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Well, this recipe was actually an accident. It’s Sunday afternoon, and I need to cook my meals for the week – but knew I had a lot of different odds and ends in my fridge and pantry that I wanted to use up.

What I really had a taste for this week was some chicken and fish salad – but sometimes you just have to put cravings aside and make do with what you have. What I have found, is when I do that, I end up forgetting what my craving was for in the first place!

By my original ingredients picture below, you can see that I was really going toward a “vegetable stew” route. However, after further investigation of the kale and broth, it morphed itself into a mac & cheese dish!

 

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Here’s the formal Ingredient list and recipe – I started out with some kale and broth, too – but after further investigation decided they had gone kind of bad and they were removed!:

Ingredients:

  • Broccoli
  • Corn
  • Chopped Onion
  • Tomato Paste
  • Macaroni
  • Milk
  • Water
  • Cheddar & Mozzarella Cheese

*Note that you can make this with any vegetable, any noodle, and any cheese!

  1. Fill a pot with water and fill with broccoli, corn, onion, and macaroni (Water should cover all ingredients by about 1/2 inch)
  2. Bring to a boil, and then let boil with the lid off until almost all the water is absorbed
  3. Put in 1/2 can of tomato paste
  4. In a separate skillet, melt a couple handfuls of cheddar cheese into about 1/2 – 3/4 cups of milk
  5. Top the macaroni dish with the cheese sauce and season to taste
  6. Serve with shredded mozzarella cheese on top
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The funny thing is that most of my frugality comes from the fact that I really just don’t want to walk to the store.

In turn, I end up saving a lot of money with these easy tips – like how to stretch that list bit of dish soap you have and/or make your own entirely!

There are a lot of different “recipes” for this out there – and I shouldn’t even call them recipes – more like “combinations”.

Bottom line, is you just want to make sure you are killing the germs.

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Here’s what I use:

  • Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Pure Castile Soap
  • Baking Soda
  • White Vinegar
  • Left over Dish Soap

 

Mix the Baking Soda and Castile Soap until you get a Paste Like substance

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Add in about 1/4 cup of water, or enough water to get to the consistency of “dish soap” (If you make it too watery, just add more baking soda)

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Add in 1 cap full of the white vinegar. The mixture will bubble and that is good!

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Use a funnel to transfer the soap into the container. (If you don’t have a funnel, you can just drop the ingredients right in the container and then shake it)

 

And voila! You have dish soap!!

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Let’s be honest. All the blogs and videos out there show these AMAZING before and after pictures. The dirtiest, grimiest pan, now sparkling clean! And all of the forums I visited, everyone would say “Oh just put “this” on there – oh put “that” on there – it’ll come right off!” While that may be true for grease, if you have an old rental like mine that has years and years of burns on the surfaces, AND if you cook as much as I do, then let me give you the benefit of a disclaimer: Your Stove Will Not be Perfect (at least not right away). The goal of this blog is to teach you how to CLEAN your stove/oven. This will get 99% of the gunk off. For severe burns, that’s another story, and for my situation where part of the stove is literally worn off – you just have to deal. BUT, like I said, this will help you get it CLEAN.

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As you know, this blog is about yuppie problems. Eating well, saving money, and overall advice for those of us attempting to live a healthy life in an urban area while working 10-12 hours Monday through Friday. As most of you probably also know, rentals in urban areas are often out of date and many of them have these older style electric stoves. So, if you, too, have been putting off cleaning that old electric stove – or if you’ve tried and it just HASN’T WORKED – do not fear, and read on.

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Cleaning these old stoves is WAY easier than you would imagine. There is actually, literally, no excuse why we don’t clean them every single day. NO EXCUSES! IT’S SO EASY!

Step 1) Lift up your burner and pull. It is literally plugged into your stove (Get it? Electric? Haa haaaa).

Step 2) Pop out your drip pans and put them in your sink. Fill your sink with hot soapy water and let them soak for 20-30 minutes.

