Cajun and Jalapeño Potato Hash


Yum! This dish was created out of pure creative necessity. I opened my fridge and saw that my spinach and mushrooms really needed to be depleted, otherwise I would risk them going bad. I also had some jalapeños that were left over from a previous recipe. I hate food waste, so I immediately thought, “How could I put these together?” I love breakfast “bowls.” I’m not someone that needs my food separated. If anything, I feel each ingredient enhances the flavor of every bite. I decided to grab a potato and go to work. This recipe was made for myself, so it can be doubled and so on for more people.

I’m all about simple recipes. This hash is very easy to make if you have a little time in the morning or on the weekend. What you’ll need to get started:


1 potato cubed (I used a red potato)
2-3 cups of spinach
2/3 cup chopped mushrooms (I used white mushrooms)
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1/2 jalapeño chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Cajun seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
optional: 1 egg or 1/3 cup chopped bacon

There are so many variations to this recipe to suit your dietary needs. It’s important to highlight that this dish can be made vegan, vegetarian or for our carnivores out there. Heck, if there aren’t enough veggies to suit your liking, you could even add fresh peppers or broccoli to this dish. Spice isn’t for everyone either. You could easily remove the jalapeños to tone down the heat level or substitute the Cajun seasoning with herbs. Whatever you chose, this dish is hands down amazing!


1. Add oil to fry pan and heat over medium.
2. Add cubed potatoes to the pan with 1tsp of Cajun seasoning and salt/pepper to taste. Stir occasionally to ensure the oil and seasonings are evenly spread throughout the potatoes. If you’re going to add bacon, I recommend adding it during this step.
3. Once the potatoes are browned, add the red onions, jalapeño and spinach to the pan. Stir occasionally to ensure the seasoning and oil coat your veggies!
4. When the spinach starts cooking down (you’ll see it shrinking) add the mushrooms.
5. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl to serve. Top with egg if desired.

This recipe serves 1.


Budget Plan Basics: Creating A Budget to Maximize Your Income


In one of my first posts, 11 Steps to Achieving Financial Freedom, I mentioned how tracking my expenses was a key component in creating my budget. I knew a budget would be necessary to meet my financial goals; but I made some mistakes along the way. My first month, I only factored in my fixed expenses. As you can imagine, I was completely off on my budget and it didn’t accomplish what I had hoped.  I did some research and was able to correct the mistakes I made in my original budget. The following month was much more detailed and had me factor in items I really didn’t think about, like medical expenses. I’ve provided a basic example below so you can see how I plan my budget every month.

This Budget Plan does not factor in legal fees such as child support, alimony, etc. If you are self-employed and have to take out taxes and insurance expenses, I would suggest adding these categories to your budget. You’ll also notice I have a line item for “Entertainment” which I use for concert tickets, movies and media purchases. While I may not have a specific section for vacations, I tend to put my travel expenses into “Entertainment” as well. If you travel regularly, it may be beneficial to create a section just for your travel expenses too!  The bottom table with all the totals was created to compare my expenses to my income. If there is money left over in a month, I make an additional payment toward my “focus” debt.



A few tips: Be sure to include expenses that may come up annually or quarterly. Last month, I completely left out my License Plate Renewal and my Quarterly Parking Permit expenses. This left me with a deficit of $231 in anticipated costs. I also didn’t include the gift I planned to give for a wedding. Boom! Now I was off on my budget by $331! I don’t care what anyone says, $331 is a large amount and can have devastating effects on your monthly payment schedule. For example, if I estimate that I have extra money, I may make a larger monthly payment than normal. If I do this while my budget is off, I run the risk of paying a bill late or not being able to pay cash for expenses I had budgeted. It is for these reasons that I am continuously adjusting my Budget Plan and make a new one monthly.  That’s also why I only make the minimum payment at the time a bill is due and make additional payments at the end of the month. This helps me to avoid budgeting issues even if I miscalculate expenses. Next week I will be posting about debt repayment methods. This will help to explain why I make payments the way that I do and elaborate on “focus” debt.

I’d love to hear if this Budget Plan works for you! Please feel free to send comments and feedback!

Perception vs. Reality: Don’t Compromise

“If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise.” – Unknown

Happy Monday! My post last week was about continuously pushing forward and keeping a goal in mind. Today, I wanted to also focus on personal perception versus true possibility. The weeks when I struggle most are the times when I get in my own head and think about things in a negative manner. I find that I start to have less confidence in myself or second guess decisions I’ve made. A great example would be that I’ve been wanting to travel to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for a while; but scheduling conflicts seemed to push that possibility farther and farther away. I was bummed because my friend’s schedules wouldn’t allow for a vacation when I wanted to go. So I told myself, “Lauren, it’s just not in the cards right now. You can go another time.” I had limited my vacation potential because others weren’t available. While I laid in bed a few days later, I asked myself, “Would it really be terrible to travel alone?” I’ve been living alone for a few months now; the thought was foreign but not overwhelming. So last week I took the plunge and chose to book my first solo vacation.

There are many cases where it’s great to travel with others. It certainly reduces the cost of your travel expenses and you always have someone to do activities with. In this case, I wanted to travel to escape my day to day life. My vision was to spend time on a beach where I could relax; but I also wanted to get out and enjoy some outdoor activities that I haven’t had a chance to do this year. The thought of traveling alone was a little scary because I’ve never done it before; but it slowly started to seem like a better idea. By traveling alone, I didn’t have to take other people’s preferences into consideration. I booked a small dated cabin (with great reviews) through Airbnb. I don’t need to stay in a glorious hotel when I plan on being outside most of the time. Plus here I walk out the door to the beach and basic necessities (silverware, plates, bedding, etc.) are included. I also knew that I wanted to explore Rocks National Lakeshore but didn’t necessarily know if I’d feel safe hiking by myself. I started looking into group tour options that I could sign up for. I found a site seeing tour where I will be participating in a 6 hour, 14 mile kayaking trip to see all the rock formations that were on my wish list. From there I’ll then take a 2 hour hike to experience the gorgeous surroundings and natural waterfalls until we reach our muster point 2 miles away. Some other activities I plan to do are group lighthouse tours and a winery tour and tasting. Since these activities are in group settings, I’ll be able to have interactions with others without feeling alone. I’ll also get the “me” time that I want while I read and write on the beach.

