How to Shop at Whole Foods (or any other Organic grocery store) without Breaking The Bank

Making the switch to organic foods doesn’t necessarily double (or triple) a food budget. In some cases, buying the right food at the right time can actually be cheaper. There are many ways to save money at Whole Foods and there are even more ways to save on eating in general when you look at the big food picture. It’s not as easy as comparing apples to apples, but it paves the path to a healthy and happy relationship with food.

whole foods

10 Simple Steps to Save Money on Wholesome Food

1. Drink Water – Right off the bat, swap any sugary beverages for water and you will instantly cut down on your bill. Start with one glass per day for a week, then add another each week after that until you get to 8 full glasses of refreshing water each day. Not only will you feel better, but your wallet and your back will thank you! Plus, you can use the small carts in the store.

2. Dilute your own Juice – Instead of buying children’s juice or juice boxes, dilute it yourself by adding water in a 1:4 or 1:2 ratio depending on the age of the child. Even I like to dilute my juice now that I drink water most of the time.

3. Limit or Skip the Snack Aisles – The best way to save money is to avoid the interior aisles of the store altogether, but I also think that an important part of healthy eating is having an indulgence in moderation. Stock up with these items go on sale.

4. Follow the Stores on Social Media to find out about FLASH Sales – The weekly flash sales feature a product at 1/3 the regular cost, which is huge savings. Stock up and find ways to use every last bite of the feast. Did you see how I used every last mango during Mango Madness?

5. Don’t Throw Anything Away – If the average family throws away 1/2 their food, that’s a ton of money going into the trash. Why not buy only what you will surely eat, learn how to use food efficiently, and make leftovers the best part of the meal to get every dollar’s worth of the money you spend on your food?

6. Grab the Flyer – Online and at the front of the stores, you can find a flyer with money-saving coupons.

7. Listen to the Experts – Money Saving Mom and many other coupon blogs show how to match coupons with store sales for big savings.

8. BYO – Some stores encourage shoppers to bring bags by offering a small discount or prize. Don’t forget to bring a mesh tote for produce and jars for the bulk market, too. If you can weigh your own bulk goodies, put your container on the scale and then hit “TARE” to zero the weight so you don’t pay for anything more than your food. Otherwise, bring an extra so that the clerk can use the empty to determine the weight when you checkout.

9. Shop in Season – This is the tricky part. If you truly want to save money on food, you might have to eat boring food at times. The summer and fall are the best times to go wild with your food choices. Load up and freeze extra portions. Make soups with leftovers or experiment with canning. Learn your seasonal fruits and veggies and eat those at the right times. Chances are, the sales will match up with the seasons. (http://americanfood.about.com/od/resourcesadditionalinfo/a/seasonalprolist.htm)

10. Buy Local Produce – Join a CSA or Shop the Farmer’s Market for Produce. Supporting local farms is worth it in the long term.

If you’re looking to fill your cart with organic versions of everything you normally eat, it will definitely cost a lot more. But, a few healthy diet shifts can lead to an incredible opportunity to get your money’s worth on every bite.

Bonus tip: Grow your own! What better way to save money than to reap what you sow from seeds in your own backyard? You’ll save on transportation costs, packaging, fuel and benefit from a healthy dose of Vitamin D.

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Mango Madness

Whole Foods had a FLASH sale on Mangos that I couldn’t pass up, so I decided to research how to use mangos to make sure these delectable fruits don’t go to waste. I’ve been craving mangos, so I was super-excited to see a tweet that my local shop was offering 10 mangos for $5. I bought a variety of green and yellow mangos to eat through the coming week. The yellow, slightly wrinkled fruits are so tasty right now!

mango madness in a produce bag

Although the instructions on SimplyRecipes.com don’t explain how to entertain your toddler for 5 minutes while slicing a mango, I can assure you that it is possible. Hannah sits on the counter with me while I trim and slice veggies all the time. We are both careful to work around one another since she eagerly reaches her tender fingers for bites as soon as they become available.

