Blog Archives - Luxury on the Cheap
Luxury on the Cheap
What are the three little words guaranteed to make a woman get squishy and happy?  

You know, that phrase we never get tired of hearing and always makes us feel good?

"I'll cook dinner."

Hhhooooooooooo, baby!

I don't care if we're having beans - if I don't have to cook 'em, it tastes like luxury to me.  Sadly, that doesn't happen nearly enough.  Not only are there plenty of single moms out here on the hustle, but even among couples, women still do the lion's share of meal production, housework, and child care.

We became SuperWomen, but most men didn't keep up. 

So!  If you like coming home to dinner already done, the crockpot* is your best friend!

Hell, forget luxury.  Getting home to an already-cooked-dinner after a long day of work and errands and being everything to everybody is a damn lifesaver!

If you can get it together just enough to throw some basic ingredients in the crockpot in the morning (and this is important, remember to turn it ON!  Shut up, don't judge me!) by the time you get home in the evening.... dinner is done!  That 15 minute investment in the morning pays off with 45 extra minutes in the evening NOT spent chopping, measuring, cooking, and cleaning.

Here are a couple of my go-to recipes -- thrifty, easy, nutritious, and yummy. 

Crockpot Vegetarian Chilli
You will need:  Beans - 2 cans, or about 3 cups pre-soaked (black, red, pinto, or whatever you like)
Tomatoes - 2 small cans, or 1 big can, or about 4-6 cups fresh cut up
Onion - 1 small chopped onion, or a teaspoon or so of onion powder
Chili Seasoning - 2 Tablespoons chili powder, 2 Tablespoons cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Optional - jalapeno peppers to taste (I always have the sliced, pickled peppers handy, and I like to throw in several slices along with a little of the juice.  Fresh peppers are MUCH HOTTER!)

Put all ingredients into the pot and give it a good stir.  Turn on LOW, put on the lid, and forget about it til you get home!  Eat over cornbread, rice, or tortilla chips with a handful of shredded cheese on top.  Yum!

Spicy Smothered Chicken - Thanks to Laurie Hardie at Coffee With the Coaches

- 2 or 3 chicken breasts, or 4 to 6 thighs
Cream of Mushroom Soup - 1 can
Water - 1 can
Taco Seasoning - 1 Tablespoon chili powder, 1 Tablespoon cumin, 1 teaspoon each salt, pepper, cayenne, onion
Garlic - 1 clove, or to taste
Give everything a good stir, making sure chicken pieces are covered by the soup and water mixture.  Turn on low, and go to work.  This is good over rice and with a salad.  Any leftovers (not likely!) make a great base for soup. 

*If you don't have a crockpot, don't sweat it.  These recipes will still work in the oven in a good heavy pan on very low heat.  Or, you can always post a request on Freecycle, check the year-end clearance sales, or try second-hand.  I usually always see crockpots at the Goodwill, often still in the box.  Put the word out that you're looking for one, and you may be surprised at what turns up!

The workday is over; the meal is done - now, make the kids wash dishes.  Bliss!
Happy Christmas, everyone!  And to all a good night.

What is luxury?  The best of something?  Opulence?  Fancy designer doo-dads?  Expensive clothes?  How can someone experience luxury if it's a struggle just to make ends meet?

Well, I may not know how to score a fabulous vacation on a private jet, but there are some "little luxuries" everyone can enjoy - but not everyone knows about.

And sometimes, especially when we're stuggling, those little luxuries can mean the difference between getting through the day ok and totally losing your mind!

One thing that we seem to depend on every day is caffeine.  "Give us this day, our daily coffee..."  Right?  In Seattle, there are more Starbucks stores than churches!  Caffeine has been shown to lessen the effects of depression -- even the SCENT of coffee has been shown to deliver the same results.  Here in the rainy Pacific Northwest, it's hard not to be an addict.

But instead of spending 4 dollars or more on the daily dose - there are other ways to have a luxurious, decadent coffee drink - for pennies, instead of big bucks.

Here's one I like. 

