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Do we really need a label for the way choose our diet?

Food and nutrition are a very important part of my life… I was a vegetarian in my teens, but then slipped into eating meat again as I had a family to cook for… in all honesty though I really don’t love meat and it is so easy for me to not eat it at all, being a vegetarian is easy for me but I can’t fully commit as I love fish, I don’t eat a lot but I totally still have it sometimes… I guess if we have to label it, I am a pescatarian, but as I hate labels I’m not going to go there with that one.

We have just returned from a trip back to England to visit family and friends, my husbands family seem to have all become Vegans, well not all of them but two of his siblings and their families… the thing I observed about Vegans is that it really is a trend at the moment, and new Vegans, not saying all new Vegans of course, seem to have to announce to everyone that they are Vegan and talk constantly about being a Vegan, I was wondering why that is, but it also had me intrigued, I have issues with dairy myself, I’ve replaced most dairy products in my diet and have found more comfort in my digestive system, but I do eat cheese occasionally and eggs most days… so being the researcher I am I decided to see if I could replace these things from my diet completely without missing them too much.

What I have found is very interesting… it seems on first glance that most vegan recipes are nutritionally balanced, the seasoning and flavors are enhanced to give delicious flavors and my favorite beans and lentils feature heavily. Eggs are replaced with a garbanzo bean flour batter and tofu scramble, cheese flavor is replaced with nutritional yeast, totally a healthy additive to use in your cooking. Egg replacements, like flax or chia seed egg are used in baking… so I’m set to change the way I cook and bake… no label for me though as this healthy eating Mama still loves her fish occasionally.

My first day back with jet lag still looming I made two vegan soups, one for lunch and one in the evening to go with grilled sandwiches… my lunch soup was delicious, Sweet potato and rice noodle soup with broccoli and white beans success, it was delicious and my husband had no idea it was Vegan, in the afternoon I set the broccoli, 2 cups of vegan broth, 2 cups of water and raw sunflower seeds in my slow cooker, I set it to cook for 3 hours on high, the Easiest cream of broccoli and cauliflower soup recipe really was, I finished the soup by blending the ingredients for 3 minutes in my blender, replacing it into the slow cooker and adding the remaining ingredients to warm through again… it was the best broccoli soup I’ve ever made, minus the cauliflower as I couldn’t get any organic cauliflower from the grocery store. For grilled sandwiches everyone except me had warm chicken and cheese, I decided to try vegan provolone cheese slices with my gluten free bread… after I melted the cheese and toasted the bread I really couldn’t tell a lot of difference with the cheese… again another success and I have leftovers for my lunch today, another win for me.

Today we started our day with waffles, gluten free, dairy free, egg free and Vegan, I took my favorite basic waffle mix and changed it slighly…

Serves 4 people

Each serving 2 waffles 188 calories

1/4 cup almond flour

3/4 cup gluten free all purpose flour

1/2 cup cashew nut milk (use whatever dairy free milk you have in)

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon of agave

2 teaspoons of GF baking powder

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon of vegan egg substitute and 2 tablespoons of water mixed together

1 tablespoon of milled flax seed

Blend all ingredients together until your batter is smooth… place 1/4 cup into your heated and oiled waffle make, close the lid and wait… when they are risen and golden serve with whatever you desire… as we just got back from vacation we had very little in our house, so I served ours with almond butter, cinnamon sunflower seeds and coconut toasted flakes… delicious and super nutritious.

I am now totally converted after making a vegan omelette with garbanzo bean flour, the chickpea and onion omelette is now a firm replacement for using eggs, I added nutritional yeast for a little cheese flavor and served it with toasted gluten free bread, a healthy protein packed breakfast all under 200 calories… the options are endless on this one!

It will be an interesting experiment, let’s see if anyone notices a change in the menus… I will still cook a meat protein to go with the meals, but I will be curious to see if anyone notices the very slight change… of course sushi days will still happen for me and I will still eat some gorgeous fish too, but I’m looking forward to eliminating dairy completely just for a while 🤞

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We are what we eat…

Getting older sucks… I have gained weight and I haven’t changed the way I eat, your metabolism slows down and the middle age spread begins… are you kidding me? Really?

