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!
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