thesmilinlife

Thoughts of a 20-something


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Pre-Baby Freezer Meals

With a my due date looming, it’s time to really start preparing for the post-baby stress and lack of time that I know is coming. I’ve been reading tons about freezer meals and prepping them (and I did a batch of crockpot freezer meals not too long ago which turned out great.), so I’m putting together my list of what I’m making including my shopping list here. Recipes will be linked for references. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, something that I never skip out on. For lunch, I usually like to have a salad or some leftovers. Dinner I like to be adventurous, and for right now I need to concentrate on time-saving!

Breakfast

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread – Hubby doesn’t like Pumpkin, so even though I’m going to double this recipe, I’ll be making sure to freeze it sliced so that I don’t have to pull out the whole loaf at once.

Breakfast Burritos – This is more for Hubby, but something quick and easy that we can both appreciate.

Spinach and Cheese Strata – This looks so fabulous, and would be a perfect weekend meal for hubby and me.

Dinner

Italian bake – Recipe is linked for a gluten free version, but just trade out for regular rotini pasta and it works just the same. I used vegetable pasta, and doubled the recipe to make 2. Just something that my mom has thrown together. But I will bake it into a tin pan so that it’s easy cleanup and can go straight from freezer to oven.

French Dip Sandwiches – This looks so simple and easy. Just need hoagie rolls fresh and probably some cheese. SO easy!

Pineapple BBQ Chicken – I love things that are so few ingredients. Not only cost efficient, but easy for me or hubby to get together.

Mexican Stuffed Shells – This looks so fabulous. I love Mexican food and to put it in such an easy and portable shell will be super convenient.

Chicken Tortilla Soup – This is something that I’ve made before and I know how delicious it is. Never put it in a freezer meal before, but I can imagine it’ll freeze super well.

 

shopping list : this includes the basic pantry staples that you likely have, such as salt and some basic spices.

Normally I like to do about 15 of these at once… but when I’m 9 months pregnant, I get much more tired, much more quickly. I think starting with these recipes will make for a busy afternoon, give me some starting food, and leave me with enough energy to still get some other stuff done during the day…. hopefully.

Update at the end of the day… I made 5 of these 7 recipes before my feet and back screamed at me to stop. I’ll finish the last two tomorrow, and update with more info in general.

Total shopping cost: $140. Total time in kitchen today: 2 hours. Yield: 2 Italian bakes, the strata, the BBQ chicken, chicken tortilla soup, Mexican stuffed shells and french dip.

 

Update the next day after everything is done:

This was great. I think grand total I spent 3 active hours in the kitchen. My freezer is pretty well stocked, and I’m really happy with everything. Here’s my schedule of how I went through these recipes:

First thing, I did the dump-recipes… you know, the ones that you thaw, throw in the crock pot and then leave all day. This includes the french dip, the chicken tortilla soup, and the bbq chicken. Then I tackled the italian bakes and the strata. The italian bake is an easy recipe to double, so I made two of them, and the strata was nice and easy as well. It did involve some sauteing, but this went quick. I put these 3 things in a tin pan and covered with foil to freeze. Finally, I got to work on the stuffing for the mexican stuffed shells. I decided to freeze the stuffing on its own, knowing that I can thaw this to stuff the shells anytime.

Today, I tackled the parts that I knew were going to take awhile. I started the pumpkin bread first and ended up baking it in a bundt pan. This is still cooling on the stove, but I cannot wait to try it! I also did the breakfast burritos. I knew that wrapping and freezing individually would take me awhile, and wanted to get everything done at once. They didn’t take as long as I had expected, although the recipe did not yield as many burritos as the recipe had said. (I got 9 and it claims to give 16…. These are mostly for hubby so maybe I stuffed them a little more than I should have?)

For all of these recipes, we’ll get several meals from them (the half-pans should each yield at least 5 servings, and the stuffed shells looks like it’ll be a huge amount of food), which makes me think we’ll be fairly set for food for a couple of weeks! not including any generosity from family and friends. I’m super pleased with everything, including the cost! Hubby even said good job 😉

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YNAB

As a follow up to me being a bad millennial, I wanted to share my experience with You Need a Budget. I feel so strongly about this app that I think it’s important to have yet anther positive review out there for it.

When Travis and I realized that we wanted to get our finances in order, we looked at multiple options to help us budget. The biggest factor that pushed us toward YNAB was my cousin telling us about how much she liked it. We signed up for the free trial the next day, and I started attending the classes as soon as I could with my schedule.

The first thing that I noticed was that there’s a learning curve.

While any budgeting app will be helpful to keep your purchases fresh in your mind, The more frequently/often that you use YNAB, the better it will be long term. Saving up your purchases and logging them in bulk at the end of the month won’t be as helpful as logging them daily or weekly. Once you realize the benefits of logging your purchases regularly, you really start to see the benefits.

Which brings me to the next thing that I realized, budgeting with two people is hard.

When Travis and I first started budgeting we had different ideas about what would constitute a “Long-Term Goal” and what would be an “everyday expense”. Coming to an agreement took a bit of time and some compromise from both of us. The good thing was that we were both able to agree on our major savings goals and what our priorities were as far as paying off debts. Once we agreed on categories, there’s the issue of making sure that the register is updated regularly. No matter what, that has to come down to both people involved. This is an ongoing thing that needs to be done. I recommend logging purchases as you make them, or at the VERY least, weekly when you update the budget.

Realization number 3: A budget needs to be flexible and worked on regularly.

I mentioned in my last post that we have an unexpected amount that we owe to taxes (think thousands, not hundreds ugh). But aside from the initial panic of owing money, we know that we’ll be okay and can redistribute our finances and budget as needed. When we had some emergency pet or car troubles, we know that we’ll be fine and that everything will be okay. But it takes work and discussion and a certain amount of flexibility. I’m not always good with the flexibility (have I mentioned I’m a control freak?), but I’m getting better at it and know that it’s better to be flexible than to go in to debt for an emergency situation.

 

Bottom line, YNAB has changed our life. Our relationship has improved, we no longer fight about money, and we have a certain level of security. We’ve increased our net worth by 5x in a year, and we know that emergency situations happen and are preparing for them. I would spend hundreds on YNAB, and I highly recommend everyone else try it. Give it a full month before deciding for or against it.


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I’m a bad millennial…

Sometimes I worry that I’m young-adulting wrong.

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I always feel like I’m adulting wrong to begin with. Like, shouldn’t I still be in high school and worrying about dating idiots, not worrying about bills and how to make ends meet? People say that high school years are the best years of your life, and while I disliked high school, I miss being worry-free. Now, with bills, family obligations, work stress… I’m more stressed out and crazy than I’ve ever been before.

But then I read stories about everyone who lives paycheck to paycheck and who has thousands of dollars in credit card debt. I feel like I’m doing it wrong.

I mean, I have zero credit card debt. In fact, the only debt I have is my car and my student loans. My husband had credit card debt that we paid off within months thanks to some hardcore budgeting. We managed to put away all of my income from summer school last year, and have a nice little pocket of savings money thanks to that. We pay our bills each month and have some extra play money left over. Are we rich? Hell no. Are we comfortable? yes.

We go without for some things. Or, rather, we wait for them and save our money when we can. We have a baby on the way and I have 6 weeks of unpaid maternity leave. Are we nervous? Yes, but I know that we’ll be okay.

I hear horror stories from my friends about maxed out credit cards and not being able to buy groceries because they’ve spent all their paycheck before it even comes in. That terrifies me. I don’t know if it’s because I’m such a control freak or what, but I can’t even fathom this.

It’s tax time and my husband and I have a huge surprise amount that we have to pay to both federal and state taxes. And while this is definitely not fun or something we were counting on, we have the money. We were counting on it for other purposes, but we can redistribute our plans and make sure that we will manage.

Do we still live paycheck to paycheck? well, yes. We plan out each dollar that we make and we budget(although sometimes hubby doesn’t stick to this as strictly as he should). We prioritize and we discuss money often. Occasionally this leads to arguments, but in general our fights about money have lessened.

I’m attribute a lot of our success to You Need A Budget. If you’ve never heard of it, try it out. It’s a strict budgeting app that seriously has made a huge difference for us. We’re slightly addicted, and recognize that without it we would not have been able to increase our net worth more than 5x in the past year. Nor would we realize exactly how much we spend on things like groceries, clothes, or dates. It’s truly amazing.

But when I compare myself to others in my age group, I worry that I’m not living life to the fullest. I don’t go on crazy vacations regularly that put me in to debt. I don’t buy ridiculously expensive handbags or jewelry unless I have that money set aside. And I don’t stress about emergency financial hiccups that come up…. which brings up the question, am I young-adulting wrong? Or are they?

Financial security is not something that I have achieved yet. But it is something that I’m working hard toward. And isn’t that part of what we are all supposed to be heading toward? The ability to buy a house, or a car and not have to worry (much). Or have kids and a steady job. Or be able to go on a vacation and not panic about making rent. So here’s to the ones who feel like they don’t young-adult properly. Believe me, you’re doing it right.

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Update

It’s been months. It feels like it’s been an entire lifetime. Highlights:

Pregnant – Ahhh first pregnancy. Due 5/8/16. Hubby and I are so thrilled and minorly terrified. I’ve never seen DH so happy and actually showing his emotions. He tends to be a very quiet internal person but he’s really super excited. As much excitement as I feel, I’m also nervous. We are just entering the third trimester and it’s getting real. I guess it’s time to put together the nursery a bit more and to make sure that we have the house settled!!

2nd year teaching Algebra – and man, is this year ever different from last year. The students that I have are polar opposites – this year they are polite and respectful, whereas last year… well it was a rough year to begin with.

Moose has passed away – poor puppy had some pretty advanced lung cancer by the time we caught it. He was put down shortly after Christmas, which was the right decision. We miss him desperately, and are heartbroken that our daughter will never meet him, but are so thankful for the 5 years that we did get to spend with the best dog in the world.

Honestly, I suppose that’s it. Mostly, I’m reviving this because of the pregnancy and impending family. I’d always meant to get more into blogging and I haven’t really made it a priority. I’d like to change that now.

So far, everything has been fairly textbook – normal symptoms (lucky me, I avoided most of the terrible morning sickness), normal check ups. I’m counting down the days to meet our daughter, and it can’t come nearly fast enough. At the same time, I don’t want to wish away this time as well.

I watched my coworker’s wife through her pregnancy last year. It was a hard pregnancy and I feel very blessed that mine hasn’t been terrible. I’d almost say that I’ve nejoyed being pregnant (although, its definitely not the best… I miss running. I miss bending over and painting my toenails and shaving my legs. And I miss a glass of wine with dinner. But the end result will be worth it right?). At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

Here’s to the next 3 months and an entire lifetime after that!


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Lobster mac and cheese

Lobster is on sale and has been for weeks. Our local store has it for 5.99/pound….so we stock up. We had about 2.5 lbs of frozen lobster meat (often, the store will cook the lobsters for you. Then you just need to shell them! That’s what we did.). My mom and I were trying to figure out what to do with it and were thinking lobster mac and cheese would be phenomenal. We started doing research but couldn’t find a lightened up version of mac and cheese. We ended up making up our own. And it was amazing! Not only will we be making this again, but we will be making it again asap!!!

(I want to add that I don’t really consider this healthy- is mac and cheese ever truly healthy? You’re combining a huge amount of processed carbs with a huge amount of cheese – high calorie and definitely not a daily thing. But this is my lightened up version which will be a rare treat. I hope you enjoy!)

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Recipe

Ingredients
(all measurements are approximations. My mom and I rarely measure. Oops)
2 cups fat free plain Greek yogurt
1 cup shredded cheddar
6oz fontina (swiss would work)
2.5 lbs lobster
1/2 cup milk of choice (we did almond milk because it’s what we had.) (Optional)
Dash nutmeg
Dash chili powder
Salt and pepper
16oz whole grain pasta
1 cup Panko  bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmesian cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Boil pasta to package directions. Combine cheeses (minus parmesian), milk, nutmeg and chili powder and heat over medium low. You just want everything to melt together.

Taste cheese and add liquid, salt and pepper to suit  (we did 2 spoonfuls of pasta water).

Mic breadcrumbs and parmesian cheese.

In a lightly greased 9×13 pan, combine lobster meat and pasta. Pour cheese mixture over and stir until well mixed. Top with breadcrumb mixture and bake approximately 20 minutes, until top is brown and crispy.

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Oh my god. This was so good. And honestly not terribly unhealthy haha. My dad doesn’t like Greek yogurt but loved this-went back for seconds. My mom and I each had seconds. We served this with roasted baby squash. SO GOOD!

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(I’m doing the 21 day fix and, no, this is probably not on plan. But if I’m guessing, a 1 cup serving would be 1.5 yellows, 1 red and 1 blue. At least that’s what I count it as. And I won’t have a blue tomorrow…. and won’t feel guilty!!)


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On track

I’m back on track again starting today. I had a very rough past week with a death in the family and the end of the school year. I’m now back to focusing on my self though and my journey.

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I made some healthy lasagna rolls for my husband for the nights that I’m not at home (I go to my sister’s on Wednesdays) and wow!!! They look amazing. I roughly followed this recipe: http://juliajacksonfitness.com/lasagna-roll-ups/ with a few changes. I used Spicy Italian Sausage for meat, an entire box of baby spinach that I lightly steamed and squeezed the liquid out of. I also added some of the meat into the sauce that I put on top of the rolls… I’m going to pre-package 2 of them per container and pop in the freezer to be heated up quickly. It definitely beats stopping to get McDonalds on his way home!!! Being prepared is definitely the name of the game!

This week, I’m planning on making these stuffed sweet potatoes! My sister made them before and they came out killer. I love chicken thighs, so this will be perfect!! Very looking forward to it.

http://barerootgirl.com/nourish/2013/7/19/paleo-chipotle-chicken-sweet-potatoes-and-whole30?rq=sweet%20potato

Well, short and sweet! Staying on top of being prepared and taking care of myself and hubby.


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21 day fix

I do NOT sell beachbody products. I also do not use Shakeology or any of the other supplements that are sold by beachbody. That said, I received a copy of the 21 day fix from a friend and wanted to provide my own review of it. I know there’s tons out there, but having done two Whole 30s, I am constantly comparing what I’m eating and doing on the 21 day fix to my experiences with the whole 30.

Since I’ve started my weight loss journey, I fairly easily lost about 15 pounds but then have been stuck at a little plateau. I joined a gym nearby, but it still wasn’t doing much. Through my two Whole 30s, I lost some weight and was feeling great about myself but had a hard time entirely cutting out things like alcohol and dairy. Not because I couldn’t- I did for 30 days on two different occasions- but because I LIKE those things. If I want to order pizza with my husband on a weeknight instead of cooking, then I want to be able to enjoy myself not eat a salad and watch hubby go to town.

Food

So when I got the 21 day fix and looked in to that program, I thought it would be much more sustainable. The eating plan that goes along with the program is a calorie deficit, but they encourage 6 meals a day. The amount of food that I got to have was way more than I was used to on the Whole 30, and I was able to have my favorites like some crumbled cheese on my salad or dressing or a tiny bit of sugar here and there. I don’t eat a lot of these things as I’m staying on the calorie deficit, but the fact that I can have some at all is huge to me. More often than not, I choose not to, but it’s being able to have that choice that matters to me.

I’ve had some freaking awesome meals. Cooking with Whole 30 helped really prepare me for this. Again, it’s all about meal prep. I’m the kind of person that can happily eat the same thing daily for breakfast and lunch, and the same thing for dinner a couple times a week, but it has to be something that I like. For the three weeks, I would have a breakfast protein shake (not Shakeology – I don’t find that sustainable. I use the Garden of Life Raw protein powder with a cup(ish) of fruit and a splash of almond milk, the rest water), lunch would be a giant salad with grilled chicken and dinner would depend on what I was feeling for the week and what was on sale.

I would have two snacks a day, making my total meals 5… but I was never hungry! It was great. My mid morning snack would be a serving of fruit and then in the afternoon I’d have some celery sticks, a plain greek yogurt with a spoon of almond butter stirred in. I would look forward to this every day. Seriously, so good.

Overall, I found that I was not hungry until it was time to eat again. The food was delicious and there was so much of it! I actually had trouble eating it all. I frequently would have leftover orange or yellow containers. I highly recommend this diet for a calorie deficit without calorie counting.

Workouts

The workouts that go along with the 21 day fix are pretty intense. They’re fast paced, half hour a day workouts that leave you sweaty and feeling like you just got a great workout in. The moves are basic but definitely effective. Autumn is energetic and motivating.

Each day you do a different workout, but the cycle repeats each week. The yoga was my least favorite day of the week. There was a lot of downward dog and upward dog, not very much else. I found that each week I was getting in better shape and quickly needed heavier weights. I rushed out to buy 8lb weights and use them for a lot of the workouts. I treat it kind of like a drop set, where I start out heavy and go light if I have to. I find this has been working out, and I’ve gotten much stronger.

Another thing to note, I love these workouts so much that I can convince myself to get out of bed at 4:45 AM to workout before work. I don’t dread it. Aside from the initial “Omg it’s early, I love my bed”, I don’t fight getting up and genuinely enjoy my mornings. I have a rice cake before my workouts (otherwise I get light headed) and then my shake immediately after.

Results

In the first 21 days, I lost 9 pounds and 9 inches. I’m so glad I measured, because those inches are so totally visible. I’m tighter all over, my clothes are fitting better, and I FEEL better. I’ve been eating so healthily and am truly happy with everything. I have continued with the workouts and eating plan past the 21 days and have lost about 5 more pounds and more inches, although I haven’t measured again yet. I got a copy of the 21 day fix extreme and am going to start that soon. i had to get resistance bands for this, which I had to get since I’d never used before, but I’m looking forward to those workouts and keeping with the eating plan.

Overall, I found that the 21 day fix is sustainable for me. I can’t afford the Shakeology, and I’m not a huge fan of artificial sugar which I’m pretty sure is in there. The protein powder that I use is sufficient and way more cost friendly. The workouts are effective and leave me feeling great at the end of them. I’m looking forward to the future results!!!

 

As a side note, my hubby has been eating healthier by proxy and has lost like 10 pounds. He’s such a turd, I’m working my butt off to drop a few pounds and he has a couple salads a week and loses all of it. His pants that I just bought him are about to fall of. MEN!!!