{delicious +healthy} chocolate protein smoothie

this post contains affiliate links. for more information, please see my disclosures page.

Instead of calling them “New Years Resolutions”, I prefer to call them “goals.” Because that’s what they are. Plain + simple goals, and we’ve just set the upcoming new year as our starting line.

I have to be honest though, and say setting goals has always being scary for me. The fear of failing keeps me from playing the game. I’m the very first to admit it. But over the past few years, I’ve stopped to look around and realized a few things about myself. I was setting extreme goals, that didn’t seem to be attainable, so of course, I was constantly failing.

I am proud to say I am still going strong on my goals for 2017. Yes, it is only mid-January, but I guarantee either you or someone {many people} you know have already given up their “resolutions.” I set my goals much more attainable this year, without making them too easy.

My biggest goal for 2017: become a healthier person all around. If you’re a numbers person, this might be hard for you to read. But I set goals that are measurable to ME. Because after all, the goals are mine, and only mine to achieve.

Today I am sharing my protein smoothie recipes that have been keeping me full + satisfied, which has led to an already healthier ME. They keep me full for 4-5 hours and are so YUMMY! I drink one of these for a meal and haven’t found myself snacking in between meals.

{Chocolate + Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie}

Makes 24-28 oz.

2 scoops chocolate protein powder

8-10 oz. unsweetened vanilla almond milk

2 tbsp. peanut butter

1 frozen banana {I peel + chop up all my bananas as soon as I buy them from the store. Once they are chopped up, I put each into an individual baggie to place in the freeze} So much easier when you go to make your smoothies!

2 cups ice

I use my Ninja Professional Blender I received at my bridal shower and absolutely love it! I highly recommend it! Just throw everything in and put it on low for around 30 seconds.

Eating healthy doesn't have to mean bland food with no flavor. My meal replacement chocolate + peanut butter protein smoothie is both delcious + healthy.

{Other items I used: Contigo Blender Bottle + Formula Container

Formula Container – Each compartment is the perfect size to hold 2 scoops of protein powder. If you’re always in a hurry + on the go like me, this is perfect, comes in both blue + pink. I measure my protein powder out at the beginning of the week and have 4 days worth right away so all I have to do is just open the cap and pour into my blender.

I find this one keeps me full without wanting to snack! It’s so delicious! I’ve tried some protein shakes in the past and well, let’s just say, they weren’t the most tasty.

I’ll be posting my iced coffee protein shake later in the week! If you’re a coffee junkie like myself, but looking for something a little healthier, you won’t want to miss this one.

part 2: how to plan weeks worth of meals to save MONEY

how to plan weeks worth of meals to save money

I posted part 1 of this post almost 2 weeks ago! For so many days, I was getting errors when trying to come into my site, and I just didn’t have the time to sit down + fix it until now. I promise, next time there is a 2-parter, you won’t be in suspense for almost 2 entire weeks!!

But today, part 2, is all about how I meal plan. This is something I’ve struggled with soo many times, until I realized just HOW much money it actually saves us each month!!

Now, when I say meal plan, I’m not talking about meal planning in the sense of making all meals for 1 week at a time. Setting out 14 containers and eating the same thing all week long. I’m talking about writing down what I’m making for the entire week and sticking to it. I get busy and don’t want to cook what I wrote down for that night, or what I wrote down just doesn’t sound good anymore, or I forgot one ingredient and don’t want to go to the store for that one thing. All of these excuses inevitably lead to you guessed it, FAST FOOD.

I failed so many times until I sat down and looked at our bank account one night and saw just how much we were spending at the grocery store + the amount of money we were spending to go out to eat. It almost made me sick to think about it. I knew something needed to change, so I decided to give meal planning another shot, or something there of it, and this time it actually stuck.

In just the 1st week alone, it saved us well over $50!!

I usually do 2 weeks at a time. Most produce will usually go bad if not used by 2 weeks, so the amount of expired food is minimal.

