card. The catch is that when I get paid again, I have to use that pay period’s $300 to pay off my credit card right away. I always pay my credit card off in full, and by using the allotted $300 to do it, I make sure I don’t dig in to my savings.
  • Savings: By following the method I just described, my savings account pretty much takes care of itself. I always try not to tap into my savings account at all, but sometimes when a vacation pops up or there’s something expensive I need to buy, I do allow myself to use it. Fabio would probably say to not do this and to use your personal expenses account instead, but I’m just being practical here. You don’t always know when you’re going to need an extra $1,000 ASAP! I also participate in the 401K program at my work, which matches my contribution up to a certain point. I try to contribute as much as I can so I can take advantage of the match program, even if it hurts my paycheck a little to do it.

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[Source]

Managing your budget might seem really scary at first (holy cow, that was a lot of information) but once it’s all set up it’s really not that difficult. Now that I’m following Fabio’s method, I know how much money I can spend from week to week and definitely start to pull back when I see that I’m getting close to my limit. Before I was just kind of spending willy-nilly and always made sure I had some money to use as a cushion, but my savings account wasn’t really growing. Now it’s in better shape than ever and I finally feel at ease about my finances!

*Just to reiterate, Fabio and I are not financial advisers, and this is just how we prefer to manage our finances*

Question of the day: How do you follow a budget?

 Posted by on May 29, 2014
Apr 102014
 

Back in February I mentioned  that Fabio and I tried out Blue Apron– a meal delivery service that sends fresh ingredients and recipes for three meals to your door every week (or whenever you want it). Although the food was delicious, nutritious, and easy to prepare, Blue Apron doesn’t allow for much meal customization when it comes to food allergies, which I found to be a big inconvenience.

Unfortunately Fabio is allergic to shellfish and, even though I contacted Blue Apron to discuss this issue with them a bit, I was told that at this stage they cannot make those sorts of modifications. They do allow you to choose from a vegetarian meal plan, a fish meal plan, or a meat and fish meal plan, but you can’t choose a meat and fish meal plan with no shellfish, for example.

This means that when a shrimp gumbo-type meal was scheduled to go in our package and I didn’t check the menu in time to “skip” that week’s meals, it was delivered in our package. I then had to get crafty with chicken substitutions and save the shrimp for a day when Fabio was doing something else and I was eating dinner alone. Not the worst thing in the world but, if I’m paying money to have these meals shipped to me, I want to make sure I can eat them!

Then a couple weeks ago I heard Anne talking about Relished. It sounded pretty similar to Blue Apron and she offered a nice discount, so I checked it out. And guess what? They allow for allergy modifications! Woohoo! Cue the singing angels.

After putting in her discount code and filling out Fabio’s allergy info, I sat back and waiting for our food to arrive. Yippee!

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The box arrived on Wednesday of last week and I was so excited to see the different meals they sent us (even though I had obviously checked out the menu beforehand 😉 what cane I say, I love food!)

Inside  the box were three paper bags labeled for each meal, along with helpful recipe cards.

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Even though I pretty much knew what to expect in each bag, opening them up still felt a little like Christmas haha. It’s just so fun to open up packages!

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The front of each recipe card had a little overview of the meal, and the back had a list of step-by-step instructions.

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Even if you don’t consider yourself a great chef, these instructions are  pretty fail-proof.

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Another thing I liked a lot about Relished? They give you drink pairing recommendations (love this, as I know nothing about wine) as well as plating suggestions! I never would have thought to pile more of this vegetable succotash on top of the pork, but look how nice that looks 😉

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 I also really like that each meal was well-balanced and included plenty of fresh and colorful produce.

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This flat iron steak meal with rosemary, purple cabbage, arugula, and blue cheese was one of my favorites and I gobbled up every bite!

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Not kidding.

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Fabio’s favorite was this sweet cream and tomato basil rigatoni, which came with fresh bread. Nom!

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All in all I think Relished might be a bit expensive for us to continue with regularly (it’s $60 for three meals) but if you didn’t grocery shop and wanted to replace your evening meals with Relished I could see how it would be affordable. I know a lot of people who only make dinner at home three times a week anyway, so it would definitely make sense for them.

I also think Relished would make a great gift for friends who like to cook and maybe want to experiment with new cooking styles and ingredients. It’s great for couples too- I know Fabio and I both have fun in the kitchen when we make these types of meals.