I started toting my own shopping bags to the grocery store in an effort to cut down on plastic bag use a few months ago and I am happy to report that it has been going really well. I plan to add a few cotton mesh produce bags to my collection before the Farmer’s Market starts up next month. For now, I’m still trying to avoid buying in plastic, but it is a process. I’m modifying a lot of things about the way I grocery shop in an effort to bring home healthier options for my family. It can be a real challenge to find something to eat that isn’t stored in plastic, so I’m starting simply by doing most of my shopping in the produce section and bringing my own bag. I also love using canvas bags because they are easy to throw in the wash. But, let’s get back to the mango party!

First of all, the raw, sunripened mangos that have been sitting near the window on my counter make the perfect breakfast side, snack, and dessert. The grocery clerk at Whole Foods said that she loves to throw a mango in the food processor with a little vanilla ice cream. That sounds delicious! I also love mangos as a salsa on top of salmon or pureed into a vinaigrette for a salad dressing. Don’t even get me started on all the ways to juice a mango or incorporate it into some of my favorite beverages like margaritas. I decided to make a pinterest board with ideas for using up all the mangos and now I’m regretting not getting more! I doubt that there will be any left at the end of this week with the way Hannah and I tear through fresh fruit, but if there are I can easily cut them up and store the pieces in a glass jar.

How to Freeze a Mango

Similar to freezing other fresh fruits, slice the mango and then start the process in the refrigerator. After they cool overnight, give the jar a quick shake and then transfer to the freezer. This helps keep the pieces from sticking together. These icy mangos can instantly fill a margarita or sorbet puree without defrosting.

Happy eating! Follow my Mango Madness Pinterest board: http://pinterest.com/ecoincognito/mango-madness/

How to Wash Designer Jeans for Long Term Wear

There are easy ways to extend the life of designer jeans in order to get your money’s worth. With a little luck, the best jeans can last for years. When it comes to caring for jeans, less is more. Wear them several times before washing and use very little soap. The jeans will relax after a couple days of wear, but hanging them in between use and rotating a few pairs can prevent that. Hang dry on a collapsible rack for a practically-free laundry solution.

designer jeans washingHow to wash designer jeans

Wash as infrequently as possible
Limit the soap
Turn inside out and fold into quarters
Distribute jeans evenly around the washing machine basin
To hand wash, fill a sink with water and 2 Tablespoons of laundry detergent. Percolate the jeans, then hang to dry

How to Revive Old Jeans

To give new life to a pair of aged jeans, one option is to consign or thrift them. Jeans also make a great outfit for a scarecrow or can be upcycled into anything from a handbag to a jean skirt. The best designers blast holes and rips into jeans, so pull out the crafty supplies like embroidery thread and a razor blade to add more distressed embellishments.

Closet Makeover – Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning always brings back fond memories of my days working at Banana Republic because my favorite spot in the house to clean is my closet. I love switching out my seasonal clothes and reinvigorating my wardrobe with new and old favorites. It reminds me of the work I did arranging and re-arranging the racks in the store to best showcase the clothes. The past few years have been crazy trying to keep up with my expanding and contracting belly on top of the changes of seasons so my wardrobe is now a hodge-podge of clothes from many different lifestyles and sizes. Finding my Mom-Style has been a challenge. On top of the sizing woes, my husband and I have completely different perspectives on how I should dress. However, we’ve finally settled on a pretty great compromise and I’m excited about my new spring wardrobe.

This year, I’ve picked 6 pieces from Athleta to be the base of my style. I was OK with splurging a little because last fall I cleared out my closet and sold a trunkload of clothes to Clothes Mentor for almost $300. They bought my former work clothes, my maternity clothes, and a lot of dresses that I loved but would probably never wear again. It felt great to get a big pay-out for the items and to know that they might end up in someone else’s closet as a new favorite instead of a landfill.