Ok, so I admit I really do need to excercise more, but I’m a busy Mom of 8 children, I include my older ones too, from first thing in the morning until I sit down with that much needed glass of wine I’m on my feet rushing from here to there, but according to my OBGYN that’s not the type of excercise that is going to burn off those calories at my ripe old age, well he didn’t mention the ripe old part, I’ve just added it in so you get the picture… he says I need at least a 20 minute cardio routine per day that will get my heart racing, so even my gentle morning yoga routine does not fit the bill for getting my heart racing I’m afraid. Food is also important and consistency, 4-6 healthy small meals a day, well the small portions are not a problem for me as I’ve never eaten large meals, but 4-6 is a huge problem, I can go hours and sometimes forget to eat… ok so here we go, new me, I am determined to beat this middle age spread.

I love healthy foods, I love salads, I love soups, I love fish, I love veggies, I even love radishes too, so how hard can this be? 4 to 6 small portion meals/snacks a day together with a low impact cardio workout, just to start me off and some yoga to keep my joints supple. The hardest part of a carefully thought through menu plan is the prepping, to have a healthy menu for Paul to go to work with is the planning a prepping the day before… this week we are keeping it simple and doing a ‘let’s see what we can make with what we have in’ using up supplies in our refrigerator, freezer and pantry… so next week we can start a fresh in an organized way… does anyone else do this once a month, to clear out the old ready for the new?

Let’s start with Breakfasts that I can easily prepare in advance… healthy banana, oats and honey waffles, perfectly preprepared and easily transported if you have to go out…

Serves 2
One cup of gluten free oats
I cup of dairy free milk, almond or coconut (if using coconut I suggest 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup water)
1 egg
1/2 a banana
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of raw honey
1 egg
1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed
1 tablespoon of extra virgin oil

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend for about 1 minute… add 1/4 cup of the batter to a lightly oiled waffle maker and let it cook for 2-3 minute.
Serve with fresh fruit, Greek yoghurt or for a dairy free option a tablespoon of almond butter 😋

My next easy to prepare breakfast is raspberry, coconut chia pudding…

Serves 2
1/2 cup of fresh or frozen raspberries
1 cup of coconut milk
1 tablespoon of raw honey
2 1/2 tablespoons of chia seeds

Take the first three ingredients place them in a blender and let them blend for 45 seconds, divide the blended fruit milk into two mason jars then add 2 1/4 tablespoons of chia seeds, place the lid onto the jar and shake to mix the chia seeds, place in the refrigerator over night… top with a few raspberries and a tablespoon of sliced almonds 😋

Now if I’m staying in I love a slice of whole grain gluten free bread with avocado and grape tomatoes drizzled with balsamic glaze and if Paul is going to work I make him a super healthy veggie omelette ready to cook in the microwave for a couple of minutes and a piece of fruit. Another healthy on the go breakfast is a smoothie served with a hard boiled egg for protein.

Lunches are much easier when you are at home, your choice is endless, I love salad, cheese, eggs, veggies, homemade hummus and steamed veggies, but planning a healthy portioned out work lunch takes a lot of prep… 5 meals, 5 healthy carbs, 5 healthy lean proteins and plenty of veggies ready for a busy week of working… quinoa, brown sprouted rice, sweet potatoes, ground turkey meatballs, oregano chicken and Cajun pork, all leftovers from a past week dinners and lots of veggies, but when you are home you can quickly bake some sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper, add in a little arugula and a lightly fried egg, finally whip up a Harrissa dressing… so good 😃

Heathy fish and chicken tacos are my favorite dinner option, polenta crisped salmon and chicken tenders served with warm corn tortillas, salad and a healthy mango salsa, easy healthy and filling. Dinners are always a challenge in my house, some of us need GF carb options, some of us don’t like veggies, some of us are mainly vegetarian, except for a little fish and some of us are such basic eaters that meat and plain pasta is all they will eat. Salad is my friend, I can add a protein and then a healthy carb and it covers most diets in my house… but soup season is on it’s way, although I love Summer, I personally love soups they are so versatile, healthy and can stretch your budget sideways.

