The journey of a Christian wife, stay-at-home mom, quasi-tree-hugger, and cheapskate to find ways to "CHanGE" her life to be Cheaper, Healthier, Greener, and Easier. Constructive feedback always welcome!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Update on Bottle Buyback

(See this post for reference.)

Today I had a wonderful present in my email inbox--my $50 voucher for Ecomom for shipping them Dot's old plastic baby bottles and sippies! I'm using it towards accessories for the stainless-steel bottle I got for Sonny as well as some toiletries for myself. Free shipping, too!

The deadline for submitting your packages has been extended from August 31 to September 15. Not sure if they have to be received by then or just postmarked. Great opportunity to get some free eco-friendly items less the cost of shipping them (for me, about $12). Act today!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Healthier, Greener: BPA Bottle Buy Back from Ecomom!

I have a box of Avent baby bottles left over from Dot's babyhood. I think they're from even before Avent started advertising that their bottles are BPA-free, so I'm not sure if they have BPA or not. Back then, I had no idea that BPA even existed or why it was a bad thing. Now I'm looking to switch out to glass and stainless-steel bottles for Sonny. But I was wondering what in the world I was going to do with all of those plastic bottles, and how I was going to find the money for the Greener alternatives.

Wonder no more.

I found this link today to the Ecomom BPA Bottle Buy Back. You send them your plastic baby bottles and sippy cups, whether or not you know if they have BPA in them, or even if they claim to be BPA-free, and they'll send you a $2 voucher per bottle or cup, up to $50. This voucher can be used on their website towards other products. Granted, you'll have to pay for shipping to get the bottles there, but if you do enough of them, it may be worth the effort. Believe me, I've tried to sell Dot's old beginner plastic sippy cups on Craigslist, and I've had no takers. Anything I can do to get a couple of bucks for them would be great, especially since I would rather not use them again!

I plan on using my voucher towards the purchase of glass baby bottles (probably the Lifefactory ones with the silicone sleeve) for around the house, and stainless-steel ones for when we're on the road. Combine the voucher towards the discounted ones available on Plum District, and hopefully I'll be snagging an awesome deal!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cheaper?, Easier: Cleaning Stored Baby Clothes

This week, we found out that we're having a baby BOY! Since I'm only in my 18th week of pregnancy, we're getting a bit of a head start in switching out Dot's girly baby stuff with gender-neutral and/or boyish stuff. Not only are most of the clothes the wrong gender, but also the wrong season. We have clothes for a baby girl born in the spring, and this time we're having a baby boy in the winter. -I've already started trying to sell her girly cloth trainers (one out of 3 sold thus far) and Boppy covers (one offer to trade for boyish covers thus far, still waiting to see if it pans out). Today I tackled a bigger project--the baby clothes.

Lots and lots of baby clothes. Four boxes worth as well as a box of bibs and burp cloths. And that's just from Dot's first 6 months.

I sorted everything into 4 piles: Keep (the gender-neutral stuff as well as Dot's coming-home outfit), Give Away (Huz's cousin is about to adopt a baby girl), Sell Now (stuff I could argue is fall clothing despite it being worn by Dot in the spring and summer), and Sell Later (stuff that is undeniably for spring and summer). I plan on consigning the Sell Now pile in the next few weeks and the Sell Later pile in the spring.

Now came the next hurdle: cleaning the icky yellow stains out of the stored clothes. Despite my best efforts to wash them before putting them away, 3-4 years of attic life has taken its toll. Most of the stains are probably from drool or spit-up milk; surprisingly, I didn't find any poop stains. Guess I took care of those at the time. I decided to focus my efforts on the Give Away and Sell Now piles as a trial run. But how was I supposed to get those stains out?

I found this blog with good instructions on how to do so. Here's more precisely how I did it.

1. I put 2 scoops of OxiClean powder into the washer, added the clothes, and poured a small amount of detergent into the dispenser. I set the washer to Soak, No Spin. Maybe it's because I have a front-loading, HE washer, but I don't have the option to soak overnight like Bettijo does. It just soaks and occasionally agitates for 41 minutes. This part worried me at first; I was afraid the clothes wouldn't soak long enough.

2. When that cycle was done, I poured the regular amount of detergent into the dispenser and filled the fabric-softener dispenser as much as I could with white vinegar (something I do anyway). I put the washer on Heavy Soil with an extra rinse.

