Experience Truth in Wellness

Living Shalom is a Biblically-based endeavor that exists to inspire and equip you to experience greater health and wellness. Wellness Advocate, Lisa Gautier, shares knowledge, resources, and her own experiences related to health and wellness, and invites you to join her on the journey toward more abundant life and health!

Seasonal Specials

Seasonal Specials

I’ve recently discovered an additional way for how to save money on groceries. A few of the local open-air, year-round produce markets, like the Milk Pail I referenced a few weeks back, are perfect options for this strategy:

Buy items marked down on “Special.”

Stores who need to move produce out before it’s too old may mark down items to a lower price point for quick sale. Or, if it’s the Milk Pail, it could be cheeses or canned / jarred goods that even make the specials list!

This is the moment YOU can benefit greatly…the moment of the “Specials.”

Today, I scored the following on “Special” – low fixed prices for pre-packaged chunks of produce:

  • Organic bananas
  • Organic eggplant
  • Red bell peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Purple Cauliflower
  • Yukon style potatoes (not show in photo because I’d already opened and washed them!)

Each package of my produce was a flat rate of $1.99 each.

That means I got all of the above for right around $12. Not bad.

I weighed the bananas at the store to see what the price came to per pound. It was a little over 50 cents per pound. As you might recall, I posted about the best price on bananas previously. Organic bananas at Whole Foods now run around $1 / lb. and the lesser expensive Costco bananas lately failed me because they remained green and never ripened correctly (a disappointment, despite their lower 66 cent / lb. price point).

So this pack of 50 cent / lb. organic bananas was a smashing deal ripe for the picking!

You might be thinking, “Yeah, but Lisa, how am I going to make sure I use all that produce before it spoils, especially if it’s already pretty ripe?”

Here are 3 Ways to Make the Most of Grocery Store Specials:

(1) Cook the vegetables. I did such tonight for my husband, which included roasted potatoes, steamed purple cauliflower, and a mixed vegetable saute. For a basic vegetable saute recipe, simply put some oil in a hot pan, toss in minced garlic, chopped onion, chopped veggies of choice (I used red bell peppers and eggplant) and let it cook on medium until all is softened, and season with soy sauce. Voila! Veggie saute.

(2) Juice the produce. It’s a great way to get in vitamins via juicing at a lower than typical price point for your homemade juice. I’ll likely do that with the extra red peppers and cucumbers that my husband and I don’t consume within the next few days.

(3) Freeze some. Bananas freeze particularly well and are great for future smoothies – a delicacy I make for myself almost every morning. And all my smoothies almost ALWAYS include a banana. Why? Because it really helps provide a nice creamy consistency to the smoothie that I think is lacking if you skip it. Almost all good smoothies require a banana in my opinion. And if I’m going to eat that many bananas, why not freeze up the ripe, cheap ones on “Special?” And so I shall! And did!

As you can see in the picture below, just peel the bananas and put them in a ziploc baggie for freezing. It’s a simple as that. Then grab one out of the bag when you are ready to use it.

Freezing Bananas

Freezing Bananas

Note: frozen bananas also make a good snack with the flax almond butter recipe mentioned here. Simple slice the bananas with a knife and dip the pieces into your nut butter mixture. It’s pretty darn good. My husband liked it so much he started eating off my plate and I ended up preparing more since he was enjoying it so much!

Do you get produce on “Special” at your local store? If so, what do you like to do with it?

Not long ago, I recall thinking to myself how I despise – no, I LOATHE – Walmart.

It’s an extremely stressful experience for me every time I set foot in that place (unless I’m with someone else who helps take the edge off merely by their distracting presence).

I hate Walmart.

Long lines – even at the self-checkout!

People everywhere…too many people for the space…all there at the same time. All the time!!!

Too much stuff bombarding you everywhere you turn…

The Returns line snaking around and hanging out like a long nasty tail, reminding you that $5 item you need to return might not be worth your time in line. And even when you come at an “off” time, the snaking line is still that long!!


I had just come to the conclusion that Walmart was a necessary evil. For what other option did I have for cheaply purchasing some of my necessary basics?

But then…shortly after I had come to that conclusion…

I discovered an alternative:

The Dollar Tree.