Snacks are my biggest challenge for planning ahead, each time we eat we are meant to have a complex carbohydrate, a protein and a fat, so getting that right in a snack is a huge headache for me… protein bites were simple and nutritional for a snack, gf oats, almond butter, honey and then I added chopped nuts dried fruits and seeds. Another idea is brown rice cakes, and almond butter, or fruit and a handful of nuts… but with all the planning snacks still remain something I think about last and quite often forget to eat myself… I am working at it though… slowly 🙃

… and then we always need an occasional treat, I try my hardest to make these treats as healthy as possible, like lemon muffins made with yogurt and honey… light and delicious 😋

Whatever you eat, try to make it nutritional, delicious and make sure you drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated throughout the day.

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To diet or not to diet?

When I was in my teens I was totally anorexic, I think it never really leaves you completely, I always count up my intake of food each day, and roughly count the calories I have had, even now I feel its pull, but with yoga and meditation I have managed to control the need a little bit better.  I realize now the need to fuel my body with the right foods to hopefully keep me healthy and I am trying to educate my family into thinking the same way.  I have so many picky eaters its hard to fully cook a complete clean eating menu plan for each week, but I definitely try.

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I am absolutely hopeless without menu planning, I've tried not menu planning and my grocery bill goes up, my clean eating plan goes out the window and I feel terrible in myself… so for me menu planning is a way of life and will continue to be even as our children eventually move out.  I love the organization of it, I am even planning breakfast, snacks and lunch now, as Paul and I are on a semi strict carb, protein and fat diet, each meal has to contain at least one of these in healthy form, even the in-between meal snacks.

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Each week I try to focus and use recipes from different cookbooks I own, this past week I have used the Gwyneth Paltrow It's all easy cook book, one of our most surprising favorites for almost everyone was her lemon and herb pasta with cherry tomatoes, I adjusted the recipe slightly to accommodate everyones tastes, I added chopped broccoli first then added the pasta, and once I had served up the tomato haters in my house, I added them to the pan too… all in all it was a winner for the week.

 

I am all about fresh produce these days, I like to buy organic if I can, I have restarted my organic delivery just because it makes menu planning and organic shopping easier.

These rice paper wraps are a firm favorite at the moment…

Take a rice paper wrap and soak for two or three minutes in a bowl of cold water, making sure they are fully covered, whilst they are soaking chop up some crispy romaine lettuce leaves, cucumber, slice an avocado and grate some carrots, next crumble some feta cheese, and shred some chicken breast, if you want to add meat… once the wraps have softened place them onto a sheet of damp kitchen paper, fill with salad ingredients, feta and chicken if using it, wrap just like you would a burrito, keeping it as tight as you can. Serve with a dipping sauce, my favorite is sweet chili but Mabels is a balsamic glaze, the world is your dipping sauce 😋

My clean eating menu plan for this week…

Monday

Breakfast… kale, onion and feta scramble eggs

Lunch… chicken/feta Cobb style salad

Snack… fruit and almond butter

Dinner… taco style burrito bowl skillet (ground turkey and veggie version)

Tuesday

Breakfast… green smoothie with almond milk, kale and apple together with a boiled egg

Lunch… egg salad sandwich with chopped carrots on the side

Dinner vegan BBQ chili… for those meat lovers I will add shredded chicken

Snacks… Apple, celery and nuts

Wednesday

Breakfast… overnight Coconut oatmeal with berries

Lunch… protein salad

Dinner… zucchini pasta with bolognese (for those that do not like zucchini I will cook organic spaghetti

Snack… protein bites

Thursday

Breakfast… GF oatmeal blueberry waffles (easy to take out if made the day before)

Lunch… chicken quinoa salad (and a veggie version to take out with me)

Dinner… chicken/fish tacos with mango salsa and salad

Snack… protein bites

Friday

Breakfast… fruit smoothie using whatever berries and fruit I have in.

