A Few Of My Favorite Things #1

I order from Vitacost at least every other month to ensure we are well-stocked on products we love. I’ve made quite a few purchases there recently, and thanks to $40 in coupon codes, I couldn’t pass up getting some of our favorite goodies. Below are five items that my husband and I simply cannot live without:

  1. The perfect base to a delicious smoothie. friday fave 1I still very much love the Garden of Life Raw Meal protein powder, but this whole meal shake is the bomb dot com. We mix it with some unsweetened chocolate almond milk, hemp and chia seeds, PB Fit powder, a banana or two, and a handful of greens for a morning meal that really does hold us over for a few hours. The ingredients are so simple, and yet the taste makes you wonder what it is in it that makes you want more.
  2. A healthier Oreo. friday fave 1 I know I know. Why buy a fake Oreo when the real ones are so good? Don’t get me wrong; Oreos are delicious, but I also know how terrible they are for my body. Palm oil, enriched flour, and high fructose corn syrup are not things I need to ingest when I want a treat. These Newman’s Own cookies have replaced Oreos in this household, and the best part is my husband actually prefers them! #wifewin
  3. The perfect dry shampoo. friday fave 1Truthfully, I have lost count of all the dry shampoos I have tried. Batiste, Psst, and Not Your Mother’s are just a few, but I have also tried plain cornstarch and baby powder as well. Nothing works as well as this one by Acure Organics. My hair is chemically treated, blonde, fine, and oily all at the same time, which makes finding products that work a challenge. I bought this on a whim a few months ago and love it. It actually gives my hair a bit of volume, and although it falls flat by lunch, I’ll take a few hours of successful second day hair than none at all. Depending on your hair type, you will either love this product or hate it, but for my thin hair, it works better than all the others I have tried.
  4. A clarifying shampoo that works in hard water. friday fave 1My husband and I moved to West Virginia three years ago, and my hair has never fully adjusted to the horrible hard water we have in our area. I have invested in expensive Malibu clarifying shampoo, a chlorine removing one by Paul Mitchell, and tried simple baking soda and apple cider vinegar, but nothing worked. In fact, the Malibu shampoo destroyed my hair to the point I went through two deep conditioners before it felt like hair again. This one by Avalon Organics cleans my hair without stripping it of its natural oils, and if I follow up with a deep conditioner, it actually looks good air dried. When that happens, a product is automatically a win-win in my book.
  5. A perfect price point body lotion. friday fave 1When it comes to body lotion, I don’t want anything sticky, heavy, or too fragrant, yet it has to work. I have went through three bottles of this lotion and will continually repurchase it. Not only does 32 ounces last six months easily, but the hydration lasts all day. The ingredients are trustworthy too, which makes me feel more confident in the product since the skin, the largest organ in the body, is what’s absorbing it.

There you have it: Five products my husband and I cannot live without. What are some of your favorites?

*Vitacost referral link: http://goo.gl/ykAyVW

 

Vitacost Haul

I believe I’ve only mentioned this site once on here, which is certainly not the same amount of times I have placed a Vitacost order within the last few months. With the exception of Thred Up, Vitacost may be my favorite online store. #healthynerdstatus101

For those who may not be familiar with Vitacost, imagine Whole Foods or your local health food store online, at your fingertips, and delivered to your doorstep. Plus, prices are (usually) cheaper than health food stores, which is necessary for the wallet of a medical school family. On occasion, some of the products can be found at TJ-Maxx and Marshalls, but generally speaking, Vitacost is more affordable. Paleo, gluten free, or simply trying to save money: This site is for you. I place an order every few months to restock our shelves with common toiletries and staple food items that are always in our house. Plus, it’s always fun to pick up a few new things every now and then!

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Needed a new pill holder to store my vitamins each day. Figured one that can hold 20 pills will do the trick!

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Forget the Clarisonic. I swear by konjac sponges and their benefits for the skin. Plus, they’re biodegradable when thrown away!

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Staple item in our house and a favorite in smoothies.

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This serum caught my eye, so I figured I’d give it a try. Also needed a new body wash and this one got great reviews.

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Haven’t tried it yet, but I needed a new nail polish remover and wanted one that wasn’t toxic. It’s worth a shot!

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Absolutely love trying different body scrubs, and this brand is no exception.

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My husband’s favorite shampoo/conditioner and body wash combination. It’s difficult to find something that works well in our hard water, and these do an excellent job. We bought three bottles of each because I may or may not consider the shampoo/conditioner a favorite as well 😉 

If you are interested in trying Vitacost, feel free to use this referral link: http://goo.gl/ykAyVW   I do get $10 towards my next purchase, but you do as well. This is simply a referral, not affiliate, link.