Everything's A Dollar

Everything’s A Dollar

“The Dollar Tree?!?” you may be asking with dripping skepticism.

Well, I would have thought the same. The dollar stores I had been to in North Carolina pretty much sold a bunch of junk, junk, junk as far as I could tell.

Regular trips to that kind of store seemed pointless.

I don’t know if it is because my eyes have been enlightened to now see the value of Dollar Tree, or because the Dollar Tree near me is better here in California, or because it is so ridiculously expensive to live out here that I got more creative on how to save money.

Who knows?

All I know is I’m saving money and reducing my stress by shopping there and not at Walmart anymore.

I found a viable solution to Walmart! HIP HIP HOORAY!!! NO MORE WALMART!!!

Think of it! For all your necessary, annoyingly required items that you probably are going to buy conventional anyway – like paper towels, toilet paper, tissues, ziploc baggies, greeting cards, eye make up remover, ice trays, stationery cards, gift bags, and more – just go to Dollar Tree!

I am so relieved to know I can still save money while severely limiting my trips to Walmart. I don’t think I’ve been to Walmart for a month now! Glory!

I was going to provide further detail on what you can get at the Dollar Tree but this blog post has an incredibly comprehensive list of the good deals there (and price comparisons with other retailers). This is better than even a list I could create!

Check out that list here and start saving money by shopping at the Dollar Tree!

Dollar Tree Deals

Dollar Tree Deals

The Milk Pail Market

The Milk Pail Market

This Wednesday I am sharing about the other half of my solution that allows me to cut costs on groceries. The first, per last week’s post, was shopping for lots of healthy options at Costco. The second is my regular shopping at the outdoor European-style open-air market, called The Milk Pail.

Ah! This is a little gem of a find my one close local friend told me about (it takes a while to find friends here…they all seem to work crazy around here…).

The Milk Pail sells lots of produce – carry mostly non-organic, but still some organic items as well – at shockingly low prices. Today, for example, they had ORGANIC broccoli just $0.69 for the BUNCH! What?!?

Organic Broccoli for 69 Cents Per Pound

Organic Broccoli for 69 Cents Per Pound

Seriously, if you want to save money and get some good deals on fresh produce (or even fresh and/or european style cheeses) in the Mountain View / Los Altos area, go to this market!

They always seem to have a variety of things on “special” where they lower the prices to sell through. Like today, I wanted half and half to go in the Guatemalan coffee my mother brought back for my husband and I (from her recent missions trip there). And lookie, lookie – I found they were quick selling bottles for 1/2 price, which was exciting to see!

Half Prices on the Milk Pail

Half Prices on the Milk Pail

I found a jar of fruit chutney at this market on special once (just at the time I wanted to make a chicken salad recipe with such) and it was only around $1.99 for the jar! Craziness!

One of my favorite foods at this market is the fresh organic heirloom tomatoes. They run $1.99/lb. The lowest price you will get them at in Costco is about $3/lb, and if here at Whole Foods they run about $5 to $6/lb. Insanity! Rip off!

Organic Heirloom Tomatoes

Organic Heirloom Tomatoes

I am confident these beautiful heirloom tomatoes are just as much or more expensive on the East Coast in the Whole Foods there. I was rarely able to afford these jewels back in NC, to my dismay. But now…

I am shopping at Whole Foods less and less to my own delight, as I rack up the savings and stock up on quality foods.

Yum yum.

Oh, and how about those ripe bananas you can get for just 30 cents a pound at The Milk Pail?

30 Cents for Ripe Bananas!

30 Cents for Ripe Bananas!

Perhaps the best thing about this little Milk Pail Market (which is conveniently on the way home from my trip to the Costco store, so I can do a 2-in-1 trip), is that it’s a YEAR-ROUND, DAILY market. No more waiting until Saturdays to hit up a local farmer’s market, and being required to show up right at 8 am with the market bell if you want the best selection. Twas a bit of a chore at times…

Produce at the Milk Pail

Produce at the Milk Pail

Now I can go any time I please and the food will be there.


That is the sound of satisfaction.

What other ways do you know for saving money on fresh and healthy foods?