 

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Step 3) Pop open the hood of your stove, and prop it up with the wire stand underneath. A lot of people don’t know this, but many electric stove tops pop up just like the hood of a car! It will reveal a wonderful world of grease and grime, so I hope you’re excited.

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Step 4) Make your paste! I used Baking Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide the first round of cleaning, and then I used Baking Soda and Distilled White Vinegar the second time. I don’t know if one worked better than the other, I personally think that either one would work.

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Step 5) Using a sponge (that you probably will want to throw away after this), spread the paste all over your stove surface and on the surfaces of the oven.

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You will see the mixture begin turning from pure white, to a brownish color as seen above- that is the grease lifting up to the surface!!

Step 6) After letting the baking soda sit for 30 – 60 minutes (In my case, I let it sit over night, and then the second time, I did it in the morning and had it sit all day), grab a dish scraper and begin scraping off the grease. Do this while scrubbing with some steel wool SOS pads as well (available everywhere)

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After scrubbing and scraping, it’s going to be pretty disgusting, so I put some water in a bowl and then rinsed the suds and grease off with the sponge. At that point it was pretty watery – so afterwards I dried it off with a microfiber cloth and some paper towels. (Disclaimer, the microfiber cloth got DISGUSTING and I would not use it again unless I had an outdoor space I could ring it out at. I also went through a whole package of paper towels. We were definitely in the big leagues here.

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At this point I would also like to point out that my nails were not chipped at all, and I had been scrubbing for hours and NOT wearing no chip. Just a side note of how awesome and perfect I am.

I repeated these steps on the drip pans as well. I soaked the drip pans, and then coated them with a baking soda/vinegar mix, and would scrub it with steel wool. I did that twice, letting them sit overnight/during the work day BOTH TIMES.

I have to say – the baking soda mixture did MAD WORK. I think if my pans/stove/oven weren’t so disgusting and such a level 10 code red, it would have been fine with one cleaning.

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I still have some rust on the drip pans that honestly just won’t come off – and it looks like my stove is actually peeling from years of wear and tear – but it is now shiny, and clean, and doesn’t smell when I cook! A major improvement, with a great all natural cleaning solution. Hope this post helps you be less intimidated to clean your stove and oven! :)

Happy Cleaning!

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Recently I read the book, “The Japanese Art of Tidying Up” in which Marie Kondo discusses her methodology for the best way to tidy your home, and live clutter free.

I decided to go against her rules somewhat, and start with my pantry (rather than clothes). I have lived here for about three years, and have NEVER even TOUCHED the pantry. Could you tell??

The first thing I did was remove everything from it. I mean – everything. I cleaned it out, threw away everything I didn’t use, and examined what I had left.

I decided I was going to follow the Mason Jar Method of organizing the pantry. I chose this because 1) It looks nice and 2) It seems functional and a great way to make sure I’m eating a balanced diet. I also cleaned out under the sink area, so under my kitchen sink can now be used to store large bulk quantities of Grains, Pasta, Flours, and Beans/Legumes. I can refill the jars, or simply buy more of something when it runs out.

I also splurged and bought a label maker, and I am SO GLAD I did! It really makes the pantry feel professional, and is also keeping me on track to keep the same items in the same jars (which ensures I keep a balanced diet). For example, I will always have a mason jar for beans, a mason jar for granola, a mason jar for almonds/peanuts, and for pasta, etc.

So here is a quick road map of what the finished product entails:

  • The top two baskets are for to go drinks. The first basket holds all of the K-cups I rarely use or have for guests (i.e., coffee since I cut out coffee this year!) and the second basket is filled with teas for work, emergen-c packets, and crystal light packets which I use for company.
  • The two French chefs were a Christmas present and I am SO excited they fit so perfectly in here! One is for flour, and one is for sugar, and extra supplements are in the center. However, I may take out the middle jars of supplements considering I NEVER take supplements!
  • The fourth shelf has a really great level shelf I found at target. It is perfect for my canned goods, honeys (is honeys a word?), Vanilla Extract, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, Witch Hazel, and other odds/ends for baking and cooking.
  • The fifth shelf is likely to change drastically very soon as the more I look at it, the less I have a need for almost all of the items. On this I have Mason Jars of Coffee grounds (light and dark) which again, I’m not drinking coffee! I also have Marsh mellows left over from my Christmas party’s hot chocolate bar, and popcorn, of course. The popcorn will probably be the quickest to go!