Deciding What to Make

To start off, I go to the meal binder I made back in part 1 of this post. In the first part of my binder, I just wrote down many common meals we eat (that I don’t have recipes in the binder for), such as tacos,  casserole, etc. easy meals like those that I don’t have {or need} a recipe for. This helps me not to make the same meals over + over again. I know I could eat taco meat 14 days in a row, but I don’t think the hubby would be too happy with that.

I list out all of the meals I plan to make in a 2 week span. I will usually only list out about 10 or so, because of leftovers, going out to eat, etc. Some meals I will make a double batch to create leftovers, if it’s going to be a super busy week or if its just a meal we really love and don’t make it too often.

Taking Inventory + Making a List

So next I write down every single ingredient {including spice packets} I will need to make those meals. {Sadly, I haven’t been able to come up with a printables for these items quite yet, soon though.} Next, I’ll go to the fridge, pantry, basement stockpile {yes, yes I do}, and cross off EVERYTHING on my list to make these items. While doing this, if I find a need almost everything for something on my list and it will be super expensive, I will usually just scratch it and replace it with something we have more of.

Of course the remaining items aren’t the only things we then buy at the grocery store. Since I only meal plan for our evening meals {dinner, supper, whatever ya’ll choose to call it}, I have to get breakfast + lunch items as well. Along with snack items, beverages, etc.

COUPONS!!

Once I have my grocery list, I then have to check out all of my coupon sites, and figure out where I’m going to go, to save the most. And yes, it is definitely OK to go SEVERAL different places to save the most money {but only if it makes sense, aka don’t drive 20 miles away to save .03 on green olives}.

I love this  grocery shopping printable from Stacy’s Savings! She has many other AWESOME printables on her blog too!! I found her blog on while looking through meal planning pins on Pinterest and have fallen in love with her blog!

So tell me, how do you meal plan? What works best for you? Share some of your awesome printables {or recipes} with me below!!

If you haven’t, make sure to check out part 1 of this post! Where I show you how to create your very own meal planning binder!

part 1: recipe + meal planning binder {with FREE printables}

this post contains affiliate links {view my disclosure page for more information on affiliate links}

One of my goals for the new year {2017} is to become + stay much more organized! I decided the first step towards this goal was to look at some items that I already have organized, but by making just a few quick changes, would help our lives greatly. One area that needed just a few quick changes was meal planning. I love meal planning because it saves SO much money every single month!

I absolutely love the concept of using binders for organizing everything. I organize so much of my life into binders. It’s just an awesome place to keep everything together and there are so many tools you can use for binder organization, such as sheet protectors, page dividers, etc.

today i’m sharing my meal planning + recipe binder

Before I begin showing you my binder {and how to create your own} here is what you’ll need to get started:

  • 3 hole punch {if you don’t want to keep all your recipes in sheet protectors} {I use my 3 hole punch all the time when meal planning}

I have several different sections in my meal-planning binder. We all have different organizational needs so the awesome part is you can customize your binder however you want it! It is so easy to add more sections or combine sections too! I find the more sections I have, usually the easier it is to find what I’m looking for.

Meal Planning Binder

Here’s how my binder is divided out {I like to make my section dividers fun}:

  • Meal Planning {We’ll talk about this section in a completely different post}
  • Appetizers
  • Side Dishes
  • Soups
  • Entrees {I’m a super picky eater and only eat beef for meat, but you might want to consider dividing your entrees section down more into Chicken Entrees, Beef, Entrees, etc.}
  • Desserts
  • Beverages

I have all of my pages in sheet protectors, it just keeps my recipes clean {I have been known to spill on my recipes a time or two while cooking, oops}. But once again, this is completely up to you! I would recommend at least putting your section dividers into sheet protectors!