More of The Milk Pail Market

More of The Milk Pail Market

Costco Choices

Costco Choices

I have news: there is a solution better than Whole Foods, one that is less expensive and just as viable.

The solution is found in two parts: (1) Costco and (2) the local open-air market.

Today, I’m going to talk about Costco. Next week I plan to feature the open-air market I use nearby.

Costco here in California provides a viable alternative for so many items I might otherwise purchase in Whole Foods. And to top it off, many of the fresh items found in Costco are LOCAL! California is, after all, one of the great states known for it’s fresh, organic produce so I guess it makes sense to see it featured at great prices in Costco!

Prices are also cheaper at the local California Costco than the one in Raleigh (sorry to say it, my North Carolinian friends). It might be because less gas is needed to stock many of the produce items here versus there.

At any rate, no matter what Costco you use, consider looking for the following items I just purchased (visible in my shopping cart!) Here they are in alphabetical order:

  • Avocados, organic – 6 @ $7.99
  • Bananas, organic – 3 lbs. @ $1.99 (that’s less than $0.70/lb.)
  • Brocolette, organic – 2 lb. bag @ $5.29 (brocolette is like a softer stem version of broccoli)
  • Brown Rice, organic – 12 lb. bag @ $13.99 (that’s just over $1.10 / lb)
  • Butter, Kerry Gold (a pasture-raised butter) – three 8 oz. bars for $7.69 (1.5 lbs. total) – (this is one of the best butters I know of for sale, and just ONE 8 oz. bar runs $3.99 at Whole Foods)
  • Carrots, organic – 10 lb. @ $4.69 (if you compare this with my post on juicing carrots you can see this is even cheaper than the price I blogged about at the Raleigh Costco in November 2012!)
  • Chicken (oven roasted and slices – great for sandwiches or salad), organic – 1.25 lbs. @ $12.99
  • Cheddar slices, organic grassfed – 2 lb. @ $11.59
  • Heirloom tomatoes, organic – 2 lb. for $5.99 which is roughly $3/lb. (while Whole Foods runs around $4.99 – 5.99/lb. as I recall)
  • Chicken breasts, organic – $5.99/lb. (I got 6 breasts for about $22)
  • Chicken stock, organic – 6 quart-size cartons @ $10.99
  • Grapes, green organic seedless – 4 lbs. @ $7.99
  • Eggs, organic & pastured  - 18 eggs @ $9.99
  • Fish, white wild dover sole – $4.99 / lb.
  • Lettuce, organic spring mix – 1 lb. @ $3.69
  • Mango, organic frozen – 4 lbs. @ $9.99
  • Shampoo, Kirkland (Costco) brand, sulfate-free – 33.8 oz. @ $9.99

And that’s just today’s shopping cart! There are many other items I have found there as well that are excellent deals.

What are your choices at Costco?

Last week I shared about giving thanks and referenced the anniversary weekend my husband and I recently shared in Carmel & Monterey. This week, I’m sharing some pictures! Take a photo tour of our steps along the way over the course of our weekend.

And if you are a health-conscious individual looking for fun, healthy options (including where to get fresh fish for lunch in Monterey, or where to get organic and gluten-free food in Monterey), check out where we went below! There are restaurants and cafes that offer such within walking distance of the main drag that runs along the beach!

Now for the pictorial journey…


Give Thanks


The Beach at Monterey

The Beach at Monterey

I’m learning anew to give thanks in all circumstances – in ALL circumstances.

No matter how rough, how tough your life may be right now, I can guarantee there is SOMETHING for which you can be thankful!

Yes, we are commanded to present our requests to God and not be anxious about anything, but we are to do such alongside thanksgiving.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing this week – presenting my requests and the circumstances needing God’s divine touch and miraculous breakthrough – while giving thanks, too.

I have, after all, so much to be thankful for.

As you may know, if you are a long Living Shalom blog reader, I just passed my 4th year authoring this blog. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long! Thank you to all you who have stuck with me over the 4 years!

But as you may also know as a long time reader, I have not blogged much the past year.


Well, I got married last August and life’s been one more whirlwind ever since. (We actually just celebrated our 1 year anniversary over a wonderful, restful weekend at the beach.)