On the bottom I have all of my cooking oils, a large bucket of peanuts that I use to make peanut butter for granola bars, and some other extra items that were too large for the shelves.

The whole idea of the KonMari method is to throw away anything that “doesn’t bring you joy”. I know it sounds dumb, but what she is really saying is “throw out everything you don’t use on a daily basis” or “will need at different points in life” haha – like Baking Powder!

Another reason I love the mason jar method is that it is a great money saver. This method allows me to buy items in bulk and store them under my sink, and simply refill the mason jars as needed. I always make sure to have brown rice, some other protein packed grain, nuts, flour, pasta, granola, rolled oats, peas, and beans on hand so this is a great way to keep me on track and cut my monthly grocery bill by having bulk storage.

So, let’s recap:

Step 1) Remove EVERYTHING from the pantry. Make sure you collect EVERY ONE of one item (if you have olive oil in your pantry but also in your cabinet, take out the olive oil from the cabinet! Everything should be laid out on your floor together by category. If you have a cleaning spray in your pantry – put it with the other cleaning sprays in the house! Take it out of there! OR, take all the cleaning sprays and put them in the pantry – everything should have a place!)

Step 2) Sweep and Clean the Shelves of Your Pantry and Line them with Clean Liners

Step 3) Group Food Items Together, and Discard/Donate any Old, Unused items (DON’T FEEL BAD)

Step 4) Remove EVERYTHING from the store bought packaging and transfer to your own storage methodology (i.e., mason jars or Tupperware bins, etc.)

Step 5) Develop a System that You Know You Can Follow. Discarding Unused Items Helps This Process!!

Step 6) Place Items Back in Space, and Make the Space Cute & Inviting so You’re Inspired to Keep it Nice!

Step 7) Label Your Storage Options to Promote Consistency in the Future

And Voila! It’s been about 2 weeks that I’ve lived with this Pantry, Cooking every single night and weekend, and it’s working out BEAUTIFULLY. I have also used this method on my kitchen cabinets, linen closet, bathroom medicine cabinet/storage, under my bathroom/kitchen sinks, on my “Junk Closet” which has now become designated spaces, and on my bedroom closet/dresser. So let me know which spaces’ makeover you want to see next and I’ll be sure to show you more!!!

Spring Cleaning has never been more Life Changing!!!

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Let me begin by saying, I have nothing against milk. In fact, I usually do have a small thing of milk in my fridge. I like to use milk for cooking purposes, and rarely drink it or eat it otherwise. For this reason, I was out of milk this morning.

I had the time (and a craving) for the chocolate chip pancakes my mom used to make me in elementary school. So I looked around, and improvised!

Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been out of something and had to get creative! So here is the successful recipe for the no milk chocolate chip pancake from www.cooks.com

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 2-3 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp vanilla

 

Step 1) Beat Your Eggs and Mix your Dry ingredients and Wet Ingredients in Separate Bowls

Step 2) Combine all of your ingredients to make the batter, stir until smooth

Step 3) Grease a small round pan with oil, butter, or PAM and turn on medium low

Step 4) Pour the batter into the pan so it just covers the surface

Step 5) Keep the heat on low to medium low and keep an eye on it so it doesn’t start “boiling” it should be kept on low heat, and when you start to see the edges turning brown, the batter firming up, and little small bubbles forming/popping, the pancake is ready to flip

Step 6) Flip and let it cook on the other side for about 2-3 minutes (not as long as the first side)

Step 7) Slide pancake onto a plate and top with chocolate chips. After the chips melt, spread them over the pancake for delicious chocolate in every bite!

