Dollar Tree: What I buy and what I don’t buy

Hi! It’s been a LONG time since I’ve posted on my blog. I don’t think I posted anything during the entire year of 2015. Last year was a very very hard year for our family. But for now, I’m back. I can’t guarantee how often I’ll post but I’ll try to do better.

I’m sure many of you have seen several posts on the Internet of what to buy and what not to buy at Dollar Tree. I have read many of them. However, I want to post what items I PERSONALLY buy and don’t buy there. Yes, there will be some overlap with what others say to buy or not buy. Some things are just a great deal for everyone! So if you’re curious what items I like to get from The Dollar Tree then here we go!

What items I like to buy at Dollar Tree:

1. Balloons- You can’t find a better deal on foil balloons than at Dollar Tree. I have been to several other stores where the balloons cost $2 or more. One local dollar store I went to charged $1 for the balloon and an additional $1 for the helium. Dollar Tree sells the balloon WITH the helium for $1. I like that they have a good variety of balloons there as well.

2. Greeting Cards- I don’t know about you but I just can’t bring myself to pay $5 for a card that someone may potentially throw away. So I get all my cards at Dollar Tree where they are $0.50. (Beware that SOME cards there are $1. So only look at the $0.50 cards.).

3. Double Stick Tape- I haven’t found double stick tape anywhere for less than $1 so this is where I buy this tape. I prefer the Scotch brand to the off brand but Dollar Tree does sell both.

4. Plastic Silverware- I am not a fan of plastic items as many of them contain harmful chemicals. However, a few times a year we need plastic utensils for birthday parties etc. Dollar Tree has the best deal on them. They have many colors to choose from too. I’ll add here that the party supplies are a good deal for $1 but not always the BEST deal as I have gotten party items cheaper at Walmart and sometimes you can find them at other various places (Target, Party City, etc.) on clearance for an even better deal.

5. Picture Frames- You can’t beat picture frames for $1 (unless you find them at the thrift store or a yard sale) so this is usually where I get them. Granted the quality isn’t AMAZING but if it’s hanging on a wall or sitting on a shelf you usually can’t tell. If I’m looking for a unique good quality frame I’ll check out Hobby Lobby where they are always 50% off.

6. Pregnancy Tests- Since I’m 30 weeks pregnant currently I obviously haven’t needed pregnancy tests for a while. However, I used Dollar Tree tests for my last 3 pregnancies and they have ALWAYS been accurate for me and $1 is a GREAT price. I have only seen them cheaper than $1 a few times (I think Walmart may have some for $0.88 and some CVS stores sell them for $1 and you can always use a coupon on them to get them cheaper).

7. Batteries- Dollar Tree sells 4 packs of (AA and AAA) for $1. They are Sunbeam brand and have worked ok for us. It’s hard to find batteries cheaper than $1. Sometimes Ingles puts Rayovac on sale for $1 and if you have a $1 coupon you can get them free (I used to do that often but it’s a farther drive for me than Dollar Tree). Also if you have an IKEA nearby (I don’t) their batteries are a good price as well.

8. Q-Tips- I always buy my Q-tips at Dollar Tree. They sell 350 count packs for $1. I would LOVE to be able to afford organic cotton Q-tips (as cotton is HIGHLY sprayed with pesticides) but for now I can’t. So Dollar Tree it is.

9. Seasonal Decor- Some of the seasonal items may be somewhat tacky but you can usually find some cute things there during holidays. My kids love snow globes so I usually get them one for every holiday and you can’t beat $1. I would love to be able to afford to get all my decor from Hobby Lobby but my wallet keeps directing me back to Dollar Tree.

IMG_1604

10. Photo Paper- I recently discovered that Dollar Tree sells photo paper. I purchased a 20 pack of 4×6 paper and an 8 pack of 8×10 paper. However, I have not tried them yet. Let me know if you have and if you like it (it’s Polaroid brand). I have yet to find any 5×7 photo paper though. Has anyone seen that size at a Dollar Tree?

Things I do NOT buy at Dollar Tree:

1. Most Plastic Items (like toys etc.)- I try to avoid plastic from Dollar Tree as often as I can as there have been reports of many items containing harmful chemicals like phthalates. So best to just avoid these kinds of items

2. Toothpaste- I have seen several posts saying toothpaste is a great item to buy at Dollar Tree. I don’t buy it. Why? Because the only toothpastes I have ever seen there are full of junk and chemicals that I don’t want in my body (Fluoride, SLS, Triclosan, etc.). We choose to use natural toothpastes like Kiss My Face, XyliWhite, Earth Paste, etc.

