My Blog

My blog has morphed over the years into different things. It is a place to learn about saving money, product reviews, cooking, gardening, and homesteading. It can take you to whatever has my attention at the moment and then back to the day to day. I hope you will learn something here and come back often.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Vacation on a Budget

Vacations are not something we get to experience often.  After all, we are a 1 income family in a 2 income world!  As Dave Ramsey says, "We live like no one else so that someday we can live like no one else"!

We are watching the boys get older and closer to going off to college so we really wanted to have a vacation this year.  One that was not connected to anything else....none of the the..... we are going to visit the Grandparents so we will stop along the way for a couple of days together....or, no, I have to take this business trip so we can take the family and spend a little time together while we are there.  Nope.  This one needed to be a vacation only vacation!

After much deliberation we decided to go to Branson, MO.  We chose to go after school had started but before Labor Day weekend so we could avoid a lot of the crowds.  (Homeschooling has it's advantages!) The boys don't really remember going to amusement parks when they were younger so we wanted to visit Silver Dollar City while in town and maybe visit the local water park.  The shows were really not of interest to us so we didn't need to consider those costs.

I began researching deals at Silver Dollar City.  I found that you could get into the park after 3:00 p.m. one day and then that ticket would get you in for free the next day.  This sounded like a great deal until I found that some local hotels and resorts had 2-day tickets for the price of 1 (and you could still go at 3:00) the day before so it was like getting a day and a half for free.  The tickets are well over $60 each so we were looking at over $250 just in Silver Dollar City tickets.

The hotel was the next thing to research.  Our plan was to stay 4 nights and 5 days.  We would arrive on a Sunday and leave Thursday.  This was we could avoid the weekend rate increases and the weekend crowds.  I began looking into hotels in the area and narrowed down the search to a couple that had their own indoor/outdoor water parks.  I figured if the hotel had a water park we would not need to pay to go to the large water park in town.  It was also important to have a room with a refrigerator and microwave.  I thought this was a pretty standard request but I soon found that it was not.  After much computer work, I found the hotel that seemed to fit our needs the best and it did come with a refrigerator in the room, no microwave.

This is where a little, ok, a lot, of research comes in handy.  I went through to get to where I booked our room.  By going through I got 3% cash back on our final hotel bill.  We got a GREAT rate through and I was also able to print out a rebate coupon so I will get a $20 rebate on our hotel stay. I was able to get the room for less than $55/night.

I had a little sticker shock over the price of Silver Dollar City even though I knew it was a great deal to pay $250 and get to go to the park for 2.5 days.  We visited the concierge at our hotel to order the tickets and they offered us a deal IF we sat through the 2 hour timeshare pitch.  I knew we would get one of these offers at some point during our visit to Branson and my husband and I had already decided we would rather pay full price than sit through one of these high pressure sales pitches BUT, I must admit, I love a good deal!  They offered us the 4 Silver Dollar City tickets for $75!  That was almost $200 off!!  I couldn't resist!  To me, that was like paying us $100 an hour to sit and listen to someone talk while eating their snacks and drinking their drinks. lol So, much do my husband's dismay, I took the deal.  Granted, it was not a fun 2 hours but it was sooooo worth it!

The next expense was food.  Think about it.....5 days times 3 meals out equals a lot of money!  There was no free breakfast at the hotel but you could have an all-you-can-eat breakfast for $8 per person.  No thank you!  I am usually a cook-from-scratch and eat your veggies kind of gal but I knew I couldn't really do that on vacation so I started making some plans.  I borrowed an electric skillet from my Mom and began preparing some foods at home that I could freeze and take with us.  I froze some of our fresh eggs and browned some sausage and froze it in another bag.  I cooked sausage patties and packed a box of pancake mix.  I collected fresh veggies from the garden and made a casserole that could be reheated in the electric skillet.  I packed bread, flour tortillas, sandwich meat and peanut butter.  Our first meal was breakfast burritos.  At lunch we had sandwiches and chips.  Our first dinner was chicken and rice in a cream of mushroom/cheese sauce.

We did eat out while on vacation but it was places that we really wanted to go not just because we needed a place to eat.  By the time we got home, we had eaten out 4 times.  I estimate that we saved over $400 in meals.

We had a vacation on a budget but none of us felt deprived in any way.  We did all of the things that we wanted to do.  We splurged and had funnel cakes at the amusement park.  We played 18 holes of putt putt golf at one of the tourist traps in town.  We didn't miss out on anything AND we didn't break the bank.

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Fast Metabolism Diet ~ Finale

I have come to many conclusions throughout the past month...

1.  There is never a good time to start a diet.  We began The Fast Metabolism Diet a month ago.  During that month, we have celebrated both of our kids' birthdays, Mother's Day, and Memorial Day.