 

Agh, I am hungry again now!

 

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There’s a new craze out there – and no I’m not referring to “juicing” – I mean, that is so yesterday.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE juicing. Nothing is better on a Saturday morning than juicing some fresh orange juice from naval oranges and gala apples. BUT, when you juice, (as we all know), we lose a LOT of fiber. All that crab in the back of the juicer? Yup. That’s GOOD FOR YOU and you just throw it in the TRASH.

I’m not saying stop juicing, because it is a much better option than store bought juice which has TONS of sugar, but what I am saying is you might want to think of jumping on the “souping” bandwagon.

10 Undeniable Benefits of Souping

  1. It takes 1-2 ingredients and water
  2. Is cheap to make
  3. You can freeze any extra in mason jars to use for later
  4. You don’t lose the fiber like you do in juicing
  5. You can soup just about anything
  6. It cooks itself and is easy clean up (1 pot)
  7. It is made with bone broth which, if homemade, has extreme health benefits
  8. Contains garlic, an all natural anti inflammatory and disease fighting ingredient
  9. You can also use it as a pasta sauce or add in some rice/little pasta to make it heartier
  10. Delicious with homemade bread

I’ve been making soups for a while, and I think I’ve finally gotten it figured out. Here is the basic recipe for any type of soup you want to make, and the method I have found most effective:

  1. Sautee 1 chopped up onion and 1 clove of garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat
  2. Add in 1 cup of your favorite vegetable and 1 cup of an accompanying sweetening fruit or thickening agent (potato is a great way to thicken a soup without heavy cream or a rue)
  3. Pour in water or broth until it covers the vegetables by about 1 inch
  4. Bring to Boil
  5. Bring down to simmer for 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are fork tender
  6. Let cool
  7. Blend using a blender (carefully) or a hand soup blender (my favorite is  the Hamilton Beach Brand)
  8. Put blended soup back on burner and season to desired taste
  9. Store in mason jars, freeze any extra for later

For two examples, I will share with you two of my many many favorite healthy, light, no cream, soups:

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No-Cream Broccoli Potato Soup

  • 2 small onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 4-5 heads of broccoli with stems
  • 2-3 small Idaho potatoes
  • 4-6 cups of homemade broth (or water)

Chop/Dice Onions and Garlic and broccoli stems. Sautee onion, garlic, and broccoli stems in sauce pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil until onions are translucent. Add in Broccoli, chopped stems, and peeled and chopped potatoes. Sautee, and season with salt and pepper. Add in the broth until it covers the broccoli, broccoli stems, and potatoes, by about an inch. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn down to a simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the stems of the broccoli are fork tender. Let cool. Blend with hand blender. Put back on burner on low, and season to desired taste. I usually season with salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning, cumin, red pepper, and chervil.

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Simple Tomato Soup

  • 2 cans of tomato soup
  • 3 cans of broth
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove garlic

Sautee chopped onion and garlic in olive oil. Add in tomatoes, and broth until the broth covers the tomatoes by 1 inch. Bring to a boil. Turn down to simmer for 5 minutes. Let cool. Blend. Put back on low heat, and add in 2 tablespoons tomato paste, oregano, salt, pepper, and any other seasonings desired.

While these two soups are delicious, and are on my weekly meals this week – other favorites of mine include sweet potato or squash soup made with apple or pear for sweetening, vegetable soup, bean soup, and of course – chicken noodle soup.

I’m going to be exploring my souping abilities and broadening my horizons so let me know what other soups you have made and please share your recipes with me! I’m open to more suggestions!

HAPPY SOUPING!

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Someone said something to me at a happy hour Friday that I thought was really…….sad. We were all standing in the upstairs of this cool, dark, wooden, Michigan State bar (The Michigan State part =not my choice); and everyone had their white wines, red wines, vodka’s, and beers. And then there was me – with my soda water with lemon (which is of course obvious because they put it in a huge child’s glass). That’s when someone asked me: “How’s your fast going? I mean, that is what it is. A fast.”