Minty, Creamy Coffee

You will need:  1/3 cup powdered milk (buy in bulk if possible)
1/3 cup of sugar
1/3 cup instant coffee (Starbucks Via or generic - I can't tell the difference)
2 tsp powdered cocoa
5 crushed peppermints (or a candycane)

Combine the ingredients - then use 2-3 teaspoons per cup of boiling water for a fancy flavored coffee!  Shazam!  I find the mint mitigates the stinky coffee breath.

Another drink that tastes almost sinfully good to me is flavored English tea.  This is also incredibly easy to make, which makes it even better in my book.

You will need:  plain tea bags, vanilla flavored soy mik, honey.

All of these ingredients can be found at the dollar store.  I know, I was there yesterday!

Take standard black tea bags -- generic, preferably - and brew normally.  Fill your cup 3/4 full with hot tea, 1/4 with vanilla soy milk (or plain, or milk, or cream - whatever you have) and add a generous squirt of honey.  Stir and enjoy!

My kids tell me this tastes "very friendly in the mornings."  I agree.  You can use this same process to make a decadent chai tea (it comes in tea bags) for a nice change of pace.

Even though we know the best things in life are free, it sure is nice to share a little luxury from time to time, especially with a good friend.

Be sweet.

Ladies, can we get real here just for a hot minute?

Maybe yo mama never talked to you about these things....but hey!  Even though I'm Nacho Mama, I'm still somebody's mama, and that totally makes it ok. 

Any time we watch tv or read magazines, we're ambushed by ads for a zillion products telling us we stink.  Our pits stink, our breath stinks, our coochie stinks, and the only way we can possibly be ok and worthy of love is to buy products x, y, and z. 

What a load of crap.

Listen, unless you have some weird disease, all you need to smell fine is just basic good hygeine
.  I know, right -- it's such a revolutionary thought it sounds crazy.  But it's true!  You ever hear of pheromones?  Men are hard-wired to be attracted to your unique personal scent, via phermones.  It's related to genetics and helps ensure a good match for healthy offspring.  When we say we have "chemistry" with someone - we actually do.  It's better living through Mother Nature's chemistry!  Why cover it up with hexane and alcohol and chemical fixers and artificial scents?

That being said, there are times when we just want to smell... better.  Sometimes, you need a little something extra.  Sometimes, we really are stank.

In "Seriously, What Stinks? Part 1" you learned how to create your own deodorant - which is thrifty, nifty, healthy and green -- but now Nacho Mama is going to take it even further and teach you how to create even more of your own personal care products.  You can make your own upscale, totally green mouthwash, scented moisturizer, and coochie spray - and it's all natural, luxurious, and on the cheap.

Yes, I said coochie spray!

So!  Let's get started with Nacho Mama's Eff You Listerine Mouthwash!

You'll need:
1 cup of water 
1 teaspoon of baking soda
4 drops of peppermint or spearmint or cinnamon oil (found in the spice section)
4 drops of tea tree oil (found in the health food store and dead useful)

Mix and shake up in the empty, rinsed-out commerical mouthwash bottle.  Shazam! Now you have a totally effective mouthwash, free of artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors - and for pennies. 

Some variations I like - adding a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide per cup of water for extra whitening power.  Or, just dissolving a teaspoon or two of salt in a cup of water.  Suck on that, Proctor and Gamble.
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World's Best Moistuizer EVAH

You will need:  coconut oil
your favorite essential oil

Melt the coconut oil over low heat.  Mix in essential oil.  Or don't.

Didn't I tell you Nacho Mama doesn't have time to measure every damn thing?  That's right.  Martha Stewart don't live here!

Coconut oil may be the best moisturizer in the history.  Why?  Because it's made by Mother Nature, and she totally trumps everyone. This is the only moisturizer I've EVER used that didn't cause me to break out, and honey, I've tried it all.  Get the cold-pressed coconut oil  - it has the most good stuff in it.  You can use it plain, as I do, for your face, hands, lips, feet, and all over - and enjoy the very mild coconut scent.  This is as individual as you are, and there is no way to mess this up!  Add essential oil until you think it's strong enough.  If it gets too strong, add more coconut oil to dilute it.  If you want to make perfume, add more good smelly oil.  There, now it's multi-functional.  Booyah!
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Something that always cracks me up are those ridiculous ads with a mom and daughter walking in a garden, and daughter asking mom if she ever feels... you know... not springtime fresh?  Then mom goes on to school the daughter about the douchebaggery of the moment.