2.  Stress is not good for me.  When I am stressed, I mean REALLY stressed, I do not care that I am trying to eat healthy.  I do not care if I am overweight. And I do not care how my bad choices will affect the scale. I just want something that will make me feel better and, unfortunately for me, that is food.  Now, I am not going to dive headfirst into a chocolate cake or eat myself sick with a bag of chips.  I just want a hamburger and french fries smothered in ketchup or anything mexican.

3.  Dieting is impossible.  If you have "diet" in your brain then you are not making the changes necessary to lose weight permanently.  I went in to this thinking that I wanted to do the program perfectly, by the letter, for the first 28 days and then I would adjust it to fit our lifestyle.  28 days is not that long, right?!  Well, let me tell you that after 2 weeks I wanted a little more of my lifestyle back.  I didn't want to look at another salad that had lemon for dressing.  Salad is fine.  I like salad.  I also like mayonnaise on my salad...not much ( I don't use store-bought salad dressings) just enough to add a little flavor.

So, for those that came to this blog to find out more about the book, The Fast Metabolism Diet, here is what I would like for you to know.  First, I want to remind you that I received this book free to read and post my review on this blog.  Second, this is one of the best plans that I have been on and I've done them all.  I did not feel deprived (except for my salad dressing) and I was not hungry.  I felt healthier, more energetic, and, as I type this, my nails are clicking on the keys because they are long and strong.

We backslid a little, ok, a lot! over the Memorial Day weekend (my son's birthday weekend was at the same time).  We ate at fast food joints complete with our favorite carbonated beverages, partook of birthday cake and ice cream, and just basically did not care what we ate.  The first morning after eating like this I woke up tired and sluggish.  My husband was so irritable I was wishing he did not have the rest of the weekend off (don't tell him I said that!).  My youngest son woke up completely congested and feeling miserable.  I contribute all of this to the "dirty" food that we ingested.  It was really a wake up call!  What are we really doing to our bodies when we eat processed junk??

Will we continue this journey?  Absolutely!  I don't know if The Fast Metabolism Diet is a miracle worker or not but I do know that you will be a healthier person if you follow what is outlined in the book.  I encourage you to try it for yourself.  I am very happy that I did.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Fast Metabolism Diet Week 2

Week 2 on The Fast Metabolism Diet is over!  The result...not so great.  BUT, let me explain.

I did lose 2 lbs this week but I then gained 2.2....thanks Mother's Day!

We ate really good again this week and are settling in to a nice routine.  I am learning to incorporate some of our favorite foods into the diet a little bit so it feels less like a diet. We are also learning to appreciate each phase of the diet more.  When we are in the carb/fruit phase, I find myself looking forward to the protein phase.  When we are in the protein phase, I find myself looking forward to the healthy fats phase.  All in all, I am really enjoying the way we eat.  I do not feel deprived in the least.

We have found one interesting bit of information though.  My husband and I both gain weight during phase 3 of this diet.  During weeks 1 and 2, we have been tripping along, losing weight until we hit phase 3.  It's not a lot of weight but when the scale is going down day after day, you hate to see it go up again.  I would really like to know if this is part of the overall diet plan or not.  Now, I do know that the body weight fluctuates during the week so neither of us are getting freaked out about it.  It's just curious that it happens at the same time ever week.  I would love to know if others have had the same issue.

Now, to Mother's Day.  One think that I learned from reading this book is that it's ok to eat anything.  You are not supposed to while on the first 28 days but when you get back to life it's ok to have a slice of cake or a slice of pizza.  Allow yourself to be happy at the thought and enjoy the experience.  This is what I decided to do for Mother's Day.  We ate on plan for breakfast and then we went to Jason's Deli for lunch.  I still stayed on plan by getting the salad bar but I allowed myself real salad dressing and 2 crackers.  Then, I had a small cup of ice cream with sliver almonds for dessert.  And I enjoyed it!  I think the real problem was in the evening.  I was not hungry after that big salad.  I did eat a small snack and a bite of chicken for dinner but that's all.  So, if I were to do it all over again, I would eat a smaller salad for lunch followed by ice cream, and then get right back to my regular snack and full dinner.  I'll chalk this one up to a learning experience and do better next time.

So, on to week #3.  I have chicken and steak thawing to throw on the grill this evening.  I roasted a pan of broccoli and carrots last night and cooked a pot of cinnamon apples for breakfast.  And don't forget....This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/FastMetabolismDiet!

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Fast Metabolism Diet Week 1

My husband and I just finished week 1 of The Fast Metabolism Diet.  I must say... I am impressed!

