Friday, January 31, 2014

What's Cooking? Week of January 27th: Cheap and Easy Meals.

We use mealboard (which is life-transforming) to handle every aspect of our meal planning. If you haven't heard of it, click here to read my full post on it. It's a game changer in the kitchen. We eat simple yet delicious meals, with an emphasis on cooking extra at dinner to also give us lunch the next day (there's only so much turkey sandwiches a girl can take). We feed a crew (4 kids and 2 adults) and our grocery budget is $150/week. We usually spend between $70 and $150 and almost always buy in larger packs.

Take a peek and grab some ideas for your owns menus this week (or steal the whole thing!)

breakfastScrambled Eggs And Sausage
lunchHam And Cheese Sandwiches With Apple Slices, Peas And Carrots
dinnerCampbell's Kitchen Easy Beef Enchiladas
breakfastEnglish Muffin and Jam W/banana
lunchCampbell's Kitchen Easy Beef Enchiladas
snacksCarrots and ranch
dinnerFettuccine Alfredo, Mashed Sweet Potatoes.
breakfastKrusteaz Light and Fluffy Pancakes, fruit salad
snacksCheese Stick And Apples
lunchFettuccine Alfredo, Mashed Sweet Potatoes.
dinnerChicken And Broccoli Casserole
breakfastWhole Wheat Toast And Strawberry Jam
lunchChicken And Broccoli Casserole
snacksCrackers And Cheese
dinnerBaked Teriyaki Chicken, rice, steamed carrots
lunchBaked Teriyaki Chicken, rice, steamed carrots
snacksGranola And Yogurt
dinnerBest Brownies
dinnerChicken Quesadilla, peppers and onions
breakfastMuffins and Bananas
lunchChicken Quesadilla, peppers and onions
snacksInstant Oatmeal And Chopped Apple
dinnerBroiled Steak, Mashed Potatoes
breakfastCinnamon Roll pancakes
:)lunchLunch date:)
dinnerChicken Picatta, Pasta, Asparagus

This Weeks Shopping List:

angel hair pasta, 1 package for Chicken Picatta, Pasta, Asparagus

apples, 2 for Instant Oatmeal And Chopped Apple

bacon, 8 slices for Hungry Man's Hash Browns W/ Scrambled Egg

bananas, 3 per person for multiple recipes

brined capers, 2 jar for Chicken Picatta, Pasta, Asparagus

broccoli, 20 oz frozen for Chicken And Broccoli Casserole

butter, 1/2 cup for Best Brownies

butternut squash

Campbell's® Condensed Cheddar Cheese Soup, 2 can for Campbell's Kitchen Easy Beef Enchiladas

Cheddar cheese, for multiple recipes

cheese block, 1/2 block for Crackers And Cheese

chicken stock, 2 container for Chicken Picatta, Pasta, Asparagus

coffee creamer

confectioners' sugar, 1 cup for Best Brownies

crackers, 1 sleeve for Crackers And Cheese

cream cheese, 4 oz for Cinnamon Roll pancakes

dine out great wraps, 1 for Great Wraps!

english muffin, 1 package for English Muffin and Jam W/banana

fat free mayo, 6 tablespoons for Chicken And Broccoli Casserole

flour tortillas, 24 for Campbell's Kitchen Easy Beef Enchiladas

green pepper, 1 for Hungry Man's Hash Browns W/ Scrambled Egg

ground beef, 5 pound for multiple recipes


matchstick carrots, 1 bag for Carrots and ranch

milk, cup for Carrots and ranch

mozzarella cheese shredded, 8 for Rowy's Lasagna (double Recipe- Freeze One)

muffin mix, 1 for Muffins and Bananas

olive oil, 1

onions, 5 for multiple recipes

prepared enchilada sauce, 3 cups for Campbell's Kitchen Easy Beef Enchiladas

reduced fat shredded cheese, 2 cup for Chicken And Broccoli Casserole

refried beans, 2 can for Campbell's Kitchen Easy Beef Enchiladas

ricotta cheese, 2 for Rowy's Lasagna (double Recipe- Freeze One)

