Posts Tagged ‘Health’

Amy’s Notebook 01.28.15: The m challenge Focus on Health Syllabus

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

m-challenge Note: As a wrap-up of each month’s m challenge theme, we will be using the last Notebook of the month as a sort of “Cliffs Notes” edition of the challenge – a place where you can find a list of all the articles we’ve published for the challenge, as well as more inspiration and links from the web around the challenge theme. Our hope is that this will serve as a one stop shopping for the theme that you can refer to as well as catch up on in case you’ve missed anything!

January m challenge: Focus on Health


Healthy Links:

Stay in Shape via Living Well Spending Less

Source: Living Well Spending Less


Five smart ways to get motivated and stay in shape–without breaking the bank!

You’ll definitely find something to help you focus on health in this huge list of 101 ideas for simple, healthy changes.

25 exercise playlists – I can’t be without music in my workouts!

Great tips on how to get your energy back.

The only 12 exercises you need to get in shape.

22 simple ways to start eating healthier this year.

Healthy Lunch Ideas via Back to Her Roots

Source: Back to Her Roots


Healthy, easy, and quick lunch ideas.

32 healthy cooking tips for any level of cook!

11 DIY protein bar recipes.

How to shop healthy – the dos and don’ts for healthy grocery shopping.

12 healthy salad dressing recipes to jump start you to healthy eating in 2015.

Healthy smoothie recipes that are fast and easy.

18 mason jar salads – love these as a fun, healthy lunch idea!


I hope you enjoyed this notebook, a collection of gathered links all around our m challenge about focusing on our health. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!


The Secret Formula to Get and Stay Fit

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

The Secret Formula to Get and Stay Fit

This is a guest post by Abbi Pollyea for the m challenge series.

It is a new year, and with it comes an opportunity to start fresh and perhaps create some positive change in our lives. One of the most popular New Yearʼs Resolutions is the one that goes like this, “Iʼm going to get in the best shape of my life this year!”

The fitness industry as a whole blows up in January. Gym memberships are up, fitness dvd sales are high, and fitness classes everywhere are full. As a fitness instructor, I love this special time of year as I get to meet many new potential clients and share in their enthusiastic energy. I attempt to encourage all new students with words of empowerment in the hopes that they will find passion in movement and fully commit to an exercise program. Unfortunately, however, January comes to an end and numbers in classes start to go down. By the end of February, many of the new people that I hoped I would get to know as regulars, have stop attending classes altogether.

New healthy habits are simply hard to permanently implement into our lives and it can be easy to fall back into old routines that are comfortable and not challenging. There needs to be a driving source of motivation that exists from within in order to fully commit to a fitness program. It is my intent to help you find this motivation and use it on a regular basis to help keep you moving!

I have created a simple formula that will help make your fitness resolutions attainable. The formula is as follows:

The Secret Formula to Get and Stay Fit

(A source of INSPIRATION) + (A type of MOVEMENT that you LOVE) + (A COMMITMENT to yourself) = A new found PASSION and COMMITMENT for fitness and health

For the initial part of this formula, (INSPIRATION), I am going to share a brief version of my journey into fitness. I am hoping that some of these words and themes will be relatable to those who have struggled with similar situations.

The Secret Formula to Get and Stay Fit

As a child, I was drawn to gymnastics and dance. I loved each sport with such passion and was a natural at both. Adolescence proved hard for me however, and my late teen years were extremely rocky. I gave up both beloved sports and without a passion to direct my energy, I floundered my way through high school, putting on weight and taking poor care of myself. Luckily, I made it through somewhat in tact, fell in love with a great,great man, had a baby, got married, and had another baby. This would bring us to 2004. So, from 1994-2004, I did not dance or do anything that I would have considered athletic.

I was now a mom of two beautiful boys, and felt happy at being a mom, but unfulfilled with my individual accomplishments. I felt sad that I would never be the dancer or gymnast that I aspired to be as a girl. I was twenty-six and pretty much felt that my dreams were over, which is a confining way to feel. One afternoon, I watched a movie called “Center Stage.” In this movie, there was a scene in which an adult jazz class took place. Something about it made me want to dance again so badly, that it made me cry. Later that day, I dried my tears, opened up the phone book, (it was 2004!) and looked up every single dance studio in South Bend, Indiana. I called them all until I found one that offered an adult Jazz class. I signed up, bought myself some jazz shoes and was more excited than I had been in a really long time.

The class was on a Monday night at 6pm, I showed up at 5:30 and waited while about fifteen other women came in. It was then that I got nervous and started to feel like I had no business being there. I actually went out to my car and almost went home, truly. But…..I didnʼt. I stayed, and danced, and after taking the six week class two times in a row, I was asked to be an instructor. This began a teaching career that expanded into Pilates, Yoga, and Barre. My job has helped keep me in shape, stay home with my kids, (two more came along in 2010 and 2012) as they grow, introduced me to the BEST people, and has never, ever, stopped inspiring me. Most importantly, however, the experience of attending that one dance class brought passion back into my life that had been lost in the years between childhood and adulthood.