3. Food Items- I do not purchase any food items at Dollar Tree as most of them are processed and full of junk. I also don’t trust many of the food items I have seen (Yes I have literally seen steak there for $1!!!!!). We purchase mostly organic foods anyways so I just avoid even looking at the food section at Dollar Tree.

4. Make Up/Nail Polish/Sunscreen/Body Care Products- I do no buy ANY of these items at Dollar Tree as most (if not all) of them contain chemicals I don’t want to knowingly put on my body (parabens etc.). I prefer to buy natural items or make my own at home. You don’t have to spend a fortune to have natural body care items. Don’t risk it by getting these things at Dollar Tree.

5. School Supplies- School Supplies can be found much cheaper at other stores ESPECIALLY during back to school times. Staples and Office Depot often sell school supplies for $0.01-$0.25 during those times and I stock up then. Sometimes the office supply stores have things for FREE with easy rebate (printer paper etc.) so I grab those items when they are free. Even Dollar Tree can’t beat that! *Side note- I rarely buy craft supplies at Dollar Tree as they can often be found cheaper than $1 at stores like Target and Walmart. Also the quality isn’t usually all that great (I’ve seen dried up paint there etc). I do sometimes buy items like puzzles, stickers, and coloring books there.

6. Tools- You get what you pay for. We got screwdrivers there once. Enough said.

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Potassium Sorbate (aka E202)

There seem to be 3 preservatives that go hand in hand. I see them everywhere. You’ll be hard pressed to find a food or body care item that doesn’t contain 1, 2, or all 3 of these preservatives. Those 3 preservatives are phenoxyethanol, sodium benzoate, and potassium sorbate. I have discussed sodium benzoate before and why we should avoid it. Today I want to discuss potassium sorbate.

According to the EWG (Environmental Working Group), “Potassium sorbate is a potassium salt of sorbic acid, a naturally occurring antimicrobial compound; used as a preservative. The EWG gives this compound a rating of 3 (not terrible, but not fantastic either. If you aren’t familiar with the EWG rating scale the lower the rating the safer the ingredient. 0-2 is “low hazard.”). Now I know what you’re probably thinking. “A naturally occurring antimicrobial compound?”–how is that so terrible? Well, actually, according to Wikipedia, “While sorbic acid is naturally occurring in some berries, virtually all of the world’s production of sorbic acid, from which potassium sorbate is derived, is manufactured synthetically.” I’ll spare you the details of how it’s produced because it mainly involves big confusing words. The point is that it is completely manufactured. (Click here if you really do want to know how it’s made).

(photo credit)

Cottage Cheese (photo credit)

This preservative (also written as E202, PS, and KS) is used to inhibit mold and bacteria and to create a longer shelf life for products and/or food items. It’s in wine, ciders, dried fruits, dried meats, spices, vitamins and supplements, cheeses, yogurts, soaps, shampoos, lotions, make up, and many other items. Start reading your labels and you’ll probably notice it popping up everywhere.

**Random side note. Watch out for dried fruits and get the non-sorbate fruits if you can. Trader Joe’s has yummy non-sorbate pitted prunes that I LOVE.**

So, what harm can/does potassium sorbate cause? Potassium sorbate is a skin, eye and respiratory irritant. It can also cause contact dermatitis. So if you are super sensitive I would look for personal care products without this preservative. I would try to avoid it in food items as over time it can cause diarrhea, nausea, and nutrient loss in food.  Now here is the thing. I have spent several hours researching potassium sorbate. Many sources say it’s one of the safest preservatives out there. However, other sources say it’s not as safe as it seems. My advice: LIMIT it where you can. Especially with food (*One easy way is to avoid buying foods that require long shelf lives. Or buy organic; It’s not allowed to be used in organic food).

The ingredients in Andalou Naturals shampoo

The ingredients in Andalou Naturals shampoo

While researching for this post I stumbled upon a study that was done in Turkey that showed that potassium sorbate is both genotoxic and mutagenic to human blood cells. These experiments were done in vitro. The study showed that “Potassium sorbate is found to be toxic to human DNA in peripheral blood lymphocytes, and hence found that it negatively affects immunity.” Yikes. So basically it tends to damage DNA molecules by forming mutagenic compounds. However, the FDA still gives it a GRAS (generally regarded as safe) rating.

Also after some digging I found that PS is made up of heavy metals including lead, aldehydes (as in formaldehyde), mercury, and even arsenic. However I couldn’t find much more info about it than that. :/ Sorry if that wasn’t super helpful but wanted to let you know what I found under full disclosure.