3. I inspected the clothes as I pulled them out of the washer. The stain-free clothes went into the dryer or were hung to dry inside. The stained clothes went outside to sit on our sunny front porch for a couple of hours. This part is different from Bettijo's as I didn't rewash anything that was still stained.

Two hours later, the stains were completely GONE. As in, I couldn't see where they originally were. And that funky sour-milk smell was gone. There is one bib that couldn't be salvaged; it appears to have a chocolate stain on it (have no idea about that one!), so I gave it to Dot as a plaything to supplement her current "I'm a baby" stage. (Don't ask.) The sun-dried clothes went into the dryer on No Heat for about 15 minutes to soften them up from that crunchy stage.

Now I'm thrilled that I don't have to toss a bunch of clothes; I can now try to consign them as the sales' rules state that the consigned items must be stain-free.

I'm not sure if this will be Cheaper. I'm hoping to take the proceeds from the sold baby-girl clothes to buy baby-boy ones. If I make a decent profit at the consignment sales, my net loss won't be much. I could even hope to come out even.

How is this Easier? The process followed here sure was easier than trying to take pre-treater to each and every stained piece of clothing!

Unfortunately, my Sell piles together are about twice as big as my Keep pile. We personally tried to buy gender-neutral stuff for Dot when she was a young baby, but a lot of her presents were quite girly. So I have a lot of work ahead of me.

As a side note, this baby is currently being called Tiny Tim thanks to Dot. So maybe his code name on here will be Tim. To follow my current pattern, he would be Sun. Let me think about this one a bit longer...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

MIA...but for a good reason...

Sorry about the lack of posting lately. I haven't had too much inspiration, and I've been bad about sticking to my own resolutions for change. Part of that is because we have a big change of another type headed to our household around the holidays. I'm pregnant with baby #2! I may do some posts soon about my cloth-diaper stash and why I plan to breastfeed like I did with Dot, but for now, I have quite a few other priorities that unfortunately may take away from this blog. If you're willing to hang in there, thanks so much!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Cheaper, Greener: Homemade Furniture Polish

The need arose for me today to polish our kitchen table. I've been a Pledge user for years, but I started wondering what exactly was in it. So I stopped by the website for SC Johnson, who makes Pledge. Here are the ingredients, taken directly from this website.

- Water
- Isoparaffin
- Dimethicone
- Polydimethylsiloxane
- Octylphosphonic Acid
- Nitrogen (propellant)
- Polysorbate 80
- Sorbitan Oleate
- Aminomethyl Propanol
- Fragrance from SC Johnson Fragrance Palette
- Proprietary Thickening Agent
- Methylisothiazolinone

Besides water, can you tell just by looking what any of those ingredients do? Nope, I can't either. The website does explain what each ingredient does, but really? Isn't there something simpler I can use to polish my wood furniture? I made a vow after I ran out of my current can of Pledge that I would research cheaper homemade solutions with ingredients that I recognize.

Here is a recipe that I found from DIY Life that worked well.

- Juice of 1 lemon or 4 tbsp of bottled lemon juice
- 3 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp olive oil (the website says 2, but 1 is fine)

That's it. Simple, huh? The website says to put into a spray bottle and shake well, but I just mixed it in a bowl and dunked a microfiber cloth into it, then used the wet cloth to polish. It worked beautifully. My table and chairs are nice and shiny instead of the dusty mess caused by home renovations. It doesn't go terribly far, but it was enough for a table and 5 chairs, polishing the entire chair (not just the seat). And you don't want to make a huge batch of it for future storage as the olive oil will go bad. Just make as much as you need for the next couple of days.

Cheaper? I would think so. If you can get the olive oil for BOGO, then I would say yes. You're just using a tablespoon. And a bottle of lemon juice lasts me forever. Unless you're just an amazing coupon whiz and can get Pledge dirt cheap, this would be less expensive.

Greener? Definitely. This doesn't leave much of a smell, and if it does, it's just juiced lemons, not an unknown chemical. There's also no can to toss; you can keep refilling a spray bottle or bowl. Olive oil and lemon-juice bottles can be recycled, and lemons have all sorts of uses creating zero waste; I'm not sure about Pledge cans.