{You can download my section dividers by clicking on the links below}

Cover Sheet || Appetizers || Side Dishes || Soups || Entrees || Desserts || Beverages

Coming soon: how I meal plan + save hundreds while doing it! {and more free printables}

What are some of your favorite ways to stay organized? Have you found something different than binders that works AMAZING for you? Tell me in the comments! Don’t forget to pin this post to Pinterest if you loved it!!

20 inexpensive {or free} date night ideas

Some of my most favorite date night ideas are the most non-traditional ones. I’m not a romance, candlelight dinner type of girl. My most perfect date night would be watching Dateline on the couch while shoveling popcorn + ice cream into my mouth then washing it down with an ice cold beer. But hey, to each their own, right?

 The cost of date night is no joke. While one of my goals in 2017 is to spend much less money on going out to eat and things like that, that means our date night budget has also gone down.

I’ve put together a list of super inexpensive + some free date night ideas. After all, cutting out date night all together just isn’t an option.

  1. Board games, card games, puzzles, Wii, etc.

  2. Movie + popcorn {at home}

  3. Bike Rides

  4. Pack a picnic

  5. Make a meal together

  6. Go camping {in the backyard}

  7. Make a campfire

  8. Go through old pictures + videos together

  9. Volunteer

  10. Free concerts {more frequent in the warmer months}

  11. Tackle a Pinterest project together

  12. Netflix binge

  13. Watch the sun set

  14. Throw on some music + just dance

  15. Go for a drive

  16. Go out for ice cream or snow cones

  17. Hiking

  18. Explore a nature trail

  19. Attend a high school sporting event

  20. Check out a farmer’s market

 

We are always looking for new {inexpensive} date night ideas. What are some of your favorites? I’d LOVE to hear them!!

This entry was posted in money.

how we pay cash for christmas gifts

Is it just me or does the day after Christmas not only bring a messy house but also a day of depression?

All of the highly anticipated gifts are now unwrapped, the stockings now hang empty on the wall, once again, and Christmas candy fills every empty square-inch of the kitchen countertops. Up until 2 years ago for me, the day after Christmas also brought to mind when the first credit card bill I put Christmas gifts on was due. However, this year, I don’t have those same thoughts.

Paying for Christmas gifts all from cash is an extra Christmas present of itself.

When my husband and I began paying off our pile of debt, we looked through the transactions on our credit cards to see where the credit card debt came from. Surprise, surprise, a majority of it came from buying Christmas gifts. I vowed that day we would try our hardest to never put another Christmas gift on credit. To this day, we have kept that goal and our day after depression levels haven’t been as high because of it.

Today I am sharing HOW we pay cash for Christmas and haven’t put a single-penny of Christmas gifts on credit.

The first thing I did was sat down and calculated roughly how much money we would need for Christmas. How did I calculate this? I made a list of all the people we buy gifts for and the amount of money we usually spend on each person. We added in an extra $200 to that number and this would be the amount of money we would be able to spend on Christmas this year.

{I added in the additional $200 to account for changes that would happen during the year, such as births, new friendships, marriages, new relationships, etc. You probably get the idea}.

Next, I calculated how much money per paycheck we needed to put away in order to achieve this number well before Christmas. {I hate last-minute shopping, so I usually make the stopping point mid-December}

My weekly transfer amount is $30 bucks. We cut out going out to eat {sit-down dinner} once a week, and boom, there is our money.

Automate, automate, automate.

I can’t say how important it is to automate your savings when you get paid. It takes less than 5 minutes to initially set-up and simplifies savings greatly. I don’t have to remember if I made the transfer to my Christmas savings or factor it into my budgeting. As an old infomercial used to say “set it and forget it!”

When I’m ready for money from my Christmas savings account, I either just go withdraw the cash or I transfer the money later online to my checking account. I never “borrow” from it because I know I don’t have the discipline to “pay it back.” When the money is gone, it’s gone. We don’t put additional gifts on our credit card or just buy them with money from our checking account.

It has really significantly cut down on the stress around Christmas time about how to pay for gifts and we don’t have to use our money we got as gifts to pay off the gifts we gave to everyone else. We can buy gifts for ourselves or better yet, throw that money toward some more debt.