Let me just say this – if you look at eating clean and being healthy as a “fast” than you will never succeed. It’s not a fast – of any sort. I don’t believe that America’s issues are with certain “foods” I believe it’s in the way that food is processed. Nobody cooks with High Fructose Corn Syrup – so why let someone else cook with that for you? You can eat whatever you want – as long as you cook it yourself. (reference to Michael Pollan, yes, again!)

Eat anything —– as long as you cook it yourself. Eat anything —– as long as you cook it yourself. Eat anything —– as long as you cook it yourself. Eat anything —– as long as you cook it yourself. Repeat this to yourself every day.

Now, with that said, you can have a fantastic super bowl with all of your favorite foods. You just have to cook them! The reward from having home cooked foods for a football game party are priceless. Plus, you’ll impress all your guests!

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Baked Spinach and Artichoke Dip w/ Veggies

  • Rinse spinach and put in food processor or cut up to bite size pieces. Steam in microwave or on stove until cooked down. Salt and Pepper.
  • Rinse 1 can of artichoke hearts (low sodium) and cut into small bite size pieces
  • Mix artichokes and spinach w/ 1 cup of plain greek yogurt and 1/4 tablespoon butter in sauce pan and mix until butter melts
  • Add in 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Stir until melted
  • Add 1 minced garlic
  • Add salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (pepper flakes optional; you can go light on the salt if you had salted butter and sodium in your artichoke hearts)
  • Let cool and transfer to Tupperware. Before game time, top with more mozzarella cheese and bake at 350 degrees for about 7 minutes; until cheese is melted and the sides are golden brown. Serve hot with carrots and celery

 

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Game Day Chicken Wings

  • Make Your Own Ketchup (See my blog post on how EASY this is by clicking here!)
  • Mix 1/4 cup Ketchup with 1/2 cup soy sauce. Add in crushed garlic and rosemary. Put chicken wings in a plastic bag with the soy sauce/ketchup marinade, or just mix together with your hands. Fully coat all wings.
  • On Game Day, Bake wings with marinade in 350 degrees for 30 – 40 minutes or until juices run clear/inside is not pink

 

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Low Calorie Chicken Breast Chili

Click here for my delicious low calorie chili blog!

Popcorn Broccoli

  • Cut Broccoli Heads and put in large bowl
  • Drizzle with olive oil
  • Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cajun powder, and cumin
  • Place on a baking sheet spread out so the broccoli is not touching (otherwise it will steam vs. bake)
  • Bake in 350 degrees F for 15 – 25 minutes or until golden brown

 

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Need a chocolate treat? Try out my 10 Minute Easy No Bake Chocolate Bars

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Or, like I did for the Super Bowl, just some old fashioned chocolate chip cookies!

  • Mix 3/4 cup melted butter with 1/2 cup white sugar and 1 cup brown sugar. Add in 2 eggs and 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • In a separate bowl mix 2 cups flour with 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp salt
  • Slowly add in flour mixture to sugar mixture until all is smooth. Add in 1 cup chocolate chips or chocolate chunks.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Let cool before transferring to plate/Tupperware

So now we have the food set, and our favorite shirt on – but what about something to drink? If you have a craving for beer but don’t want the effects, try a non alcoholic beer. A lot of people don’t like them, but I think they taste like the real deal and I personally love the O’Douls Brand. I order off amazon because it’s too cold to go to the store in Chicago in winter time – BUT you can get it at any store. I am personally a non alcoholic wine lover, but like I said, I mean, it IS football….

I hope this gives you some great ideas on how to have a clean homemade super bowl! And don’t forget: “Eat what you want, just make it yourself”

SO WHO WILL IT BE THE PANTHERS OR THE BRONCOS?!?!!? (See, I know what’s going on.)

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Well friends, it’s official. For the first time since I was….ten maybe? Just kidding. 18. I mean, 21 of course…. I have gone 4 full weeks with no alcohol or coffee.