Douches, "feminine deodorant spray," scented panty liners -- it's all crap.  That stuff can actually HARM the coochie by upsetting the correct pH balance with harsh chemicals and alcohol.  As long as you're healthy, and use common sense hygeine, you're good to go.  Your Lotus Flower is a self-cleansing, self-maintaining organ.  Used too often, those products cause extreme drying... which leads to cracking... which creates the perfect storm for infection to set in.  You don't need any of it!

That being said, even the healthiest of us have those times when due to health, pregnancy, or circumstances, we are, in fact, not feeling springtime fresh.  Not to worry, though.  Nacho Mama's got you.

Nacho Mama's Kick Ass Coochie Spray

You will need:  2 cups water
 1/4 cup distilled while vinegar
and a squirt bottle.

Mix and shake it up.  Take it with you in the shower and spray liberally.  You should notice a difference right away.

This might sound weird, but I give you my word - this will not leave you smelling like salad dressing, no matter how often you do this.  It will actually help balance your pH level, discourage the nasty bacteria, and create a happy home for the good bacteria.  GUARANTEED, bitches.   FDS and Summer's Eve and all the rest - you are EVICTED.  Begone!

You know what really stinks?  All those ads that try to manipulate you with fear and sell you toxic products that create problem worse than the one you're trying to fix.  That reeks to high heaven.  What I've found in the greening of my home is that there is very little I can't make with a few basic, inexpensive, muti-purpose products.  Not only that, I generally find the homemade versions work better, too.

A little vinegar and baking soda, coconut oil and lemons will cure many a sin.... and for not a lotta dough.   Keep checking back regularly for more tips and tricks to live luxuriously - for less!

Love you for free, bitches!

Nacho Mama
This is the true tale of a stink for the ages.  A reek so evil, it should be listed as a weapon of mass insanity.  An assault on innoncent nostils so unexpected, so uncalled for, so rancid and acrid and horrible as to make birds fly backwards and disrupt the phases of the moon.  This is the stink of Armageddon.  Reader discretion is advised.
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Monday mornings always suck a little.  I find that the Monday morning suck factor is directly proportionate to how kick-ass the weekend was... and this weekend was world-class.  Between working long hours and attending an epic concert, 6:00 AM Monday came hard and early.  Not policing the kids' chores meant dirty dishes in the sink and spilled tea on the stove.  No worries -  I could get to it later.  I was still feeling groovy from the concert.

Meantime, after putting the teapot on to boil, I snuck downstairs to steal a few more delicious moments of snuggle-time with the World's Sexiest Man.

Little did I know, when I came upstairs again, my delicate olfactories would be so violently violated.  The stench of burned hair and ammonia and the devil's halitosis made me gag. 

Finding the source of the smell would bring me to the brink of murder.

Remember the spilled tea on the stove?  It was cat pee.



CAT PEE that had run over onto the hot burner and was being cooked.

Yes, cat pee.  This was a stink that would make even Jesus cuss.

What to do?  Crying was an attractive option.  So was drinking.  Hell, so was murder for that matter  - but the stink would still be there whether I was crying, drunk, or killed the cat.  

First, I dumped a ton of baking soda on the stove to soak up the pee.  This not only started to neutralize the odor, it made it easier to clean.  All I had to do was sweep it up and then wash it down the drain with lots of cold water.   (By the way, this works with most oven spills - and definitely makes clean-up faster.)

Even after sterilizing the stove, the smell was still in the house.  My house is supposed to smell like cinnamon, and vanilla, and cookies and love, dammit.

To get any evil odor out of the house, it's important to get it out of the carpet.  Otherwise, the ghost of that smell will linger.  Don't be tempted to use Carpet Fresh or any of that other crap.  It's filled with carcinogenic ingredients, articifial scents, and chemicals that were never meant to interact with your lovely endocrine system...including ingredients that act as estrogen disruptors.  If you want to have early menopause and watch your husband grow man-boobs, go right on ahead.  But seriously, why pay 7 dollars for cancer in a can when you can clean stuff for pennies in a way that's kind to the environment AND your health?