 

my top skincare products for fab skin

this post contains affiliate links

Up until about a year ago, I didn’t take very good care of my skin. I’m the first to admit it. I slept in my makeup, caked on tons of products, without reading reviews, bought the cheapest “facial cleanser” I could find, and that was about the extent of my skincare routine. I would spend hundreds of dollars at a time on high quality hair care, yet I didn’t care how I treated the biggest organ on my body. I guess I thought high quality skincare products were a waste of money and everything was the same. Damn, I couldn’t have been anymore wrong.

I have since spent hours upon hours reading about skincare routines, finding the right products for my skin, and just in general experimenting with different products to see what works best for me. Everyone has a different skincare routine, because everyone’s skin is SO different. I was very blessed to never develop acne, but that doesn’t mean I don’t experience other skincare issues. In the summer months my face gets incredibly oily, but in the winter months, I’ve got a completely different situation on my hands.

I’ve put together some of my favorite inexpensive skincare products to share with you and most importantly, why I love them and use them! Remember, I’m not a skincare expert, these products have worked AMAZING for my skin and helped me get the fabulous skin I have now!

Daily Cleanser

Cetaphil Daily Cleanser  

This cleanser is currently in my daily skincare routine. I use it both morning and night. I found a dramatic improvement in my skin in just a few uses with this product!

Acne Cleanser

Another favorite of mine is Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash {Pink Grapefruit Foaming Scrub}.

This cleanser truly works + it smells great too! I use this cleanser if I am experiencing some acne {luckily isn’t too often for me} but it works super quick on those stubborn acne spots.

Exfoliators

St. Ives Apricot Scrub

I use this scrub as one of my exfoliators! I have used this one for probably 10+ years and still love it! Since it is an exfoliator, I don’t use it everyday. In the winter months, I use it more frequently, usually 3 times per week {more dead skin cells in winter}. Just depending how dry my skin is. In the summer months, 1-2 times per week. I love how my skin feels so refreshed!

Clean & Clear Deep Action Exfoliating Scrub

Another favorite of mine! I use it just the same as I do my Apricot Scrub!

These 2 exfoliators provide me with the same results, I wouldn’t necessarily say I have a favorite between the 2.  I usually switch them up when one bottle is gone. Just to keep my skin refreshed and using more of my favorite products!

Toner

L’Oreal Hydrafresh Toner

This toner leaves my skin feeling so refreshed! I don’t get that overly dry feeling either. Also in my daily skincare routine toolkit

Moisturizer

Cetaphil Daily Moisturizer

Having oily skin, I always thought I wouldn’t need a moisturizer. How wrong I was! This one doesn’t leave my face feeling oily or greasy, PLUS it contains SPF 15 right in it! BUT if you have super dry skin, this one probably isn’t for you.

Recently I reached out to some friends because my daily moisturizer just wasn’t cutting it {the air is incredibly dry here in iowa right now}. after receiving many great recommendations, I decided to go with a different Cetaphil product I just hadn’t tried yet, Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream. I saw a dramatic difference in just 1 use and absolutely love it!

Acne Treatment

Clean & Clear Persa-Gel 10

It’s basically magic in a tube. It works so quick + doesn’t give you an overly dry feeling. {My hubby even uses it, if that tells you how much we love this one}

Make-up Remover

When it comes to eye make-up remover, I am not too particular with what I’m looking for, just ensuring it’s oil-free. I had used several, usually whatever was cheapest at the time, but I have really taking a liking to Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover

Cleansing Brush

I wasn’t sure what all the hype was about and why people were spending hundreds {$$} on these things, but after I purchased a relatively inexpensive one, I soon figured out why!

I purchased the Olay ProX Microdermabrasion System and LOVE it! Super inexpensive, around $30, and leaves my skin in amazing condition! I use the brush head every other day, and the microdermabrasion head just twice a week.