Lunch broccoli soup… yes I know it's summer, but I have a huge bag of frozen broccoli

Dinner… cheat day… Pizza Fridays

Snack fruit and nuts

Saturday

Breakfast… egg and Canadian bacon sandwiches or avaocado toast

Lunch… chickpea quinoa salad with a few fresh berries

Dinner… breakfast for dinner, GF waffles with eggs and sausages

Snack… black bean crackers and hummus

Sunday

Breakfast… overnight oats with coconut and ginger

Lunch… avocado and egg toast

Dinner… buffalo chicken and veggie pizza with salad

Snack… black bean crackers and hummus

I adapted my menu from one I found on Pinterest… wish me luck, I have never planned our eating so carefully and to every meal we eat, I am desperate to lose 10lbs, I have been doing a morning yoga session 3 days a week and now I found a simple workout program for two days, I like to give myself the weekend off, maybe just a little meditation to ease my mind and relax me… time to drink some water and start the week 😀

 

 

 

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Menu planning again…

After many, many weeks of first trimester sickness, lack of sleep, tiredness and just plain feeling bad I need to get our menu planning back on track, the slow cooker is my best friend in the kitchen at the moment, I have so much to get done in the house and I’m always so tired in the evening, the slow cooker really is my savior! With a big, big shop on the horizon, I need to get slow cooker friendly meals lined up and ready to go for the next week… Pregnancy has made my brain like mush, I can’t even think of one thing I regularly cook apart from white turkey chili, so I need to have a refresher cooking course and quickly!

This past week has been using up what we have in the refrigerator, freezer and pantry, all thrown into the slow cooker, I have had some weird concoctions cooking, chicken noodle soup with a Mexican twist, a weird bolognese risotto with orzo pasta instead of rice. And a potato and sausage soup… I still have a few things to use up, but I think tomorrow could be my big shop day!

Here is a rusty menu planners first menu plan of this fall:

TEX-MEX NOODLES
QUICK CHICKEN AND POTATO SOUP
TURKEY PUMPKIN CHILI
ONE POT CHILI CASSEROLE
SOUP WITH SAUSAGE AND GREEN BEANS
CHORIZO AND SUN-DRIED TOMATO RICE WITH SPINACH
TEMPEH CURRY WITH SWEET POTATOES AND GREEN BEANS (I think I may have to add chicken to this dish)
COCONUT, CARROT AND CHICKPEA SOUP and BLT PASTA SALAD

Today I am trying a slow cooker mac and cheese creation, I have taken the recipe from Food Networks Paula Dean’s Slow cooked Mac and Cheese recipe and I have just tweaked it a little bit… I’ll let you know how it turns out but for now here is the recipe:

8oz box uncooked macaroni elbow pasta shapes
2 1/2 cups (about 10 ounces) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
3 eggs beaten ( I will be using egg whites)
1/2 cup fat free sour cream
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed Cheddar cheese soup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup skimmed milk
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 pack of chopped frozen broccoli
1 pack of bacon

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box until just tender but not quite cooked! In a bowl mix together the eggs, sour cream, soup, salt, milk, mustard and broccoli, then add most of the grated cheeses leaving enough to just cover the top, mix then set aside! Add the chopped broccoli to the bottom of the crock pot, toss the pasta with the soup mixture then add to slow cooker layering over the broccoli, top with strips of bacon then sprinkle with the rest of the grated cheese… Set the slow cooker on low for 3 hours and then serve with a salad and warm garlic bread… Now this is truly pregnancy food at its best!

Just a small note for those crock pot lovers like myself, I recently discovered that baked/jacket potatoes are fabulous cooked in the slow cooker… Ok, you don’t get the crispy jacket of skin, but the potato is delicious inside, it’s so easy too, you just wash and scrub your potatoes as usual, prick all over then place in your slow cooker, I set mine on high for five hours but I had 9, yes 9 huge potatoes stuffed in the pot, but I read that 6 hours on low is a good setting if you need to let them cook all day! Enjoy and serve them with all your favorite toppings… Mine is lashings of butter and grated cheddar cheese!

