From the category archives:

living on less

Hey guys! I just wanted to make sure you all don't miss out on the fabulous FREE Non-Toxic Cleaning Essentials Kit from Grove that I shared a few days ago.

Basically you get ALL of the following free with any $20 purchase:

  • Grove Collaborative Cleaning Concentrates (3-pk.)
  • Grove Collaborative Glass Spray Bottle with Silicone Sleeves
  • Grove Collaborative Microfiber (3-pk.)
  • FREE Shipping & 60 Day VIP Trial

That's over a $30 value FREE with $20 purchase!

How often do you see a free offer where the freebie is actually a higher value than what you need to spend to get it??? In my experience, almost never.

Don't miss out on this cleaning essentials set! Here's how it works:

  1. Sign up for Grove Collaborative here. You will receive the Personal Care Set for free when you sign up!
  2. To receive this offer, your order needs to be a minimum of $20. Your cart may autopopulate with some suggested products, but you can delete them and choose the combination of products and scents you love! You'll receive your first box within a few days.
  3. You made it! Click Finish & Pay and place your order.

Need an idea for what to order to qualify for this offer? MY suggestion is to add two more of the Glass Spray Bottles so you can mix up a batch of each cleaner. Just make sure to adjust the colors of the silicone sleeves in your cart so you get one of each.

Your total will be $25.90, qualifying you for the FREE Cleaning Essentials set. Set! Plus, when I just tested this, Grove added a bonus FREE Stoneware Tray to my order valued at $9.95!!!

CURRENT CUSTOMER BONUS: If you are already a Grove Collaborative customer, click to get a FREE set of the Grove walnut scrubbers. Yay!

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How To Make Slow Cooker Baked Potatoes

by Tara Kuczykowski on October 21, 2017 · 0 comments

Slow Cooker Baked Potatoes -- how to make baked potatoes in your crockpot, seriously the easiest method with zero cleanup. Prep baked potatoes for dinner or for a baked potato bar for your next gathering with this set it and forget it technique! | slow cooker baked potatoes in foil | easy recipes | game day recipes | tailgating recipes | homegating recipes | potluck recipes | find the recipe on unsophisticook.com

Have you ever made Slow Cooker Baked Potatoes? It's simply the easiest and most convenient way to make baked potatoes for a crowd!

Whether you're hosting a holiday gathering, game day get together, potluck dinner, etc., a baked potato bar is going to be a HUGE hit -- and this is, hands down, the simplest way to get the job done!!!

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After many years of just a trickle of work being offered through my husband's union hall, the Columbus area is now booming with an influx of construction jobs. So much that jobs are actually sitting on the window at the hall unfilled. I have to say, it's a great spot to be in, in the moment, but I know that with the cyclical nature of construction booms, it's only a matter of time before it's back on the downswing. After all, it was less than a year ago that the possibility of a layoff was always looming over our household, a very stressful spot to be in.

It feels like we've experienced more than our fair share over the years... A layoff is never convenient, but some times are definitely less convenient than others. There was the time my husband was laid off the day before Christmas Eve. And there was also the time that he received his notice the day after Christmas. And the worst of all -- when he literally got laid off via a voicemail while we were in the delivery room, as I was giving birth to our fifth child.

I mention all of this because I believe many of you are in the same situation. Despite the falling unemployment rate, I know that those numbers are somewhat skewed by workers who've simply given up looking for a job. So I thought this might be a good time to bump up these tips for what to do if job loss is a possibility and what to do if you lose your job...

If a job loss is still just a possibility:

Cut back your spending immediately. Review your bills and look for areas where you can start to scale back. Start small by trying to cut just $1 a day from your expenses and increase your savings from there. Learn how to maximize your savings at drugstores and grocery stores and add these additional funds to your emergency account.

Consider purchasing supplemental income insurance. SafetyNet is among the simplest forms of insurance. It will pay you a lump sum in the event of a layoff or other unexpected job loss! The premiums are surprisingly affordable, starting at just $5 per month. If you need to file a claim, the payout can be used for anything you wish – rent, groceries, utilities, whatever you need. Signing up is easy with just three simple questions, no credit checks.