First, let me tell you about the book itself.  As I stated in the previous blog, I received this book free so I could review it and write a blog about it for SheSpeaks/FastMetabolismDiet.  Since it is a diet, it of course got my attention and I wanted to try it myself rather than just write about a book that I read.  But I need to tell you... this is the first diet book that I have ever read cover to cover.  It's not because I had to write a review but because I felt like the author, Haylie Pomroy, was talking directly to me.  I felt like we were sitting in the kitchen having a conversation, like she understands me, and she can and will help me.  As I read, I could see her wagging her finger at me one moment and then patting me on the back to console me the next. I wanted to stand up to her challenges and believe in her promises.  It was a rather amazing read!

The results of Week 1:
I lost 7.6 lbs and my husband lost 7.4 lbs.  This is the first time I have ever lost more than him.  Usually, I lose about half of the weight he does.  I will admit, I weighed in every day this past week.  You and I both know that is not a good idea but it kept me motivated. Now that we have started the second week, my goal is to only weigh once or twice because I know that the weight will come off slower now.

About the Program:
There are 3 phases to this plan and I love the fact that you cover all 3 in a week!  You eat the foods from Phase 1 for two days (usually Monday and Tuesday).  Phase 2 is two days and Phase 3 is three days.  You repeat this cycle for 4 weeks.  If you are not at your goal weight at the end of 28 days you can continue the program as needed.

The scary stuff:
This is a dairy free, gluten free, CAFFEINE free and sugar free diet.  That seems overwhelming, doesn't it?!  It really is not or at least it has not been for us and we eat pretty normal just like you.  I do miss my morning cup of coffee but I think it's the routine that I miss too.  You know, get up, turn on coffee, cook breakfast, get husband out the door and then sit down and enjoy a nice, hot cup of coffee.  Instead, I am having a glass of water during that time.  It's not the same, but if it gets results I think I can handle it!

Supposedly, the program works because of the type of foods you are eating in each phase.  It would be a really long blog if I tried to explain the foods allowed in each phase so I'm not going to do that.  I would recommend that you get the book so you will have all of the information.

I am wary about the next week.  I have been on a lot of diets.  I have seen them all work for the first week.  I want to believe that this one is different.  I want to believe that this is the thing that will work for my family permanently.  So, I am diving in to week 2.  Wary but determined to follow the plan and just see where it leads.
           ~~~ I hope next week there will be less of me ~~~

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Fast Metabolism Diet

Today was day 1 on the Fast metabolism Diet.  I received a free copy of this book to read, review, and blog about.  I don't think I could give an accurate review of the book without actually trying it, right?

I must admit, the author, Haylie Pomroy, sucked me right in on the very first page of the book.  The book starts...

    I am the metabolism whisperer.
       I know why you can't do it ~ why your body doesn't respond anymore to the relentless dieting, the           mind-numbing exercise, the low-carb or low-fat or high-protein diets.  I know why you aren't losing weight...and I know how to fix it.

I thought, WOW!, she must be spying on me!  I have, like so many others, tried every diet, read lots of books, experimented with different types of exercise, only to remain overweight.  In my most recent attempt, I was eating 1200 "healthy" calories a day and doing an hour of zumba 3-4 times a week.  I was feeling really good and gaining weight!  How does that happen?  I don't understand it.  After a few week, I re-injured my knee and had to stop zumba so I stopped eating right.  Do you want to know what happened?  I LOST weight!!  I was eating Reese's!  I don't understand.

So, here I am again.  This book sounds logical to me.  The foods are things that we already eat.  I haven't found anything weird or bizarre that my family would not like.  It will take a little work at the beginning learning how to pair food together but I think after a couple of days it won't be too bad.

My journey began today.  It is a 28 day program.  I can stick to it for 28 days.

I will keep you posted on my progress!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

L'Oréal Paris Magic BB Cream

Ever heard of BB cream?  It seems to be the latest thing in the make-up world right now.  I must admit, I am usually not in-the-know when it comes to the latest, greatest make-up trends but I happened to be in the right place at the right time to learn of this product.

I received a free tube of L'Oréal Paris Magic BB Cream to try so I could tell you guys about it.  I was very skeptical at first.  I don't really understand a technology that takes a white cream and it magically matches my skin color but that is exactly what it does!

I use the BB Cream as a moisturizer and foundation.  It feels so light on my skin but at the same time it provides great coverage.  This will certainly be my pick of products for the summer!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ready for Product Reviews?

Honey Bunches of Oats was nice enough to send me a box of their new Honey Bunches of Oats Tropical Blends to try.  First, I have to confess that Honey Bunches of Oats is the only cereal that I buy.  Yes, the cereal isle is full of choices but we found our favorite and we are sticking with it!

My second confession is, I only got to try 1 bowl of this cereal.  Why, you ask?  Because my family got to it first.  Everyone loved it!  The mango gave it a fresh, fruity taste and who doesn't love the indulgent flavor of coconut.