scallopini chicken, 16 for Chicken Picatta, Pasta, Asparagus

skinless chicken thighs, 24 for Baked Teriyaki Chicken

soy sauce, 1 cup for Baked Teriyaki Chicken

steak, 2 steaks for Broiled Steak

super yogurt, 2 cups for Granola And Yogurt

tortilla wrap, 10 for Chicken Quesadilla

unsalted butter, 16 tablespoons (1 Stick) for Cinnamon Roll pancakes

unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/3 cup for Best Brownies

white sugar, 2 cup for multiple recipes

whole wheat bread, 5 slices for Whole Wheat Toast And Strawberry Jam

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Brownie in a Mug: 3 minutes to done! Pantry Ingredients Only!


Brownie in a mug

I tried this today on a whim because I had a few minutes with nothing to do (heaven forbid!). Woah! Just Woah! These are amazing and I cant believe how easy they were! You don't even have to crack eggs to enjoy amazing brownies. I didn't measure exactly, just got it close and mixed it up. They're the perfect quick, no nonsense, easy dessert.

The Ingredients are simple and likely you already have everything on hand:
Cocoa Powder

It took me three minutes to whip these up (including cooking time). Head over here to get the full recipe.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

1,000 Books Before Kindergarten... and My Top 10 Favorites.

1,000 Books before Kindergarten
We're a huge fan of books in this house. Reading is something that we really want to expose our son to from a very early age. From the time he was born we would incorporate books into his bedtime routine. Now, at 15 months he routinely grabs a book and sits in his reading chair (or in my kitchen cabinets:) to flip through it.

1,000 books before kindergarten is a movement to expose babies and toddlers to 1,000 books before they start school. Many libraries have programs like this (ours doesn't, so we just do it on our own), where kids get rewards as they "level up" their numbers. Rewards can be anything from stickers to trips to the park.

In order to reach 1,000 books, you would need to read 200/year. In actuality we're almost triple that right now. We work it right into our routine... We always read a book at bedtime, and we read a book after lunch and before nap. There may be other times during the day that we read, but those are the books we can count on.

The best part? It's free! Thank goodness for libraries because 1,000 books would cost you between five and sixteen thousand dollars. Thanks to your local library, you don't have to spend a cent!

Here are my top 10 favorites:

Click here to head to my Polyvore page to get more info or to purchase.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Stationary Station: Old Fashioned Gratefulness

Stationary Station

Old Fashioned Gratefulness

Jon and I fight over who gets to get the mail. We both love it. There's so much promise in a full mailbox. There could be anything in there! A letter, a package, a notification that we won a major award... Anything! Of course, 98% of the time, it's just bills and flyers. Maybe it's because we love getting letters so much that I take every opportunity I can to send letters out.

If I need to say thank you, or I'm sorry, or "You Rock!" my favorite way to do it is with a hand written card. Despite my obsession with all things technology (thanks for that iPhone), I prefer to keep my address book in a black moleskin address book with a deep back pocket (that's been lovingly doodled on for 3 years). I keep stamps and stationary in the back pocket (just a few cards... I keep my stationary stash with my office supplies).  I can take my moleskin book to the couch and happily write a card, address it, stick on a stamp and put it my outgoing mail folder.

If you send out cards frequently then consider investing in what I consider essentials to my favorite hobby:

An address stamp can be purchased for about $24.00 but lasts forever (I scrapbook in my spare time, so I just use scrapbooking ink).

A wax seal kit (I bought mine from Barnes and Noble years ago in a clearance sale for $5.95)

Here's a few of my stationary favorites:

Click here to head over to my polyvore site for prices and stores.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Cooking Once, Eating Twice. Making Dinners into Lunches.