Ok. So time for some honesty. There is so much conflicting information online. Many sites say PS is quite safe. Others say it alters DNA. How do I personally feel about it? Well, I’ll admit something. I do continue to buy a few things (pretty much ONLY non food items) that contain potassium sorbate. And here is why.

First off, I KNOW that I can make my own soap, body wash, scrubs, shampoos, lotions, etc. Obviously making your own would guarantee that your products are free of potassium sorbate (unless you are unusual and actually buy that stuff. Well, actually people that make their own wine might buy it…but anyways…). However, I’m not to the point in my life where I am up to making everything from scratch. So I look for the “better” products to buy.

Secondly, (store-bought) body care products do need SOME kind of preservative in them. You know you wouldn’t be happy to open your shampoo in the shower and squirt out a big handful of mold. Sometimes the mold/bacteria can be more dangerous than the preservative used to prevent it!! Plus, companies produce a large quantity of products and have to ship them and then they sit on store shelves. So they have to preserve it somehow or by the time it gets to you it would be spoiled. :/ So I get that. Are there safer preservatives? Yes, probably. I know that Vitamin E Oil (aka Tocopherol) is often used as a more natural preservative (and it’s rated a 1 from the EWG. Yay!). But nonetheless, many companies still use PS.

Lastly, I still continue to use a few products with potassium sorbate as the preservative because it is used by many companies as an alternative to parabens. And let me tell you- I’ll pick potassium sorbate over parabens ANY day. We haven’t covered parabens yet but just know that they are terrible and should always always be avoided. Especially in baby items (stay away from Huggies wipes! They contain parabens!). Side note: there are many kinds of parabens: methylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben etc. Proplyparaben is probably the worst as it rates a 10 from the EWG. I hope to cover parabens soon because they are SO incredibly dangerous. Anyways, I appreciate companies that completely avoid parabens and although I’m not crazy about potassium sorbate at least it’s not as dangerous as parabens. So see– baby steps. Life is about growing and changing and making better choices. I’m excited about any step in the right direction. 🙂

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Target Prices for Target’s Prices

In my last post we discussed the new(ish) Simply Nature line at Aldi. In this post I’d like to talk about the Simply Balanced line at Target. This is a pretty new line that started at Target this past year. The neat thing about the items in this line is that they go on sale ALL THE TIME. And there are pretty much coupons for these items ALL THE TIME. So that makes for some great deals. Many of the Simply Balanced items are organic (40% of the items are organic) and by the end of 2014 all of the Simply Balanced items are supposed to be GMO free! Exciting!

Side note: Even though Target sells produce now, I still don’t find any great deals and rarely any organic items (except salad. Please correct me if you’ve seen other organic produce). I get bananas there once in a while, but that’s about it for produce.

I have tried many of the Simply Balanced items from Target and so far love them all. I am personally excited about this line because our house is super close to Target. I mean super close. So if I run out of something and need it quickly, Target is my go-to store. Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Earth Fare are not very close to me, so it’s nice I can still get some decent items without using much gas at all.

Got all this stuff at Target for $14 back in September.

Got all this stuff at Target for $14 back in September. That bag of salmon sells for $13 normally!

Always check Target.com for store coupons. There are almost always coupons for Simply Balanced eggs, fruit strips, tortilla chips, frozen seafood, etc. Also download the Target app because they have mobile coupons as well.

Back in September my husband turned 30 and I threw him a big party. We had a nacho bar at the party and it was perfect because I got 4 bags of organic tortilla chips a couple weeks before for $1.57 out of pocket ($0.40 a bag!). I ended up going back for 4 more bags. The frozen salmon is great. In fact, I just bought a bag this past week. It’s wild caught from the USA and normally sells for $12.99. With sales and coupons I paid $7.60. GREAT deal. I think the organic, cage free eggs were about $3.31 (not bad) . I believe I paid $2.85 for the organic chai tea and it is SUPER yummy. 🙂 Love hot tea!

IMG_8171Our whole family loves these organic fruit strips and they are nice to have when you need a little something sweet (which happens to me more than I’d like to admit). There is usually a $1.25 off printable store coupon and usually a Cartwheel coupon as well. What is Cartwheel you ask? It’s a way to get additional savings at Target. You can download the app or just sign up on your computer and print the bar code. Click here for more info on how to use Cartwheel. Target allows you to use a manufacturer coupon, a Target store coupon (either printable or mobile), and a Cartwheel discount (That’s 3 discounts on 1 item!!). This makes for some awesome deals (even better if you have a Red Card and save an additional 5%!). I usually pay about $1.18 for a box of fruit strips. Right now there are 20 cartwheel deals for Simply Balanced products!