With all the empty space in my closet and my new favorites, it is time once again to rearrange the shelves. I’m sticking with my organizational standards that have helped me organize my closet since the days when 85% of my wardrobe was pink. I still have a closet full of pink in the house, but now it is size 2T.

Here are my tips to help you organize your closet:

Spring cleaning, Easy steps to organize your closet from Eco IncognitoStep 1: Clear out any clothes that you haven’t worn in the past year. Separate the ones that need repairs or no longer fit.

Tip: At the beginning of a season, turn all your hangers to face the opposite direction. As you wear clothes, rehang them the right way. By the end of the season you’ll know what you haven’t worn.

Step 2: Repair clothes if possible, or sort into piles for donation or upcycling.

Tip: Don’t be afraid to keep a bin of clothes for future projects. I store sweaters, jeans, tees, and pretty fabrics for inspiration. Last year, I used some clothes for our fall Scarecrow display.

Step 3: Group shirts by sleeve length and separate skirts, shorts, and pants the same way.

Tip: Place the group of clothes you wear most often at the easiest-to-reach spot in your closet.

Step 4: Arrange groups by color using the rainbow as your guide and then by shades of lightest to darkest.

There’s No One Way to be a Mom

Different kids have different needs. I see it very prevalently in my two children. Everything about the girls has been unique, but it has given me a great perspective on the different types of children. More importantly, cluing into their actions helps me adapt to their needs.

Hannah and Audrey

Hannah and Audrey

I first learned about the four types of children from the book Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg. In it, she stated that children as young as birth can demonstrate how they fall into each of the categories through their actions. By about three months, you should be able to tell if you have an Angel, Textbook, Spirited, or Touchy Baby. For me, understanding that Hannah was a Spirited baby opened the doors to connecting with her and building a bridge between her needs as a baby and my abilities as a Mom. Spirited babies, while charismatic, have an acute way of announcing and acting out on each need throughout the day. I can’t imagine having gone through my first year of motherhood without her as my coach. She served as such a strong motivator, that when my Angel baby arrived 14 months later, I jumped at the opportunity to do everything right for her.

I’m not kidding when I tell you that Audrey rarely cries. She sails through each day while I wear her and allows me to continue to focus my attention and energy on Hannah. Each girl, from the womb, has shown me her different needs. Hannah needs space, independence, and challenges because she is going to take over the world. I say that as a joke, but I see so many traits in her that I’ve watched unfold in movies with strong female heroines that I really think it’s likely. Just like her Dad, she has an acute awareness of the world that is both her greatest strength and the biggest challenge of her life.

The way I mother Hannah is to follow her lead. I teach her skills and break them down so that she can take over. Her motivation is always to help and I take advantage of that. My daily tasks take longer this way, but it’s important to me to fill our time with helping her understand the world. The second component to this is starting at a young age with instructions. She may be strong willed, but she loves to perform. Simple games like reaching our hands to the sky or shaking an egg near different body parts are helping her learn to listen and follow along. Some day she will be a leader, but she won’t get there without first mastering these skills.

On the other hand, the way I mother Audrey is simple. We follow an easy rotation of eat, play, sleep throughout the day. Generally, she wakes up bright eyed and then gets even happier after I feed her. She loves to play on the floor and watch her sister. I can devote time to her and Hannah by asking Hannah to follow along with a diaper change. We also play with Hannah’s toys. Audrey can perch on her belly to reach for objects or sit in my lap. If you’re wondering how I occupy Hannah while I feed Audrey, at home I read books with her on the couch. When we’re out, I nurse Audrey in the carrier so that I can chase after Hannah.

The reason I say that there’s no one way to be a Mom is because there’s no one way to be a kid either. However, children are built with unique ways of telling us their needs. Plus, they have such a cute physique that we can’t help but want to take care of them. All children can be good children, just like at heart, all Moms are good Moms. When we take the time to understand and listen to a child, we find out exactly the type of Mom s(he) needs.