Easier? In most cases, yes. These are ingredients that most people have on hand, so there's no special trip to the store if you need to polish your furniture that urgently and are out of store-bought polish. But you do have to take the time (a whole 5 minutes) to create the solution.

I'd say give it a try!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Site Maintenance: New Feature!

I've added a Twitter feed to the sidebar so that I can post quickie deals as I come across them because not everything is worth a whole blog post. For example, today I posted a link to a coupon for a free piece of clothing at Sears Outlet, but it's only good for today. You can just follow my Twitter feed if you use RSS and don't come to the website regularly. I've tried to get it set up so it automatically feeds to Facebook as well, but it doesn't seem to work right for whatever reason, so I'll keep working on it so that if you don't tweet, you can follow my fan page on Facebook for the quickie deals as well. I'm not sure how often I'll post them, but hopefully it'll be more often than I blog because I can do it faster. See you around!

Cheaper: Free Texting and Long Distance

Even though I'm hooked to my smartphone, I've never been much for texting, mainly because I'm Cheap and don't want to pay extra to talk to people since I can already call, email, and send messages on Facebook to them for no additional charge. Even AT&T's old plan of 200 messages for $5/month (which I understand is no longer offered) did not appeal to me. I'd be lucky to send and receive 5 texts per month. Even at 20 cents per message, it still didn't add up to add text.

In the past couple of years, though, I've found some easy workarounds so that if the need to text arises, I can do so--for free. It's not quite as convenient as texting, but for the savings, it's pretty nice.

Here's what I've done:

1) Set up a free Google Voice account. It gives you a new phone number in whatever area code you'd like--your own, the one for your hometown, etc. When I set up my account, I could even try to customize part of it. I made it so that the last 4 digits of my Google Voice (GV) number were the same as our home phone number, making it easy to remember. You can make part of it spell out a certain word as long as phone numbers are available. If you live on the outskirts of a metropolitan area like I do, you might want to make your phone number one for that major city instead of your suburb so that other suburbs can call you for free. Once you get that number set up, you can have both voice and text come to it. If you don't want to pay for texts, I would recommend forwarding the texts to your email address so that they come through just like any other email message. The account is extremely customizable--you can set up different voicemail messages depending on who calls you, you can set multiple phones to ring (I have both home and cell ring), you can block phone numbers, etc.

Another neat feature that's not too prominently advertised--it gives you free long distance within the US on your landline. Just call your GV number from your home phone, push *, enter your 4-digit access code, then press 2, then dial the phone number with area code. I used this feature frequently to call Huz in Afghanistan since he was outfitted with a Virginia phone number all the way over there. It was just like calling Virginia--and I got to save my cell-phone minutes.

The only time you'll have to pay is if you call internationally or switch your GV number. Beyond that, all the features are free. Can't beat that!

The next way to get free texting is limited to those people using Apple devices--iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, etc.

2) Use iMessage. As long as you have an Apple device that supports iOS 5.0 or greater, and the person on the other end does as well, you can text each other within the Messages app on your device, and you will not be charged for SMS. Your Apple device will know before sending which kind of message your recipient can get. If the other person has iMessage, the data box will show "iMessage" instead of "Text Message," and your chat bubbles will show up in blue; regular texts will be green, like this:

(Image courtesy of PC Pro)

If you no longer need regular SMS service at this point, you can block both incoming and outgoing SMS via a phone call to your cell company and still have the ability to use iMessage. You'll have to give people your direct cell number instead of a GV number if you want them to be able to iMessage you.

3) If a lot of your friends are on Facebook, as is the case with me, you can just use Facebook Messenger to shoot quick private messages back and forth.

Advantages that regular SMS has over these three contact methods:

1) It works even if data coverage is not available but you're still within their voice coverage area, which is a much wider area.
2) SMS tends to come through faster than GV.
3) Messages don't count against your network data allowance.
4) You don't have to have a smartphone to use them.

iMessage will not work outside of 3G or WiFi, and GV and Facebook will be very slow. So if you're in a rural area without convenient WiFi and you need to text, these may not be great options for you. But if you have the option--take it! You'll save money every month! If nothing else, sign up for Google Voice and use it on your landline to get free long distance if you have trouble staying within your allotted cell-phone minutes.

Here's another article explaining these alternate texting methods as well as some others available that I haven't used.

