Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Let's Save Some Money...Grocery Edition

Before I hit the gym Monday evening, I hit up the grocery. I ALWAYS dread this task for many reasons, but especially because I hate spending the moo-lahhhhh. And I hate trying to read labels to find what has ten less calories than the generic product, and why the "light" or "fat free" option of a product is often worse for you than the regular, already-artery-clogging version. Can't I just eat Easter candy and pizza from Mellow Mushroom for the rest of my life? With some BoJangles thrown in?? No? Well, damn.

I have made no secret of the fact that I try to save money and work a job and a half to pay the bills and still have any leftover to do things in and around my house and to have any sort of social life. So, when I was fortunate enough to buy my house, I slowly began couponing. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm nothing like those people from Extreme Couponing on TLC. Hell to the naw.


But, saving money is always good for the bottom line and allows me to buy a present of some sort for myself every now and then. I have slowly taught myself how to save the most money while making the least amount to the least amount of stores. I have red blogs and other posts about how to save money and always pull a wealth of information from a lady who works for our local TV station, WRAL. Faye is their SmartShopper and lists all the best deals, freebies, and coupons around town.

I do keep a coupon accordion file that is organized by categories, but didn't even use that for this trip to grab a few items. Monday, my plan was to combine the weekly sale prices with just two coupons I had to get some great deals on sale. Most of my coupons come from either the Sunday newspaper or the SmartShopper link, above.

Monday, I knew several great deals I wanted to take advantage of:
  • Green, yellow, red, orange bell peppers - 99 cents each (usually 3 in a bag for 4.99)
  • Yellow squash and zucchini - 99 cents per pound
  • Lean Cuisine - 5 for $10
  • Lettuce - 99 cents each
  • Buy 4, save $4
    • Kraft Cheese Blocks (bought two)
    • Kraft Classic Ranch Dressing (bought 1)
    • Cheez-It Baked Crackers (bought 1)
  • Barilla Whole Grain Pasta - 4 for $5
  • all of these deals are with your Kroger Card
PLUS, I had a $1 off 2 Kraft Natural Cheese blocks coupon and a $1 off 2 boxes of Barilla whole grain pasta coupon. That's IMMEDIATELY $2 more off the purchase, and can be combined with regular sales. (Unfortunately, Kroger doesn't automatically double coupons like some stores do because their prices are already MUCH lower than some other stores.) are my totals:
  • Total before Kroger card, with all original prices - $44.86
  • Total after Kroger card, with all discounts - $32.26
  • Grand total after Kroger card and only two coupons, including tax - $30.26
My friends, to me, that makes it worth taking 10 minutes to look at the weekly ad and print off and cut out TWO coupons. I saved myself $14.60 just from not even 10 minutes worth of work. 

Here's my haul from the store... and this doesn't include the gallon of milk I bought at regular price or another box of the pasta that was on the stove cooking when I took this picture.

All of these produce are looking mighty tasty!

And a picture of my receipt so you know I'm not lying...

I hope this post is at least a little helpful to some of you to show you exactly how EASY it is to save on your weekly bill just by checking the ads for your local grocer and with just a couple coupons. Please let me know if you have any questions and if you, yourself, coupon! I'd love to hear your stories!


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Two for Tuesday...My Monday

Hey y'all! It's Two For Tuesday, again. This time, I'm talking about my day yesterday. It was another Manic Monday in the shit show of Amy's life. Go figure.

Let's follow along, shall we...

First, this happened...
There's NO keeping me away from Chick-Fil-A once peach milkshakes hit the store. It's on like Donkey Kong.

Then, this happened, because of the damned milkshake...

I ended up busting out a little over 4 miles.

My goal of 5 miles last night didn't happen because this had to happen before my knee exploded...

Ice Ice Baby

Classic case of cause and effect last night. I had a peach milkshake (my second in 3 days), so I poured my heart and soul into the gym, then my grandma knees needed ice and elevation. I never thought I'd say this, but I can't wait for my knee surgery! 23 days and counting down.

Second, my 5 weeks to cleaning up your diet challenge was supposed to officially begin yesterday. Oops. That didn't happen. I was pretty horrible in my eating yesterday, but plan to get things on the right track today. Weekly posts will still be on Mondays and I'm hoping some of you will join in with me. Don't forget that this week's challenge is to add real fruits and real veggies to every meal. This morning, I had a cupcake and an apple. I'm meeting a friend for lunch today and plan to have a salad. Hopefully I can kick this thing into high gear and focus on both the gym and eating better at the same time.

Let me know if you're joining along in the challenge! Did you do anything out of your comfort zone yesterday to better yourself?