How to Interview Preschools – Main Line Parent Early Childhood Education Fair

By: Jeannette Bezinque

main line parent early childhood education expo

Photo Credit: Jen Capone

Main Line Parent Magazine hosted two Early Childhood Education Fairs to showcase some of the best learning centers in the area on the weekend of January 26-27. It offered a great opportunity to meet with representatives from each school to learn about their programs. Plus, UrbanSitter.com hosted a mingle to help families meet babysitters and nannies in the area. As usual, I brought my two co-correspondents to help.

main line parent early childhood education expo

Photo Credit: Jen Capone

The best part about taking your kids to an event like this is having the opportunity to see the creative ways the teachers will engage your children. As a parent, it’s important to get involved with the education program you choose for your kids. Although it wasn’t the usual setting, every school brought a little bit of the classroom to demonstrate a typical activity. I was instantly drawn to the large wooden activity at the Kimberton Waldorf School’s table because several kids of varying ages were all intently playing together. The Riverbend Environmental Education Center showcased  an eye-catching display of skulls and pelts from animals on the table. The instructor enthusiastically greeted Hannah and then told me about the birthday parties and summer programs available.

I really enjoyed speaking with the Walden School. The teachers there have a great concept of focusing a Montessori education with a foundation of respectful social interactions. Even at a young age, their students grasp complex ideas of sharing and conflict resolution. Nearby in Chester Springs, the Montgomery School hosts a Mommy and Me program on the 1st Thursday of each month. Their fourth and fifth graders are the teachers for this FREE community activity. We are planning to attend soon and hope you can join us!

The School in Rose Valley has a terrific, natural concept for their education program. The students compost, garden, and participate in lots of outdoor activities on their Earthy playground. Many of the schools had multiple facilities. For instance, the Hildebrandt school of Berwyn is also in Exton, PA. In addition to school presenters, there were also programs designed to help parents learn these skills. SparkPark offers a ParentPark in conjunction with the kid’s activities.

If you are interviewing in the hopes of selecting a great pre-school, I have a handful of questions that you can ask to get a good understanding of the education program.

Top 5 Questions to Ask a Potential Preschool / Daycare/ Nanny in an interview

1. How would you describe the learning style?

2. What are the features that make your school unique?

3. How much time do the kids spend watching TV on average during the week?

4. Does the chef use fresh ingredients to prepare healthy foods for the children?

5. Do you offer enrichment programs to help parents better understand and implement the learning styles at home?

main line parent early childhood education expo

Photo Credit: Jen Capone

I was thrilled to meet Jen Capone (http://jencapone.com/), who took these beautiful photos. Not only is Jen an amazing photographer, but she is also living a green lifestyle and a community advocate. She shared about her experience raising four kids and saving beaucoup bucks by being conscientious and cheap. Her motto? “If I can’t compost it or recycle it, I don’t buy it.”

There were so many fantastic schools, after-school programs, and summer camps that I didn’t have a chance to meet them all so I want to share this handy list of sponsors from the Main Line Parent Website so that you can research the ones that may offer the best fit for your family’s needs. Thank you Main Line Parent for hosting a well-planned event to help parents find excellent childhood learning centers!

Agnes Irwin School Ithan Avenue and Conestoga Road | Rosemont | 610-526-1672 Agnes Irwin is a PreKindergarten through 12th grade all-girls independent school.


Baldwin School 701 Montgomery Avenue | Bryn Mawr | 610-525-2700 Established in 1888, The Baldwin School is an independent Pre-K through 12 school that develops “thinking girls” into accomplished women.


Brain Balance Centers of Wayne 250 West Lancaster Ave, Suite 110 | Wayne | 610-688-2700 Our program is intended for children who suffer from the effects of AD/HD, Dyslexia, Learning Disabilities, processing disorders, PDD and Autistic Spectrum Disorders.