Happy chatting!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cheaper, Healthier, Greener: Homemade Dog Shampoo

My concern for the products in our household hasn't stopped with just what the humans use. While giving my Yorkie a bath one day, I happened to take a look at the ingredient list on her bottle of dog shampoo. This is what I found:

This is supposed to be "oatmeal" shampoo, but I only found one ingredient that even hinted at having oats in it. Aside from water, everything else appeared to be some sort of chemical cocktail, most of which with names I can hardly pronounce.

Then I wondered--could I make my own dog shampoo? I had tried making my own herbal shampoo before for my own hair but wasn't very pleased with the results. It just felt way too oily and heavy. But I was willing to try again with a different combination for my dog. Upon some research, here is a recipe I found using simple, natural ingredients comprised of mostly things I already keep around the house--Dr. Bronner's castile soap (I did have to go buy that), distilled water, white vinegar, and olive oil.

I have tried to find the original source of the recipe, but my Google search came up empty-handed. If you are reading this and are the creator of the recipe, contact me and I'll give you credit for it.

The recipe is:

- 1 cup of distilled water
- 1/2 cup of Dr. Bronner's
- 2 tsp white vinegar
- 2 tsp olive oil

Mix and shake gently, then store in a waterproof container. When my dog's regular shampoo ran out, I simply rinsed it out well and put these new ingredients in there. I would recommend sticking a label on the side of that container listing the ingredients, similar to what I did.

If you don't know what Dr. Bronner's is, it's an all-natural vegetable-based castile soap. You can typically find it in the organic or natural personal care section of your local grocery store. It's a bit on the pricey side, but you don't need much of it, and it'll last you a long time. Here is a picture of the ingredients list. A lot safer-sounding to me!

You can use any scent of Dr. Bronner's that you prefer, but I use the lavender scent because it's supposed to have some bug-repellent properties and be calming. And it smells nice. And I've seen other recipes that call for apple cider vinegar instead of white. Maybe I'll try that the next time I run out of my homemade batch.

The end result is a clean, shiny, wonderful-smelling dog...well, until she decides to go out rolling in the grass the next time she has to go do her business.

So, how does this stack up according to my criteria?

Cheaper: Even with the initial investment of buying "fancy" castile soap, this works out to be cheaper than traditional dog shampoos. I figured that it costs about $1 per 6 oz to make (assuming that I can find a BOGO deal on olive oil, which I typically can). To fill up that 18 oz bottle, then, it would cost about $3. The last time I bought traditional dog shampoo, it cost about $4 for that same bottle.

Healthier: Fewer chemicals so I have a better idea of what's penetrating my dog's skin.

Greener: Not washing said chemicals down the drain and risk contamination of water supply. The Dr. Bronner's bottle also claims to be made from 100% recycled plastic, which can in turn be recycled. I buy vinegar and distilled water in large jugs, reducing packaging. Olive-oil bottles can also be recycled. But overall, I'm using less packaging by making my own shampoo.

Easier: OK, it's not really easier to make than it is to buy. But it's not hard to do and doesn't take a long time.

The benefits of making your own dog shampoo could be quite worthwhile. Give it a try.

And what would be a post about dog shampoo without a picture of said dog? Just call her York. Yes, she's in dire need of a haircut; she's scheduled for one next week. But she's nice and clean in the meantime. :)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cheaper, Greener: Homemade foot soak

Instead of spending lots of money on commercial foot soaks or a pedicure (although I'll admit it, I love the latter), for those in-between times when I can't get a professional pedicure or don't have the money for one, I do it myself. I've tried a couple of the recipes listed here.

My first attempt was with recipe #5: lemon juice, olive oil, and milk added to water. Sure left my feet feeling good, but then I wasn't quite sure what to do with the leftover soak. Dumping it down the drain meant that oil was going to be coating my pipes. So I've abandoned that recipe.

Now my favorite is one of the single-ingredient items at the bottom of the page: 1 cup of honey per gallon of water. My feet feel silky-smooth without spending a ton of money or using a bunch of chemicals.

Then I move on to using my Ped-Egg, then lotion, then polish. I have natural lotion on hand, but I'm still using up chemical-laden stinky polish. Once I run out of that, I plan on finding something more eco-friendly. Today I wish I had some in blue. Go UK!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Healthier: My Review of the Back Yard Burgers Garden Veggie Burger

OK, let's face it--in this culture, sometimes it's necessary to eat out. Or sometimes we just get sick of the same old thing every day for a meal. Such was the case with Huz today as we insisted we go to Back Yard Burgers for lunch with his parents, Dot, and me.