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My first freezer baking day…

I have just found pure joy in filling my freezer to the brim, not with store bought boxed produce, well there is a little of that in there, but with home cooking trays of yummy goodies! I have always been someone who freezes leftovers, freezes excess bread, well I love to freeze anything for later really, but having a freezer baking day was something I had never thought of until recently when I started reading blogs about preparing ahead of time, so after watching another episode of the Pioneer Woman, yes I am addicted to her show, I decided it was time to fill my freezer with goodies so that my children cannot utter those famous words ever again, well just until next time my freezer looks bare… ‘There is nothing good into eat!’

I decided baked goods would be my freezer products this time around, with 5 more weeks of summer recess still on the horizon, sweet baked products are something I never have time to do along with cooking dinners, so why not fill my freezer with yummy gooey easy peasy baked goods that just need throwing into the oven, and then just for good measure I threw in some pizza dough for the odd pizza or flatbread side and two pasta tray bakes for those nights when you just need a quick dinner that’s made and ready to heat!

Here is a list in order of how I made them ready for my freezer, complete with links to the recipes…

The great British Flapjack … Melt 8oz of butter in a skillet, add 4oz of sugar and 4oz of golden syrup mix together then toss in 12oz of oats stir until combined, pack down into foil dish cover with foil and freeze. Defrost when ready to use, heat your oven to 300f and bake for 40 minutes!

Oatmeal breakfast bake … I froze this oatmeal unbaked, it is then ready to defrost then bake so it will be fresh and hot when we eat it!

Easy Brownies … I did some research and found that brownie batter does not freeze well, the butter separates when thawing, so it will not make a good brownie when baked, so for these I pre cooked them before freezing, then I will top with a chocolatey butter icing and chill before serving!

chocolate chip cookies … These I took the dough formed into balls using a small ice cream scoop and then placed each ball on a cookie sheet with parchment paper then flash froze them before placing the cookie dough balls into bags in the freezer… Add approximately 5 minutes cooking time to bake frozen cookie dough!

Chocolate, chocolate chip muffins … This is by far my most favorite muffin recipe from the great Nigella Lawson, I have made these with and without the cocoa powder and they are delicious every time! I baked these muffins before freezing in ziplock bags!

Easy, no knead cinnamon rolls … These were so good, be warned there is a lot of dough, I made three trays of gorgeous rolls, which is a good because one tray was so good it did not last in my house! I made these up to the point the rolls were made and risen in the trays, then I covered them with cling wrap and then froze them! I did cook up one tray and I changed the glaze to a more traditional cinnamon roll glaze… I added one cup of powdered sugar with 2 tablespoons of cubed room temperature butter, then add one teaspoon of vanilla essence with 3-6 tablespoons of boiling water mix until you get the desired consistency… Then pour over your lovely buns, serve and enjoy!

Easy, no knead pizza dough … This is an excellent, easy, delicious pizza dough, I made it to the point before it was risen, divided it into two balls, put them into ziplock bags and froze them, ready to defrost, then let rise in an oiled clingwrap covered bowl, roll out then bake. I have made this crust many times, it not only easy but once the dough is risen it keeps in the refrigerator for up to three days!

If you do try to fill your freezer in one day, be warned it is messy, something I don’t usually cope well with, time consuming… But totally worth doing, now I can sit back, relax and enjoy the fruits of my labor… Well for a couple of days at least, until my hungry children get their hands on all that delicious food!

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Bah Humbug…

Christmas comes but once a year and with it brings a lot of cheer… This may have been true once upon a time, but the sad truth is Christmas is now all about crowds of people everywhere you go and money, money, money! I find myself longing for the first week in January and a sense of normality back in my life… Errands like running to Target for tea bags used to be quiet and simple, no lines of people with their carts full of toys!

Christmas should be about the joy of giving a simple gift, but instead we go crazy to give the newest gadgets, fanciest boots and most expensive games to our children… I am as guilty as the next person for doing this, Blu and Mabel want an iPhone 5 and a mini iPad, and I would go to the ends of the earth to get this for them, but in my heart of hearts I wonder what will they want to get next year as they seem to have everything and they are only 11 and 13!

I look at my 18 month old Florrie, so innocent and unwanting and I wonder what this modern world with all it’s iPhones, iPads and all sorts of branded products is doing to us!