Build a stockpile. Hopefulone and Erin both wrote excellent guest posts on this topic. In the event of a layoff, being able to cut back your grocery expenses by eating from your stockpile is a huge blessing.

Pay yourself first. Start building an emergency savings by setting up an online savings and having money automatically drafted into it from your checking account each pay period. Transfer the money saved from any cut backs into it as well. Every little bit helps!

I also can't recommend the book Profit First enough. I've been using the method discussed in it for about 6 months now, and it's totally transformed both my business and personal finances.

Start paying just the minimums on any debt. While not ideal for getting out of debt, this will help with your immediate cashflow. Funnel anything extra you were paying into your emergency account for the time being.

Get a handle on the job market. Check out the classifieds and online job postings. Start doing a little networking to feel out the situation in your industry, and update your résumé so it's ready to go.

If you lose your job:

Negotiate for additional benefits. Most companies will offer the standard severance of unpaid vacation and a good reference, but you may be able to haggle for more. Ask for additional compensation based on years of employment, extended health benefits, or reimbursement for job placement services. It's likely that companies will be willing to provide one or more of these to avoid negative publicity. You won't know unless you ask!

File for unemployment. Generally you should do this immediately because there's a one-week holding period; however, from experience I can tell you there's one exception to that. If it's close to the end of the year, it might be in your best interest to wait until the new year. Compensation rates often increase every year, and by waiting a few additional days you may be entitled to more money. We learned this the hard way when my husband filed back in 2005. If he had waited a mere four days, we would have received an additional $40 per week in compensation. Check with your state agency, and if you can stick it out for a few days, do so.

Communication is key on all levels. Let your family members know about your situation. Explain to your friends that you'll have to cut back on entertainment expenses for a while. Get the word out to your social network. You might be surprised by a job lead from an unexpected source. Finally, contact your creditors immediately if you see yourself starting to fall behind on your bills. They may be able to offer some sort of temporary solution.

Seek out additional resources. These may vary by location, but it's a good idea to see what's available. Don't EVER be embarrassed to take advantage of whatever programs are available to you. There's no shame in doing what it takes to keep your family from financial disaster.

A few to consider:

  • WIC
  • Food stamps
  • Medicaid in your state
  • Food pantries
  • Energy assistance programs
  • Your church

Your state department of job and family services may have additional suggestions. Don't be afraid to ask your unemployment case worker what you're eligible for.

Cut back your budget to all but the necessities. When it comes right down to it, things like cable, cell phones, and Internet can probably all be eliminated. Look for free sources of family entertainment such as free DVD rentals from Redbox. You might be surprised at what you can do without when it really matters.

Start looking for a new job immediately. Take advantage of any outplacement resources offered by your former employer. In most cases you will be required to report on your job search regularly to your unemployment caseworker, so you'll want to maintain a log of companies you apply with and any responses you receive.

If you're a union worker, as is my husband, you may be in a different position. He must wait until his layoff number on "the list" is high enough to win a bid on a job. I know the particulars vary by union, but in our case looking for work outside the union could mean thousands of dollars in fees and fines.

Be sure to stay in close contact with your union hall's hiring manager, and ask about any additional resources that your hall may have to offer. You may be able to take a travel position and work out of another union, as my husband has done on several occasions. Or this might be a good time to take advantage of any continuing education programs available to you. Additional certifications could make you more valuable to employers and therefore less likely to be low on the list when layoffs occur in the future.

When you find new employment:

Keep your frugal ways in place for a while. Pay off any debt accrued during your unemployment period, build your emergency savings back up, and better prepare yourself financially in the event that it turns out not to be a good fit or for future cutbacks.

There's no such thing as job security these days. Especially with the fluctuating economy, it's important to be prepared as best as you can be for a sudden loss of income. Losing a job is never easy, but you can definitely prepare yourself so that it's more manageable.

I certainly would not wish a layoff or job loss on any one of you, but I hope that these tips give you some hope in the event that you should need them.

Have you survived a major loss of income in your family? Do you have any additional tips to share?

This is a sponsored conversation on behalf of SafetyNet; all opinions and text are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this site!

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Is a meal subscription service right for you? I'm sharing my honest thoughts today in this Blue Apron review. Be sure to scroll all the way down for a link that will save you $30 off your first order!