My findings:  Honey Bunches of Oats has come up with another great product! Do you want to try it?  I happen to have a coupon for a free, full-size box.  All you have to do is LIKE Honey Bunches of Oats and then reply to this blog or send me an email at stating that you liked their page and you will be entered in the drawing!

You can also enter to win an Escape to the Tropics! Information regarding the Tropical Trio Sweepstakes was provided with my free box of Honey Bunches of Oats.  I may qualify for a prize too, so enter now and keep an eye out for more Product Reviews coming soon!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Real Food

I love to cook.  I also love to look at food and recipes that are posted on FB and Pinterest.  Recently, someone suggested that I like a page on FB because they post great recipes all throughout the day.  I spent a  minute of two looking at the page and loved the wonderful  foods that they had posted.  I "liked" the page thinking I would be able to get some great ideas from them.

I have viewed posts from this page for 2 days now.  Granted, the pictures of beautiful food get my attention every time but the recipes!  The recipes have made me wonder how many people really cook anymore.  I don't know about you, but I don't use a "baking mix" when I want to make homemade muffins.  I have my own "baking mix".  It's called flour!  I can easily add the baking powder, baking soda, salt or whatever I need without paying extra for someone to mix it for me.  If I want to use premixed ingredients, why not just get a muffin mix from the store and add water OR, better yet, just buy muffins at the store and save the hassle.

It's not just baking that we have taken the easy route on.  Take a look as you pass the meat counter in your local grocery store.  Have we come to the place where we can no longer season our own steaks or burgers?   You can pay a little extra and your steak and burgers are pre-seasoned and ready to cook.  I saw a new commercial this week that shows butter with olive oil and spices mixed in.  There's no reason to season your food, just melt this chunk of goo in your pan and add food.  Should I even discuss the fruits and vegetables that come pre-chopped just for you?  How long does it take to slice celery or apples?

I have an idea.  Why don't we go back to cooking real food from real ingredients.  Lets take out the fillers and the stuff we can't pronounce.  Take away the preservatives because we don't need them if we are cooking the food ourselves.  I wonder what that would do to the cancer rate?  I wonder how much better we would feel?  It is something to think about.

Now, if you would excuse me, I've got to check on my bread that is rising...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Eating...on a Budget

Are you paying attention to food prices?  I mean, really paying attention?  I am amazed and a little frightened every time I go to the grocery store.

Last year, we purchased a side of beef from a local farm and we purchased 80 lbs of chicken breasts.  We have just about come to the end of our stock and now I am wondering how I will buy meat for our family.  Why is ground beef now over $4/lb?!  Well, I know the reason.  I guess I am wondering if or when it will change.

I have clipped coupons for the past couple of years...which is one of the reasons I started this blog.  Thanks to certain tv programs, couponing has changed!  Now, it is not even worth buying the Sunday paper.  There are not enough coupons that I use to make it worthwhile.

So, what to do?  I have started serving more meatless meals at home.  With 3 men in the house, this is not always a welcome alternative!  I have also started incorporating meat into the meal so that it is not the "main dish".  This is easily done in things like fried rice.  Another option is adding more beans to your menu.  Personally, I love all bean soups.  It is what I grew up on so I have no problem eating beans every week.

Right now I am scouring the Kroger add for good deals and luckily, it's a good week.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Daydreams and Canned Beets...

January 2013 is quickly coming to an end.  I am amazed at how time seems to fly by.  I see it as I watch my boys that once toddled around the room now tower over me and will soon be asking for the keys to the car. I cannot slow down time so I am trying to learn to enjoy the quick moments that I have.  If I do not, I will soon look back in a mirror of regret.

Today I am enjoying the beautiful 70 degree weather.  The house windows are open and the chickens are free to scratch around the yard to their heart's content.  We must enjoy it quickly because the warm weather is ushering in severe storms which will then give way to cold temperatures again.  Right now, the warmth makes me long for the garden.

The seed companies have already begun their battle with my willpower.  Every year I promise myself I will only plant a small garden with items that we truly need but every year the seed companies lure me in with the promise of a huge yield of some new vegetable that I must try.  I will practice restraint though.  My seed box runneth over.

My daydreams must wait.  The problem of the moment is what to cook for dinner!  I had planned on cleaning out the pantry during the month of February and boycotting any and all supermarkets during that time but I believe I will start early.  I have canned goods that I need to clear out and frozen fruits and veggies that need to be eaten to make way for this summer's crops.

For some reason, I have an abundance of canned beets?!  I learned last year that I like beets fresh from the garden but I have yet to try any from a can.  I guess I will leave my blog in search of a good recipe to try for dinner.  Any suggestions?