Monday, April 28, 2014

Bachelorette Party Recap: Part 1

Good Monday morning, everyone! Otherwise known as..."I'm still in recovery mode but made it to work on time so I deserve a gold medal and a Mich Ultra" Morning! (That may deserve it's own hashtag...)

This weekend was a resounding success! We celebrated the bride-to-be, Ashley, in full form and went out with our boots on for her last fling before the ring!

Everyone gathered at my house for a surprise lingerie shower and desserts about 5:30 Saturday evening. It was a great time, even though most of us didn't know each other before this weekend. Ashley was completely surprised and overwhelmed about how much we all love her and Evan and how excited we are that they are FINALLY tying the knot after almost 9 years of being together.

The countdown is on until she's Mrs. Williams! And isn't that the best bachelorette dress EVER?! She shimmied those tassels all over downtown Raleigh!

Every good party needs desserts!

...And drinks! 

Name badges.

That's SO soon!

Yummy homemade cupcakes!

Lingerie goodies

Part 2 will be headed your way soon! And don't worry, there will be crafty bachelorette DIY posts coming, too! Stick around!


Friday, April 25, 2014

High Five for Friday

Welcome back to your weekly installment of High Five for Friday, along with Lauren Elizabeth over on her blog.

This week, I'm doing something a little different and sharing something I found on Pinterest the other day. It's actually originally from Buzzfeed, which isn't normally where I go for great advice, especially for weight loss, but I think this one's a winner!

So, this week's High Five for Friday ...5 weeks to cleaning up your diet! I've never made it a secret from anyone about my weight loss issues and have previously posted about it here on the blog. After that "Weight Loss Woes" post, I thought I'd be more motivated to clean up my diet. Well, nope. I scheduled my knee surgery, then postponed it, and life has just gotten in the way. No excuses, that's just how it is. Knee surgery is now one month from yesterday, it's only seven and a half weeks until I head to Vermont for a week for vacation and one of my best friend's weddings, and summer is coming fast. Time to get real with my diet and exercise. My goal is to lose 15 pounds before Vermont, which is doable, but it's going to take real work.

Week 1. Add real fruits and real veggies to every meal. I believe in not starting a program by taking something away from yourself, but adding something in to the mix. This is also going to be a bit of a challenge for me for 2 reasons- 1) I'm a picky eater and 2) I have major texture issues with food. I started off this morning by having an apple. Then a doughnut. Whomp. But at least I tried? I'll try again at lunch. That's all I can do.

Week 2. No more fast foods. This is definitely going to be the most difficult step of all. I've always had a fast food addiction. I can talk myself out of it and go weeks without it, but then, I snap and have it once. Once turns into twice in one day. Then twice in one day becomes seven fast food runs in five days. That's going to stop. I'm going to modify this one from the get-go and not say no fast foods, but I'm saying only once a week. And I'm sticking to it.

Week 3. Give up white breads and grains. Switch to whole wheat bread, brown rice, and whole wheat pasta. Thankfully, this will not be the most difficult for me since I already use whole grain english muffins, breads, and pasta at home. But, it WILL definitely put me on the struggle bus when it comes to biscuits (y'all know this North Carolina girl loves biscuits), pizza crust, and general eating out. However, I know this is one thing I can conquer!

Week 4. Use a fruit or veggie as the base of every snack. Again, I'll be on the struggle bus, but I can handle some apple and peanut butter or carrots and ranch. YUM.

Week 5. No more soda or sugary drinks. This one will be a Coke walk through the park. Get it? Haha. Yes. I haven't been a "real" soda drinker in years, which is great. I only have a full sugar soda when I have a migraine from hell because the caffeine helps and the sugar does, too. I'm altering this week's challenge to include limiting myself to only one day of sweet tea a week, and limiting sweet treats to the same, just like during Lent.

I know this is ALL going to be hard, tough work. But no one else can do it for me. Week 1 officially starts on Monday and I will have an update post every Monday morning about how the previous week went. Feel free to join me on this journey and let me know how you're doing, as well! Here we go! Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

10 Random Questions

Thanks to one of my really good real life friends Madison from The Sweet Mash, I'm going to do a bit more of an introduction to my life with 10 Random Questions. She sent me the link to this post the other day for blog inspiration, and I love it.

So, today, learn more about me with 10 Random Questions from Christina over at Hungry Meets Healthy.