If you try Vitacost, let me know what you think. The return policy is ridiculously simple and can be done with a few clicks of the mouse. I have been shopping from this site since graduate school and have no plans on stopping anytime soon!

DIY Laundry Detergent and Dishwasher Tablets

When it comes to household chores, I’ve become a pro at multitasking and getting 3+ things done at one time. Hopefully that skill will carry over into parenthood in the future 😉 Anyway, it’s not uncommon for laundry to be in the washer, dishes in the dishwasher, and animals eating dinner all while I am vacuuming up the dirt that comes with having five pets. Completing these household chores not only takes time, but also money. You know the phrase time is money? Story. Of. My. Life.

I got hooked onto making my own laundry detergent when I was in graduate school and started learning about the horrible toxins in (most) conventional laundry detergents; see this article from Mother Earth Living for more information. My mom and I made our first batch and I have doing it ever since. True, it does take some time (I can usually make one batch in about a half hour or so), but that one batch will last 4-6 months depending how many loads we need to do that week. Not only do I know exactly what is being put on my clothes that I wear daily, but it’s also a lot more cost effective to make your own detergent. Although I cannot give exact figures because it’s hard for me to say how many uses I get out of one batch, I can assure you it’s more than 64 than is what I’d get in a standard bottle. Plus, you buy the ingredients and then you’re set for at least two or three more batches. I just bought washing soda for the first time in a year! Below is the recipe I swear by, and it does the job just fine. We do, however, add OxoBrite to white loads for extra cleaning power. (Credit to Wellness Mama for this fantastic recipe).

  • 1 bar of grated bar soap (I use Kirk’s Coconut Castile soap)
  • 1 cup of washing soda (can be found on Amazon or at Walmart)
  • 1 cup of borax (or additional washing soda)
  • 15-20 drops essential oil of your choice (OPTIONAL)

First, I grate the bar of soap, which is definitely the most time consuming part of the process. Be careful to not cut your fingers while grating…I’ve done it and can clearly state the pain is worse than a paper cut, and those are brutal. Mix the washing soda and borax (or additional washing soda) in with the bar soap (if you’re prone to dry skin or have sensitive skin in general, I’d recommend wearing gloves for this process) and then add the essential oils if you choose to use them. Mix again and then add to a glass jar or container of your choice. Use 1-2 tablespoons per load. I have used this detergent 100’s of times in our washer (that unfortunately is not HE) and it works well in both cold and hot water. It works great for my mom in her HE washer as well. This works great on my husband’s colored dress shirts, but I can’t vouch for its performance on yellow rings around the collar of a white button-down since neither of us ever wear them.

If making your own detergent isn’t for you but you still want some more natural options, this guide by the Environmental Working Group is a great starting point.

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In addition to my own laundry detergent, I tried making dishwasher tablets for the first time. To put it bluntly, I was SO impressed. I used a recipe found on One Good Thing by Jillee and will definitely make it again.

  • 2 cups Washing soda or Baking soda (cuts grease; I used washing soda)
  • 2 cups Borax (natural cleaner and disinfectant)
  • 1/2 cup Kosher salt or Epsom salt (reduces the effects of hard water; I used Epsom Salt)
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar (added cleaning power, liquid to help bind the ingredients)
  • 15-20 drops of Lemon essential oil (added cleaning power, antibacterial properties, smells good!)

Making these were so simple. All the ingredients are mixed in a bowl and then stuffed pack into cheap ice cube trays from Walmart. Let them sit in the sun for 24 hours until they get hard and then put them in a container of your choice. I add a splash of distilled white vinegar to the bottom of the dishwasher simply for extra cleaning power in our crazy hard water, and my dishes have been spotless.

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If you choose to make your own detergent or dishwasher tablets, I hope you have the same success I do. I will never go back to store-bought detergent if I don’t have to!

 

The #1 Grocery Shopping Mistake and Ways to Overcome It

I know I’m not the only one who’s ever gone to the grocery store without a list. Even worse, I’ve gone without my list AND hungry. Bad combination. If I’m planning a regular grocery shopping trip, I look at Kroger’s or Walmart’s sale ads (depending where I am planning on going, although it’s usually Kroger), looked at what coupons I already have, and then search for more online. If there are any, I print them. Otherwise, I grab my shopping list and reusable bags and head out.