With a recent episode of Dr. Oz in the back of my mind as to how to pick out a "healthier" fast-food burger (Wednesday's episode, if I recall correctly), I opted for their Garden Veggie Burger. I had their Turkey Burger the last time we went to BYB, and I liked it ok. So I figured I'd try out another Healthier option to see if it passed my taste test. I ordered it with just lettuce and added a small amount of ketchup to it when I got to the table (I'm kind of picky with my toppings, admittedly). I added a small side salad with balsamic vinaigrette on the side...and a medium Pepsi. OK, so no one's perfect. :) My side-item purchase wasn't 100% noble; I figured I'd give Dot some of my salad (she'll eat the thin carrots and sometimes lettuce) in exchange for some of the fries she got with her kids' meal. On a side note, I'm not too happy that none of their kids' meals offers a healthier side besides fries, but I digress. (I got her a hot dog, in case you're curious. She's inherited my daggone picky gene.)

Here is the some of the nutrition information compared with my old standby at BYB, the 1/3 lb. Back Yard Burger, as taken from their website. Sometimes I would get cheese with it, sometimes not. We'll just compare a cheeseless burger.

Calories: BYB 680, GVB 400
Total Fat/Saturated Fat/Trans Fat: BYB 39g/14g/2g, GVB 8g/1.5g/0g
Cholesterol: BYB 105 mg, GVB 0mg
Sodium: BYB 1040 mg, GVB 1560 mg (interesting!)
Carbohydrates: BYB 47g, GVB 57g

So, in other words, unless you have reason to watch your salt intake or carbs, the Garden Veggie Burger appears to be a good bit Healthier. I wonder if you can ask them not to put salt on it before cooking to cut that back. Plus it was on what appeared to be a whole-wheat bun versus the regular white bun for other burgers.

What's IN the Garden Veggie Burger? Hmm, good question. I'm not sure what the main bonding agent was. Tofu? Soy? A Google search didn't help me find the answer. I did see bits of orange in there (carrot, I presume) and maybe a black bean. Everything else was pretty much a mystery. I wonder if it has a lot of beans because the fiber amount was more than double that of a regular burger (7g vs. 3g).

How did it taste? Pretty good, actually. It didn't taste like I was eating a bunch of veggies. I don't think it tastes just like a real burger, but it's definitely palatable and doesn't make me miss the other kind. The Turkey Burger was pretty good, too, if the idea of going all veggie on your burgers is a bit drastic of a step.

Is it Cheaper? Nope. A 1/3 lb Back Yard Burger costs $3.59 vs. $4.29 for the Garden Veggie Burger. You can get it on a combo meal. Whether or not the health portion of it is worth the extra 70 cents is up to you.

I tried to find a picture of the burger online, but the only one I could find just mainly showed the bun and a piece of lettuce, so you couldn't see what the actual veggie patty looked like.

Now, if I could just cut out my darn "soft drink at fast food restaurants" habit and just order water...I do pretty well at home with just drinking water, but I don't usually keep soft drinks in the house that are tempting for me--just Huz's Dr. Pepper which I don't like that much. I consider fast-food soft drinks my "treat," but I could stand to cut those out.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Cheaper, Greener: Vinegar in the Dishwasher

For a long time, I've known about how to clean my dishwasher once a month using vinegar. The process is simple, really: in an empty dishwasher, pour 1 cup of undiluted white vinegar inside and run a normal cycle. It's supposed to break down those hard-water deposits so common in this part of the country.

A couple of weeks ago, though, I took my use of vinegar a step further: using it in the rinse-aid dispenser. Crunchy Savings gave me the idea. I had to use up the rest of the "blue stuff" first before I could try it out. Now that the vinegar has been used to rinse several loads, I can give my opinion on how the dishes turned out.