With my soap box moment over, I will move onto more normal December topics… Menu planning is at it’s best with my new fridge/freezer in place and organized, I am not over shopping and using everything in there before I restock up again, it worked well last week and then inspired me to do the same with my pantry cupboard, so now that is organized and only stocked with products we need… Lets see how long I can keep it looking this way as I’m loving being organized for once!

The house reorganization is coming along now, with my parents being here to help out I feel like I am finally making progress, the rooms as they are now are working out well for us, the dining room table is now a much used item in our house, the comfy sofa by the kitchen is a permanent hang out for my Dad now and Paul is loving his new work from home office situated conveniently next to the kitchen so he can have his many cups of Tazo Tea throughout the day… Project change the house around… Done and successful!

My menu plan for this week

Saturday – tomato and lentil soup with grilled panini’s
Sunday – chicken pot pie with steamed broccoli
Monday – endive and ham gratin (James Martin), homemade rolls and a green salad
Tuesday – veggie and lentil stew, grilled spicy sausages and chili, cilantro dough balls
Wednesday – cheesy turkey sausage slow cooker spaghetti and garlic bread
Thursday – potato and bacon gratin (James Martin) with steamed cauliflower and broccoli
Friday – chicken Posole (Mexican stew) breadsticks and salad

So far this week we are completely on schedule for every meal, thanks to my Mum being here to help!

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Black Friday… Love it or hate it?

In my head I’m a very organized person, or that’s how I would like to be anyway. In reality I am very unorganized… Thanksgiving has been and gone, so that means one thing, Christmas is just a few weeks away! I had ideas of all presents being bought, wrapped and sent back to England, leaving me just my own children to sort out! In reality I have the presents sitting on my dining room table awaiting paper and ribbon and then their final trip to the post office!

My house is exactly the same, I have thoughts of being the most organized person, but in reality it never happens… Well now I have a new plan, well a stolen one actually… Set myself daily tasks, nothing too big so I get swamped, set my timer and go to it… Lets see if it works and I get a clean tidy house along with more rest and relaxation time for myself!

Thanksgiving dinner worked well this year, once again I stole a great cooking idea form the domestic semi homemade goddess of food network, Sandra Lee… Yes you have guessed my idea, a semi homemade Thanksgiving dinner, it felt a little like cheating at first but it worked out well, Trader Joes stuffing mix, who needs to be cubing bread for stuffing when Trader Joes has done it for you, then added to it spicy Italian sausage meat, chopped onions and celery, at this point I thought pecans would have made a good addition, but you have to remember I have fussy eaters in my house! I bought Costco ready made mashed potatoes, which by the way are delicious and then added my own pot of creamy mustardy potatoes to it… The left overs went on for days! Black Friday dinner is becoming a tradition in our house… Thanksgiving dinner in a sandwich, meat, stuffing and gravy all warmed in a crusty roll… Yummmmm, a family favorite now!

I am not usually a Black Friday shopper, in fact I usually stay as far away from the shops as possible on this day of the year, but this year was totally different, Florrie has had a cold and been waking a lot in the night, so at 4am on Friday morning I found myself sitting in bed reading my iPad, next thing I know Paul had joined me, Florrie was back to sleep again… We looked at each other and said wouldn’t it be fun to go shopping right now, so we did! The trick was to keep Florrie asleep from the house to the car, so with my iPhone as a flash light, we did not want to wake up the whole household, we carried our sleeping baby into a freezing cold car fast asleep… Then we headed off to Best Buy and the mall for a fun early morning shopping trip, and of course a salted caramel mocha in Starbucks… It has to be done!

As much fun as Black Friday was and the savings we made this weekend were good, I will not be repeating it again! I was very disappointed with the deals in the mall, there was nothing special to ever make me get up that early again, Best Buy on the other hand had some great savings if you wanted electrical goods, we managed to get a $1500 Samsung 55″tv for $800 and we are in desperate need of a new refrigerator, we have been looking for weeks now as ours is not working properly, we decided to wait for the Black Friday deals and we are glad we did, although we did order it on Saturday, so technically not Black Friday, but the deals were on for three days and we saved $1300 on a $3000 fridge/freezer… Bargain!

Happy Holiday shopping…

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