My one note of warning is to be careful with your subscription- we ordered one week at the discounted price and then I waited a couple days to cancel the service and they wound up charging me for a second week. Womp womp. Totally my fault. I actually don’t mind at all (now we have another week of Relished meals and don’t have to go to the grocery store!!) but it was definitely unintended and Fabio may or may not have scolded me for spending $60 more on food. Woops! 😉

**And now some good news for you!** Use discount code ‘ChelseaEatsTreats’ for 50% off first orders!! Woohoo!

Question of the day: Have you ever tried food delivery services?

 Posted by on April 10, 2014
Mar 272014
 

Last week I was lucky enough to receive not one but TWO fun packages filled with goodies to review for you guys 🙂
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As usual, Jack was more than happy to help me identify what was in the boxes 😉

The first one was from The Saucy Fish Co., an exciting new food brand from the UK due to launch in the states in a couple of weeks. Apparently the company came across my recipe for easy fish and veggies which mentions how Fabio and I don’t eat fish very often because we think it can be kind of bland and boring. Saucy Fish specializes in pairing fish fillets with just the right sauce for a dish with maximum flavor and minimum fuss, so they thought it would be a good fit for me! They also sent my package just in time for lent, which is perfect since Fabio and I are trying to eat meatless meals on Fridays.

Here’s what was included in my package:

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  • Salmon with a Sweet Soy & Chili dressing
  • Salmon with Chili, Lime and Ginger dressing
  • Tilapia with Mango & Chili Dressing
  • Salmon with Sweet Chili Dressing Foil Bake Bag
  • Tilapia with a Red Thai Sauce Foil Bake Bag
  • Ready to Enjoy Steamed Salmon with Lime and Cilantro Dressing
  • Ready to Enjoy Roasted Sweet Chili Salmon with Tomato & Chili Chutney

As you can see from those descriptions, they included packages with three different methods for cooking/eating this fish.

First, there was “Ready to Enjoy” fish which was already fully cooked and ready to eat. These were amazing and so convenient! I brought the salmon with tomato and chili chutney to work and enjoyed it cold for lunch one day.

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Let me tell you that all I day I was dreading having cold fish for lunch, but then when I took one bite I was blown away!! The fish was perfectly cooked and the sauce was both sweet and spicy. It was so good that I gobbled the whole thing up and didn’t miss my usual turkey sandwich one bit.

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I wish I had some more of those! Fabio took the salmon with cilantro lime dressing for lunch too, and he also really enjoyed it!

I still can’t get over how much I liked this dish. Cold salmon? By itself? Usually that would be a “mehh, I’ll pass” for me, but I really, really enjoyed it.

Another type of fish they offer is the “Foil Bake Bag” fish. This fish is packed in a tinfoil bag with the sauce already included. You just pop the fish in the oven, take it out after 18 mins, and -voila- perfectly cooked yummy fish! So easy.

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I had the one above (salmon with sweet chili dressing) on Monday night along with some quinoa and roasted veggies, and it was delicious!

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Fabio and I were both impressed with how easy this was to cook, as well as how delicious the flavors were.

The last type of fish they offer is just regular fillets that you can cook on the stove top. We haven’t tried any of these yet (we popped them into the freezer as soon as they arrived and I know they will come in handy very soon!) but I am sure if they are anything like the others they will be very delicious. IMG_1224

Overall I was really, really impressed with The Saucy Fish Co. Not only were all of their products extremely fresh and high-quality, but they tasted GREAT! Keep in mind that this is coming from two people who generally don’t love fish, so that’s saying a lot. I would definitely recommend The Saucy Fish Co. if you are looking to incorporate more delicious fish in your diet, but don’t want a big fuss.

I give them two big thumbs up!

Jack does too 😉

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Ok so the second package I received last week (literally the next day- my neighbors must think I’m a big weirdo) was from Giant!

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All my life, I have shopped at Giant. Growing up, it was the grocery store closest to my house so both of my parents shopped there. I continue to shop there now (in addition to Costco and Trader Joe’s) and definitely consider myself loyal to the store.