I decided to focus this blog on alcohol, as alcohol is such a prevalent and expected part of society. In the past month I have given up alcohol and coffee. Reactions I get when I say I gave up coffee are usually along the lines of “good for you!” “that is awesome!” “you’re going to feel so great!”. Reactions I get if I start off saying I gave up alcohol are usually “are you serious?” “Why would you do that?” or simply….”Ha.”

Why the difference? Alcohol is actually 100x worse for you than coffee! Well, the difference is alcohol is a huge crutch in society. Coffee is an admitted addiction – but alcohol is not. Even one glass of alcohol at dinner can cause serious health effects such as lack of sleep, sinus congestion, digestive issues, acne/premature aging, and liver/blood issues. On top of that, we drink at the worst possible time for our bodies – before bed.

So in celebration of my 1 month detox coming to an end today, I am reflecting on this month by highlighting the 4 things that will happen when you cut out alcohol for even just 4 weeks.

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1) YOUR SKIN GLOWS AND YOUR SINUSES CLEAR UP

Your liver’s health is reflective in your skin. Alcohol is actually a poison – or – more commonly referred to a “toxin” (sounds better right?). We all know this, and we all know our liver is responsible for breaking it down. When your liver cannot break down the large amounts of alcohol, it has to be rid of your body in other ways. So, your body can rope in your skin for reinforcement. Side effect? Your skin looks dehydrated, old, and “flat” or not glowing, and break outs can even occur. You ever heard of why pregnant women “glow?” a big part of that might be because they aren’t drinking! Ditch that $30.00 face cream that promises you “glowing skin”. If you really want to see an improvement, you will, in 4 weeks of no alcohol.

Additionally, there are very large levels of histamine in alcoholic drinks (especially beer and wine) which directly attack your sinus cavities. We usually drink at night as a society, when sinuses naturally get worse anyway. Even one glass of wine at dinner is enough to dehydrate you, increase histamine levels, and keep you awake. The combination of not sleeping well, not being hydrated, and having increased levels of histamine leave you waking up with a head ache, stuffy nose, and wrinkled/dehydrated skin.

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2) YOU WAKE UP BEFORE YOUR ALARM

Did you know that one night of poor sleep takes your body roughly 10 days to recover from? You may think drinking a glass of wine or whiskey before bed can help you fall asleep (and you are in a sense correct…) but your quality of sleep is going to suffer. Drinking even one glass of alcohol puts your body in “overdrive” trying to break down the toxins in your body. Your cells basically freak out because they know the alcohol doesn’t belong there. This makes your body work 10x harder when you are “sleeping” (which probably won’t involve REM cycles because alcohol typically makes your body skip REM completely) which makes you either wake up around 2-3am unable to fall back asleep, or makes you feel very uncomfortable and unrested when you wake.

Ditching the alcohol brings your body and your brain back to a place of comfort and routine. You will begin to dream, and remember your dreams, and wake up at the same time every morning happy and energized – and fully rested.

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3) YOUR STRESS LEVEL GOES DOWN

When you are supplementing your body with toxins and stimulants and depressants, your body gets stressed out. You may feel stressed and blame it on your job, or your coworker, or your dumb boyfriend (who let’s admit it needs to grow a brain), when in reality your body is stressed by what’s been going into it. Taking out alcohol and coffee brings your body to a level playing field, and your brain is satisfied and isn’t over-working and over-stressed. When your brain can finally relax, so can you. Stressful situations seem manageable, and you can attack issues from a strategic, calm place vs. a place of haste, confusion, and anger.

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4) YOU SAVE A LOT OF MONEY

Wine bottles are expensive. So is a drink at a bar. So is getting a cup of coffee from your favorite breakfast place every morning every day of the week. I can’t even begin to tell you how much money I have saved this month. Should I buy a pony?? (Seriously, though).

So there you have it. I’m beginning to think this was the best thing I’ve ever done – regardless if the sinus infections come back or not.