The Secret Formula to Get and Stay Fit

I hope that story helped inspire you to look back at your own childhood, and think about the sport that brought out your greatest joy. Whatever activity that comes to your mind is going to help you with the second part of the formula, (MOVEMENT that you LOVE). This part of the formula is essential. Exercise shouldnʼt feel like a “have to”, it should feel like a “want to”. So… if you were a soccer player, find a local adult soccer league, if you loved gymnastics, try Pilates, if you loved riding bikes, try a Spin class. There are adult programs everywhere! Whatever movement or game that brought you joy and passion as a child, will still bring you the same feelings as an adult. There is something so magical about revisiting our childhood dreams in an adult setting, it is an opportunity to reconnect to our younger selves and say to our present self, “It is never too late to pursue your dreams!”

The final part of the formula is the hardest, (COMMITMENT to YOU). It is so hard to take care of ourselves and try to pursue our dreams when we are doing this around the clock for our families. In order to inspire and take care of others, however, we MUST commit to ourselves. I know I am a more patient and kind person after I have danced for an hour. We all need an outlet that is healthful and keeps us inspired. Know fully that you are worth the commitment.

Below are two pictures, the first is of me at age ten, happy as I could be on my balance beam. The second is of me last year at age 36, happy as I always am on my Pilates Reformer working on a dance move:

The Secret Formula to Get and Stay Fit

Remember your childhood passion and transition it into your adult life. I wish you a happy, healthy, and magical 2015.


Pin It

m challenge: Focus on Health

Monday, January 5th, 2015

the m challenge

Welcome to our first month of exploration in the m challenge series! I have so many wonderful posts for you this month as we explore our health and fitness goals for the new year. You can ask anyone in my family and they will tell you that my fitness routines and caring for my own health has been a big priority for me over the last few years. Part of it comes with the aging process and wanting to remain youthful as long as possible. The other reason is simply wanting to live a long and healthy life with my two children, hopefully bypassing some of the things my body might face if I didn’t take my health so seriously.

the m challenge: minimize

This month we will be getting some advice from a fitness instructor on her winning formula for getting and staying fit, I will be sharing a little bit about my own journey towards a healthier life, I will be asking a fitness instructor what items she recommends you keep in your gym bag, we will be getting expert advice from an ER doctor on the must-have items we should keep stocked in our First Aid kits, and I will be sharing an amazing reader testimonial from a woman who continually inspires me with her weight loss journey.

Each month I will be sharing a book selection that you can read that goes along with our theme for the month. This month’s selection is WHEAT BELLY by William Davis (affiliate link). It is a book that I have been wanting to read and keep hearing about and I thought we could read it together.  I am not big on fad diet books and this might be a risky first choice, but I would love to chat with you about it!  I hope you can snag it from your local libraries and we can have a discussion on this at the end of the month!


Wheat Belly by William Davis

I really hope you are as excited as I am for this new series on the site. I can’t think of a better goal than a renewed commitment to your own personal health and fitness. See you tomorrow with our first post on getting and staying fit in this new year!

Pin It

It Hasn’t Always Been Easy…My Fitness Confession

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

I have to admit that I am doing a few things that I don’t feel entirely comfortable with today. I am sharing with you a very vulnerable place in my heart, I am exposing a time in my life that I wasn’t the most proud of, I am sharing one picture (of many) of a person that I don’t really recognize, and I am telling you that I am trying to be different…knowing that saying it out loud is the hardest part.

In my college years, after numerous indecisions about what I wanted to do with my life, I settled on a career path in Food & Nutrition. While learning about the formula for calories, flunking my cooking class twice, and taking courses on exercise and physiology, I became a blimped out version of my former self. I ate out almost every single day, stopped exercising, partied hard, and lived a sedentary life. My hair suddenly became greasy, my face was shiny all of the time, I had chronic stomach problems, exercise-induced asthma, chronic back pain, high cholesterol, and I need to nap because I was constantly tired. Freshman 15 would have been mild compared to the Freshman 35 that I put on. It was such a gradual process that I don’t think I even realized what was happening.  So gradual, in fact, that I found it strange when I overheard a guy friend say that I had a pretty face and would be cute if I could just lose some weight. I was that girl now.

I bring this up because I know that sometimes it can be hard to relate to someone if you don’t see the struggle, the work, and the decisions that are made daily to accomplish their current body, and the daily commitment that is made after you have reached your personal goals for fitness or weight loss.

In my thirties, I am in better shape than I ever was in my teen or college years. My skin is great, I no longer take any medications, I have no chronic health conditions, I am at a healthy weight for my body, and I am proud to show my kids that physical fitness is an essential part of my day.  When a ten minute workout would have winded me before, I can now run on my treadmill miles at a time. Each day that I put in my exercise time, I remind myself that I am running and exercising against a family history of diabetes, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, low bone density, stomach problems, and am running towards quality time with the people I love.

How is fitness and frugality related? Well, frankly, it is simple… the more fit you are, the less you pay in medication and doctor visits. Fitness doesn’t require a big investment at all, but it is an investment that will pay off for years and years down the road.

Believe in 30 Day Goals- I still believe firmly that you can accomplish anything with small thirty day goals. I started with a 30 day goal to complete a Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred workout. Now I have a thirty day goal to run a 5K in great time on the treadmill. Someday, it would be wonderful to be able to run a mini-marathon or be able to keep pace with my runner husband.  Think of a fitness goal that you would like to accomplish and work thirty days towards making that dream into a reality.

Eat Healthier During the Day- No matter how hard I was exercising, I was still eating whatever I wanted and not seeing the results that I was looking for.  As a mom it can be difficult to not give in and just eat whatever the kids are eating. My days were filled with macaroni, chicken nuggets, crackers, chips, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Unfortunately, that was not filling me up and I would feel hungry throughout the day.

Each week, I now chop up salad, fresh veggies, and fruit at the beginning of the week. I roast and dice chicken breasts as I chop the veggies so I have all of the perfect fixings for a satisfying salad bar at home.

Start with small switches- oatmeal or a protein-packed protein shake for breakfast, a handful of almonds instead of heavy carbs for snack, a colorful salad instead of a sandwich for lunch, and whole grains instead of the white stuff could all be small changes that make a big difference in how you feel.

Be frugal, but make wise fitness investments- Thanks to the wonderful consignment shops in our area, I was able to score most of my workout gear and paired it with inexpensive tank tops and sports bras from Walmart. I was proud of my frugal workout gear, but my back was hurting after my workouts.

I started to realize that I had not made one important investment… a new pair of tennis shoes. While new tennis shoes were a big investment for me, they are an investment that has really paid off and allowed me to workout longer and not feel achy after my workouts.

Don’t be afraid to make an investment if it will improve your fitness experience and help your endurance levels with working out. My tennis shoes are just one example of something that had held me back from feeling my best, and something that has made a huge difference in my motivation to keep moving.

Switch up your routines- If you are hitting a plateau in your fitness routine, then it might be time to switch things up a bit. For many years I have been working out at home. I found a lot of variation in my routine compliments of the library and the DVD’s that they offered.  Recently, I got a new writing gig that could pay for a monthly gym membership. My kids were finally at an age where I could do this and so I joined a gym. The results in these last two months have been phenomenal and the variation and equipment is much wider than what I had available to me at home.

Think about what you are spending your money on and see if it could be allocated to something healthier. Do you have a movie club membership or premium cable plan? What if you put that money towards a gym membership instead?  With my cable plan and my movie membership, I felt forced to sit in front of the boob tube. After canceling the movie membership, I have felt less dedicated to television time and more dedicated to the things that matter most to me.

Having a workout buddy has also pushed me out of my comfort zone for trying new classes and we help each other stay on schedule.  I was proud that for Cinco de Mayo, I went to a 2 ½ hour Zumba class and danced my little heart out instead of sitting on the sofa this year. These small changes are making a big difference in my confidence and how I feel.

Turn off Distracters- The hardest part of working out for me are all of the distracters that can pull me away from my goals. I make deals with myself where I am not allowed to login to Twitter, Facebook, or my email until my workout is complete.  What distracts you from reaching your goals? Some distracters (our children, for example) are more difficult to reduce, but many are silly things that could be pushed aside until your workout is done.

(my beautiful inspiration)

Get inspired- What inspires you? Is it a picture of your former self on your fridge, is it having an awesome workout buddy that you can check-in with, is it reading the victory stories of weight-loss from other bloggers? Is it being able to keep up with your crazy children?

Whatever it is, get inspired and try starting a new workout routine today.

Fitness Sites to Inspire: Groove Shark is my new favorite site to create great workout mixes that help me stay motivated when I am on the treadmill. Put on workout anthems that can force you to go that extra mile and create mixes that help keep you pumped! At LogYourRun you can keep track of your running and other exercise progress and sign up for one of our free training programs to help you improve your performance or train for your upcoming marathon. LogYourRun will help keep track of how many miles you have on your shoes and you can trace your routes on a map to figure out how many miles your favorite route is and share with your friends. Looking for a community-driven site to help keep you motivated. With SparkPeople, you can create personalized diet and fitness plans, track your calories, track you your workouts, and connect with others like through the support teams available.

Mamavation- Looking for some added mamavation, then the Mamavation site might be a hot spot for you to visit. They have a great team of writers who share inspiring stories and up-to-date health/exercise information that can help you reach your goals.

How do you reach your fitness goals? What sites, people, or workout routines are motivating you right now?

Because I Am Glad to Give & I Want You To Give Too!

Monday, April 19th, 2010

When someone once asked me one word to describe myself, the word that came to mind was, “giver.” I love to give to others and thrive in any environment where I can share a piece of myself with someone else. There is nothing I love more than the giving of food, the giving of my time to make someone’s day easier, even being the giver of advice that might make a mom’s day run a little smoother. I am a giver because it comes naturally to me and that is why I am thrilled to share about a campaign that you can give back frugally and thoughtfully to families who are faced with a disease called pediatric cancer.

Did you know that the number one death disease of children living in the United States is pediatric cancer? Why is it the number one killer? Truthfully, it kills children daily because the funds are just not there to develop the research to find a cure for this disease.

I was asked to help spread the word about a campaign called, “Glad to Give,” that is sponsored by the GLAD company.  They believe that they can raise the funds for this research one cookie at a time. Yes, you heard that right! This campaign’s roots are firmly planted in that beautiful thing we love… bake sales!

As parents with busy schedules, I know that volunteering and baking might not be the top two things on your priority list. What if you knew that those two things could make a difference in a child’s life though? Glad to Give is offering up some fantastic ideas for how you can participate and how you can be a part of their partnership with Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.

Here are some easy and frugal things you can do to participate:

Buy GLAD® Products and Contribute to Pediatric Cancer Research: This spring, every time you purchase a  GLAD product (to help host a bake sale or for other use), the Glad Products Company will make a $1 donation to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, up to $200,000! Just enter the UPC code here!

Enter the GLAD Recipe for Giving Contest: GLAD recognizes the time spent prepping, kneading and decorating bake sale treats is quality family time that instills a spirit of service in children. To help celebrate families in action, GLAD® is conducting the GLAD® Recipe for Giving Contest. Consumers can share their “recipe” – that is, tip or advice – on how their family gives back through food related activities. Four consumer winners will each win $1,000 toward a family activity of their choice and a chance to compete alongside a celebrity in the holiday GLAD® Recipe for Giving Celebrity Challenge. Come November, the two lucky consumers on the winning celebrity team raising the most money will each receive a “voluntourism” trip for four to St. Lucia.

Host a Bake Sale: I know that this might take a little work on your part, but imagine the lives that you could touch through the donations raised. GLAD will take you through the process in four easy steps that will have your raising funds in no time!

I am committed to this campaign and committed to spreading the word about how you can help. I want to kick off the GLAD to give campaign by donating $400 to jump start the cause and I need your participation!

I am going to be hosting a virtual bake sale on May 14th. I am asking you to participate here on the site and share your best bake sale recipes!  From those entries, I will randomly select a winner who will receive a box full of baking goodies (valued at $50, prepared by me!) just for sharing one of your bake sale recipes and sharing about your participation in Glad to Give! Doesn’t that sound lovely?

I hope that you will consider participating and sharing a favorite baking recipe in honor of this campaign. It would mean the world to me, but it would mean a world more to the families of these children! Start gathering those recipes and think of the ways that you could help with my virtual bake sale. I can’t do it without you!


In honor of all things bake sale, here is a quick cookie recipe that can be made out of pantry ingredients and one ingredient that makes the whole thing go a little quicker… the ever amazing cake mix!

Cake Mix Peanut Butter Cookies

1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Pour the cake mix into a large bowl. Make a well in the center, and add peanut butter, oil, eggs, and water. Mix until well blended. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Flatten slightly using a fork dipped in water. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven. Let cookies set on cookie sheet for 2 to 3 minutes before carefully removing from the cookie sheet to cool on wire racks. Amy’s Notes: Be sure to keep the cooking time to the ten to twelve minutes and don’t let the lighter color fool you. I had some burnt cookies in my first batch because I left them in the oven too long. Let them cool as instructed and then place them on a pretty plate for serving. Then you need to complete the most difficult step of all…Try to graciously accept the compliments without giving away your cooking secrets (which I never can do myself!).


Disclaimer: I was paid for this campaign and invested every dollar back into it to spread the word about pediatric cancer. It is far better to give than to receive. I hope you will consider doing the same!

What is one way you donate your time or talents to charity? How do you make this a family priority?

Boosting Energy By Embracing An Exercise Routine

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

I have great motivation to keep a healthy lifestyle which is what fuels me to continue to exercise and keep up with my active lifestyle. My motivators might be different from yours, but I am sure there is something that motivates you. For me, I find myself less depressed when I exercise, the aches and pains that I have seem to subside with regular exercise, I am trying to avoid the health problems that have plagued my family,  but most of all… I have the energy to keep up with my two energetic children.

I used to attend the gym regularly before I had children. On my lunch hours, I would head to the gym and take difficult kickboxing classes, pilates, power yoga, and aerobics classes. I had college weight to lose and the time to think about just me. The longer and the harder the class, the more I loved it! I would spend my afternoons at the gym and the evenings doing community theater and just thinking about me. It was just all about me all the time and it was glorious.

Those days seem a lifetime ago. My workouts have to be quick and effective,  crammed between two kid’s extracurricular activities, homework, laundry, and daily life.  I find myself trying to figure out how I can just find twenty minutes to myself. In fact, my workout routines are mixed in with children trying to exercise rightwithme and a cat that insists on rubbing against me while I am doing my ab work. Kids are crying for computer time or needing help in the bathroom and I am pausing the DVD and running back, hoping to continue my little burst in energy. What a far cry from an hour at the gym for just me.

That being said, I wouldn’t have it any other way and as the kids see me exercise, I know that I am modeling for them the importance of taking care of the body that God gave you. I could join a gym, but I have found that driving over to a gym takes more time and more energy than popping in a DVD or using the workout equipment we own at home. That being said, it requires a great deal of discipline to maintain a workout routine on your own. Thankfully, interacting online with my real life friends and internet friends keeps me motivated enough to do it all on my own.

What I have discovered is that moms need to find a solution that works best for them. The gym might be for some, but it might not be for you. Workout equipment at home might not be helpful to you, but for others they find motivation in having what they need right at their fingertips. Realize that as long as you are moving, you are doing exactly what your body is intended to do.

1.    Make it quick and convenient. Try aiming for just twenty minute sessions and do what fits best with your schedule. If going to the gym doesn’t work for you right now, stick to a workout DVD. If you can’t manage either, try a brisk walk around your neighborhood. Whatever you do, make it something that is easily doable and can be done in a short period of time.

2.    Make an appointment with yourself. Find the times that work best for you and do it every single day. If something gets in your time slot, push it back, but do not push it off.

3.    Schedule your workouts when it is best for you, not when you think you should workout. I can admit it; I am not a morning person. I have tried being a morning person and I just can’t do it. I will no longer apologize for not being a morning person and will understand that maybe I will come to a stage in my life where morning workouts work better for me, but for now I am content on being groggy in the morning and doing afternoon workouts instead.

4.    Get pumped up. Find what motivates you to get moving and incorporate that. Music is a powerful motivator for me and I love to get music from the local library and play that or load fresh music into my iPod for working out.

Others are pumped by community sites that help them track and login their workout times. SparkPeople is one resource where you can track your caloric content and exercise schedule while chatting with others through forums. Others are motivated by having a workout buddy or making a daily date with a girlfriend at the gym. Whatever it is, find what motivates you and get your body moving.

5. Challenge your spouse. My husband and I decided to challenge each other one month to an exercise challenge. I did a workout routine for 30 days straight and he did did sit-ups every single day. Both of our bodies were transformed by the experience and so was our mindset. Adding an element of competition encouraged me that I could totally take him on and added another level to my workout routine. Adding a little trash-talking in our dinner conversation also helped with our friendly competition that not only ended up rewarding ourselves with a more active lifestyle, but even added a little bit of spark back into our relationship!

5.    Get some workout gear. I don’t know why, but I have a hard time spending money on workout gear. The year 1997 called though and they wanted their workout clothes back so I knew it was time to make an investment. Buy a few good workout pieces for yourself and try washing your tennis shoes to freshen them up. Just slip off the laces and throw the shoes in the washer. Wash them on a warm setting with a little laundry detergent. After they are done, stuff the interior of the shoes with newspaper (to help hold its shape and also to absorb any lingering odors) and let them dry outside in the sunshine. Fresh workout gear can make all the difference in how you feel about yourself and can help you commit more to making exercise a priority.

6. Reward yourself. Rewards to myself are exactly what keep me motivated and what you might find keeps you motivated too. It could be something simple like a glass of wine in the evening, a bubble bath with a good book, a new pair of jeans after reaching a certain weight, a new DVD that will keep inspiring you to workout,  or a protein-packed smoothie that can only be drank if a workout is complete.

7. Switch it up. I need new routines each day to keep things fresh and keep myself motivated. I love to visit our local library and check out workout DVD’s for free and add variety to my workout routines without spending any money. If your library doesn’t offer a great selection, try pooling your workout DVD’s with friends and trading with one another to add different elements to your workout routine. If you have a movie membership, use that for a workout DVD instead of another couch potato night.

Dust off that old treadmill, use the Wii Fit that you told your hubby you would use regularly, but quickly gathered dust in your family room, grab those DVD’s that you just had to have to keep your workouts fresh, and put those five pound weights and mat that are still wrapped in their packages to work.

Do it for you, do it for your kids, do it for your spouse, do it for your body,  do it because YOU DESERVE TO BE HEALTHY! Do it for whatever motives you, but DO IT!

This is my motivation. I want to see them go to high school. I want to watch them at graduation. I want to meet the loves of their life. I want to watch them walk down the aisle. I want to hold my grandchildren.  I want to hold my great-grandchildren. I don’t want to miss a moment of any of it. I know I can do all of that if  I take care of myself and the body that God gave me.

(I am continuing to work on getting happier this year through the help of, “The Happiness Project,” by Gretchen Rubin I recommend you read it too!)

What motivates you to exercise? What routines have you found to be effective for your busy lifestyle?

30 Day Challenges to Improve Your Life

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009
Photo Credit: e.t

I don’t even know how it came up in conversation. I probably said something about wanting to exercise more and my husband probably echoed the sentiments. I may have said something about making a game out of it and then he may have taken me up on the challenge. That conversation 30 days ago is how I began to incorporate a regular exercise schedule back into my life.

When I read, “The Power of Less” by Leo Babauta, he shared how he was able to accomplish many great things in his life. I remember that his list of accomplishments seemed lofty and unachievable to me. Things like running marathons and writing books. He then shared that while the things he had accomplished were amazing, that it all began with smaller goals that allowed him to then build on and up to bigger goals.

Have you ever thought about what you could achieve with a 30 day challenge? I remember how much we achieved with a 30 day no spend challenge, but what if you applied that same principle to other aspects of your life?

I wanted to share with you the steps I took towards choosing my challenges:

Focusing my goals: The first step for me was making a focused and small goal that could be built upon. I think the challenge for me was making a small goal instead of a big one. I am what is commonly referred to as an “overachiever.” I think that is why I fail so miserably at New Year’s resolutions and the previous goals for myself. I also wanted this very focused and small goal to add an element of enrichment that would be beneficial in certain aspects of my life.

For me, the enrichment needs to happen in three sections of my life.

Enriching myself.

Examples- Exercise challenges, challenging myself to one hour of quiet time to myself, reading the Bible, writing in a journal, reading literary classics, drinking more water, eating more fruits and vegetables, watching classic movies, learning/mastering a new craft, cooking challenges, giving up television, taking courses that enrich myself/my business, traveling, photography challenges.

Enriching my family.

Examples- Dating my spouse again, taking steps to improve our family finances, making alone time for each child, sitting on the floor and playing with my children each day, volunteering with my family, teaching my children a new craft/hobby, finding free things to do each day together, cooking with my children, making outdoor living a priority, limiting computer/television time, no spend challenges, trying to bless someone else each day, starting a gratitude journal together.

Enriching my home life.

Examples- Getting rid of clutter each day, organizing the paper flow in the house, organizing problem areas in our home, cleaning out a junk drawer each day, cooking every night, starting a garden, getting my children more involved with chores, taking inventory of pantry and closet clutter, green living challenges/making the home more energy efficient.

Balancing My Goals- I then decided that to make these challenges work for me, I would add something to my life one month and take something away the next month. For example, I add 20 minutes of exercise to each day of my life this month, but the next month I reduce clutter so I have less cleaning to do for the following month. That natural give and take is what will help me fit these challenges into my day and make them work with my busy schedule.

Reward Myself- At the end, I wanted to give myself a reward for completing the challenge. Maybe it could be a night out on the town after taking a no spend challenge or maybe it is catching on a television series after giving up television for a month.

This month was definitely an exercise in enriching myself, but I did discover how much it has enriched others by making this a part of my regular routine. I wanted to share with you what I have been up to and to include you in my 30 day process of challenging myself each month.

August ’09 Challenge

Challenge: Exercise every single day for 30 days doing the 30 Day Shred Workout DVD. My husband committed to 100 sit-ups each day for the challenge.

I had heard great things about the 30 Day Shred bought the DVD a few months ago. I tried it a few times, but would have to give up because I said it was “too hard” or I was “too sore.” The DVD sat collecting dust for a couple of months before I picked it up again for this challenge.

If you are not familiar with this workout routine, it had 3 workout levels that increased in intensity. The workouts were a total of 20 minutes (including the warm-up and cool down) so this made it seem more manageable than attempting a longer workout tape.

I had a lot of fears to overcome to complete the challenge. The workout is extremely hard and I was extremely out of shape. I had to figure out when I would even make time to do it and if I could stick with it for thirty days straight.

Did I meet the challenge?: Yes, I did! It hurt and I was sore for that first week. I never believed that I could do the first level, let alone work my way up to level three. I started with 3 pounds weights and moved to five pound weights as I built up my strength and I can say that I did all of the levels of the challenges.

How did it enrich myself/others?: I have been off of the exercise bandwagon for awhile now and I was starting to feel it. My normally high metabolism began to slow once I hit 30 and I had noticed a definite c
hange in my shape and energy.

To say that I have felt transformed by this experience would be true. I hate to say it, but I actually look forward to doing the workout each day. I do the workout after I get my son on the bus and I have made it a part of my regular routine.

Once I made the commitment to exercise, I started making different commitments throughout the rest of my day. I started having a protein-packed smoothie after my workouts instead of skipping breakfast, I created a salad bar of ingredients so I could eat better at lunch, and I drank more water because I was thirsty for it.

It began to enrich other parts of my life too and benefit my family. I had more energy to play with my children, my kids looked forward to my workout and did it with me (or sometimes just cheered me on), and my husband says he feels like he is dating a new girl all over again.

The added side benefit was that my clothes now fit better and my body feels more toned. I didn’t lose a drastic amount of weight, but I also made few diet modifications and am at a normal BMI. I did lose six pounds though which still kept me within normal levels, but in better shape than I was.

How I Plan to Continue the Challenge: I would like to continue doing this DVD, but work in other routines to add some variation. I plan to continue trying to exercise five days a week now that it has become an important part of my day. My ultimate goal would be to run a 5K with my husband so I will need to add more elements in my routine to help with that.

Overall, this 30 Day Challenge was a complete success and has had some really great benefits to my life.

Reward- I have tucked away a coupon from The Gap that was handed out at BlogHer for a free pair of jeans. I decided I would not cash in on the reward until I completed my exercise challenge. I am excited to be cashing in on a new pair of jeans with my new and improved body!

Next Month’s Challenge- Reduce the clutter in our home. I plan to make a commitment to take one car full (minimum) to the donation box each week until we have our clutter problems under control. I am excited to see how we do with this challenge and what we will discover through the thirty day process.

What are some goals you have created for yourself that you have reached? What is something you would like to achieve?