Massive handfulls of baking soda across the carpeted areas are easy and mandatory.  I love flinging it out while yelling "POOF!" or "POW!" or "SHAZAM, BITCHES!"  The way it spreads out like quickly fading smoke will totally make you feel like a wizard, and lightly coat a large area.  Try it!  Cats hate this.  I mean, cats love this!  Let it sit for at least 30 minutes, and then vacuum. 

Next, use a home made air freshener.  This couldn't be any easier, and doesn't contain any suspect chemicals or cloying artificial scents.

You will need
a squirt bottle...
clean water....
and your favorite essential oil. 

I never measure this -- so if your squirt bottle holds a couple of cups of water, use a teaspoon or so of oil.  Do you think Nacho Mama has time to measure every damn thing?  Hell no.  If it's one of those travel-sized bottles, 5 to 10 drops will do.  Shake it up, and spray liberally into the air.  Resist the temptation to spray directly onto the cat.  (Or don't.)

If theses methods can defeat the reek of cooking cat pee, I'm pretty sure they can handle whatever life throws at you.  And don't worry, no cats were harmed in this episode...although my sanity might have been.

In our next turgid episode, I'll let you in on a few up close and personal secrets to smelling good... you know, up close.  And personal!

Nacho Mama
Don't you hate it when you come home after a long day of work, only to have to play "What's That Smell?"  Between kids, pets, science experiments gone wrong in the fridge, and someone who "forgot" to take out the trash, it's anyone's guess.

If you're sensitive to smells like I am, this information could save a life.  In this 3-part series, I'll tell you the secrets to make sure you and your house smell luxe - on the cheap, on the green, AND on the real.

In the battle against Odor Malo, your best friend is Baking Soda.  Go to the hardware or club store and buy a giant bag of it.  It's often hiding in the pool supplies, because it's used to purify pools and hot tubs.  The brand doesn't matter a bit, because baking soda is bicarbonate of soda - a naturally occurring chemical compound.  So buy the cheapest brand they have, and buy in bulk if you can, because it's way less per pound that way, and you will use it often.

Now, let's talk about you.  Do you use commercial deodorant?  Of course you do.  But do you know what's in it?  Carcinogens, that's what!  Aluminum sulfides, which are linked to dementia and Alzheimer's disease.  I don't know about you, but I need all my remaining brain cells in good form.  Also, the thought of smearing carcinogens so close to my lymph nodes and boobies gives me the horrors.  Don't believe me?  Google some of the ingredients on your brand.  Go on, I'll wait.

The good news is, you can MAKE YOUR OWN DEODORANT and IT WORKS BETTER ANYWAY.  I've tried all the health-food-store brands without great success.  If they work for you, fine, but making your own is surprisingly easy, totally green, and way more thrifty -- and you probably already have the ingredients.  Let's party!

You will need:
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup corn starch
5 tablespoons more or less of coconut oil
an emptied, cleaned out stick-deodorant container
optional:  several drops of your favorite essential oil

Melt the coconut oil over very low heat, gradually stirring in the baking soda and corn starch.  Or, microwave all of it together.  Mix well, adding in your essential oil - maybe 1/2 teaspoon worth.  It will be a slippery, pasty consistency.  Spoon the mixture into your empty container, and cover.  To help it solidify faster, pop it in the fridge for a while.

And you're done!   What you end up with is a creamy, non-toxic, totally effective deodorant stick.  Coconut oil is solid at room temp, but melts on contact with your skin.  The baking soda is an effective deodorant, and the corn starch helps as an anti-perspirant.  Your essential oil is a bonus.  Call it aroma-therapy -- it's way less expensive than Prozac!

I've used this formula in my high-pressure corporate job and it stood up wonderfully.  My stinky teenagers have been using this and report it works EVEN BETTER than the store-bought stuff, and they like choosing their own scents.   

So what stinks?  It ain't you!  You smell like joy, and happiness, and mint or lavender or tangerines or whatever scent you chose - and you smell like MONEY, because you are denying Proctor and Gamble and their ilk your hard-earned cash! 

Not only that, you smell like success, because you're keeping that much more plastic crap out of the waste stream!

Congratulations, you!  Job well done! 

In Part Two of this series, I'll let you know how to deal with stinky pet odors without breaking the budget, or resorting to drinking.

Much love,

Nacho Mama