 

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Hello Everyone! I felt like I hadn’t blogged in a while and then I realized I actually did last week. Ha!

This week has been crazy busy and I ended up having to get food out a lot because I didn’t meal prep to my full potential on Sunday.

Saturday I spent the day shopping with my mother and godmother – I know they are so cute. After going from store to store where t-shirts were $300.00 I finally found two things I loved – a fuzzy white sweatshirt for $25.00 and a bath and body works candle! So all week I have been coming home, putting on my fuzzy sweater, and lighting my bath and body works candle!

I had a LOT of left overs from where we went to dinner including a HUGE serving of brown rice stir fry, and a huge side of vegetables. I also had half a pound of halibut that I cut up and put in with a salad, and some clam chowder.

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Other meals this week were oatmeal for breakfast, (one day I got a Santa Fe from protein bar; eggs/spinach/tomato) and a spinach smoothie. For lunch I either had a pasta dish with tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms and cheese, or a salad, or soup. It’s been crazy! I’m hoping this weekend I can get back on track, and I’m making some broth now and defrosting the rest of my bread dough so I can make proper meals again this coming week.

Nonetheless, I thought I would share with you a great tip. After going to a restaurant – sometimes you just don’t want your sides anymore. For me, I just didn’t want to eat more plain vegetables on the side. So I decided to make them a) last longer and b) taste differently in an entirely new dish by transforming them from vegetable sides to a vegetable stew.

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This process can’t be easier, and can be done with any side dish you find yourself coming home with.

Step 1) Place your vegetables in a sauce pan and fill the pan with broth

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Step 2) You can let it simmer and add additional seasonings if you like, (or just package it up right away)

Step 3) When you are ready to eat it, top it with cheese and pop in oven or microwave until cheese is melted

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And voila! You have a delicious new dish from an old one! #OneYear

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I have been budgeting my money since I could walk. I consider budgets like a game, and like any other game, I love to win. So here is how YOU can create a budget (game) and stick to it (win).

Step 1) Track Your Expenses for 3 Months

This isn’t as hard as it sounds. Simply go online, and export your credit card activity for 3 months. In the exported excel or csv file (whichever it exports to) begin highlighting/color coding groups of expenses. If you go to the same breakfast place every day, highlight that yellow. Do this for every credit card you have, as well as your bank account activity history to include any auto bill payments. I created a “Dummy” credit card statement and “Dummy” Budget for example purposes.

Activity Example

 

**QuickTip: If you see the same word showing up multiple times (i.e., starbucks) you can do a quick excel trick and type “Ctrl F” and then say “Find: STARBUCKS” and then click “Replace with” and choose a “fill color” and then click “replace all. This will automatically highlight every cell that has “STARBUCKS” in it. You can do this for all of your common expenses to get an idea of how much you spend at the same place in a given month.

REPLACE

Step 2) Create a Reasonable Budget Number Based on Your 3 Months

Let’s say every month you spend about $50.00 at the drug store. Some months it’s $60-80, other months it’s $40. $50 is somewhere in the middle, and is probably a good budgeted number for “drugstore” purchases every month. If you see yourself going to Starbucks every day for coffee, this can motivate you to make your own coffee at home before work. Too much work? Maybe you can buy your favorite coffee in bulk and keep some at work. Does work have coffee? Maybe you can just drink that! This is the step where you brainstorm ways to change your routine to save money – or – to budget for parts of your routine you know you can’t change/cut out.

Budgeted Amounts

Step 3) Download a “Budget App” on Your Phone

This is the reason I even wanted to make this blog today. For SO LONG I have budgeted in Excel on my computer. It’s been FUN for me (but I am also an accountant). Even back when I was 8 years old, I had a budget in a journal for the ice cream truck (neurotic or admirable? You can choose). Either way, one day I decided to just search “Budget App” in the app store on my phone and I was SO EXCITED to find that there are TONS of them out there! You can do a 2 week budget (if you want to budget by pay check) or monthly, or quarterly. If you buy things like rice, pasta, flour, and soap in bulk (like me) then you might be having larger lump sum expenses every couple months – and these apps allow you to account for that!