I’m hoping that Target plans to expand the Simply Balanced line and bring in even more items.

I have recently noticed other natural brands at Target that I did want to mention. One is Applegate. They sell organic and natural meats (lunch meat, hot dogs, bacon, chicken nuggets etc.) and cheeses. Their prices are pretty good at Target! Add in a couple of coupons and you really have a good deal!

Recently got this ham and cheese for $2.42 each after coupon, cartwheel, and Target red card.

Recently got this ham and cheese for $2.42 each after coupon, cartwheel, and Target red card.

Another great brand at Target is Annie’s. Right now Annie’s mac and cheese is $1.25 each and B4G1 so it makes them $1 each. Great deal! Other brands to look out for are Amy’s, Evol, Nature’s Path, and Barbara’s (Please still read ingredients. Not all varieties are good). And for baby items keep your eyes open for Plum Kids, Happy Baby, Earth’s Best, and Ella’s Kitchen. They have some great products as well. 🙂 And they often go on sale and have coupons. Any other tips or good deals you’ve seen at Target? Let me know!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Aldi for Organics?!

Hi folks! Once again it’s been over 2 months since I’ve posted. Agh! I’m doing terrible at this blogging thing. I’m so sorry! I’m going to try to do better this year. I don’t make “resolutions” but I promise to post more often in 2014 then I did in 2013. 😉 Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year. We surely did. God has greatly blessed us.

Ok now what about Aldi? The reason I’m writing this post is because this past week I stopped into Aldi for some organic apples and bananas (at a great price!) and I realized that they are getting more and more organic items! So I wanted to write up a post for those of you who have been trying to shop for healthier and/or non-GMO items without breaking the bank (or taking time to make every single thing from scratch).

I’ve done a short post before on Trader Joe’s when we first started shopping there back in April 2013. However, Trader Joe’s sister store, Aldi has been getting better now that they have introduced their Simply Nature line. You can read more about how the 2 stores are related here and here.

Image

I first noticed the organic items at Aldi back in September when I ran in for a few things. I meant to do a post back then. But I didn’t. So here I am now. I’m mainly posting this so you can see the prices (and be shocked at how good some of them are). I have not tried every one of these items but the ones I have tried have been good. Also, remember that even though some things are organic you still need to read labels! The organic chicken broth contains hidden MSG (yeast extract) so definitely avoid that!!!

Image

Aldi also has a few other items that are not organic, but still decent items at a good price. This post is going to be an overview of some of their prices. You’re welcome. 🙂

Image

The Aldi brand of almond milk is a good price if Silk is not on sale and you can’t find coupons. I usually get the Silk equivalent of this at Publix for $0.75-$1 with a sale and coupon(s) (regular price $3.19). Trader Joe’s sells their brand for $2.99.

Image

And remember that just because it’s Aldi doesn’t always mean it’s cheaper. Their 5 oz. container of organic baby spinach is $2.49. Trader Joe’s sells 6 oz. bags of organic baby spinach for $1.99. So TJ for the win on spinach (and boy does my 3 year old love baby spinach!)!

Image

This is a fantastic price for organic butter! Everywhere else it’s around $5 (it’s $4.79 at Trader Joe’s).

Image

Please excuse the terrible quality of this picture but I wanted to mention that I’m excited that Aldi sells organic produce. They don’t have much variety but the prices are great. I got organic Fuji apples there this past week for $1.15/lb. (vs. $1.25/lb at TJ). I got organic bananas for $0.59/lb (same price as Bi-lo’s non-organic). I also got a bag of organic baby carrots for $1.49. The prices for their produce are always changing so check to see what’s on sale when you go!

Image

This is obviously not a food item but their 45 count kitchen trash bags are only $4.99 and I just finished a box of them (lasted 3 months!) and I can say that they are good trash bags at a decent price. So just in case you were interested… 🙂

Image

Here is the ad that is starting next Wednesday. $3.19 for 12 oz of organic honey is a great price. And I’ve tried it. It’s good (though local raw is better). I’ve also tried the organic aged balsamic vinaigrette and it’s pretty good (especially for $1.99). Notice in the bottom right hand corner the Wednesday special meat buy. $4.49/lb for organic grass fed beef (85/15) is fantastic! It sells for around $7/lb (or more!) at other stores. I have purchased this ground beef before and we like it and plan to get some next week. 🙂 Just be aware that they may limit you. Last time the Wade Hampton location had a sign with limit of one pound per person (although I got 3 pounds with no problem. Could have been because I had my 2 kids with me so technically we had 3 people).