One of the biggest daily challenges I face is cooking healthy lunches for a group of six including picky eaters, and packed lunches. Jon needs a packed lunch ready by 8am, so we've been packing him leftovers from last nights dinner and then I cook something separate for the kids. The problem is that feeding four toddlers (I run an at home day care), cleaning up after them and then doing the dishes is a lot of time that I'm distracted and they're up to all sorts or (albeit adorable) mischief. I would love to have that extra time to spend with them doing projects, reading books and enriching little minds.

About two weeks ago, we switched to doubling the dinner recipes. It's almost no extra work, and the lunches are great! How many day care centers can say they feed the kids chicken picatta and asparagus? Eventually, the goal is to be doing batch cooking and long term menu planning again, but I'm baby stepping my way back to that (Do you baby step? It means making small sustainable changes towards your ultimate goal so you can easily meet your goals over time. I'm a huge fan.)

For instance, As I write this, I have a giant pot of homemade sloppy joe simmering (grab the recipe here... I don't even like canned sloppy joe sauce, but this stuff is mouth watering delicious). This will be our dinner, and after I'm done serving, I'll pack Jon's lunch for tomorrow and make up our plates. When lunch rolls around tomorrow, I just have to microwave a few plates and I'm all done!

Breakfasts are easy in our house. We eat according to the recommendation of the USDA, a fruit and a whole grain since we have the day care. With this plan, I'm only really cooking one meal per day, and then just quick prepping the other meals and snacks.

Give it a shot, it beats the monotony of turkey and cheese sandwiches every day, or the expense of the Chinese place right next to your office.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook: (Save Money, Time and Effort: No Skill Needed!)

I'm cheap. There, I've said it. I like to say "frugal" because it puts a positive spin on things, but by your standards, I'm likely just cheap. I'm so cheap, that I've had The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook checked out of the library for the last 19 out of 24 months, until my mother took pity on me and gave me one for Christmas.

I owe The $5 Dinner Mom a debt of gratitude. Besides helping me over my fear of raw meat (chicken juice... enough said), and teaching me that making bread by hand is easier than making it in the bread machine, she taught me meal planning, pantry organization, couponing, and why I should give up my 15 minute meals for whole foods. On a side note, if you're still eating out everyday and aren't regularly cooking, click here for 3 weeks of cheap 15 minute meals that take almost no effort. It's processed food, but it will get you out of the habit of eating out. When you're used to cooking and eating at home, you can graduate to $5 Dinner Mom.

10 Reasons Why The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook is The Holy Grail of Cookbooks

1. The ingredient lists are incredibly basic. You won't need to buy 30 ingredients to make chili.

2. She walks you through everything. This book doesn't assume that you already have basic skills.

3. She teaches you how to make things that you would normally buy (alfredo sauce, pasta sauce, salad dressing, guacamole, salsa, etc).

4. Many of her recipes use the same pantry staples allowing you to stock up at great prices and know they'll get used.

5. She teaches you how to meal plan. Step by step. (See my post on MealBoard to make meal planning automatic by clicking here!)

6. She taught me that home cooked meals don't need elaborate sides, homemade breads and desserts. They can, but our basic dinner is a main dish and a simple steamed or fresh veggie.

7. She taught me how to feed butternut squash to toddlers without them knowing (She's clearly a magician!)

8. She has simple tastes, and delicious meals (I'm more of a chicken tenders girl than a beef wellington and couscous girl).

9. She deals with everything involved with feeding your family (stockpiling, meal planning, couponing, learning the essentials) and teaching you, not just listing recipes.

10. She pairs each main dish with a simple side, and includes it right in the ingredient list.

I wish more than anything that I could give you a few preview recipes, but since it's not my cookbook, I can't do that. However, I can tell you the names of my top 5 favorite recipes...
  • Fettuccine Alfredo (with Chicken)
  • Macaroni and Cheese
  • Tex-Mex Chili
  • Oven Fried Chicken
  • Cranberry Pork Chops

Click here to order through amazon (prime!) for $11. Or you can just reserve it at your local library (even if its for the next 19 months... I won't judge.)

Click here to check out her website and blog.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Best Organizer I've Ever Found: And It's Free!

The Best Organizer I’ve Ever Found: And It’s Free!