1. The food I love so much that if I dropped it on the floor, I’d eat it anyway is marshmallow Circus Peanuts. I have loved these since a child when my Granny got me hooked and they would always be my once-a-week treat from the gas station. Since I gave up sweets and desserts for Lent, my mom gave me a huge bag of Circus Peanuts in my Easter bag of goodies. (But let's be real here, I would eat a lot more than just this one thing if I dropped it on the floor, but it was the first thing that came to my mind and really isn't messy when you do drop it.)

2. My ultimate stress reliever is sitting down and reading a good girly romance novel with a glass of wine... or four. My mom has gotten me hooked on a lot of things in my life and Danielle Steele novels were one of the first. Also, no wine is as good to an eastern North Carolina girl as the good ole scuppernong and muscadine wines of Dulpin Winery and Hinnant Winery.

3. The one song that gets me moving without fail is Margaritaville by Jimmy Buffett. Summer's coming fast and I'm ready for my booze in the blender.

4. My post workout ritual is a good long stretch, sitting in the massage chairs at the gym, and going home to veg out in front of the TV. Usually watching my DVR'ed episode of Jeopardy! I missed while at the gym.

5. If I could trade bodies with one other person for 24 hours, I’d pick Jenna Dewan-Tatum because she's beautiful, can dance, and o yeah, duh, because she's married to Channing Tatum.


6. I know I can beat anyone in Jeopardy!, except for most of the actual winners. I just wonder how most contestants even pass the qualification tests.

7. No one knows that I would love a surprise birthday party someday. I'm always such a control freak that I have to plan my own parties, but oneeee year, I would secretly love it.

8. It’s Sunday morning at 11 a.m. You’ll find me either getting ready for work, doing some things around the house, or sitting on the couch watching Law and Order and eating Lucky Charms. Most probably the latter.

9. If you want to make me smile just put me in a room full of the people I love. That's a pretty easy one.

10. If yoga didn’t exist, I would be just fine and wouldn't know the difference. I've only ever done formal yoga once and it just wasn't my thing. Give me a good pair of running shoes, a treadmill, and some weights any day.

Hopefully you learned something about me today. Do we have something in common? Do you have any crazy things going on Sunday mornings at 11am? Do tell!


Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Weekend Recap

As a lowly poor person who works one full-time job and a part-time on the side, the weekends are NEVER long enough. And since I didn't win the lottery this weekend to instantly become a (hundred)millionaire, because I didn't even buy a ticket this week, here I am, back at work. Oh, the plight.

Friday night I worked at my part-time job and then was right back there less than 12 hours later to work most of the day Saturday. I love working in the jewelry store because I get to look at all of the jewels and talk to all different people, but I was exhausted come Saturday evening at 6. Thankfully, a girl's night was in order to shop for new make-up, a bridal shower dress, and lots of pizza with my friend Ashley, who I've been crafting and bachelorette-planning for lately. I just happen to be known for being the best gift-giver and party planner that most of my friends know, and timing worked out really well Saturday night when Ashley got home to find a little surprise on her doorstep, thanks to Ashley Brooke Designs. Love her stuff!

Sunday, of course, was Easter and the whole day full of church, fellowship, and family left my heart so full to overflowing. First was church with my mom's family and then lunch with the whole crowd, including the three cutest little boys on earth and Easter baskets and goodies all around. I found out that Easter baskets (or bags, in our case) change a little when you get older. My aunt gave me a beautiful yellow flower to plant in my yard and my sweet, southern mama gave me the BIGGEST and pinkest hydrangea that I can't wait to plant. 

A beautiful flower that I will probably kill in one week. I have a black thumb. Or two.

Thankfully, Easter Sunday also meant the end of Lent and I could not only dig into my mama's homemade chocolate eclair yesterday for dessert, but also the leftovers tonight AND tomorrow. 

Holy yumminess!

After not eating lunch until 2pm, we headed to dinner with my dad's family at 5. While I didn't eat, it was good to see everyone and I realized that the older I get, the more connected I feel to our family farm. It's special and where my loved ones are. My sweet granddaddy worked and planted these acres until his last days with us, and now one of my uncles does the same.

I hope that you all had a wonderful Easter weekend full of fellowship, love, and family, as well! Here's to the week ahead, may it be amazing!


Friday, April 18, 2014

High Five for Friday

As per usual on Fridays, I'm linking up again with Lauren Elizabeth for High Five for Friday. 

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Here's a look back at 5 of my favorite things from the week. And, GO!

1.  As y'all know, last week was one helluva longggg and tedious one for me. The struggle was real. My plan last Friday night was to go to the tanning bed and then head home to just drink wine on the couch while watching TV. Thank goodness for friends like Madi (you met her here)! She texted me just as I was finishing up at the tanning bed to come over to her house and drink. Well, that took a lot of arm twisting. Thankful for a relaxing, wine-filled. and girl talk-laden Friday night to unwind! 