Bricks 4 Kidz King of Prussia, Main Line, Newtown Square, Phoenixville | 610-871-LEGO Bricks 4 Kidz teaches children ages 3-13+ an integrated curriculum of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) through center-based activities, on-campus after school enrichment programs, spring break and summer camps, field trips, and more! Our social programs designed to stimulate young children’s minds and encourage technical and technological discovery include Kidz Nite Out, Birthday Parties and Challenge Days.


Bryn Mawr Hospital/Nemours 240 N. Radnor Chester Road | Radnor | 484-580-1037 Bryn Mawr Hospital and Nemours expand pediatric partnership to bring specialized pediatric care services to the five-county region of Southeastern Pennsylvania.


Country Day School of Sacred Heart 480 S Bryn Mawr Ave. | Bryn Mawr | 610-527-3915 ext. 214 A Catholic, independent school, Sacred Heart educates, nurtures, and values one girl at a time. Flexible before and aftercare available.


Friends School Haverford 851 Buck Lane | Haverford | 610-642-0354 Founded in 1885, Friends School Haverford is a co-educational preschool 3s through eighth grade Quaker School. Friends School Haverford inspires the imagination and challenges the intellect.


Happy Family Brands 139 Fulton Street, Suite 907 | New York | 484-466-3084 HAPPYBABY is committed to providing families with the healthiest, most optimal nutrition possible. Besides using the best organic ingredients, we also incorporate the best nature has to offer when it comes to added nutrition, like our sustainable source of DHA, pre and probiotics, and supergrains like Salba and quinoa.


Hildebrandt Learning Center 1001 Old Cassatt Road | Berwyn | 610-390-8883 We are a NAEYC accredited, 4 star Keystone Stars program that provides an exceptional foundation for children infant to preschool aged.

ING Financial Partners  1880 JFK Boulevard, St 1600 | Philadelphia | 215-399-5558 ING Financial Partners offers a comprehensive range of financial planning services.


Kimberton Waldorf School 410 West Seven Stars Road | Phoenixville | 610-933-3635 x107 Kimberton Waldorf School serves approximately 300 children in preschool through 12th grade, and is the second oldest Waldorf School in North America.


Montgomery School 1141 Kimberton Road | Chester Springs | 610-827-7222 Montgomery School is an Independent School serving grades Prekindergarten through Grade Eight in Chester Springs, PA.


Our Lady of the Assumption Preschool and Kindergarten 135 Fairfield Lane | Strafford | 610-983-0310OLA is a Prechool, Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten and Pre-First Grade School where children learn in a safe, nurturing and loving environment! It only takes a spark to get a fire burning! Our Lady of the Assumption Academy Excellence where sparks fly!


Open Connections 1616 Delchester Road | Newtown Square | 610-459-3366 Youth ages 2-18 attend our programs 1-3 days a week. We serve as a community base for families seeking an innovative, collaborative, and Process Conscious environment.


Riverbend Environmental Education Center (Gladwyne) 1950 Spring Mill Road | Gladwyne | 610-527-5234 Riverbend connects children to nature with quality programs for schools, family programs, year round holiday camps and Summer Exploration Camp.


The School in Rose Valley 20 School Lane | Rose Valley| 610-566-1088 The School in Rose Valley (SRV) is an independent, progressive school for children in preschool through sixth grade located on a beautiful, seven-acre campus near Media, PA. SRV’s program balances academic instruction, indoor and outdoor play, and the arts.


Spanish Workshop for Children PO Box 693 | Blue Bell | 610-489-5595 Spanish immersion program for toddlers, preschoolers, and young children.

SparkPark 950Montgomery Ave | Narberth | Enrichment programs for kids with classes in science, art, woodshop, and foreign languages: Spanish, French and Mandarin.