I will admit, sometimes the dishes aren't quite as sparkly as they were with the "blue stuff." And they're less likely to be 100% dry when I open the dishwasher, even after letting them sit overnight like I normally do. The plates and glasses are usually fine; some of the silverware and the little bit of plastic in there are sometimes still a bit damp. Letting them air-dry on my counter isn't a big deal. Will I keep using vinegar as a rinse aid? Probably--but since I'm so Cheap, I'll probably use up the rest of my "blue stuff" first so I won't be wasting it. Just won't have to buy it again. Given the cost of those little bottles, even with coupons, using vinegar will be a whole lot Cheaper and Greener as it's all-natural; I don't have to wonder what's in it.

As for detergent? I'm still using Finish Powerball Tabs. Haven't quite gotten brave enough to try either a Greener option or make my own. Our current dishwasher, pictured above, is only about 2 months old (had to replace one with a $700 problem to fix), and its manual states that those concentrated pacs give the best results in this dishwasher and that liquid or powder detergent should not be used. If someone knows of a suitable alternative that's both Cheaper and Greener, I'm open to suggestions! I can get Finish for pretty Cheap after BOGOs at Publix combined with coupons, but even Cheaper would be nice. :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Greener, Easier: Opting Out of Phone Book Delivery

I'm not sure why, but we get 5-6 phone books at our house PER YEAR. One white pages by our local phone company. One yellow pages for the metropolitan area near which we live. One yellow pages for our county. One yellow pages for our county and a neighboring county. A Yellow Book for the area. Really? Do we need this many phone books? Especially given how rapidly our area is growing, the book is practically obsolete within 6 months. When a new phone book comes, I have a hard time figuring out which one it's supposed to replace. Plus they take up an obscene amount of space in our living-room desk, leaving little room for much else. We hardly ever use them anymore thanks to the Internet and smartphones giving us the info so much faster and more conveniently.

Finally, there's a solution.

If you're as fed up with all the phone books as we've gotten, you can go to Yellow Pages Opt Out, register, and indicate which available phone books you do and don't want. The website claims that it takes up to 12 weeks for the request to be fully honored, so I can't promise that you won't get any more phone books, period. But the flow should slow drastically and eventually stop. I just registered our household today, so I'll have to see if it really works.

Not only is this Greener because it produces less demand for paper production, but it's Easier because it reduces clutter. And it's free. Can't get any Cheaper than that. Yippee!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Healthier: Alternatives to Packaged Bread Crumbs

I love me some bread crumbs. Especially on top of something cheesy. Mmmmm. Comfort food. But then I made the "mistake" of reading the ingredients on a canister of bread crumbs. Among some other things I couldn't pronounce were high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils (in other words, trans fat).

No wonder they tasted so good.

But in my efforts to make healthier changes around the house, I've started experimenting with other types of breading/topping to see what works. Granted, I could make my own crumbs out of regular bread, but that takes more time than what I'm willing to commit. I need something Easier than that. Here's what I've found.

Saltine Crackers
It's hard to find saltine crackers that don't have the nutritional no-nos that I'm trying to avoid. However, I did find that whole-wheat crackers both by Zesta and Premium are about as natural as you can get in this realm. So I tried crumbling a bunch and sticking them on top of my test dish--homemade au gratin potatoes. Result? Good texture, but the dish tasted way too salty. Guess the term "saltine" should have been my first clue, right? Here's my sign.

Bran Flakes
Definitely less salty than the crackers, not to mention healthier, but they were almost too bland on the potatoes. And a bit crunchy for my taste even when crumbled. Might work out better when breading chicken.

Panko Bread Crumbs

Winner! Kikkoman makes these, and they can usually be found with ethnic foods. They're usually about $2-2.50 per box, but I scored a GREAT deal at Publix about a month or so ago on two of them. After tax, I actually MADE about 40 cents per box with the coupons I had--and they weren't even on sale! So, in this one particular case, definitely Cheaper. By a long shot. I've tried them both as the topping on my au gratin potatoes and as a substitute for homemade Bisquick on chicken nuggets (I needed to make more Bisquick and didn't have time). Huz, who is now thankfully home from Afghanistan (which is why I've gone so long without posting), said that as much as he loves my Bisquick-covered chicken nuggets, the panko ones are actually better. They're not quite as good on the potatoes as regular packaged bread crumbs are, but they still have the proper texture and just enough taste to not overpower the rest of the dish. And they lack all of those ingredients that I'm trying to avoid. I still need to try them in meat loaf to see if they're a good binding agent.

Hope you find the coating you need for your homemade breaded meals!