Now as stated previously, that’s a regular shopping trip, which means stocking up and purchasing enough for about two weeks or so of meals, not including drinks and perishable items. My average grocery trip costs between $150 and $180 every two weeks, which may seem like a lot for two people. However, that does include toiletries, household items, and pet supplies (cat and dog food, litter, etc). There are some months I go over and others I go under, depending on what is stockpiled in our small deep freezer. We invested in this one a few months after moving down here and I am so glad we did! The bulk of every shopping trip goes in the freezer and then we write the items on a dry erase board that tells exactly what and how many of each item we have on hand. Sounds time consuming, but it really isn’t. Keeping the list on the dry erase board keeps us in check as far as what we have, need and don’t need. About 2-3 times a year we empty the freezer and check to make sure the list is still accurate. I would highly recommend this trick for anybody who has a deep freezer, especially since items can shuffle to the bottom and you don’t know what you have after a ton of shopping trips.

Despite my typical shopping trips where I try to save as much as possible and I set aside two hours of my day where I could totally be doing something else, there are those times where I go to Kroger or Walmart for 1-2 things and come out $50+ poorer. The culprit is usually hunger. Yes, not having a list is at fault too, but if I’m hungry, forget it. All thriftiness and shopping responsibility goes out the window. Well, thanks to cash back apps, I feel less guilty for dropping my hard earned money on items I most likely did not really need at that time. If you are unfamiliar with cash back apps, they are just what they sound like: Apps for your phone or iPad where you earn cash back for your purchases. If you shop and have a smartphone, there’s almost no reason why you wouldn’t want these apps, even if you’re not a crazy coupon lady like me. Simply check the apps to see what’s available and then after scanning the item and receipt after you get home, you wait for the money to be put in your account. The checkout amount varies depending on the app, but I’ll explain those below.

My number 1 favorite cash back app ever is Ibotta. I find it has the most rewards and the most categories. Matt and I had a date night at Ruby Tuesday’s a few weeks ago and after submitting my receipt, I earned $5 in my account! The items change every few weeks, so it’s good to check ahead of time what’s available. Today was one of those shop-while-hungry days, but I was still able to get $4 back. Pretty nice since I didn’t even have any coupons with me. Once your account reaches $20, you can cash out for either a gift card or have the money put into your PayPal account. It is a great way to earn some extra money, which I know we all could use. Here is a referral code that you can enter when you create an account: kiqiglb. With that code, you’ll get an automatic $10 in your account! Also, Ibotta has the option to have team members, and more members mean more money earned. It’s a fantastic app all around. Information can be found here.

My second favorite cash back app is SavingStar. The nice part about SavingStar is you can cash out after only $5, which adds up quickly when you grocery shop a lot. The concept is similar to Ibotta in the fact that you scan your item’s barcode and then upload the receipt, except there aren’t as many options. Easy enough, right? Information can be found here.

Another cash back app is Checkout 51. As with Ibotta, you cash out when you earn $20, but they mail you a physical check.I recently found out that checks cannot be deposited via a mobile device because the checks are Canadian, but you can still deposit or cash them at your local bank. Information can be found here.

Although there are a couple other apps I love and use frequently, I will touch on them more later. For now, go ahead and check out the apps mentioned. I guarantee you’ll be earning money soon enough!

A Mindless Task

Does anyone really enjoy cleaning? If you do, I commend you. I clean A LOT because we have five pets and a day without cleaning makes our house look like a tornado went through it, but that doesn’t mean I fully enjoy it. Sure, I put on loud music and sing obnoxiously to make it bearable, but ultimately, I wish the task would do itself.

I want the cleaning process to be two things: Quick and as natural as possible. I work full-time, which includes traveling a lot. Matt is a full-time student currently on rotations. We do not have the time to spend hours cleaning our house only to have it be dirty again the next day. I’ve started do to one to two tasks a day so I don’t feel overwhelmed when the weekend comes and I feel I need to clean everything.

Today was oven day. I have pushed it off for MONTHS because seriously, who wants to spend a Saturday morning cleaning their oven? I tried a baking soda cleaning recipe last year that, despite how much I swear by baking soda for almost everything, DID NOT work. It left a crusty brown layer of crap inside my oven that probably just baked along with the food every time I turned it on. I did not want to purchase some chemical filled cleaner, especially I would be using it where I bake my food, but my usual All-Purpose Cleaner wasn’t strong enough to do the job. Alas, this is where Dr. Bronner saved the day. If you haven’t heard of Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap, click on that link and purchase it right now. The stuff is pure gold. I have it in three scents: Peppermint, Lavender, and Rose. Peppermint is perfect for cleaning because it adds a subtle fresh scent without making you feel nauseous. Trust me, you won’t want to clean with anything else once you’ve discovered this product.