All of these products are fairly inexpensive + super easy to find!

Share with me some of your favorite skincare products and why you love them so much! I love checking out new products and would love to do a review for you!

how to save money on last minute christmas gifts

I don’t know about all of you, but I just realized Christmas was next weekend and went into a slight moment of panic. I have more gifts left to purchase than gifts I have already purchased. It’s quite easy to spend more money on gifts than you normally would during this last-minute, winter-storm coming, panic mode. You might just be grabbing the first first item you see, regardless of the price, just to get your shopping done. BUT you might actually be able to save more during this last-minute mode. 

Free Online Shipping

Most often I have found a store’s website is a few bucks cheaper than the store. But if you have 10 different stores to go to, you probably don’t have lots of time to stand in the long lines of customer service to ask for a price match. Skip the lines and go home!

But then don’t you have to pay $8 bucks from each store for shipping? Heck no! Many popular stores are offering free shipping {guaranteed by Christmas} on all orders with no minimum amount required.

don’t forget to go through ebates first though to earn your extra cash back. Just today, I’ve earned $5 by finishing up my Christmas shopping online through ebates. {and if you havent joined ebates yet, use my referral link here to get started today}

Amazon Daily Deals

I’m slightly obsessed with Amazon. Have you seen their daily deals this week?! I’m practically mind-blown with how awesome these deals are and if you have Amazon Prime {does anyone NOT have Prime these days?} your shipping is always free!

In December, Discover is offering 5% cash back on purchases from Amazon {saving money + cash back}. {If you don’t have Amazon Prime, use my referral link to get started today!}

Amazon Gift Cards

Through December 22, if you purchase $50 of Amazon gift cards in 1 transaction, you’ll get a $10 credit to your account. You’re going to give that gift card anyway, why not just make it an Amazon gift card {obviously they have everything} and you get an extra $10 in your pocket?

{Plus I got my 5% cash back from Discover}

Last Minute Gifts

E-Gift Cards

I use to really not care for the idea of giving others gift cards. I just felt like it was impersonal and the easy way of buying gifts. But if Grandma wants a Gap gift card, why not get her what she asked for? However, sometimes with gift cards though, you have to drive all over town and stand in line for 30 minutes just to get 1 gift card, and then go to 5 other stores and do it all over again.

This year, I really started getting into e-gift cards. They work just the same as a physical gift card, can be used online or in-stores. You can email them directly to whomever you’re giving it to. But I just email it to myself, print it out, and then wrap it up in a box just like I would a physical gift card.

{Plus you get all that cash back using ebates by purchasing online too} You don’t have to leave your house to deal with all of the crowds, trying to find a parking spot, and that bitter cold.

Save the hassle of dealing with crowded parking lots, long checkout lines, bitterly cold weather, and shop from your living room in your PJs with your wine in hand, while enjoying the last weekend before Christmas!

Where have you seen some amazing online shopping deals this holiday season?

This entry was posted in money.

4 tips to save money Christmas shopping

saving money seems to be something I have a “knack” for. I wont pretend to be an expert on couponing or try to tell you I pay $5 for a cart full of groceries, it just doesn’t happen for me.

but do I save quite a bit of money when I go to buy something? I sure do, and if I don’t, its not because I didn’t try. my usual grocery store trips usually amount to about $20-$30 worth of savings, but hey its more cash in my pocket I now have to spend on other things.