When January rolled around, I realized that my 2013 schedule book would have to be replaced. Everything that I've ever needed or wanted was in that schedule and it was perfect in every way. I thought since I was at home, I would try to find a printable schedule online for free (What in the world did we do before Pinterest?) I found The Confident Mom's Planner here. I'm honestly shocked to say that the entire planner is free (with no hidden catches), and that it's more effective than last years schedule book, which I paid a pretty penny for and then spent hours customizing in ways she's already done.

I'm on my third week with it now and am floored by how much more productive I've become. If you're a fan of flylady (and if you aren't- check her out here), the planner works great with flybabies because it has a separate section along the top for daily chores (aka. Your morning and evening routines). You just fill in the bubble for the day when you've done that chore and move on to the next. She combines the every day chores with special tasks to complete on each day that make this motivating, easy and workable.

Each Page deals with a week (the dates are all pre-printed and holidays are included). There are 16 spots for every day or consistent chores. You can choose the blank version (like I did) and write your own information in or you can choose her pre-filled out version. My daily tasks are :

  • Put on make up.
  • Take vitamins.
  • Switch laundry, fold and put away.
  • Lay out clothes for tomorrow.
  • Dinner prep.
  • Mop the kitchen floor.
  • Work out a minimum of 10 minutes (I have a separate gym log, but even in my off days I do at least 10 minutes).
  • Load/unload dishwasher.
  • Load/ unload dishwasher (2nd time).
  • Take out trash.
  • Log food.
  • 15 minutes of calm.
  • 15 minute pick up.
  • 2nd load of laundry and put away.

You can list other tasks under each day. I keep a list in my iphone of tasks to be completed (no matter how small- if I cant do it that second it goes on my list). As I run into things that I need to do, I add it. If it's a large project, I break it into smaller components and then add those.  Every night I designate a place for those tasks in my schedule. Then I can put it out of my mind and relax. I give myself a happy face sticker for the days that I completed everything on my list (this works as well for me as it does my 3 year old- maybe even better!). In addition to all of that, you can track water consumption easily and there's a spot to fill in notes (I use this for social events and play dates), as well as a "This Week" section. I'm still experimenting what I'll use this for, right now I'm listing things that I'd like to focus on for the week that I feel like I've neglected lately.

I've been incredibly happy with this and purchased a supplemental pack to go with it ($6.00 for family organizer sheets (such as baby sitter info, apps to look into, gift planner, medical info, quick contact sheet etc.) In actuality, I didn't particularly need any of those things, but she could have sold blank paper for $6.00 and I would have purchased it to support her because she did such an amazing job on the planner.

Go grab your own copy from The Confident Mom here and tell her I sent you!

Friday, January 24, 2014

What's Cooking This Week? January 20th-26th 2014

Here's a quick sneak peek of what's on our table (and in our lunch boxes) this week. Our family of 3 eat dinner together every night. Breakfast, lunch, and snacks are for 6 of us (2 adults and 4 children) since I run a day care. We've just started making double dishes at dinner and using them for lunches the next day since I'm not a fan of spending an hour cooking a dish during the day when I could be spending time with the kids. Last week, it went great so I'm hoping to continue that momentum this week. We spend about $150/week on groceries now, but much of that is tax deductible thanks to the daycare. We eat almost every meal at home and eating out is a rare treat (and when it happens, it's usually Chipotle, my secret love).

Because I often have extras in the pantry from prior weeks, the bill can be anywhere from $70- $150.

*Menu Plan and Shopping List created with MealBoard (in 10 minutes!), which is going to be your new best friend. Click here for my full review and more information on it.