Image

We hardly ever buy frozen pizza (because we make our own) but I would like to try the organic spinach and feta pizza. $3.99 is a good price because I paid $5 for a Publix Greenwise organic frozen spinach and feta pizza last week. 🙂 $1.99 is a great price for organic salsa! It’s cheaper than TJ. Be aware that some prices sound AMAZING until you realize how small the package is. 😦 I was stoked to see organic cheese sticks for $2.99 until I realized it was only a 6 oz. bag. 😦 UPDATE: This is actually a better deal than Trader Joe’s. TJ sells organic string cheese for $4.99 for a 9 oz. bag (making each cheese stick $0.55 each). Aldi’s are $0.50 each. 🙂

Image

I have heard from others that Aldi has some nitrate free meats. I need to look into those. I haven’t checked them out yet. 🙂 Just remember to look at sizes. The $2.49 for organic fruit preserves sounds fantastic until you notice it’s only 10.2 oz. It’s not terrible but the organic fruit preserves at Trader Joe’s are $3.29-$3.49 for 15.2 oz. I buy the organic grape jelly at TJ for $2.69 and it’s a 17 oz jar!!

If you have anything to add please post a comment! Would love to hear if you have tried any of these items and what you think of them. Or if you know of any other great prices. I bought a 1 pound bag of dry roasted pistachios at Aldi the other day for $5.99 (they were not organic) and they were AMAZING. We ate the whole bag in just a few days. 🙂

Hope this post was helpful and encourages you to get out to Aldi to see what you can find.

UPDATE 1/19:

Spent $45 on this stuff from Aldi to try out.

Spent $45 on this stuff from Aldi to try out.

We recently made a trip to Aldi to grab a few things to try out. The pizzas you see pictured were $3.49 each but we did not like them. :/ They did not taste very good and we won’t be getting them again. We all love the blueberry preserves! The nitrite free black forest ham ($2.99) and breakfast sausage (also $2.99) were very good. I’m not a big bacon fan, but my hubby loved the uncured bacon. The animal cookies were OK, but the Honey Teddy Grahams were YUMMY (not healthy, but yummy). The salsa is good and at $1.99 a jar for organic salsa, you can’t beat that price. Hope this was helpful.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I’m back; where I’ve been; and Earth Fare’s mobile coupons are awesome!

Hi! I’m back! Sorry I’ve been gone so long!! I realize my last post was at the beginning of July. Well, on July 12 we closed on our first house! YAY!!! After living in apartments for the past 5-6 years I can not tell you how wonderful it is to not have someone living above us or below us. It’s like a dream come true and I still get excited when we pull into our driveway. It’s a small house but fits our family perfectly and with all the student loans we are trying to pay off (well the payments start next month) it’s what was in our budget.

Our cute little house

Our cute little house

 

So July was crazy. We painted all 3 bedrooms and the kitchen/dining room (including ceilings and trim), several doors, etc. We ripped up all the carpet in the bedrooms (the only carpet in the house) and had all new carpet put in (good-bye stinky dog pee smell!). And during August we did more work on the house and unpacked all our stuff, hung things on walls, etc. In September my sweet hubby turned 30 so I threw him a big 30th birthday party (which was also a housewarming party). We had almost 30 people over! Then this week my daughter turned 3 so her big Owl themed birthday party was last weekend. So in between packing, moving, painting, planning parties, trips to the apple orchard, pumpkin patch, local zoo, the state fair, etc. it’s been hard to find time to sit and write-up a blog post. But let me tell you that I have had many ideas swirling around in my head.

Ok time for some serious honesty. When we were moving we were TERRIBLE about food. For 2 weeks we had 2 places of residence. We closed on our house July 12 but didn’t move out of our apartment til July 27. So going back and forth wasn’t easy and we literally had no time to cook during those 2 weeks. Let’s just say we kept Taco Bell in business those 2 weeks. UGH! I’m embarrassed to say that we ate mostly fast food during that time. I don’t think I even did any grocery shopping.

Needless to say, we were SO excited when we finally moved in and could fill up the fridge with real food and could start cooking at home. Things REALLY got awesome when we got our very first (charcoal) grill/smoker and my hubby has been going to TOWN grilling things. He’s in heaven. Let me also add that we got that $80-$90 grill on clearance for $35. SCORE!

The appliances in our house were older. And it JUST so happened that my parents were celebrating their 30th anniversary the month before we bought our house and they were replacing all their white appliances with stainless steel ones. So guess who got their perfectly fine white fridge and smooth top stove? US! Just one more added blessing I had to share (since you know how I LOVE good deals and you can’t beat free appliances!).