Within 6 weeks of our marriage, we moved to California. We have moved 6 more times since – for a total of 8 times since tying the knot. (It’s hard to find permanent housing in the Bay Area; we did not have a permanent residence until we’d been here for 7 months!)

Not only have we moved a lot the past nearly 12 months, I’ve also had 4 jobs since moving here. Yep. 4. Apparently the Bay is known both for its plethora of jobs as well as the hardness of landing something for the long term. There is lots of competition here for jobs and the mindset is not always one of permanency on both the employer and employee side. So I’ve had some jobs, but none were the right long-term fit prior this one. But this new one I started last month seems just right.

Also, during this transitional season, my husband finished his business degree, started teaching at a new dance studio, and got a job here, too.

Between all the moving and job changes, you might imagine there has not been much left for blogging!

Nevertheless, you know what? I marvel with gratitude at how faithful God has been to us.

Not even ONCE have we ever had to sleep in our car or gone without food.

And even though my job changes have been stressful at times, I can honestly say I enjoyed the work I did in all of the jobs, no matter how temporary they were.

I am so thankful indeed that we are now blessed with:

  • Jobs we enjoy that use our skill set and interests
  • An apartment in a place that is hard to find such, and in a great location and reasonable price for the area
  • A new Bible church home with a pastor who gives expository sermons
  • My husband’s completed degree
  • My husband’s growing dance business and precious dance partner who has become a personal friend
  • And so much more!

I firmly believe God led us to California – no matter how crazy it seemed that we head this way so soon after getting married. And yet, time and again, He has been providing. When one of my jobs ended the next would start an average of just 2 weeks later!

My husband and I just celebrated our 1 year anniversary over a wonderful weekend trip to the beach! There was much to celebrate and be thankful for after so many transitions during our first year of marriage together!

So, dear friend, when things seem tough, rough, and ever shifting – guess what? We have a choice. We can be anxious, or we can choose not to and choose rather to submit our requests to God with thanksgiving. (Phil. 4:6-8)

What will you choose? Will you choose to give thanks?

I’d love to hear in the comments the things for which you are thankful!

1 Year Anniversary at the Beach

1 Year Anniversary at the Beach

Free Lemons

Someone's Lemon Tree

Someone’s Lemon Tree

I am amazed by the amount of citrus trees that abound in California, right in people’s yards!

I must confess, I have often driven by in envy, wishing I had a house with such trees on the property.

Imagine: oranges and lemons galore, just falling off the branches, all free for the taking!

Honestly, it sounds glorious. Probably even more so because I use citrus regularly.

But alas – my husband and I live in an apartment where we barely have a palm frond waving in the breeze near the pool, much less a lemon tree or any other fruitful plant.

And it’s especially frustrating to me when I drive by and see a myriad of the fresh fruits scattered like precious jewels along the ground…left there, unused, forgotten, forsaken, and wasted! The abundance of bright balls left to rot on the ground. How could the owners let them go to seed this way?!? It seems such a shame! People like me or others would love to use them and yet they go to waste.

I sigh. I groan inwardly. And I relinquish the fact that they are not my citrus fruit and I move on.

One day a few weeks past, I went for a stroll in the neighborhood on the town that borders where our apartment lies. It’s only a few minutes walk from our abode to this city where the houses start at $1 million. I can’t afford to live there, certainly, but I’m grateful to have such a neighborhood nearby for outdoor walks in the lovely California sunshine.

And so, I went for a stroll.

And on my stroll, I saw a little wooden wheelbarrow sitting at the end of someone’s driveway with a handwritten sign that said: “Free Lemons” and the tiny wheelbarrow quite full with 5 fresh lemons!

Lemons! Fresh lemons! And for free!

Someone had decided to be generous and not to waste them after all! And there they were…I could finally try some home grown citrus fruits!

I was beyond elated.

Not to mention the fact I’d also save a little money – because, again, I frequently buy lemons and here were 5 fresh ones, 4 of which were quite large – larger than any lemons I had ever had that I recall.

Look at them!

Free Lemons!

Free Lemons!

Ah…joy…wonder…bliss. Free lemons!

I took them home and Eddie and I enjoyed them.

Well, again just yesterday (as of the writing of this post), I went for a walk and went by that house. Lo and behold there were more lemons in the wheelbarrow – AGAIN!