Here's our Menu Plan for the Week:

breakfastCorn Pancakes With Blueberry Sauce
lunchLunch at Ikea:)
dinnerChicken Picatta, Pasta, Asparagus
breakfastBagel And Cream Cheese With Pineapple Slices
lunchChicken Picatta, Pasta, Asparagus (Leftovers)
snacksCarrots and ranch dip
dinnerHome Made Sloppy Joes, steamed carrots and sliced pears
breakfastWhole Wheat Toast And Strawberry Jam
lunchSloppy Joes (Leftovers)
snacksCheese Stick And Apples
dinnerTater Tot Casserole And Steamed Green Beans
breakfastCereal and Banana
lunchTater Tot Casserole And Steamed Green Beans (Leftovers)
snacksCrackers And Cheese
dinnerTaco Salad
breakfastKrusteaz Light and Fluffy Pancakes, banana
lunchSoft Tacos Fajitas And Corn
snacksPita Chips And Hummus
dinnerBroiled Steak, Mashed Potatoes, and peas.
breakfastSausage Gravy and biscuits
lunchHam And Cheese Sandwiches With Apple Slices, Peas And Carrots
dinner$5 Dinner Mom's Macaroni And Cheese, Butternut Squash and Green Beans
breakfastScrambled Eggs And Sausage
lunchChicken, Peppers, salsa and rice.
dinnerChicken Fettucine Alfredo, Mashed Sweet Potatoes.

Here's a Quick Look at Our Shopping List:



2 per person for multiple recipes

green bell pepper
1/2 cup for Soft Tacos Fajitas And Corn

iceberg lettuce
1 head for Taco Salad

12 for Chicken Picatta, Pasta, Asparagus

matchstick carrots
1 bag for Carrots and ranch

medium onions
1 cup for multiple recipes

1 for Sloppy Joes

parsley, fresh
2 bunch for Chicken Picatta, Pasta, Asparagus

sweet potatoes
5 for Fettucine Alfredo, Mashed Sweet Potatoes.
Bread and Bakery

3 for Bagel And Cream Cheese With Pineapple Slices

wheat bread
16 slices for Ham And Cheese Sandwiches With Apple Slices, Peas And Carrots

1lb sausage
for Sausage Gravy

Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
4 for Fettucine Alfredo, Mashed Sweet Potatoes.

breakfast sausage
6 for Scrambled Eggs And Sausage

ground beef
4 pound lean for multiple recipes

ground beef
2 for Sloppy Joes

12 slices for Ham And Cheese Sandwiches With Apple Slices, Peas And Carrots

scallopini chicken
16 for Chicken Picatta, Pasta, Asparagus

2 steaks for Broiled Steak
Baking Goods

biscuit mix
for Sausage Gravy

dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon for Fettucine Alfredo, Mashed Sweet Potatoes.

4 cups for Chicken Picatta, Pasta, Asparagus

jiffy cornbread muffin mix
1 box for Corn Pancakes With Blueberry Sauce

krusteaz Pancake Mix
2 cups for Krusteaz Light and Fluffy Pancakes

4 stick for multiple recipes

cheese sticks
5 for Cheese Stick And Apples

cream cheese
3 tablespoons for Bagel And Cream Cheese With Pineapple Slices

8 for multiple recipes

flour tortilla
5 for Soft Tacos Fajitas And Corn

1 cup for Pita Chips And Hummus

low fat shredded cheese
4 cups for Tater Tot Casserole And Steamed Carrots

3 cups for Macaroni And Cheese, Squash Ad Green Beans

pamesean cheese
1 cup for Fettucine Alfredo, Mashed Sweet Potatoes.

sliced american cheese
16 slices for Ham And Cheese Sandwiches With Apple Slices, Peas And Carrots

sour cream
12 tablespoons for multiple recipes

wegmans pizza crust, sauce cheese or take and bake

Canned/Jar Goods

can of corn
for Soft Tacos Fajitas And Corn

chicken stock
4 cans for Chicken Picatta, Pasta, Asparagus

1 can for Taco Salad

diced tomatoes and chilies
1 can for Taco Salad

green beans
1 can for Macaroni And Cheese, Squash Ad Green Beans

pineapple slices
1 can for Bagel And Cream Cheese With Pineapple Slices
Oils & Dressings

