Why I’m Bubbling Over With Excitement

This month I’ve been hosting a spending freeze challenge for the Grocery Shrink Plus members.  It was an extra perk of their meal plan membership and they got some extra stuff, like printable worksheets and the super frugal $50 week meal plan to help them get the most out of the the challenge.  The best part is how the members encourage each other.

Here’s one comment from a member who gave permission for me to share her story but asked to remain anonymous:

This “no spending freeze” has been an inspiration to me. 
I finally talked with my husband about our budget. He is on board, and I am holding myself more accountable on our grocery budget. I am one of THESE people with overblown grocery budget, but can’t afford it. I am working hard on not stock piling, holding out for the true sales, and only buying what is needed right now (fruit for most part, along with paper products and toiletries). So far, we have only spent about 15% of our regular budget. I intend on keeping the same for February, and then keep our new budget to 2/3 of what we spent last year.
Our other budget items have remained at 0 for this month, except of course for what we spend our animals and pets, some homeschooling expenses and regular bills. When we had to eat out, due to lack of planning and time, it made my family more aware, and gave more tools to discuss with our kids why we are not going out every Sunday for dinner with our friends after church.
Is it hard? Yes, as I am trying not to obsess over the budget, but at the same time enjoy almost too much seeing our expenses going way down this month.
And from another member:
We were able to pay off the balance of a credit card that I didn’t expect to pay off for another 3 months! Getting this debt snowball rolling…. 
And we still have a week left!!!!
We wrap up the spending freeze, January 31st, but I’m keeping the group open for several ladies who want to continue freezing for a few more months and kick their debt to the curb.
But this isn’t the only reason I’m excited.  Have you ever noticed how much sticking to a budget is similar to sticking to a healthy eating plan?
That’s why the next official GSP challenge is a fitness challenge.  It starts February 6th and comes with special bonuses including fat shredding prep ahead meal plans, so you can have your meals and snacks all ready to go for each week, a private group where you can check in and get a pat on the back, and extra coaching.  If you’d like to join us, here’s a secret link for 50% off the membership.  It expires February 6th or whenever we fill up.

What I’m Into this Week

Ashley Black Fascia Blasting.  The tools aren’t cheap (and I haven’t purchased yet) but I joined the facebook group and have been lurking for awhile.  The success stories and before and after pictures are inspiring.  I’m interested in the process to gain more range of motion and reduce body pain, especially in my jaw, neck and shoulders. When my husband heard the testimonies, he said, “Will you buy me one for my back?”  He had a painful back injury 3 years ago that hasn’t healed even after months of physical therapy.  We can totally share one. I also plan to convince my mom to try it on her knee.  She has had horrible pain for more than 6 months that even surgery and steroid shots haven’t helped. I think this could be really helpful to her. If you decide to lurk in the group, search #storytimewithjoanna to hear how the business began. It’s inspirational.  (PS side affects include loss of cellulite, increased hair growth, increased collagen production, and some temporary bruising.)  If you are a physical therapist, chiropractor, or massage therapist–this isn’t optional.  You should at least look it over.

Irlen Syndrome.  I alluded to this briefly in this post, but we have had even more experience with it since.  My daughters have struggled with learning disabilities from a very young age and I’ve spent a lot of hours and money researching and trying different things to help them reach their potential.  Both girls are extremely bright, but process slowly and have visual misperceptions.   The younger one was diagnosed with Irlen syndrome in August.   Since then we have discovered 2 more members of the family who also have it, and are screening the rest to rule it out.  This is a fascinating subject for parents of special needs kids, educators, and optometrists.  If you’d like to hear more about our experience with it, I can write more–just let me know in the comments.  I don’t want to bore you with the details if you aren’t really interested.  (This is likely the main trigger for my adrenal issues and I’m hoping with proper treatment, I will finally be able to heal.)

The Young House Love podcast. I’ve loved this blogging duo for years now. Their topic of expertise is home decor and I couldn’t figure out how that would translate to a radio show, but it totally does. I look forward to listening weekly as I do my kitchen chores.  I love the way the couple interacts with a big dose of humor.