By golly, this homeowner was choosing not to waste her lemons, but to be generous with them!

Since there was not a “free” sign this time, I did not want to presume they were free so left a little note near the door. The lady called me the next morning and said that indeed, if the lemons were in the wheelbarrow they were free, and that also she would leave me a bag of them to pick up on her front porch.


I surely went by and picked them up and lo and behold she had left me not just the number of lemons that had been in the wheelbarrow – but even more! She generously gave EIGHT lemons!

Given my attempts to increase my frugality on food spending, I was even more grateful for the lemons and the blessing God was giving to us through this lady and her lemons.

And just like The Free Box, God was providing again exactly what we needed.

What a delightful gift and surprise He gave today!

And all through a lady he used who chose to give away her fresh home grown lemons.

Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking

Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking

Thanks to a new local friend here, I discovered an AMAZING gluten-free cookbook. She fed me a dish from the book and I went out to the store and bought myself a copy straightaway!

Thus far, everything I have made from it has been DELICIOUS. This includes the cherry streusel muffins I made which I shared with our downstairs neighbors who came back with accolades about the recipe.

Baking gluten-free muffins

Baking gluten-free muffins

I have since also made the gluten-free cinnamon rolls (my husband loves cinnamon rolls, but I had yet to be inspired to make them with a gluten-free recipe until this book). And I just baked up some gluten-free brownies using the recipe in this book as a guide – they turned out AMAZING! And usually I HATE homemade brownies!

If you want gluten-free recipes and a good base cookbook that will also include baked goods, get this book!

It even has a great gluten-free flour recipe so you can make your own! Note, the cheapest way to make this that I have found thus far is to buy all the gluten-free flours at Vitacost. I recently got them for an average of probably half the cost they are at Whole Foods. And if you order at least $50 or so at Vitacost, you’ll get your shipping free. Totally worth it.

Make this flour – it cooks up great and you won’t even know your food is gluten-free!

I keep a ball jar of the flour in my fridge so it’s on hand for use whenever I make my next gluten-free recipe.

Have an unused Amazon gift card? Why not use it to get this book? Or, if you don’t want to commit to purchasing the book before you try the recipes, why not see if you can request a copy at your local library? I have reviewed many a cookbook via the library before buying. It’s a great way to check them out before committing to purchase!

Let me know if you get or have this cookbook and what recipes you love! Or, if you have other gluten-free cookbooks you enjoy, I’d love to hear about them here!

Happy gluten-free cooking!

Pink Salt is Expensive in Shakers!

Pink Salt is Expensive in Shakers!

Today I need to tell you the least expensive way I have found to buy high quality pink salt.

Why buy pink salt, you ask?

I get that question repeatedly.

Well, pink salt is actually good for you, unlike the conventional manmade salt you see on restaurant tables. Pink salt has minerals. And good quality salt – such as this – can actually benefit your adrenals. If you are dealing with low adrenal function (which is basically when extensive or traumatic stress wears out your adrenals, a source of your internal energy), you might find you crave salt (as I often have).

Now I know WHY I have loved salt so much and enjoy putting it on practically everything possible! Because my body NEEDED it!

And with pink salt, you can sprinkle away!

No need to feel guilty. Rather, feel good about using this salt! You are doing your body a favor to put this wonderful mineral-rich substance in your body!

Good salt, such as pink salt, really enhances even just plain steamed vegetables. Make the flavor pop with a dash of this substance that looks like sand from an island’s pink shore.

With just this simple, but robust salt, you might decide many of your other jarred spices are no longer needed. I used to keep so many jars of spices and herbs on hand, including spice blends to flavor my vegetables and such. Not anymore! And for 3 reasons – (1) a high-mineral salt like this pink salt provides all the flavor you need without requiring many dried herbs (2) dried herbs actually expire over time and I found I rarely would use them all in time & (3) dried herbs can be purchased in bulk at Whole Foods in the amounts you need AS you need them for recipes and for less per ounce than if you were buying them in jars so I don’t need to keep lots of jars of them on hand.

And guess what?

Now I have discovered pink salt is available in the bulk spice section at some Whole Foods – at least here in California!

It’s the least expensive way I know to buy the stuff!

