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  • Review and Giveaway: Good Cheap Eats by Jessica Fisher

    This post contains affiliate links that help support this site at no additional cost to you. Thank you for clicking through them! All opinions are honest and my own. You can read CFO’s full disclosure here.

    Review of Good Cheap Eats -

    I’ve been a big fan of Jessica Fisher for a number of years now – she’s smart, practical, funny, and seems like someone I could easily be friends if only she lived down the street instead of in San Diego. You might know her as the voice behind the popular blogs Life as Mom and Good Cheap Eats. She’s also written a couple of cookbooks, and I’m thrilled to have been asked to review her latest cookbook, Good Cheap Eats: Everyday Dinners and Fantastic Feasts for $10 or Less.

    The book is just what it sounds like – full of recipes for delicious, nutritious, and affordable meals. Jessica promises that every meal in the book feeds a family of four for $10 or less, and there are over 70 two- and three-course meals with 200 recipes, including:

    • Tortellini-Chickpea Pasta Salad, page 268
    • Classic Sauteed Peppers and Onions, page 166
    • Monkey Salad, page 249 {there’s no monkeys in it, but they might like to eat it!}
    • Vegetable, Beef, and Barley Soup, page 284
    • Garlic Herb Soft Pretzels, page 286 and 287
    • Poor Man’s Caesar Salad, page 294
    • MinTea, page 297
    • Orange-Chocolate Chip Cookies, page 299 (recipe here)

    I made the Skillet Poached Eggs with Spinach (page 246) and Oaty Maple Breakfast Cake (page 248) for dinner, although I couldn’t make the Monkey Salad that’s part of the menu since it has cashews and we avoid all nuts. My husband and I really liked the eggs and spinach, while the kids both had second helpings of the maple breakfast cake (which I had for breakfast the next day!). I loved how easily the recipes came together. And of course, like all of Jessica’s recipes, the ingredients were easily found and the directions were clear and easy to follow.

    Even more than I love the delicious recipes and menus, however, I love the 100+ tips she sprinkles throughout the book like little treasures. For example, I never thought to freeze dollops of yogurt on a baking sheet to preserve them before they go bad, and then to use them for baking and smoothies – that’s just brilliant! And so Jessica. So are these suggestions:

    Good Cheap Eats tips -

    Good Cheap Eats is a great book not just for families, but for anyone who could use some great recipes for great food while also learning some basic frugal-living tips.

    WIN IT!

    Jessica and her publisher are generously giving one lucky CFO reader their very own copy of Good Cheap Eats! To enter this giveaway, just follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below:

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    RSS and email readers: Click here to reach the form.

    Review: 100 Days of Real Food by Lisa Leake

    This post contains affiliate links that help support this site at no additional cost to you. Thank you for clicking through them! All opinions are honest and my own. You can read CFO’s full disclosure here.

    Review of 100 Days of Real Food

    I’ve been a follower of Lisa Leake’s blog 100 Days of Real Food for a couple of years, so when she offered readers a chance to become “ambassadors” of her her new book by the same title, I immediately applied and was delighted to be accepted. I was expecting a cookbook, but I got so much more than that!

    The first half of the book is a treasure trove of information. I consider myself pretty well-informed when it comes to healthy eating, current food trends and issues, and nutrition. But I still learned a lot from Lisa. Her book is written in the same clear, conversational manner as her blog, so it’s easy to read and understand.

    Lisa starts with her definition of “real food,” which is basically food that is minimally processed, and locally and humanely produced. Lisa explains how she and her family started their real food journey with a pledge to eat only real food for 100 days (which has since turned into a lifestyle). Then she goes into a fantastic overview of various food issues, including:

    • Different kinds of sugar and sweeteners
    • Artificial food color
    • Meat production and consumption
    • Organic versus conventional production of food
    • Genetically modified food (GMO’s)
    • Refined versus unrefined oil
    • Nutrition and ingredient labels
    • Packaging claims
    • Food allergies and sensitivities

    While I was familiar with most of these topics, I had never stopped to think about how processed cooking oil is. I mostly use cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, which qualifies as “minimally processed,” but I also regularly use grapeseed oil for frying and baking, and grapeseed oil is apparently quite refined/processed. Lisa recommends cooking with clarified butter or ghee (which I was able to find in the dairy section at Whole Foods), and coconut oil (which I dislike intensely because of the taste and refuse to use!).