So now that there are no more parties for a while (although we are planning to host the family Thanksgiving at our house this year since hubby gets Thanksgiving off!) I should have time to write more blog posts. Let me know if there is anything specific you would like covered.

For now I’d like to post about some ways to save on organic/healthier items. Since we now have a mortgage to pay, student loan payments coming due next month, and having a house has so many costs involved (can you believe it’s going to cost us about $300 to have our garage door springs fixed?!) we still look for good deals. And I’ve gotten some pretty amazing deals over the past 3 months.

Remember my post about Earth Fare? I reminded you to sign up for their Tomato Bank. Well Earth Fare recently came out with a mobile app called Get Deals. If you have a smart phone you need to RUN to your phone to download it. I’ve only had the app for less than 2 weeks but they have some GREAT deals on there. Over the past week or so they have been having “Dollar Days” where you can get all kinds of things for $1! What a steal. I haven’t had good success using manufacturer coupons at Earth Fare. They once told me if it’s a smart source coupon (printable or not) they won’t take it. They look for the S with a circle around it on the coupon. So I only use their store coupons there (to avoid the headache). In fact, we went to Earth Fare this morning so let me show you some of the things I got with their mobile coupons from their new app.

I got everything you see here for $9.36! Almond milk for $1??!! Yes, please!

I got everything you see here for $9.36! Almond milk for $1??!! Yes, please!

Had I paid the retail price for this stuff (ie not used the dollar deal mobile coupons) it would have been $25.90!! Seriously! $25.90. I mean just the organic apples (Gala are my favorite!!) and blueberries would have been $7.30! All you do is show your phone to the cashier and let them type in the code for each deal. Super easy (as long as your phone doesn’t die). And boy did the couponer in me LOVE that I saved more than I spent. 🙂

You might be saying “Um what kind of meal are you going to make with organic mustard, frozen waffles and organic pretzel sticks?” Well, nothing. But that is going to free up money for other things (like organic squash and zucchini. which we had today for lunch. YUM!).

One last thing about saving at Earth Fare. They also have coupons you can receive by text message. You just have to text EAT to 71700. I believe you get a $5 off $25 coupon when you sign up (don’t quote me but that’s what I got when I signed up). Hope that’s helpful!

Anyone had any great savings lately on organic food?

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

MSG is NOT your friend

Once again it’s been a while since my last post. Please forgive me. We close on our first house in less than 2 weeks so things are a bit crazy right now. But it’s a good kind of crazy. 🙂

We’ve been doing pretty well eating at home most every day and very rarely eating out. We have enjoyed trying new recipes and spending the money we would have spent eating out on better quality food. 🙂 However, the other day we were heading to see some fireworks and it was pretty late at night and we hadn’t had dinner yet. So we pulled into the Chick-fil-A drive thru. We sat at the menu board and I could barely look at the pictures without feeling sick. I used to LOVE CFA. We ate there a good bit. But a few months ago I researched what is in their food and I haven’t had it since. I almost ordered the grilled nuggets for the kids (because grilled is always better than fried) but I just couldn’t do it knowing that they contain something awful called MSG. We finally all ordered a fruit cup and that was it. The fruit is not organic but at least it’s a better option than MSG. So what is MSG and why has it ruined all my old favorite fast food items like Jack in the Box’s tacos, Wendy’s chili, and CFA chicken sandwiches?

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer that comes from fermented sugar beets (which means it’s also a GMO since sugar beets are GMOs) and is found in so many things (salad dressing, ranch packets, Campbell’s Soup and Gravies, Doritos, etc.). According to Wikipedia, MSG “is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, one of the most abundant naturally occurring non-essential amino acids.” The FDA “generally regards it as safe” but is it? MSG is an excitotoxin that can excite brain cells to death (I won’t even try to explain it. Click the link if you want to know how it works). So why do companies use it? According to Naturalnews.com “Because MSG is so cheap, the food industry can use much lower quality foods and simply add MSG as a flavor enhancer.” Unfortunately there are no regulations are on how much MSG is allowed in food.

Many people are sensitive or allergic to MSG or have something called MSG symptom complex. Accroding to the Mayo Clinic it can cause all sorts of problems like migraines, headaches, chest pain, nausea, and weakness. MSG can also potentially trigger or worsen learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and more.