16 tablespoons for Chicken Picatta, Pasta, Asparagus

angel hair pasta
1 package for Chicken Picatta, Pasta, Asparagus

elbow macaroni
1 box for Macaroni And Cheese, Squash Ad Green Beans

1 box for Fettucine Alfredo, Mashed Sweet Potatoes.
Sauces & Spices

sloppy joe sauce
for Sloppy Joes
Frozen Foods

frozen peas
1 bag for Fettucine Alfredo, Mashed Sweet Potatoes.

tater tots
80 ( or 4 servings) for Tater Tot Casserole And Steamed Carrots

brined capers
2 jar for Chicken Picatta, Pasta, Asparagus

pita chips
0.5 bag for Pita Chips And Hummus

Trash Bags (1 in stock)

whole wheat bread
5 slices for Whole Wheat Toast And Strawberry Jam
In Cart

all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons for Macaroni And Cheese, Squash Ad Green Beans

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Meal Planning Made Easy With MealBoard: Meal Plan and Shopping List in 10 Minutes!

Spending Too Much Eating Out?

I just made our meal plan for next week including breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. I created a shopping list. Then I checked our cupboards and checked off anything we already had. I organized the shopping list by aisle. Then I organized the aisles by how I would approach them in my favorite store. I assigned prices to each of the items and totaled the cost of my shopping. Then I changed a few meals to change the total cost to ensure that I stay within my assigned budget. Here's the kicker: I did all of that in less than 10 minutes.

No Time To Plan Ahead?

Welcome to MealBoard! I've used MealBoard since I opened my own daycare. It's genius. It used to take me about three hours to do all of the above every single week. I heard about MealBoard and thought for $2.99 (ios) it was worth a shot. In the first few weeks it still took me 2 hours to make meal plans and enter the meals into MealBoard. After those first few weeks though, all of my "stand by" meals were already in the system. One particularly busy week, I hadn't had time to meal plan at all so I just repeated last weeks menu and it was done in 2 minutes. For the last several weeks, I've been able to do all of the above in less than 10 minutes. Now I'm on easy street! I just need to add any new recipes I want to try out and I'm done!

Do You Keep Buying Things You Already Have?

Mealboard lets you create meals (I.e. Baked Chicken Thighs, Carrots and Salad for dinner), list the ingredients, import the recipe from places like allrecipes and a few other places. You can then assign prices to the ingredients (either by the item, such as .49 for a can of corn or by the unit, such as 1.99 per pound of ground beef) and aisles in the grocery store. Head over to settings and arrange your aisles with a swipe of your finger the way you would approach them in the store so that they list in that order. Do you need to go to different stores? If you always buy flour and chocolate chips at Aldi's but the rest of your groceries at Wegmans, no sweat! You can also assign stores to items so that you can separate the shopping list by store. If you buy extras of items, they add to your "Pantry" and the next time that item is needed it will tell you right in the shopping list how many you have in the pantry. It will give you total prices of everything you need to purchase and even separate it into the cost of whats in your cart and whats left to buy.

Automate! Make It Easy With MealBoard!

What if you use coupons? No sweat! You can add your coupons as well! What about the items that you need that aren't in meals? Easy. You just add the contents of your stockroom (You do have a stock room right? Read more on that here) and it stores them all in the pantry. When you run low in the pantry just add it to your shopping list and you know how much to stock up on. If you aren't the one doing the grocery shopping, no problem! You can email or print your menu plan or ingredient lists.

I've used this since September 2013 and love it. I can't believe how much it can do and how easy it makes life. It's one of the best investments you can make for $2.99!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What's Checked Out in January?

We love the library. I can save a fortune by never needing to buy books. I save space by not needing the room to store them all. I even save time by requesting my wish list online and having the library pull the books for me so I can just go in and grab them. Here's a quick peek at what we checked out this month:


I check out to watch trailers and figure out what I want to see.

Despicable Me 2: Adorable kids movie.

Man of Steel: I loved it. Jon wasn't a fan since he preferred the older movies.


I use Shazam when I listen to the radio to tag songs I love. I can then search the albums and reserve them.