I used to buy celtic or other mineral (and possibly pink) salt in bags running I’d guess around $12/lb.

But oh…you can get the pink salt in bulk at just $2.69 / lb.!!! What a deal!

So, stock up on your pink salt, store it in your cupboard in an 8 oz. size Ball Jar and enjoy as your primary seasoning of choice!

Pink Salt in Bulk at $2.69 / lb.

Pink Salt in Bulk at $2.69 / lb.

How do you use your pink salt?

The Free Box

This morning prior the start of my workday, I went for a walk around the new town where I work – Palo Alto, California.

This town is unlike any other I have ever seen in this country. It’s a hybrid between a small European town and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Boutiques, bikers, and outdoor cafes abound. The older residential district and pop up old-style churches blend seamlessly together alongside the smallish, but active downtown. Commuters are evidenced walking and biking to work – some commuters barefoot or helmet-less on their bikes. One biker rides by in full on business professional clothing, white button down dress shirt and black pants. I marvel.

The air is crisp and cool – unexpected on a mid-July day (at least for this relocated Southern girl who is accustomed to muggy, hot summers). The climate is perfect. Not too hot, not too cool. And I am at peace.

Likely, my weekend of quiet solitary retreat with God is the main reason for this great peace. I’d say so. It was a refreshing weekend of turning all of my cares over to God, asking for His cleansing, and taking renewed refuge in Him. There is indeed no one like our God, Maker of Heaven and Earth who calms our flailing souls. While circumstances may not immediately change, you can find a sure refuge in God who is unchanging, an anchor in the storm.

And so I suppose you could say I got re-anchored.

So, this morning’s prayerful walk came from that place.

I could smell the gardenias blooming at my side as I strolled along the sidewalk. I could notice the unusual architecture of what appeared an 18th century church as I came upon it. I could receive the “Happy Monday!” that came out of the mouth of a walking businessman who passed me by with cheer and I could welcome him back the same.

During the final portion of my morning stroll near work, I happened upon a cardboard box that lay on the sidewalk fronting a residence. The medium small box was open, with the word “FREE” written in Sharpie on two of the inside flaps which were folded outward.

Hmm. It was a “FREE” box. I took a moment to pause and examine it’s contents. Box of Rogaine – don’t need that. Empty plastic juice bottle, empty glass jelly jar – why in the world are those in there? Is that a joke?!? Just put them in recycling! Ok, Lisa, calm down…give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe that’s their attempt at recycling…

What else…? A spray bottle. What was that – hair spray? Nope – more Rogaine. Rogaine for Women. Ah. Oh – oh, look, hah, there’s 2 spray bottles of Rogaine for Women. Nope. Definitely don’t need those.

Wait – what’s that?

The last item in the box caught my eye: a bottle of pump soap from Trader Joe’s. Was there really any soap in there? (I mean, I was a little dubious based on the other items in the box). I checked it – lifted it, unscrewed the pump. Huh! Yes, in fact there was soap inside! Well, something here really was free that I just found useful.

It occurred to me – I was planning to shower at the office today and had thought in passing earlier – what will I do for soap? (as I did not have any body soap particularly packed).

And suddenly, I felt the Presence of the One who sees all and knows our smallest need. The One who doesn’t miss it when even one sparrow falls to the ground. He was there.

This was for me.

I needed soap and He gave me a free half full bottle of it!

I began to feel a new awe for Him, the only One who is truly Awesome.

If He so saw and provided for that tiny little need of mine, would He not also take care of my much much greater needs?

Yes, Lord, so You will. I could hear my heart further entrusting to Him my much greater needs.

I was first tempted to holler to you all via my blog that “The Free Box made my Monday!” but I realized that would not be accurate or right.

No, it wasn’t the free box that “made my Monday” – it was the gift God gave me through it.

Himself. The renewed sense of HIM and His awareness of my concerns and needs.

He hasn’t forgotten. He hasn’t forsaken.

Not me. Not you.

He’s offering You a gift too. What does the Lord want to give you right now in His “Free Box”?

What is it that you need?

Ask Him for help. Ask for provision. He has promised to supply the needs of His children when we turn to Him, and He longs for us to receive from His hand the blessings He offers.

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