Ok ok, maybe I got a little too advanced there. Let’s say you just want to do a monthly budget. It’s very simple – and the app makes it even very fun YES FUN! You simply put in your income, and then allocate to different “envelopes” the amount you are allowed to spend on each aspect of your life. You can sync the app to your computer, email, or a partner’s phone, and automatically update it as you purchase things. You can add transactions as they occur – or whenever you look at your credit card statement. It automatically will update to tell you how much money is left in your envelope – so before you go out to lunch on the 3rd Friday of the month….. check the envelope. You can also transfer funds from envelope to envelope if you are spending more in one area vs. another.

screen shotapp

I have an android and now use the app “GoodBudget” you can also visit their website at https://goodbudget.com/  but there were tons out there, all for free, and all the same concept and bells and whistles. I personally do a 3 part budget – a budget app on my phone for individual allocations of money already allocated toward entertainment/food (broken up into: eating out at work, eating out – other, taxi work, taxi other, tickets/events, groceries, shopping, salon, etc.) , another budget for operational expenses (expenses I can’t avoid like rent, bills, etc.) and a third tier budget for investments, savings, and portfolio monitoring or as I like to call it my “Play Money”

 

Do none of these ideas sound flattering to you? Maybe not. But maybe this will – Excel already has tons of personal budgeting templates available FOR FREE on the Microsoft Office Excel application. Simply open up the excel application, and click “File => New” There, you can search for templates, or look at what pre populates as “Budget” is often one of the first ones you will see.

Excel Template

This is a great, comprehensive, home base for a monthly or annual budget. I think the app is great for bi-monthly day to day expenses (like cups of coffee in the morning or eating lunch out vs. bringing it) but the spreadsheets are great for a birds eye view of your monthly/annual cash flow. You can account for loans/mortgages, electricity, water, sewage, parking, transportation, groceries, medical, etc.)

Capture

 

Budgeting your money is one of the most important and impactful habits you can have. Here are some more quick tips on how to save throughout the month. For more Ideas you can check out my blog category “Money Saving Tips” to see how to make your own Clorox wipes!

  1. Buy Rice, Pasta, and other Grains in Bulk (If you live in the city you can have bulk items delivered to your building from distributors)
  2. Buy Soap in Bulk, and then re-fill your small soap dispensers (do this for body soap and for dish soap too! If you haven’t seen my blog on Dr. Bronner’s Soap click here – you can use this soap for dish washing, clothes washing, hand washing, and in the shower!)
  3. Buy Toilet Paper and Paper towels in Bulk (are you seeing a pattern yet?)
  4. Cook. Cook Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. Restaurants are literally stealing from you without a gun. I mean please – do you know how much it costs to make soup? 90% of it is water. And they charge $10.00 for it at Zoup. Or pasta – how much is a pound of pasta? And HOW MUCH is it at a restaurant? I rest my case
  5. Go Shopping in Your Own Home (Think you need a new face mask? Need some new face wash or shampoo? What about a new shirt? You’d be amazed what is lurking in your closets at home! So go shopping whenever you feel like it – but do your browsing at home first)
  6. Set your bills to auto pay (Setting your bills to auto pay will automatically move the money from your direct deposit checking account and will leave you with the funds remaining. After you get a paycheck, immediately move “x” amount to your savings account, and set your auto pays to happen on the day after you receive funds, too.
  7. Buy Concentrated Cleaning Products (you can buy cleaning products in their concentrated form straight from the distributors. Paying $10-$20 for a cleaning spray you are practically paying for water. You can use Dr. Bronner’s soap and dilute that in an old spray bottle, or you can buy a concentrated liquid and dilute it.

 

There you have it. These budget apps are just SO COOL and so much fun – even for the psychology majors out there. I promise!

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