Sweet, sweet Southern wine from Duplin Winery!

2. All day Sunday, and I do mean alllllll damnnnnnn day, was filled with yard work. As I've noted before, my house was empty for about three years prior to my purchasing it, and even in the year I've been here, I was focused on the inside and just keeping the front yard mowed. So, Sunday was devoted to more in the back yard. It's crazy what 6 hours and a lot of blood (literally), sweat, and elbow grease can do. 

Ooooo....the pollen. Yes, look at all that yellow.

Front Yard Azaleas

Dogwood and Azealeas

Look at all of those leaves and limbs.

My most proud comparison picture. The top was about a month ago, after I had already gotten rid of some leaves. The bottom is Sunday evening. Notice the middle and right and the difference in raking leaves and cutting back bushes.

3. Super Super Super proud of myself for finally getting on the make ahead meal prep bandwagon this week. You can read more about this goodness here.

Grilled Chicken, Brown Rice, Roasted Asparagus, and Steamed Broccoli. Pretty, healthy, and tasty!

4. On the same cooking thread, I officially cooked Monday night for make ahead meal prep, Tuesday night for myself, and Wednesday night for the manfriend. Wednesday night's dinner menu was comprised of chicken stir-fry with brown rice, and not only did he eat it right up, even went back for seconds. That's what I call a girlfriend WIN! Bonus tip: I actually used leftover grilled chicken from Monday night's meal prep. I made too much then, so I refrigerated, cut into smaller pieces before throwing in with the veggies, and warmed.

Chicken Stir-Fry

5. Crafting is still well underway for my friend Ashley's bachelotette party/night out next Saturday night. I'm not ready to reveal anything yet, but it's going to be a boot-stompin' good time!

Hope y'all have had a great week! I'll be going to church and having family time Sunday to reflect on how blessed I am and to celebrate the season of Easter and what it really means. Have a good one!


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Make Ahead Lunch Meal Prep

Everywhere I look online and to people I know in real life who are focused on fitness and living a healthy lifestyle all always say the exact same seven words- "Failing to plan is planning to fail."

Well, there are two things I know about myself:

  1. Planning is how I live my life. You think I'm a hot mess now? You have no idea. If I didn't have a to-do list at all times, I'd hate myself.
  2. I don't like failing. At anything.
failing to plan is planning to fail

But, there's also something else I know about myself, that I'm not skilled in the kitchen. I've been trying to cook/bake a little more lately for a lot of reasons, healthier options at home, having leftovers that last a few more meals, feeding the manfriend, and perhaps the biggest reason, saving some $$$ (dolla dolla bills, y'all!!!). My crock-pot has become my main alliance in the kitchen, joining in with my other favorite appliance, my George Foreman. 

My eating has been horrible lately, and I can tell by the way my skin has been breaking out, how bloated and puffy I feel, the increase in frequency in my Migraines again, and the fact that the number on the scale has crept back up a bit. So, thanks to the motivational stories and photos posted on Facebook by an amazing group I belong to, I decided to finally give the meal prep thing a try. I had lofty ambitions to meal prep both lunches and breakfasts for this week on Sunday evening, but that didn't happen. So last night, lunches happened. Yes, they did.

I decided to stick to four basic ingredients. Here's how it happened:

First, I marinated the chicken in some low-sodium soy sauce for about 2 hours to add a bit of flavor and to help tenderize the meat. Then, it went on the George Foreman. This is most similar to the one I use. I love the removable plates because it makes clean-up so much easier and faster.

While the chicken was grilling, I got the rice going. I use Success Boil-in-Bag Whole Grain Brown Rice. It needed 10 minutes, so I put it on and tended to the asparagus.

I roasted the asparagus according to the recipe and directions here, on Yummy Healthy Easy. What did we EVER  do without Pinterest??!
Left: tossed, dressed, and ready for the oven. Right: freshly-roasted

Then, instead of using fresh broccoli, I usually buy a huge bag of frozen because it's cheaper. So, some broccoli out of the bag and in the microwave for a few minutes.

Then, with everything cooked, it's just time to assemble. I know some people buy special containers for food prep, but I just pulled a stack of tupperware and rubbermaid out of the cabinets.

 It was as easy as cutting the chicken breasts in half, and adding one half to each lunch, then dividing the asparagus, broccoli, and rice into thirds.

Voila! Lunches for the week! It's pretty, healthy, and will taste yummy!