What makes it so awesome is a combination of things. For starters, let’s talk about the packaging. It has tons of reading material on it if you are bored and feel like learning random facts. Second, it is 100% natural. It’s made with organic oils, is fair trade (meaning those involved in production are paid an acceptable living wage), is non GMO certified, and is cruelty free and vegan, meaning it is not tested on animals nor does it have animal by-products in it. Lastly, IT WORKS. It’s a win-win all around.

When it came to my disgusting oven, I diluted the castile soap in a bowl of hot water (Did I measure? No. Should I have? Probably). I’ll guess I used 1/4 cup or so of castile soap with 2 cups or so of water. Trust me. You don’t need a lot. I added water until the mixture was extremely soapy and I knew I had enough water for my whole oven. I used a scrub brush dipped in the mixture and basically scrubbed all the gunk out of my oven the best I could. Warning: Put a towel or something on the floor because the stuff that drips down is filthy. I took the oven racks and cleaned them separately in the bathtub (with the same mixture) after the oven itself was done. After the entire oven was covered, I let it soak for 3-5 minutes and then wiped everything away with a towel. I started with paper towels, but quickly realized I would need a whole roll, so I used an old towel we hardly use anymore. The difference between pre and post-cleaning was incredible. It’s not perfect, but it’s 10x better than it was before. I don’t even have a before picture because I don’t want to gross anyone out. The bowl below does show the gunk though, so just use your imagination of how the oven looked.

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Below are the two products used along with a picture of my recently cleaned oven. The whole process took me about 15-20 minutes and now I have a clean oven to use. If it ever gets as bad as it was before (I’ll try my hardest to not let it get that way), I now have my go-to method to get it clean again. This cleaning method can be used on pretty much anything, as long as the scrub brush doesn’t scratch what you’re cleaning. Good luck!

*This is a referral code if you’re interested in purchasing anything off of Vitacost. I get $10, but you also get $10 off your first order. http://goo.gl/ykAyVW

Vitacost

If you haven’t heard of Vitacost yet, here’s your sale pitch. I heard about it through a YouTube video years ago and being a poor grad school student, I needed a better way to buy all the healthier items I wanted without going into debt. Now with my husband in medical school, I am still looking for more affordable ways to buy the items we need. Matt and I avoid products that aren’t cruelty free at all costs (minus the ones we are using up in our house now), and it can be hard to find those things in a regular drugstore or grocery store. Vitacost has been my go-to online shop for the past five years and I will not be changing anytime soon. Picture Whole Foods or your local natural grocer online but with cheaper prices. They sell everything from dry goods, beauty products, supplements, vitamins, home goods, baby products, to pet supplies. I make an order about once a month; some months are bigger than others depending on what we need. It’s the only place Matt can find his shampoo and body wash, and the only place I can find my favorite meal replacement mix cheaper than our local store. They run frequent promotions too, so there’s always a good time to save. Their shipping is super fast as well. Not to mention their return policy is seriously one of the best I have ever encountered. Below are the items from my most recent order. Although it was rather small, these items will last us a good two months or more until we need to order again. Feel free to use this referral code for $10 off your first order: http://goo.gl/ykAyVW (This is a referral code, not an affiliate link. You’ll get $10 off your first order and I will get $10 as well.) Plus, until 9/7/16 at 9am EST, they are running a Labor Day sale: $5 off $55 or more (use code LABORDAY5); $15 off $100+ or more (use code LABORDAY15); or $30 off $180 or more (use code LABORDAY30). I usually wait to make a big order until I see a promotion and stock up 🙂

  1. Garden of Life Raw Organic Meal: $41.99 (Amazing in smoothies!)
  2. Newman O’s Regular and Mint cookies: $2.69 each (They have replaced Oreos and are better for you too!)
  3. Y.S. Eco Bee Farms Raw Honey, unfiltered and unpasteurized: $6.57 (This can also be bought in  liquid form if you prefer it that way, which is what I use in recipes that require it.)
  4. Every Man Jack Tea Tree thickening shampoo and conditioner and body wash in Cedarwood: $6.99 and $5.89 respectively. (This shampoo and conditioner is fantastic and I would be lying if I said we go through so much because I love it too!)
  5. Aura Cacia Electric Aromatherapy Air Freshener Refill: $4.99. (These have replaced Air Wick and Febreze scents in our home. They are great for individuals who are into essential oils, but do not have the place to put a diffuser or are worried about their pets getting into the oils when home alone. I bought two of the Refreshing Lime and Grapefruit, but I also love the lavender scent for my living room. The device to plug into the wall is also online.)

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