Of Monsters and Men: "Little Talks" got added to my running playlist.

Pitch Perfect Soundtrack: "Cups" also got added to my running playlist.


I went back to classics this month and re-read my favorites. Mostly because I've had a lot of changes this month and my brain can only take so many new things at once.

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer: The theme for this whole list is outstanding teen sci-fi.

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead (Movie comes out this February!)

Divergent by Veronica Roth (Movie comes out this March!)

Life Skills Books:

The Spark Solution: A weight loss book from the guys that brought you sparkpeople.

Your Best Body Ever by Anita Goa : A power yoga book that incorporates strength training and cardio into your yoga routines.

$5.00 Dinner Mom by Erin Chase: I just returned this because I received my very own copy at Christmas. As far as I'm concerned this is the best cookbook in the world. It's been my favorite for almost 3 years.

Kids Books:

Peace Baby! by Linda Ashman

The Thingamabob by Sung Na

Signing in My World: Sign Language for Kids by Kathryn Clay

The Berenstain Bears Home Sweet Tree by Stan Berenstain

We also took out puzzles! Most libraries stock wooden puzzles for kids. Ours even has Melissa and Doug puzzles!

Head out to your local library and take a look to see what you're into!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Frugal Weight Loss: Stay Out Of The Gym And Save That Money!


Frugal fitness and weight loss is a hot topic in our household lately. When we moved last month, we lost our free community gym that we used frequently and were seriously considering getting a gym membership. We hated to spend $60/month but were concerned that if we didn't we would lose our motivation and halt the progress we had been making.

After some trial and error, we found a system that works even better than the gym for almost nothing!

Here's what we learned:

1. SparkPeople: This is a free website (and smartphone app) that concentrates on behavior modification. You can track food, workouts, sleep, and "healthy habits". They have a great social community that's really supportive and assign points to track your progress. You can run reports to analyze your data and they give tons of feedback to steer you in the right direction. They also give you points for reading health inspired articles. This is actually one of my favorite aspects of the site. They have hundreds of amazing short articles that cover everything you could ever want to know. To make it easy they recommend 4 articles a day so you never feel overwhelmed.

2. Craiglist: We decided to invest in a small home gym and surfed craigslist frequently until we found a NordicTrack Elliptical for $25. The battery for the display needed to be replaced and the owner hadn't really used it and didn't understand what a simple fix that would be. (These types of deals are common on craigslist just be patient and keep looking). We grabbed a few dumbbell weights from Wal-Mart for $10, and I already had a Pilates Ball, Resistance Bands, and a Yoga Mat. Also consider searching for items that people have posted as free and offering a nominal amount for them to give you a better chance of snagging it.

3. Zombies, Run!: I could talk all day about how amazing and motivational this smartphone app is for people that have never run or people that are trying to get back into running. It's an interactive post-apocalyptic story that you can earn materials and supplies by running. At certain points in the story, the zombies give chase and you either have to speed up to elude them or lose your stuff. You use the stuff you earn to build the survivalist town of Abel. You can find out more about this app by clicking here to read my whole post on it.

4. Yoga: I'm pretty bad at yoga. So bad in fact that the idea of doing it in front of other people makes me cringe. But I love the way it makes me feel and I love the way it relaxes me. If you're just starting out or getting into a routine, no need to spend $100.00 on a class package. Check out a book at the library. I like the Goa Yoga System where she combines Yoga with strength and cardio. Libraries are free and an amazing resource. I read the book Your Best Body Ever (aka The Goa System) cover to cover and then started practicing the movements until they felt more natural. Give it a try! If you love it and your doing it regularly (for at least 3 months), then splurge on a class if you're ready to get some better technique.

Feel like splurging?