I have a limited travel budget since I’m trying to pay down bills so I had to do my research before booking. Since I’ll be traveling around a holiday, I found that a lot of Hotels/B&Bs were expensive (some up to $175/night). I did my research and found that this experience could be affordable even though I was on a budget. I was able to keep my costs so low because I chose activities and areas that were reasonably priced. The cabin in Escanaba is approx. 1 hour from the national park that I planned on visiting. I was able to get a lakefront cabin (sleeps 4-5) for $90/night + taxes and fees. I can literally walk out of my door to a private beach with chairs and a fire pit. After my lodging was planned, I moved on to figuring out the my activities for the trip. Kayaking and hiking were a must and there were 3 main companies that did both types of tours in a combined package. I chose a package that required me bring my own lunch, water and snacks. By packing my $4 worth of food, I’ll be saving $85 on the overall tour! Yes, this price includes all necessary gear (minus water shoes that I already have)! To my surprise, I found that the lighthouse tours near Escanaba were extremely reasonable. One tour was completely free with a reservation and the other was $3/person. $3 total for a few hours of my time? I’ll take it! I also love wine; so whenever I travel, I look for the nearest winery to get my grape time on! Get it grape time? Yes, I’m corky! Okay, I’ll stop with the wine puns. Escanaba has a popular winery in their downtown area. The amount I spend here will be determined by how much I drink. Based off their prices, I’m expecting to spend between $20-30 for about 2 hours of my time. To reduce my food costs I’ll be packing breakfast and lunch options. This will keep my meal costs super low and give me wiggle room to eat out for 2-3 nights without blowing my food budget for the month. I also need to take into consideration gas and tolls. I usually travel about 900 miles in a month and that generally costs me around $120. Since this trip will have similar mileage, I’m expecting to spend $120-140 in gas/tolls. Let’s map out these costs so we can see a grand total:

Cabin $332
Kayaking/Hiking Tour $125
Lighthouse Tour 1 $3
Lighthouse Tour 2 Free
Winery Tour/Tasting $20-30
Food/Drinks $60
Gas/Tolls $120-140

Trip Total: $535 – 565

Could this trip be way less expensive if I went with people? Hands down the answer is yes! My lodging and gas costs would be cut in at least half or more. But the point is that I have the ability to travel on my own and I didn’t let scheduling conflicts prevent me from doing something that is 100% possible without other people. I changed my mindset to think outside of how I normally think and came up with a solution to make myself happy. While the quote above doesn’t only apply to a travel scenario, it’s important to remember that you are the only person that can limit yourself. If you think it’s possible, then you will find a way to make it happen. If you truly want to do something, whether it be in your personal or professional life, you shouldn’t compromise! Reach for what you want. If people tell you you’re crazy, look at them, smile and say, “I’m not crazy, I just believe in myself.”

Meal Planning = $avings


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One area where I know I rule my budget is in the grocery category. I’m a boss at meal planning and I wanted to share how simply planning meals can help eliminate unnecessary spending when you go grocery shopping. I live on my own, so realistically I only need to cook 2-3 “types” of meals and I eat leftovers for the rest of the week. Some of you will go through groceries faster and can have more variety. This week was one of those times where I knew I wasn’t really going to be home much so I opted for larger portions of a few easy meals. Feel free to adjust this plan to your lifestyle and try it out before your next shopping trip. By knowing your menu and ingredients for the entire week, you’ll be able to go to the grocery store with confidence and not buy items that aren’t on your list. It’s important not to over plan. When I first began meal planning, I scheduled it like I had to cook every night. You don’t; just be aware of how many servings you’re preparing and I promise you’ll spend way less.

Here is my Meal Plan for the week:

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7
Breakfast Smoothie Smoothie Smoothie Smoothie Waffle w/ peanut butter and fruit Waffle w/ peanut butter and fruit Smoothie
Snack Apples and peanut butter Apples and peanut butter Apples and peanut butter Apples and peanut butter Apples and peanut butter Apples and peanut butter Apples and peanut butter
Lunch Veggie fajita bowl Chickpea avocado salad Chickpea avocado wrap Veggie fajita salad Chickpea Avocado Wrap Large Salad Large Salad
Snack Carrots, Celery, hummus Broccoli, grape tomatoes, hummus Carrots, celery, hummus Broccoli, grape tomatoes, hummus Carrots, celery, hummus Broccoli, grape tomatoes, hummus Carrots, celery, hummus
Dinner Large Dinner Salad Veggie fajita wrap Large Dinner Salad Chickpea Avocado Wrap Large Dinner Salad Asian Stir-fry Asian Stir-fry


Now that you’ve had a chance to see my meal plan, I want to break down what all of these meals will cost.

Meal Totals for the Week:

  • Day 1: $5.78
  • Day 2: $5.52
  • Day 3: $4.90
  • Day 4: $5.98
  • Day 5: $4.81
  • Day 6: $4.06
  • Day 7: $4.10

Weekly Meal Cost = $30.34

By using this planning method, your entire week will cost you $30.34! You could spend that going out to dinner for only one night! Your grocery shopping trip will realistically cost more than that because some of these items, like condiments, tortillas, etc. will last longer than the one week period. Happy planning!