So how can we avoid MSG? Well, first of all we can buy real whole foods that don’t have labels. 🙂 But we all know most of us can’t do that 100% of the time (especially if you have kids). So it should be easy, right? Just look for natural foods at health food stores, right? Wrong. MSG has so many hidden names it’s nearly impossible to memorize them all (yes, I have tried). The government requires companies to list MSG if it’s used in a product and many “health food” companies know that consumers won’t buy their products if they see MSG on the label. So you know what they do? They find another ingredient to hide it in so they don’t have to list it. They mostly hide it in something you’ll see labeled as “yeast extract.” Go ahead. Check your labels. Even the things from Trader Joe’s. It’s in Goldfish, crackers, Organic chicken broth, Annie’s Cheddar Snack Mix, etc. etc.

Autolyzed Yeast Extract (aka MSG) in Trader Joe's Organic Low Sodium Chicken Broth

Autolyzed Yeast Extract (aka MSG) in Trader Joe’s Organic Low Sodium Chicken Broth

MSG is hard to avoid because it has so many code names (Here is a link to a few.). The biggest ones I try my best to avoid are:

• Glutamic Acid
• Glutamate
• Monosodium glutamate
• Monopotassium glutamate
• Calcium glutamate
• Monoammonium glutamate
• Magnesium glutamate
• Natrium glutamate
• Yeast extract
• Anything “Hydrolyzed”
• Any “hydrolyzed protein”
• Calcium caseinate
• Sodium caseinate
• Yeast food
• Yeast nutrient
• Autolyzed yeast
• Gelatain
• Texured protein
• Soy protein
• Soy protein concentrate
• Soy protein isolate
• Whey protein
• Whey protein concentrate
• Whey protein isolate
• Anything “…protein” such as corn protein or tomato protein

(that list is taken from this article)

Yeast Extract in Annie's Organic Cheddar Snack Mix

Yeast Extract in Annie’s Organic Cheddar Snack Mix

If that’s too much to remember start with avoiding yeast extract, anything with the word hydrolyzed (like hydrolyzed pea protein) and anything with the word autolyzed (like autolyzed yeast extract). According to truthinlabeling.org, “Current FDA regulations also allow certain MSG-containing ingredients to be included under the label descriptors “flavor(s)”, “flavoring(s)”, “natural flavor(s)”, and “natural flavoring(s)” without disclosure of the processed free glutamic acid (MSG) in them, or even mention of the ingredients’ names.” This is one reason I avoid purchasing items with these words on the labels. (I dare you to go to the store and find me 5 things without “natural flavors” on the label.) Here is another list of some of the code names of MSG. Just remember that even organic food can contain these ingredients. Just keep reading your labels and buying label-less food. 🙂

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Brand Swaps

I recently had a sweet friend tell me she likes when I post or mention brand swaps. So I decided to do a post about a few of them that we have made. 🙂 Of course I’m not saying you have to switch to these particular brands. I’m just saying that these are a good alternative. They are brands I have personally tried and our family likes. 🙂 Hope this is helpful.

Try switching from Kraft BBQ Sauce to Earth Fare's Organic Tangy BBQ Sauce. It does not have caramel color and other nasties.

Kraft BBQ Sauce has high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, and RED 40. ICK! Try switching from Kraft BBQ Sauce to Earth Fare’s Organic Tangy BBQ Sauce. It does not have caramel color and other nasties.

Try switching from Snapple to Earth Fare's Organic Iced Tea. And bonus! This one is unsweetened. And it tastes great!

Did you know that Diet Snapple contains Aspartame? Try switching from Snapple to Earth Fare’s Organic Iced Tea. And bonus! This one is unsweetened. And it tastes great!

Ok so this is a splurge item. But who doesn't need peanut butter and chocolate every once in a while? Switch from Reese's peanut butter cups to Justin's organic. They also come in dark chocolate and they are OUT OF THIS WORLD!!!

Ok so this is a splurge item. But who doesn’t need peanut butter and chocolate every once in a while?  Did you know that Reese’s contains TBHQ–a harmful preservative you should avoid?! Switch from Reese’s peanut butter cups to Justin’s organic. They also come in dark chocolate and they are OUT OF THIS WORLD!!!

Artificial food coloring is terrible for your body. Skip the Kraft Mac and Cheese and go for Annie's. Annie's sometimes goes on sale for $1 a box at Target.

Artificial food coloring is terrible for your body. Skip the Kraft Mac and Cheese and go for Annie’s. Annie’s uses natural ingredients for color and sometimes goes on sale for $1 a box at Target.

Skip the JIF and switch to Trader Joe's natural peanut butter. The only ingredients are dry roasted peanuts and salt (unless you get unsalted then it's one ingredient). You don't want to eat trans fats. Trust me.