My Honest Blue Apron Review -- is a meal subscription service right for you? I'm sharing my honest thoughts in this Blue Apron review. Click over to the post for a coupon that will save you $30 off your first order! | blue apron recipes | blue apron meals | blue apron delivery | blue apron box | blue apron coupon | find the details on unsophisticook.com

Meal subscription services are all the rage these days... I feel like I get a postcard urging me to try this or that company in the mail every few days. But I've remained mostly on the fence, wondering if the cost is really justified and whether a meal would actually be enough to feed my family. Well, at least feed most of MY family -- I have yet to find a subscription company that offers meals for larger families like ours.

So when Blue Apron contacted me and offered to send me one of their boxes, I figured why not give it a try? It was the perfect way to answer my own questions and would also assist me in answering honestly when I get the occasional reader email asking about my thoughts on these services.

My Honest Blue Apron Review -- is a meal subscription service right for you? I'm sharing my honest thoughts in this Blue Apron review. Click over to the post for a coupon that will save you $30 off your first order! | blue apron recipes | blue apron meals | blue apron delivery | blue apron box | blue apron coupon | find the details on unsophisticook.com

What is Blue Apron?

Blue Apron is a meal delivery service that provides customers with farm-fresh ingredients to prepare a delicious meal in exactly the right proportions. You receive all of the ingredients for each recipe as a ready-made "kit" -- that is everything but the olive oil, salt and pepper. You do still need to do all of the chopping, dicing, sautéing, etc., but Blue Apron provides a detailed full color recipe card for each recipe that guides you step by step through the process.

I opted to try one of the Blue Apron Family Plan boxes, which included 2 recipes that would each feed four people. I've developed a severe shellfish allergy within the past couple of years, so I was pleased to see that they offer options that accommodate many food sensitivities, although it did limit the number of recipes I had to choose from in a given week. I chose to receive the ingredients for the following two recipes:

  • Seared Chicken & Mustard Pan Sauce with Summer Squash & Garlic Mashed Potatoes
  • Roasted Pork & Soba Noodles with Sweet Chili-Glazed Vegetables

My Honest Blue Apron Review -- is a meal subscription service right for you? I'm sharing my honest thoughts in this Blue Apron review. Click over to the post for a coupon that will save you $30 off your first order! | blue apron recipes | blue apron meals | blue apron delivery | blue apron box | blue apron coupon | find the details on unsophisticook.com

What Are The Pros of Blue Apron?

I always like to start on a positive note, so let's talk about what I think Blue Apron has going for it first.

Blue Apron eliminates all of the barriers of meal planning. You simply select the recipes you want to receive in a given week, and they ship everything you need to prepare it right to your doorstep. Yes, you still need to do much of the prep work and actually cook the meals, but it totally eliminates the 5:00 pm "What am I going to make for dinner?" panic.

The ingredients are high quality. Everything I received was very fresh and healthy in appearance. While not all of the ingredients are organic, Blue Apron does have high standards for every ingredient, including meats, and they are completely non-GMO.

The recipes are very detailed. You receive a glossy full page recipe card with each recipe, which includes step-by-step instructions, along with color photos that demonstrate key steps. This would be especially helpful for cooks that want to boost their confidence in the kitchen by trying new ingredients and/or techniques with limited chances for an undesirable outcome.

Blue Apron encourages you to try new ingredients. I can honestly say I've never tried gai lan (Chinese broccoli) before, and I highly doubt that I would have ever picked it up on a whim at the grocery store. But it turns out that I love it, and I'll definitely be on the lookout for it to make it again!

My Honest Blue Apron Review -- is a meal subscription service right for you? I'm sharing my honest thoughts in this Blue Apron review. Click over to the post for a coupon that will save you $30 off your first order! | blue apron recipes | blue apron meals | blue apron delivery | blue apron box | blue apron coupon | find the details on unsophisticook.com

What Are The Cons of Blue Apron?

And now for the aspects of Blue Apron that could use a little improvement...