Upper Main Line YMCA Early Learning 1132 S. Leopard Road | Berwyn | 610-647-9622 UMLY Early Learning offers full and half day options. Our unique facility offers enrichment classes in arts/humanities, nature, sports, and swimming.


UrbanSitter.com Founded by four busy parents, UrbanSitter is an online resource where parents go to find & book babysitters recommended by people they know. Looking for the occasional sitter, full-time nanny, or last minute help? UrbanSitter will find available sitters—and show you the ones recommended by parents in your social circles (mother’s group, child’s school, sports team, etc.). Search sitters by date & time, book jobs, and even pay online—it’s quick, easy and efficient.


The Walden School 901 North Providence Road | Media | 610-892-8000 Founded in 1967, The Walden School is a Montessori-based pre through grade 8 independent school in Media, PA. At Walden, parents find academic excellence in a respectful atmosphere that inspires confidence and celebrates the uniqueness of each child.


Wayne Art Center413 Maplewood Ave | Wayne | 610-688-3553 Opening in 1930 as the first Art Center on the Mainline, the Wayne Art Center is a non-profit center dedicated to enriching our community through the arts.


West Hill School 1455 West Hill Road | Rosemont | 610-525-7660 The West Hill School is a unique co-educational Preschool designed especially for children ages 2.7 to 5 years old.  We are  situated on over two beautiful acres in Rosemont.

 

Disclosure: I received compensation to attend the event in exchange for social media coverage. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

America, Stop Acting Like a Teenager

americaWe can all agree that there’s a problem in America today. I’m not going to say that I’ve got the solution, but I think I’ve figured out what’s wrong. America has turned into a teenager. She needs sleep, guidance, healthy food, room to test her boundaries, and a hug. Most of all, she needs to grow up.

For many generations, America was the baby nation. We were so cute and cuddly and filled with a vibrant youthful spirit that others, for the most part, couldn’t help but want to be around us. Sure, we bounced on the walls a bit and couldn’t help but fall down. At the end of the day, we were growing and learning. A few decades ago, we hit an awkward pre-teenage phase. Our clothes were always too big or too small, we never had enough money, but we still came home and had dinner at the table. We were in a hurry, though, so those microwave meals and fast food hit an all-time high of popularity. Recently, we have entered the God-Awful teenage years.

I’m not going to sugar coat it. Americans, in general, are putting on the appearance that we’re a group of rambunctious, immature, gossipy idiots and we’re spoiling things for the good kids. The people who act out the worst are getting the most attention. We’re diverting resources from those who want to help and giving them to those who won’t help themselves. The art of parenting has turned into a busy dance of babysitters, with few people accepting full responsibility for the charge of raising their own children. Parenting does not stop at the age of 18. We need to form lifelong bonds in order to get back to our roots and build a better future for our kids.

We can’t keep up like this. People are getting hurt.

How do the best parents handle the teenage years? They offer forgiveness mixed with sternness. Maybe America needs to be grounded for a little while. No more amusement parks, no more new cars, no more allowance until you make an effort to change. Stay home, be with your family, do your chores. After that, we’ll see if we can start to fit in some rewards. And, no, you don’t need another bag of Doritos. Have an apple.

We’re in a rough patch right now, but I’m hopeful that better times are ahead. I don’t know how long it will take everyone to grow out of this phase, but I think that things will get better when America cleans up the mess from the keg party, quits drinking cheap beer, and settles down. Look how much people change when they find love. If the answer is that simple, all we need is to support a love for the Earth. Whenever things are difficult, I go outside and get back to nature. People might be doubtful that being green is the way to go, but I know that it’s true. The Green Kids aren’t all the most popular people in our crazy-America-high-school, but they’re the ones who are going to be our bosses in a few years.

When all else fails, more rules won’t help. Let’s give things time. Watch a garden grow, go camping, make food from scratch. Do something that takes time. We’ll look back and these teenage years will flash by in an instant. Right now, they’re dragging, but the end is in sight. Get ready for graduation.