Skip the JIF and switch to Trader Joe’s natural peanut butter. The only ingredients are dry roasted peanuts and salt (unless you get unsalted then it’s just peanuts). You don’t want to eat trans fats. Or the added sugar. Trust me.

Have you ever looked at a can or pouch of Starkist tuna in water? It has more than tuna and water; it also contains vegetable broth (which contains soy). Yuck. Skip the Starkist and opt for the no salt added tuna from Whole Foods. Trader Joe's also sells it but it's $1.69 a can there so I usually buy tuna at Whole Foods since it's $0.10 cheaper and I think it tastes a little better.

Have you ever looked at a can or pouch of Starkist tuna in water? It has more than tuna and water; it also contains vegetable broth (which contains soy). Yuck. Skip the Starkist and opt for the no salt added tuna from Whole Foods. Trader Joe’s also sells it but it’s $1.69 a can so I usually buy it at Whole Foods since it’s $0.10 cheaper and I think it tastes a little better. 🙂

Ditch the Nature's Valley Granola Bars and opt for Larabars if you need a quick snack. They are made with all natural ingredients, are non-gmo, and taste great! We LOVE these. They often have coupons for them online.

Nature’s Valley Granola Bars have corn syrup and “natural flavors.” Ditch the Nature’s Valley Granola Bars and opt for Larabars if you need a quick snack. They are made with all natural ingredients, are non-gmo, and taste great! We LOVE these. Peanut Butter Cookie is probably my favorite. Here are the ingredients: Peanuts, dates, and sea salt. Nothing artificial here! They often have coupons for them online.

Did you know that brands like Mt. Olive contain petroleum based food coloring? Yuck. Try Trader Joe's pickles. No food coloring in these.

Did you know that brands like Mt. Olive contain petroleum based food coloring and sodium benzoate? Try Trader Joe’s pickles. No food coloring or preservatives in these.

Who wants to eat mechanically separated meat and cancer causing chemicals like BHT? Don't buy Banquet Sausage. Opt for Jones  Dairy Farm. They often go on sale at Publix. These have 5 ingredients: pork, cooked rice, water, salt, and spices.

Who wants to eat mechanically separated meat and cancer causing chemicals like BHT? Don’t buy Banquet Sausage. Opt for Jones Dairy Farm. They often go on sale at Publix. These have 5 ingredients: pork, cooked rice, water, salt, and spices.

Every once in a while I miss Oreos. But I definitely don't want to eat high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, and GMO ingredients. If you have a craving for Oreos try Late July organic sandwich cookies. They are absolutely amazing. I bought these at Publix for around $4.59.

Every once in a while I miss Oreos. But I definitely don’t want to eat high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, and GMO ingredients. If you have a craving for Oreos try Late July organic sandwich cookies. They are absolutely amazing. I bought these at Publix for around $4.59.

We love berries in our house. But did you know that berries have more pesticides than most other fruits and veggies? Strawberries are listed on the dirty dozen list. :/ So switch to organic berries. They have fewer pesticides (and taste way better!).

We love berries in our house. But did you know that berries have more pesticides than most other fruits and veggies? Strawberries are listed on the dirty dozen list. :/ So switch to organic berries. They have fewer pesticides (and taste way better!). Driscoll’s sells organic berries and they offer coupons online from time to time!

Did you know that a lot of zucchini and yellow squash are now genetically modified? If you can, switch to organic squash to avoid GMOs.

Did you know that a lot of zucchini and yellow squash are now genetically modified? If you can, switch to organic squash to avoid GMOs. Pero Family Farms sells organic squash and zucchini.

Ok so hot dogs aren't exactly healthy. But sometimes we want them for cook outs right? Sodium nitrates and nitrites are linked to cancer and other health issues. Avoid Oscar Mayer and try Applegate Farms organic grass fed hot dogs. A 7 pack is $4.99 at Trader Joe's.

Ok so hot dogs aren’t exactly healthy. But sometimes we want them for cook-outs, right? Sodium nitrates and nitrites are linked to cancer and other health issues. Avoid Oscar Mayer and try Applegate Farms organic grass-fed hot dogs. A 7 pack is $4.99 at Trader Joe’s.

Did you know that Campbell's soup contains MSG and mechanically separated meats? Ugh. Try Amy's Organic Soups. They are made with natural ingredients and taste great!

Did you know that Campbell’s Soup contains MSG and mechanically separated meats? Try Amy’s Organic Soups. They are made with natural ingredients and taste great!

I hope this was informative. If you have any other brand suggestions please feel free to share in the comments! I just picked a few random ones to share. 🙂

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments