Archive for tips & tricks
This past weekend I had the amazing opportunity to be part of a Women’s Retreat at a lodge on a small lake in Northern Idaho. It was just a quick weekend get-away, but being away from home and on the road makes it difficult to stick to a normal diet. I am all about indulging when I am away, because I know that since I am a fairly “healthy” eater when I am at home, I can indulge when I am on the road.
As my husband tells me, you don’t put the weight on overnight, and you don’t take the weight off overnight…it is a process. So indulging every once in a while is not a bad thing! (I have to constantly remind myself of this fact, and you should too!)
When I am on the road — I still need my coffee. Now with all of the instant options, it is easy to make a cup anywhere (even if you climb to the top of Mt. Rainer, you could enjoy a hot cup of Joe as long as you can heat the water). Hmmm, note-to-self, invent a way to heat the water instantly without the constraints of power. Surely if we can put a man on the moon, my coffee cravings can be satisfied anywhere on Earth.
I truly could indulge in an iced latte everyday (ok, let me be real: everyday, multiple times a day). Because of my great love for coffee and anything sweet; this combination can be deadly. So in an attempt to save my waistline I have been determined to lighten up my latte. Here is what I have discovered works the best to trick your taste buds, but still maintain the latte satisfaction.
Instead of ordering my usual Grande Iced Vanilla Latte – Hello, 250 calories, 6 g of Fat — try skinning it up! The closest variation that I have created to trick my taste buds is the following:
Order a Grande Iced Americano (3 shots) with Sugar Free Vanilla Syrup – with a splash of half and half — Hello 50 calories, 2 g of Fat. This simple combination can be doctored in anyway depending on how you like your espresso.
If you like your coffee drinks sweet, add an additional packet of Splenda. If you like your coffee drinks lightened with creamer, try a couple of splashes of half and half, and make up the difference with skim milk. Just remember that the more milk you add, the higher the calorie count.
This coffee house drink helps keep me on track when I get a craving for a latte. However, I remind myself, that every once in a while, it is ok to indulge in the real thing!
-Heather @ BloomEveryday
What is your favorite coffee house drink?
Traveling is a luxury my husband and I enjoy. We love to travel and see new places! The adventure of experiencing the culture of a newfound place, trying new cuisine, and going to all of the hot spots is something we look forward to. All of these things however don’t come for free. Though, I believe you can travel, be frugal, and still get all the benefits of immersing yourself in the trip completely!
We stayed in a high-end hotel in the Gaslamp District, ate out every night, and enjoyed a ton of the must-see places. How did we not miss anything and do it all on a budget?
1. Travel Sites actually can provide you with some excellent deals. Shop around each one, it takes a little research, but you could end up saving over $400 dollars just by looking at a different site! We also bundled our flight and hotel – and like the commercials say – it saved us some moo-lah. We were able to say in a historic downtown hotel for an entire week with a view of the bay!
2. Research airports. We live in a fairly smaller town out west. Let’s just say that airfare is about $200 extra per ticket because it can be. We were okay with driving a couple hours to a major airport and flying out from there – this saved us $400 dollars! We got a little road trip in together, made it to the airport, and were in San Diego the same day.
3. Pick a central location. We did a little research, found a hotel we liked, and made sure it was close to a lot of things to do.
We were able to walk to the Gaslamp District in 5 minutes…
…20 minutes to the pier…
…and 45 minutes to Balboa Park.
By selecting a location that allowed us to walk or ride the bus places saved us money by not taking a taxi and also provided us with some exercise! Buying a bus or trolley day pass allowed us to travel easily from one place to the other all day.
4. Restaurants.com. I swear by this website. Sometimes you can get great deals and spend $3 for a $25 gift certificate to a restaurant you specially picked out. Mark and I went through the list, looked at menus, and picked several restaurants to try when we were there – and we were not disappointment by one of them! We ate at Italian, Mexican, Afghani, and Indian restaurants. We actually ate at this one restaurant where you sit on the floor for dinner, totally unique! We were able to splurge a little extra and still save money at these restaurants. We still left room for spontaneity, having impromptu lunches and even a couple unplanned dinners. We were able to eat at all the places we wanted to.
5. Pack snacks. Now this seems a little silly, but you’d be shocked at how much you’d save by packing snacks. Before we left, I threw some bars I picked up in the discount bin at my local supermarket, peanut butter, pretzels, trail mix, cheese snack crackers, lots of water, and some nuts in a bag. We were set. We grabbed a few for the plane and we were set. Airport snacks cost an arm-and-a-leg – we had minimal airport food cost because of this. Also, once you reach your destination – track down a convenience store and pick up a few breakfast items. We got two small boxes of cereal for $2.00 that lasted us the whole week and saved us $15 to $20 breakfasts out each morning!
6. Tourist traps. We totally did the tourist thing.
We went to Sea World…
…and Balboa Park.
These also come with a hefty price tag. Mark did some research and found us a Balboa Park pass for under $100 each. This let us into the Zoo for an entire day, all the museums and gardens at the park for the week, and gave us special access to different things around San Diego and the Park! Do a little digging about the destination you are going to and I am sure you can find a City Pass or some great deal that can save you money. If you are still a student, you can get all types of deals as well. If you have Triple A, you can get a 10% discount at some places (we got a discount at SeaWorld because of this)! Just ask for whatever deals they offer and you’d be surprise what you might be able to take advantage of.
7. Asked the locals. They live there; they most likely know what kind of deals are around the area. They will know the best places to go and how to do it cheaply. Hotel staff is a good pick too – ask them for their personal opinion and they can help guide you on their top picks.
With a little digging and research, you can plan a vacation on a budget but it will still be packed with all the things you want to do!
– Katie @ BloomEveryday
What travel tips and tricks do you use to save you money while vacationing?
Is buying in bulk really good for your pocketbook or shelves?
I’ve heard the argument that buying in bulk is expensive, over-indulgent, or flat-out unnecessary. But is this really the case? In college, the thought of spending $11 on a box of Gardenburger was cringe worthy – nowadays, it makes sense! While there is a minor membership cost – it will more than make up for itself in the savings you will get after a couple trips.
There are obviously some things I do not need to buy in bulk, such as a 5 pack of Motor Oil or 12 Giant Muffins (though, there may come a time where I might need that). However, I am a huge advocate for packing lunches (or just saving money). And nothing makes this easier than quick grab-and-go items (side note: you will be more financial fit by packing lunch every day – you can save over $40 a week by packing your own lunch; not to mention how much healthier your lunch will be).
How can buying 24 of one item save you money? Let me show you:
I pack a yogurt with my lunch every single day. I even eat one with my lunch on the weekends. You can buy a 24 pack of Yoplait Lights for around $12.99 (or to go cheaper, 24 Activia for $9.99 – and they are surprisingly good!). Do the math and that ends up being $0.54 per yogurt. When you buy the singles at the grocery store, each one can be around $0.67 each. You will save around $3.09 each time you buy. This may not seem like a lot now, but if you buy yogurt regularly (2x/month for 12 months of the year) – this can end up saving you $75 a year!
Granola bars – these little treats are expensive at the grocery store, even at major money saving department stores. You can buy 48 Nature Valley Trail Mix bars for $14.99. Each bar costs $0.31 a piece! At the normal store, you can get a 6 pack for around $2.99 – this ends up being around $0.50 a bar. If you were to buy 12 boxes of these, it would equal 48 bars and the out of pocket cost would be $23.92. By buying in bulk – you’ll save $8.93! All these numbers add up over time, and can be put into savings or (to put it into perspective) can buy you 15 pounds of bananas!
A six-pound bag of Mini Pretzels seems like a lot – but they will provide endless snacks for about 4 months! They come in at a cheap $5.98 (about a $1.00 a pound; usually around $2.99 for a small bag at the store). A healthier alternative to a potato chip and the price difference is astounding.
Have you noticed the sky rocketing price of cereal? When did our sweetened morning snacks reach the $4.50 mark – and the healthier choices warrant a $5.00+ mark? You can get stellar deals when you buy in bulk. Often there is a “select” promo cereal for about 2 weeks. There is a coupon for it in the booklet you get in the mail and the cereal is featured on the end-cap. You can usually get anywhere from 48 to 72 oz of cereal for around $7.50 (usually less with coupon). If your day (or a loved one’s day) starts off with a bowl of cereal and milk – this will save you money in the long run.
For all the vegetarians out there, and those who just love a soy latte – you can get three (yes, three!) half-gallons of Silk soy milk for $6.99. IF you ever buy soy milk at the grocery store – you will inevitably pay an arm and a leg. The price is often around $3.50, if you are lucky. The expiration on Soy Milk is much further out than normal milk – which makes this a great buy if it’s a staple in your house. Buy in bulk and save $3.50.
Produce in bulk sounds a little scary – but it is so worth it. If your family eats fruit and veggies regularly (which you should!), this is the way to go. You can get three pounds of bananas for around $1.27 (normally $1.80+ at most stores), six heads of Romaine lettuce for around $3.50 (which at any other store would be $7.75), or 10-pounds of carrots for $5.99 (usually around $18 elsewhere).
By buying in bulk, you will take less trips to the grocery store – which saves us all a lot of time and hassle. And let’s be honest, we can never have enough time! This is just the tip of the iceberg but by using common cents, a little bit of hauling around, and creatively organizing – you will find yourself saving money and comfortably stocking up every essentials for you and your family’s needs.