The cook time seems to vary wildly from the stated time on the recipe cards. I was skeptical about being able to cook a pork roast in 26 minutes, and I was right. I use a meat thermometer to cook pork and chicken, and it took about 15 more minutes to reach the proper internal temperature. Same with the seared chicken recipe -- it took much longer than 12 minutes to cook. Normally, I wouldn't be too annoyed, but since the Blue Apron recipes include a protein and a side, it can also affect the timing of the side portion of the recipe.

I felt like the portions were on the small side. Based on other reviews, I certainly didn't expect to have leftovers, but I was surprised to feel like I needed to add something more to each meal. I was satisfied with a serving, but my husband and two teenage boys were still hungry after eating. I'd say the portions would be perfect for a family of four that includes two small children, but 4 adult portions is really stretching it.

The amount of packaging feels very wasteful. Since each ingredient is packaged individually, you end up with a lot of little bottles, bags, and wrapping after preparing a recipe. I'm happy to say there's at least an acceptable solution to this con. Blue Apron offers free return labels to send back all of the packaging for recycling. Just know that they will only recycle packaging that has been rinsed clean.

My Honest Blue Apron Review -- is a meal subscription service right for you? I'm sharing my honest thoughts in this Blue Apron review. Click over to the post for a coupon that will save you $30 off your first order! | blue apron recipes | blue apron meals | blue apron delivery | blue apron box | blue apron coupon | find the details on unsophisticook.com

And What About The Price?

Overall, we really enjoyed our Blue Apron experience. Would I order meals from them on a weekly basis? No -- it's just not a practical way to feed my entire family. But I have to say that, as a busy mom, the time savings on meal planning and grocery shopping is extremely appealing, and I'm willing to pay a bit of a premium for that.

I feel like ultimately the price is pretty fair for the ingredients balanced out by the time savings. As the box options currently stand, I'd say the Blue Apron service is best suited for recent college grads, newlyweds, small growing families, busy executives and empty nesters. But if they ever add the option to select the number of servings you want a recipe to serve, I'll absolutely consider using it more often.

My Honest Blue Apron Review -- is a meal subscription service right for you? I'm sharing my honest thoughts in this Blue Apron review. Click over to the post for a coupon that will save you $30 off your first order! | blue apron recipes | blue apron meals | blue apron delivery | blue apron box | blue apron coupon | find the details on unsophisticook.com

If you want to try out Blue Apron for yourself, you can get $30 off your first order! Just click on the orange "Redeem Offer" button. After your first Blue Apron order, there's no long-term commitment. You can cancel your subscription or skip weeks at any time!

If you've already tried Blue Apron, I'd love to hear about your experience. Please share in the comments!

This is a sponsored conversation on behalf of Blue Apron via the SheSavvy Influence Network; all opinions and text are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this site!

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Good morning, and Happy Mother's Day!!! I just wanted to make sure you all don't miss out on this fabulous FREE Mrs. Meyer's Summer Chef's Set from Grove Collaborative.

Basically you get ALL of the following free with any $20 purchase:

  • Free Mrs. Meyer's Hand Soap (my fave is lavender!)
  • Free Mrs. Meyer's Dish Soap
  • Free Mrs. Meyer's Multi-Surface Spray
  • Free Grove Collaborative Bubble Up (a $15.95 value!)
  • FREE Shipping
  • FREE VIP Trial (totally amazing!)

FREE Summer Chef’s Set -- grab this FREE Summer Chef's Set of Mrs. Meyer's hand soap + dish soap + multi-surface spray + a Grove Collaborative Bubble Up with your first order from my friends at Grove Collaborative. It's everything you need to make cleanup effortless, from salsa to full-on summer barbecues!

Get the full details on how to take advantage of this exclusive offer in my Fresh Tomato Salsa post! But before you hop over, I just wanted to quickly give you an idea as to what I'd put in MY cart to score this deal:

  • Grove Collaborative Kitchen Towel - Single Pack, $5.95 (super high quality!)
  • Full Circle Be Good Dish Brush, $6.95
  • Mrs. Meyer's Dish Soap, $3.89 (my fave is the lavender scent!)
  • Mrs. Meyer's Hand Lotion, $4.99 (a Grove exclusive!)

Your total will be $21.78, qualifying you for the FREE Summer Chef's Set! This offer ends at 9pm EST tonight, so hurry to place your order.
 

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