    Lisa also offers real-world, practical, doable suggestions for switching to “real food.” She explains how she buys food, naming the stores she shops at and what she buys where. She covers budgeting and affording real food. She gives suggestions for making the transition to real food easier with small, practical changes, and 14 week-long mini-pledges. She even discusses meal planning, and provides ideas for freezer meals, fast meals, and seasonal menus with shopping lists. And the book is peppered with lovely photos of Lisa and her family, who look like the healthy family most of us aspire to:

    Lisa Leake and family

    The second half of 100 Days of Real Food is full of a wide of variety of doable recipes with ingredients that are relatively easy to find. There are dishes of every occasion – pancakes for breakfast, stuffed pitas for lunch, burgers for dinner, and carrot cake for dessert, just for example. I especially appreciate the lunchbox suggestions for school, and the recipes for homemade versions of basics like ranch dressing, BBQ sauce, and slow-cooker chicken stock.

    As I mentioned yesterday, Lisa’s book has caused me to do some serious thinking. Because despite considering myself to be well-educated when it comes to food, if I’m being honest, I don’t really follow all the practices that I know I should. And Lisa’s opened my eyes to new practices that I want to follow, like limiting refined oils.

    I’m not ready to make hugely drastic changes, mostly because it would be too overwhelming with everything else that’s going on right now. But the nice thing is, I have a good foundation to build on. I’m a pretty good cook. I have access to great food sources, like a farmer’s market (when I can get to it), a CSA box (which is pricey but local, organic, and super fresh), Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and other natural foods stores. Not to mention online resources like Amazon and Vitacost.

    And the big takeaway I got from reading 100 Days of Real Food is that I can feed my family healthier food just by looking for food that’s minimally processed and contains a minimal amount of unnecessary ingredients. Which is very doable, especially if I cook regularly and bake often. Especially when Lisa provides recipes like the one from her book for Cinnamon-Raisin Quick Bread below (click on the image to see it larger). So check out 100 Days of Real Food, and start eating better!

    100 Days of Real Food photo credits: Food photos ~ Carrie Vitt; Lifestyle photos ~ Kelly Trimble

    Review: ScoreBig – Save money on event tickets

    ScoreBig provided me with a promo code to facilitate this review, which contains my referral link. All opinions are my own, honest opinions. Read CFO’s full disclosure here.

    Review: ScoreBig -

    If you’ve looked into buying event tickets – whether for a concert, show or sporting event – you may have been shocked by the high prices. I know I have. My kids are huge baseball fans but we just don’t go to see the Dodgers much because even tickets in the blue Reserve section are rather pricey – by the time we’ve paid for the tickets, parking and food, we’re well into the $250+ range just to watch a few hours of baseball.

    So when the folks at ScoreBig asked me to check out their service, I was very curious. ScoreBig guarantees that you’ll save on each and every ticket they sell, and you’ll pay no additional fees and get free delivery. They have tickets for sporting events, concerts, theater, Broadway, family shows, and attractions throughout the country. Perhaps most importantly, they promise that all of the seats you purchase will be together.

    I searched for Los Angeles Dodgers tickets, and got a list of upcoming home games that tickets were available for:

    ScoreBig review -

    I picked the Memorial Day game, and got a list of seating sections to choose from:

    ScoreBig review -

    As shown in that screen cap, ScoreBig doesn’t list a price you pay; rather, you make them an offer. There’s a helpful bar that appears to tell you the likelihood of your offer being accepted:

    ScoreBig review -

    At the end of the checkout process, they’ll tell you if your offer has been accepted. If it’s not, you can’t make another offer on the same seats for 24 hours, but you can make an offer on other seating options. ScoreBig gave me $100 to spend, so I offered $25 for four seats, and my offer was rejected – but, they countered with an offer of $31 per seat. So, even if your offer isn’t accepted, it seems like ScoreBig will tell you what you “should” have offered and give you the chance to decide if you’re willing to pay that price. {I’m pretty sure these tickets were more expensive because we chose a game with a promotional giveaway.}

    I actually did accept the counteroffer, and my tickets were sent via FedEx within a few days at no additional cost. I didn’t know what to expect from ScoreBig before starting, and I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the whole ticket-buying process was. Now my whole family is excited about going to the game! {Tip: If you’re going to a game at Dodger Stadium, you can purchase parking online ahead of time for $10 to avoid paying $15 at the gate.}

    If you sign up for ScoreBig’s savings alert using my referral link, you’ll get $10 off your first purchase. Let us know what great deals you find!

    Thank you if you join ScoreBig using my referral link!