Play It Again, Momma: The Poor & The Sick

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Is there such a thing as being sick on a budget? Our family seems to think so! We try to even address our budget when it comes to our illnesses in life. Here are some ways that you can save money when you are sick:

- Try home remedies before reaching for the cough syrup. There are tons of wonderful remedies that you can do that don’t require a big expense. I am a big believer in chicken soup, a warm bath, hot tea, and lots of rest. The rest alone is sometimes enough for me to kick what is ailing me.

- If you need over-the-counter medications, try and stock up on these items when doing your drugstore rebates. Usually CVS & Walgreens both will run rebates on these medications and you can get them for free or really inexpensively. Other great resources are the Dollar General, the Dollar Tree, and the generic equivalents available at your large superstores. The best way to save a buck is to have your medicine cabinet stocked with these items before you are ill. A 24 hour drugstore with no sale will run you quite a bit more than what you would spend normally.

- Organize your medicine cabinet so you know exactly where your items are. We have a three drawer plastic container where we have our medications divided by ailment (cough/cold, pain relievers, stomach) and we put these in there. I get really mad at myself when I have run out to get a medication, only to find it days later in a hidden drawer. Keeping this and your First Aid kit organized are the best ways to know what you have on hand when sickness and emergency situations arise.

- When you go to the doctor, ask if they have any samples of the medications you might need. Sometimes, particularly with my children, I am able to get enough for a few days.

- If they don’t have any samples, ask if there are any prescriptions that they could give you off of the $4 list or free antibiotics from your local retailers. Call around and price check before you fill your prescriptions and always ask if you can get the generic version of any medication.

- If you start to feel ill, try right away to get in the doctor for treatment. A visit during normal office hours will be a lot less expensive than an urgent care clinic.

- When choosing a doctor, ask about evening hours and Saturday appointments. Pick a doctor with extended hours and this alone can save you quite a bit. I love that our doctor’s office is open until eight in the evening and that I have many more options for appointment times.

- If you do become ill, try after-hours clinics or places like MedPoint to get the care that you need (unless the illness is life-threatening). I have saved our family a lot of money by visiting these places instead of the emergency room. Just walking into the emergency room can put me in the negative, before I have even been checked, so these after-hour clinics can be a wonderful option for the frugal family.

- If your illness does require a hospital stay, make sure to check your bills. There are many expensive and unnecessary charges that can be added to your bill. This is one of those types where diligence will be your best defense in lowering your hospital bill. Don’t be afraid to ask what the charges are and have them explain the vague & general charges. You don’t have to be rude, but you can be very firm and polite when asking someone to explain what a “lab fee” is for. You are your own best advocate when you are educated about what you are paying for.

- Don’t forget to set up your emergency account for these types of situations. Check into getting a flexible spending account for your medical expenses. Consumer Reports offers this advice…”If your company offers a flexible spending account for your out-of-pocket health-care costs, go for it–but don’t go overboard.” Flexible spending accounts are usually use-it-or-lose it accounts. Figure out a rough estimate and go a little under that. Don’t know what to do with all that leftover money at the end of the year? Check out these 24 suggestions for spending your leftover flexible account money.

- The best way to stop yourself from getting sick is prevention. Exercise, take a daily multivitamin, and make healthy lifestyle choices. People who do these things save tons of money on doctor visits and medications. If that isn’t a powerful motivator, I don’t know what is!

(image credit: Bryan Warman)

Potential Monthly Savings: $20 or more

What are some ways you save money when your family is sick?

Going Without Prescription Coverage

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

(originally aired: October 14, 2007)

I debated a long time about whether or not to post this, but I figured it might help someone else out there so I thought I would share my experience.

When my husband started his new job, we started a ninety day lapse in insurance coverage. We have purchased a temporary policy with a high deductible, but we are going without some of the perks that we had with our old policy. One of those perks was a reimbursement program on my prescription drugs.

I do want to begin by saying that the medication I was on was not working for me. I have IBS and I have depression and the drugs that my family physician had me on were not helping me at all. If there was a side effect listed with the medication, I had it. I am one of those people who experiences terrible side effects, which makes me hesitant to ever fool around with a good thing when it comes to my medicine. Unfortunately, since I have had Emily, I have not found that magical sweet spot where I have felt good and we have been bouncing me around on all sorts of medicines and no relief from either ailment. When my stomach medication was pulled by the FDA due to people dying from complications, I threw my hands up in the air and knew that I needed to make a change.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I talked with a girlfriend who is a firm believer in homeopathic remedies. My feelings towards these types of treatments have always been disbelief. I will admit it, I have always considered many of these remedies a waste of money. Her sister-in-law has three homeopathic practices and a long line of happy clients, so she said she could ask her some of the things that I could take after I explained everything that I was looking for, what wasn’t working, and so on. I remember thinking that if it sounded too “weird” or “out there” that I would not take them.

Another important element to me was that I was not paying more for my treatment than I was for the prescription drugs. Always the frugal girl, I wanted my treatment to be affordable, but also to feel better.

My friend gave me a list of what she had suggested and none of it was strange or unheard of. For my stomach, one of her recommendations was a cup of hot water with lemon before bed (how frugal is that?) She also had a substitute for my anti-depressant and a few items that would boost my immune system.