 Let me introduce you to the Fitbit! The Fitbit is expensive (at least by my standard). The Fitbit One is about $100, the Fitbit Force is about $129. If you're going to splurge on anything though, I would splurge on this. The Fitbit is an activity tracker that you wear either on your bra, your waist band, or in your pocket (or the wrist if you buy the Force). It measures steps, distance, stairs climbed, active minutes (minutes that your working hard, like in a work out), and sleep quality. You can also track food and water consumption (or link it to sparkpeople or myfitnesspal and the data entered there will automatically transfer). It gives you the amount of calories that you burned that day (even incorporating calories that you burned while sleeping or resting) and you can see charts of calories you've eaten compared to calories you've burned off. I've had mine since the first week of December and love it. There's an unexpected social aspect where you can add friends and cheer or taunt each other as they rank you and your friends by a 7 day daily step average. It helps you quantify the small changes you can make during the day so you can see what a difference the little things can make. For instance I can stay on my feet all day and fit in two 10 minute workouts and get better calorie burn and higher numbers than if I sit in front of the TV or computer most of the day and then go running. The best practice is to stay on your feet and then go running, but this helps you to be conscientious of what your doing, even on off days.
You can learn more about the fitbit by clicking here.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Easiest Way to Get Back into Running: Zombies, Run!


Need motivation? Can't seem to get yourself to work out? You've come to the right place!

Start Running with ZOMBIES!

What if I told you there was a way to start or get back into running and have you love it? Love it so much that instead of going 3x a week like you planned, you almost never miss a day and when you do, you're grouchy about it. I can make that happen.

A friend introduced me to the Zombies, Run! App for smart phones. I didn't have high expectations because I hated running with a passion when I was skinny, I couldn't see suddenly loving it with 50 pounds of extra baby weight hugging my hips. I was wrong.

Zombies, run! has a few layers of greatness that all work together to keep you motivated to run. To start with, you stick in your ear buds and hit the road, trail, elliptical, or treadmill. You can walk fast, or sprint your heart out. You play a mission each run and the app tells you a post apocalyptic interactive story where you star as "Runner 5", a survivalist who uses stamina to collect supplies and head off zombies for the town of Abel. During your missions, you'll encounter packs of Zombies. Speed up to evade the zombies and keep the supplies you've collected. If the zombies catch you, you lose your supplies. The zombie chases are really fun and it's easy to get into the story and run faster to save your life.

One of the best parts of this App, is that you don't have to lose your music! The story alternates with your designated playlist to give you the perfect mix. There have even been a few cliff hangers where I wanted to see what happens in the next mission, so I finished one and started another right away.

The second motivating layer is the building mode. It's kind of like Farm Town but you had to run 9 miles in order to build that hospital. As you run, you collect supplies. You also collect materials for each mission you complete. You can use the supplies and materials to build the post apocalyptic town of Abel. I never got into Farm Town and in general shun Facebook games as being time wasters, but this is a game I want to be obsessed with since it makes me run. It's fun and there's kind of a secondary game involved when you try to upgrade building since everything needs to be upgraded in a certain order.

The third motivating layer is the Social or group aspect. If you choose, your runs can be automatically uploaded to Facebook (or another social media site). Of course then your friends like your status, and comment on it and tell you what a great job you're doing on your runs. Then you have to keep running since everyone sees your workouts! I've been using this App since mid November and have been exceeding my running goals every week since then. If you hate running, or would like to start, I can't recommend it enough for the price of $2.99!

*I received no money, recognition, or gifts from Zombies, Run! They don't even know I'm a fan:)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

On Babies and Blogging...

Wow. Just wow. That was a whirlwind of a year. We welcomed our son into the world in August 2012 and since then we've been in constant motion. I quit my job (my entire career actually) after 9 years to open up a home daycare so I could live a more balanced life (best idea ever! More on that later.) We moved into a larger house and Jon and I have been making up for opposite schedules for the last 4 years by having more quality time than I ever thought possible.

Needless to say, the blog fell to the back burner. Which is a shame, because I missed you guys and loved writing to you! I've spent the last week writing here and there and catching up on the things that are the most important to me and I can't wait to share them with you!

I have posts scheduled to start on Monday, January 20th 2014. See you then!

My little Squishy with enough baked beans on his face to imitate a pretty decent beard.