    Book Review: Blogging for Profit by Ruth Soukup

    Review of Blogging for Profit -

    Note: This post contains affiliate links that help support this site at no additional cost to you. Thank you for clicking through them! You can read CFO’s full disclosure here.

    I discovered Ruth Soukup’s book, How to Blog for Profit (Without Selling Your Soul) last year when it was mentioned by Crystal at Money Saving Mom.

    I’ve been blogging for nearly ten years {wow, the years have flown by!}, so I’ve read a lot about the topic of blogging. But it’s taken me a while since quitting my job as a lawyer and becoming a full-time blogger to embrace the fact that blogging is now truly my job.

    How to Blog for Profit really helped with that mental shift, because Ruth takes the business of blogging seriously but also with enthusiasm, passion, and conviction. Most of what’s contained in the book can actually be found for free all over the internet. But Ruth has pulled all of that information together in one place, and it’s all well-written and completely credible.

    She covers all of the major topics, from advertising to sponsorships to SEO optimization and strategies for increasing traffic to your site. She even shares income figures for some anonymous blogs, and how those figures divide up in terms of where the income comes from. I have to say, Ruth’s explanation of SEO was the easiest to understand that I’ve ever come across.

    The biggest message in How to Blog for Profit is that your blog content needs to be worth reading. It’s always been true, of course, but it’s so true that it’s worth repeating. The addendum to that is one that hasn’t been addressed as much, and it’s that your content needs to look good, especially in this day and age of Pinterest.

    The best message in the book is that if your content is great, you can make money. Ruth covers the various methods, including affiliate links, selling your own products, ads, and more. Her writing is concise and clear, and in my experience, accurate and credible. In fact, because my own personal experience correlates with much of what Ruth says, I find her completely credible on the parts that I didn’t know much about, like SEO.

    Each chapter ends with an action plan, although most of the tasks on each action plan aren’t “do it and forget it” types. Many require an implementation plan of their own, such as designing an aesthetically pleasing and useful site, or joining collaborative Pinterest boards. Basically, you can read the book in one sitting, but you’ll have to choose tips to focus on, and then come back to the book when you’re ready to take the next step.

    All in all, How to Blog for Profit is easily the best advice I’ve ever read on making money blogging. If you’re a blogger, or thinking about becoming a blogger, who wants to make money, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. At $4.99, the book is well worth the price. However, Ruth seems to regularly put the book on sale for just $0.99, and I’ll let you know the next time I see the book at that price.

    Good luck in your money making blogging ventures!

    Image via by ddpavumba.

    Review: Favado {Grocery Saving App}


    Last week, I had the fabulous pleasure of attending the Favado app launch, where I learned about this new grocery savings tool, and got to meet Andrea of Savings Lifestyle and Toni of The Happy Housewife for the first time after “knowing” them online for years. (If you’re fans of theirs too, know that they are as nice in person as they are online!) I enjoyed meeting the other bloggers in attendance too, as well as members of the team. 🙂

    Favado is a new (and free!) mobile savings app that helps you find the best deals at your favorite stores, with and without coupons. For instance, using just the app and two $0.50 off coupons, one of the groups at the launch party scored 30% savings on their purchase. Andrea and I shopped together, and spent just under $100 for over $210 worth of items! (We used more coupons, of course, but not that many since we didn’t have our usual stash of inserts at our disposal.)

    I think Favado is an especially terrific option for someone not looking to use a whole bunch of coupons. It’s so easy to use, and includes listings for more than 65,000 grocery stores nationwide. You can use it to make up a list based on this week’s ads, complete with coupon match ups, and email the list to yourself (with links to any printable coupons). You can search for the current best price on something you need (perfect for when you run out of something!). And you can get notifications of sale prices on specific items (just tell Favado what you want to know about).

    One of the changes I suggested is to include right in the listing an “as low as” figure so that a deal-seeker with a price list would be able to tell without clicking through if there are coupons or other savings that bring the item down to a stock-up price. As it stands right now, I still find my method of scanning blog match ups for stock up prices easier to do than checking each individual item in Favado. But Favado is still useful for creating my shopping list once I know which store(s) I’m going to.

    Favado Screen Shot

    If you haven’t tried Favado yet (it’s FREE!), I encourage you to check it out. The development team at is really interested in making the app as useful as possible, so if you have a suggestion for improvement, definitely use the Feedback option in the app to send them your idea. You can sign up below, and start using Favado as soon as you’ve downloaded the app!

    Disclosure: The Favado links in this post are affiliate links (thank you for using them!). All opinions are my own, honest opinions. You can read CFO’s full disclosure here.