I have to admit, this process was MUCH easier and faster than anticipated. I wish I had tried it months ago, but you live and you learn. I will probably try to add more variety in future weeks, but I consider this a resounding success for only about an hour of real work and cooking time.

Have you ever tried meal prep and making meals ahead? I promise, it's easy, money-saving, and calorie-saving, too!


Friday, April 11, 2014

High Five for Friday

Welcome back to Friday, y'all! You saw how well my Friday went last week with a broke down car (yes, that's purposeful incorrect grammar), so this week can't be any worse. Thank The Lord it's FRIDAY! Now...go back and read that as if it said "IT'S HUMP-DUHAYYYYYY" except with Friday. You get it, right?! Yes? Good! Today, I'm linking up again with Lauren Elizabeth for High Five for Friday! She has a wonderful lifestyle blog that's down to Earth and very easy to read.

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This week has been just as horrid as the last two, except worse. Since I work in higher education, and it's registration time, things are CRAY CRAY. Add to that preparing for Spring graduation ceremonies, and it's even better. And by better I mean crazier

Here's a look back at 5 of my favorite things from the week. And, GO!

1. Last night, Manfriend and I went to the Carolina Hurricanes game at the RBC Center. Oops, I mean PNC Arena. The place has changed names so many times since it's been built, I can't even keep up. I won 2 free tickets from a Facebook contest for Stevens Sausage Company, a local pork producer here in Eastern NC. We had so much fun! Too bad the Hurricanes didn't win their last home game of the season, but it was a great night out.

2. This weekend I have absolutely zero plans. Yes, you read that right. I have ZERO plans set in stone, and I love that. I can do what I want, where I want, when I want, and not worry about being late or under-dressed for the occasion. Of course, this doesn't mean I have nothing to do, it just means I have no plans.

3. It's finally feeling like spring here in Raleigh. While that can sometimes take forever, we're especially grateful for it after the long and harsh winter we had. It's going to be in the 80s until Monday and I can't wait. This means I can wear J Crew chino shorts this weekend with Jacks and be happy, happy, happy!

4. My yard is finally looking like someone actually lives in the house. My home sat empty for more than 3 years before I bought it and moved in, and I've cleaned up and done things in the front yard and inside, but didn't pay much attention to the side yard or backyard until now. It's life changing, and muscle-sculpting, I'll tell ya! (I'll also be writing more about home improvements and yard stuff later!)

5. Possibly the best thing all week? This fatty found fat-girl heaven in the form of Spring Funfetti cake mix and icing at the Food Lion. Heaven, y'all. Pure, saturated fat, artery-clogging heaven. (Yes, I bought it, and I'll be baking it right up Sunday morning!)

Anything exciting happen for you this week? If so, do tell! Have a great weekend, y'all!


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

My Friends are Better than Yours!

This post literally just came to me, so here it goes to be posted on the InterWeb.

My friends are INSANELY better than yours! (Well, I don't know that for sure, but I surely will believe it until you can find a way to prove otherwise.)

Example 1: The woman who will be my Maid of Honor one day- Laura. She was my Big sister in our college sorority, and has tried to keep me on the straight and arrow since 2005. (Bonus points if you can use that little word changaroo to figure out which sorority we were in!)

Today, I was minding my own beeswax, sitting at lunch at the local BoJangles (shout out to all the fellow famous chicken 'n biscuits lovers out there) eating my lunch, and this little skinny girl walks over to the table in front of mine with her tray FULL of food. I'm talking a 4-piece supreme dinner, biscuit, fries, sweet tea, AND a side of dirty rice. Now, for a full-grown man, I would find this appropriate. But this girl was, I kid you not, a size 4 soaking wet, about 5'10, and hammered down this food as fast as possible. (Don't hate on me because I'm hating on a skinny girl. There is no way I would reallllly harm someone physically. Duh.)

Immediately, I text no less than 4 fellow BoJangles-loving, biscuit-eating friends to tell them. Best respondent of the day? Laura, no doubt!

Obviously, the text on the right should have read "...I want to stab her in the face with her spork..."

Example 2: Other sorority sisters of mine who will ALSO be bridesmaids one day- Jacq and Madi. These are two of the most fun, out-going, and irreverent ladies on the planet. Sunday was Madi's 25th birthday, so we had a little party/cookout for her Saturday night. Good food, good drinks, and great company!

Decorations for the Birthday girl!

We're a LOAD of fun!

Cheer up, Madi! At least your cake doesn't look like the Burning of Atlanta yet! 

Jacqueline is our own personal American Hustle(r)!

I can only hope that all of you have girlfriends who are as amazing as mine and who you can count on for ANYthing!