I have been doing this for about a month now and I have never felt better in my life. My constant tiredness and that cloudiness that I felt is gone and I am feeling more like myself than I have ever felt before. I am amazed at the difference that I feel and how I react towards my family. I am experiencing no side effects and I see a noticeable difference in myself. I feel like me again and it has been a long time since I have felt that way.

The icing on the cake is the extra $200 that will be sitting in my account each month. My new medicines only cost me $50 each month! What a savings!

If medications aren’t working for you, homeopathic remedies might be worth looking into. My depression and stomach problems were mild, but were having a negative effect on my life. With care from an expert in the homeopathic field, you might be able to relieve yourself of your symptoms and keep a little extra money in your pocket at the same time.

If you do have to take medications though, my articles on going without health insurance and my article on going without prescription coverage might provide some help! I also blogged on treating ailments when you are without coverage or are looking for the cheapest way to treat sickness.

Have you ever substituted homeopathic remedies for prescription drugs? What are your feelings towards these types of remedies?

Clay Cookery: A Frugal Chef’s Dream Come True

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

A long time ago, I read a post from Meredith, at Like Merchant Ships, about her clay cooker. Since her post, I have been on the lookout for a clay baker of my own, but have not seen one on any trip to the thrift shops. I am sure that I probably passed a million, not knowing what the heck they were, but when I finally figured it out…there were none to be found.

Until last week, that is! I actually spotted two of them sitting together on a shelf. I lunged to grab one and took home the one that was in the best condition. It was marked for six dollars, a bit more than I usually spend on a single item in housewares. After months and months of waiting though, I was willing to fork over the six dollars.

The lid was tightly taped shut and, I prayed that there was nothing wrong inside of it. What I discovered was that the clay cooker had never been used and all of the information packets were neatly tucked inside waiting for the next owner.

Today we roasted a chicken for our family in it. A good old Aldi chicken was stuffed with rosemary from my garden and seasoned with a little salt and pepper. I slid the chicken into the cold oven, after soaking my baker in water, and baked it at 450 degrees for 85 minutes.

I had read the packets cover to cover, praying that I wouldn’t screw it up. Would the chicken really be moist and flavorful? Would it be brown or would it be light in color like my slow cooker chickens? Was it really true that it didn’t require liquids?

We held our breaths as I lifted the lid…

What was unveiled was better than I had imagined. A juicy and flavorful chicken- full of color and just as good as any chicken I have bought in a store.

After we were all done applauding… well, maybe that didn’t really happen, but I will say that we were all really impressed with just how good that chicken tasted.

I can’t wait to try other things in the clay cooker and, just in case your thrift store find does not come with a booklet, here are a few of the tips that were provided for using your clay baker:

  • Soak it in water- Completely immerse the top and bottom in water for ten to fifteen minutes before each use.
  • Place in a cold oven- After adding the ingredients, place your clay baker in the center of the cold oven.
  • Time cooking according to your own preferences and oven- tastes and ovens vary. Time your dishes according to the way you want them and don’t hesitate to vary the recipe slightly. Recipes usually can be converted for clay pots by increasing the cooking temperature by 100 degrees and deducting a 1/2 hour of cooking time.
  • Put the clay cooker on a cloth when you remove it from the oven- Sudden changes in temperature should be avoided. When the clay baker is removed from a hot oven, place it on a towel, hot pad, or wooden board rather than a cold surface.
  • Clay bakers are ideal for the microwave- Because microwaves vary to such a great degree, it is impossible to state any rules for converting recipes for the microwave. Use the oven manufacturer’s guidelines for cooking times.
  • Clean with a hot water and a brush- Use hot water and a stiff brush to clean your clay baker. A little baking soda will cut any grease. Translation: NO SOAP! Never scour with a scouring powder or metal scouring pad. It can block some of the pores of the clay, reducing the water absorption.
  • Don’t use it on an open flame- It is designed only for the oven.
  • Place the lid upside down on top of base when storing- When the clay baker is not in use, keep it in a place where the air circulates. Place the lid upside down on top of the base, so the air can reach inside the bottom.

But, why is a clay baker helpful for a frugal cook? Here are a few reasons I think this can be a good addition to the kitchen:

  • Cooking food in a cooker requires no additional liquids. It pulls all the natural juices out of your dishes so no need to add cans of chicken stock or extra ingredients to make your food flavorful.
  • Clay bakers allow you to prepare quick, healthy, high quality meals that cost less and taste better. My Aldi chicken looked and tasted better than any other preparation I have tried before and it browned the chicken beautifully without any extra steps at all!
  • You can cook very nutritiously. You can cook all kinds of foods without adding any fat. Due to the low cooking temperature the aroma, vitamins and minerals are preserved within your food. As someone who is trying to eat well, this is an important feature for me!

I can’t wait to try other things in this clay baker and I hope you can score one of your own for your kitchen!

Have you ever tried cooking in a clay baker before? If not, what are some items you use in your kitchen that may seem unconventional to others, but have saved you time or money?