Just from the examples above, you will stock up on some groceries for at least two weeks (sometimes even longer)! If you bought all of this at a normal store, you would spend around $81.00. Buy the same amount in bulk and spend around $60 – that’s a $21 every two weeks savings, $42 a month, $504 a YEAR!
– Katie @ BloomEveryday
“Let’s do life together.”
Is CostCo. (or buying in bulk) now on your errand list? Share what you saves you money when you buy in bulk.
Integrate these (6) tips into your chaotic mornings to start the day off right.
We all have those mornings. Or in my case, everyone morning has turned into one of those mornings. You know what I am talking about – you push the snooze button one time too many (or in my case 5 times too many). I somehow manage to trick myself every morning, “You can sleep for five more minutes and still have enough time to get ready.” Yeah, uh-huh, that’s a lie. But for some reason I believe it. Maybe it is because I think that I am super-women, and I only need 20 minutes to get ready in the morning. Yeah, that’s another lie.
I rush to hop in the shower, do my make-up, pick out my clothes and jewelry, cram something into a plastic bag for lunch, and run out to the car. I say a little prayer as I start the engine, “God, please make all of the lights green, and please don’t have the 7:45AM school bus pull out in front of me.” (Fun fact: who knew buses couldn’t make a right on red?). This just had to end; if nothing else, for my sanity.
Recently, I had an epiphany and decided to get real with myself. I have never been a proverbial “morning person” (as my husband can testify, I don’t think that I form actual words until at least an hour into the day). But in an attempt to simplify my life, and start the day on the right foot, I vowed to implement some changes.
If your mornings sound anything like the above – whether you’re a single women, married women, or stay-at home mom – here are some tips that have worked for me:
Set your alarm for 15 minutes before you want to get up: I wasn’t leaving enough “margin” in my mornings. I needed to give myself more wiggle room, in case I was moving slowly (I think that I have the speed of a sloth first thing in the morning). It was difficult to get up earlier, especially for someone who is a self-proclaimed non-morning person. But it is all about training your body. It will eventually adjust to your new morning wake-up time (of course, as long as you are not burning the midnight oil and at least getting 7 hours of sleep each night). By giving myself an extra half an hour, I am able to get ready at a more relaxing pace.
Pack your lunch the night before: I love to buy in bulk. When it comes to packing lunch for the next work day, I love to pack portioned out snacks. This lets me have the freedom to enjoy my favorite snacks, knowing that I can control my calorie intake. When I get home from the grocery store, I immediately measure out my snacks into individual snack bags that I can just grab. I love to pack some kind of nut (peanuts or cashews in 1 oz. servings) or baby carrots. Also see our favorite low calorie snack mixes for other snack packing ideas! To avoid soggy sandwich messes, make your sandwich with the cheese and meat on each side of the bread, and put the condiments in the middle. This will keep your bread fresh overnight. PB&J’s are great too. By placing peanut butter on each side of the bread and jelly in the middle, you save the bread from a soggy mess. Just grab and go in the morning!
Layout your clothes the night before (including jewelry and any accessories): I know that it seems so elementary, a flashback to the days when mom would lay out your clothes. But this is a huge time saver in the morning! If you are anything like me, my indecisiveness is multiplied first thing in the morning. I would stand in the closet for at least ten minutes deciding which outfit to wear for the day (and of course change my mind at least two times). By having everything laid out the night before, all I have to do is put it on!
Two words: Iced Coffee: Katie actually got me hooked onto this novel idea. Make your coffee the night before, and place it in the refrigerator in your to-go cup. The only thing needed is some ice and viola, instant iced coffee! Not only does this save me ten minutes since I don’t have to fuss with the coffee maker in the morning. But on the days when I didn’t have time to make coffee, I ended up at our local Starbucks, where $5 later, I drove away with my iced skinny vanilla latte. Sweet, $5 in savings!
Eat breakfast at home: My old routine didn’t leave enough time to eat breakfast at home. Instead, I would eat my breakfast (usually instant oatmeal) at my desk at work, while I checked work email. Definitely not as relaxing as making a bowl of cereal, and sitting at the kitchen table reading the morning paper or watching my favorite morning show. By getting up 15 minutes earlier, I am able to take advantage of this time, and just breathe and relax before the day gets rolling.
Spend 15 minutes doing something you want to do: Whether this be sitting on the couch staring into oblivion, or reading a chapter in a book, or putting away the dishes in the dishwasher – take this time to set your mental attitude for the day. It sounds cheesy, but it has definitely allowed me to start the day with the right mind-set. Not frantic and stressed, wondering if the 7:45AM school bus was going to pull out in front of me during my commute.
– Heather @ BloomEveryday
“Let’s do life together.”
Let us know how you simplify your mornings. What tips and routines get you or your family started on the right foot?