That being said, I can say that I am not too familiar with Giant brand products. I usually tend to buy whatever brands I’m familiar with and opt for things that are lower sodium, all natural, low fat, etc. This gets pretty expensive though, and since Fabio and I have been trying to save some money after our trip to Bolivia, I think becoming more familiar with the Giant brand could do wonders for our bank account. 

Here’s what Giant had to say about their products:

“Giant is committed to offering our customers the highest possible quality products and actively promoting safe and responsible sourcing. We are confident that our Own Brand products match or surpass the taste and quality of national brands, and we are pleased to offer shoppers the opportunity to compare them to the national products they already buy at no additional cost to our customers.”

Here’s what came in my haul:

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  • Organic brown rice
  • Natural peanut butter
  • Trail mix
  • Asian-style sesame sauce
  • Nature’s Promise ketchup
  • Grilled chicken seasoning
  • Dill pickles
  • Spicy brown mustard
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • Low fat granola
  • Cranberry juice
  • Tupperware
  • Tomato sauce
  • Roasted red pepper soup

That’s a lot of stuff, right?? I was so happy to get this package because a few of these things were actually already on my grocery list (brown rice, trail mix, mustard, peanut butter) and a few are things I always want to buy but think of as more of a luxury/unnecessary item (pickles, cranberry juice, Asian-style sesame sauce).

So far I have tried (and enjoyed!) many of the items they sent me, and have been very impressed with the quality and taste of the products. I’d say that the biggest thing I’ve learned from trying these products is that the Nature’s Promise products are natural and organic, and taste great! Here’s the description from the website:

“Nature’s Promise foods start and finish with pure ingredients like rolled oats, whole grains, farm fresh vegetables, fresh cream and real butter. That’s all. There are no artificial or synthetic colors and flavors, and absolutely no hydrogenated oils or bleached or bromated flours. Nature’s Promise meats contain no antibiotics or growth hormones. Our Nature’s Promise foods come by their great flavor naturally. Better for you. Better for your family.”

Awesome!! I will definitely be looking out for Nature’s Promise products in the future.

Anyway, those are my updates for you guys today. Thank you so much to The Saucy Fish Co. and Giant for allowing me to sample these products and review them for you guys!!

*Please note: I was not compensated for any of these reviews except for the free samples I was given. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.*

Questions of the day: Do you like fish? What brands do you buy when you grocery shop?

 Posted by on March 27, 2014
Apr 242012
 

So I’ve expressed before my love for Trader Joe’s. It’s a serious problem. I cannot walk out of that store without 10 more things than I went in for. Everything always looks so good and is so cheap!! While I also really enjoy Whole Foods, their prices are just too high. Trader Joe’s is the perfect grocery store because everything is fresh, healthy, and affordable. Luckily even when I go on a splurge and buy too much stuff that I probably don’t need (like yesterday) I still wind up spending about the same or less than I would at a regular grocery store like Giant or Safeway. It’s great!

So anyway, I am so excited about the new loot that I picked up yesterday that I just had to use my afternoon post to tell you all about it. That way you can look for these products and spend too much money like I did Winking smile

So I went into TJs yesterday afternoon just to pick up some cereal and milk. That was it! But here’s what I cam out with.

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One package of these spinach ricotta raviolis was used for our meatless Monday dinner.The other was stashed in the freezer for later use.

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And although we already had tomato sauce at home, I decided to try this three cheese pasta sauce to eat with the raviolis. Soo worth it (much better than the Ragu or whatever we had in the fridge). I added some fresh chopped basil from my basil plant into the sauce.

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Our dinner was faaaaaantastic (but not very photogenic I’m afraid).

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Like the gluten free cookies and Fiber One muffins in the background? Haha

In addition to the tasty raviolis and sauce, I also bought this which piqued my interest:

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Frozen, chopped cilantro? Awesome. I never use cilantro in huge quantities so I thought this was a great idea. I’ll let you know how it works out!

I also bought another one of these:

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Which I used in my whole wheat pizza last week. I love having these around and you can even keep them in the freezer. Super easy.

My favorite treat that I bought at TJs yesterday was this guy:

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At just 100 calories per serving I was super excited to try it out. I had some after dinner with some frozen berries and my peanut butter granola on top. It was soooo good. Just like pink berry!

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I definitely recommend this frozen yogurt. You will love it!!!

What do you buy from TJs or other grocery stores? Anything you can’t live without??

 Posted by on April 24, 2012