I know this time of year costs everyone extra money. Christmas shopping gets expensive, but you already knew that.

so I’ve put together a few tips + tricks I use, to help save you a few extra dollars this Christmas.

discounted gift cards

purchasing discounted gift cards is a great way to save a few bucks while Christmas shopping. websites such as Gift Card Granny and Cardpool offer both online and physical gift cards at discounted prices. the discount percentage is different for each store. use these discounted gift cards to pay for your holiday shopping!

ebates

have you ever seen those commericals for ebates? turns out, ebates does actually work! in just the few weeks I’ve been actively using ebates, I’ve already gotten over $6 in cash back! I just set Ebates as the homepage on my laptop and I use it every single time! on my phone, I downloaded their app and it’s super easy to use!

if i’ve inspired you to check out ebates, use my referral link and i’ll get a little something for showing you the light 🙂

cash back credit cards

my husband and I don’t use credit cards in the traditional sense. we don’t use them when cash is low, because we pay cash for everything. BUT that doesn’t mean we don’t use credit cards. we just pay them off every month.

 in fact, I love using my discover card. why? because I get cash back on EVERYTHING. and this quarter I get 5% back using my card at amazon, which is where a majority of my Christmas shopping is done.

dollar stores

after all the gifts are purchased, you still have to wrap them + tie all the pretty bows + fill out the name tags so they look all beautiful underneath your tree. I know I don’t need to tell you how expensive wrapping paper is, but my goodness, some rolls go for $4-$6, holy smokes!

the local dollar store is an AWESOME place to get your wrapping rolls, gifts, bags, bows, ribbon, tissue paper, etc. for CHEAP! why pay good money for something to just be ripped up and thrown away? spend the extra bucks you saved on your wrapping essentials on a little something for yourself.

combine online coupons + ebates + cash back credit cards and you’re bound to save a good chunk of change this holiday shopping season.

for more money savings hacks, check out my previous post my top 5 money saving resources.

stocking stuffers for guys under $20

this post contains affiliate links

every year the hardest person to shop for is my husband. this is just one of those things I cant seem to wrap my mind around. i’m with him all the time, more than anyone else I shop for. I know his likes and dislikes, yet still struggle when it comes to gift ideas for him.  the past few years ive come up with some unique stocking stuffers he absolutely loved, without breaking the bank.

shot glass and alcohol shooters to go with!

most guys don’t mind receiving practical gifts. socks make great stocking stuffers for practical gifts, especially a pair sporting his favorite team

isn’t the way to a guys heart through his stomach? beef jerky+ pistachios are some of my man’s favorite snacks

is there something that special guy is always using or seems he is always on the hunt for? throw them in his stocking mini flashlights are just the right size for his stocking. pocket knives are essential in our house, personalize it for a little something extra

and if you’re a golfer, you know you can never have enough golf balls

gloves; whether its a pair for winter or a pair of work gloves, you can’t go wrong with another practical gift for him

flash drive, it’s funny how much you need one when you don’t have one. plus, it seems like they are on every end cap in stores these days

check out the bargain books section at Barnes & Noble for a good read

so there you have it, a list of unique stocking stuffers for those hard to shop for men in your life.

most of these are $20 or less, making them quite affordable

what are some of the best stocking stuffers you’ve ever given or received?

 

she isnt JUST a dog

if you don’t have a dog, you just wont understand. trust me, i was there a year ago. i had the same thoughts.

when someone tells me my dog is “just a dog“, i’m offended. when someone tells us “you spend way too much money on your dog” or “you spoil her way too much” or “you treat her like a child, you know shes just a dog, right”, im offended. because my dog, isn’t just a dogi’m sorry i had to tell you that, when you should have known.

she saved me from myself.

in the short almost 9 months she has been apart of our family, she’s made more of an impact on my life, than some people ive known my entire life have. the impact she has had on my daily battle against depression and anxiety cannot be measured.

in my most depressed moments, she has a way of showing me things will get better, they arent as bad as i think. in my most anxious moments, she has a way of showing me it’s really nothing to fret about, there are more important things in life.

she is there when im alone with my thoughts, which for anyone with depression, knows how scary and hard those times can be. she keeps me away from being alone with my thoughts. she is someone i can talk to without having the worry of being judged. i can get my thoughts and feelings off my chest, without the worry of offending someone, or hurting someone.

so if you are someone who says “it’s just a dog”, think twice before saying it to someone next time. because “that dog” just might be what is giving someone a purpose, it just might be what is healing a person.