Do you listen to podcasts?  Leave your favorites in the comments below.  (Also…let me know about the Irlen thing.)

A few things: Living Room Update etc.

I know I’ve been quiet lately.  I’ve been enjoying SUMMER with a slower schedule and time with my kids.  Here are a few updates.

  1. The hardwood floor in our living room is all finished!  I don’t have baseboards up and I haven’t started on the built ins yet.  But I did move the furniture in place just like it would be with the built ins there.  I want to live with it a little bit before I got through the expense and work of the built ins buy just to make sure I like the arrangement.  So far I really do!  You’ll notice there’s a rug down. It’s the one I bought for Darren’s office.  We are a long ways away from being able to use it for his office and I may pick something else for him then, or move it down and pick something else for the living room.  I love the rug and right now it’s the most affordable option since we already own it ;).  Everything is centered on the room, but the angle I had to stand to take the picture makes it look wonky.

Living Room before 2


Living room during


Living Room afterConcept

(I’m rethinking the whole slip cover thing.  I’ll have to cut the back cushions off my sofa to make it work and it’s going to be a lot of work.  I still want to do it, just much later.)

2. I had a midlife crisis last week and bleached my hair patchwork orange. I don’t have pictures because it was too humiliating.  But it was mostly yellow with squares of orange and brown scattered through it.  My hair stylist’s son was having surgery that day so she couldn’t help me right away.  I wore hats everywhere, even to a wedding shower and denied all requests to take it off.  It was humiliating.  On phase one of the do over, she got rid of the orange and brown and I was GOLD blond all over.  It was horrifying.  The next day I was asked to lead the song service for the all area branch meeting.  I couldn’t say no because my hair was horrifying so I stood up there and sang away like there was nothing crazy on top of my head.  Three days later after multiple keratin and biotin treatments she added ash brown highlights and toned it all over.  We had to get pretty aggressive to get rid of the remaining brassiness and I was a little gray/purple for a few days.  It has settled down a little bit and now I’m REALLY blond, in a good way.  I no longer scream when I see a mirror, which is positive progress.

3. I have been healing up a lot over the last 2 months.  My hair has started to grow.  It has only been a week since the orange hair fiasco and I already have dark roots.  While dark roots aren’t pretty, I’m going to take it and love it since it’s another sign that my health is improving.  I started back to my Fit Yummy Mummy workout program, starting at the introductory level (the step before beginners….) and feel like I’m going to be able to finish this time.  While half my family is away at summer camp and my chores are reduced, I’ve been prepping foods to help with my goals.  I’ve made protein batter for pancakes and keep it in a jug in the fridge so I can cook a few fresh up in the mornings. I also froze protein shakes into popsicles molds.  It’s just almond milk and chocolate flavored protein powder, but having it in a popsicle slows down my eating process and is really fun. And I made a 4 serving recipe of Thai Chicken Salad and divided it into recycled Chic Fil A containers.

Thai Chicken Salad

If I make a family size recipe each time I cook something new, I can eat on it for awhile for no extra work.  When it’s that yummy I don’t mind eating leftovers.

4. My new washer and dryer have been in service for about a week and I love them!  They are HUGE.  One load in the new washer is worth 3 in my old one.  I used to do 3 loads a day and now I’m down to 1.  It’s the same amount of laundry but I can get through it in 1/3 of the time.


Bollstr Water Bottle Holder

I got a new water bottle carrier from Bollstr a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been using it awhile to make sure it’s a good product, and I’m smitten.

The Bollstr

It’s sturdy enough that it doesn’t flop around while I am moving, and has a spot in the back to hold a smartphone with an ear phone eyelet so I can listen to tunes while the phone is zipped safely in place.  No more jogging my phone out of my pocket while I run!  It also has a second pocket to hold an ID or money and a caribiner to clip keys.


It adjusts with velcro straps to hold most water bottles.  Just be careful with fabric on long sleeves that might snag easily.

The Bollstr varieties

They have two varieties, an over the shoulder strap or a waist strap version. The waist strap is more comfortable for my lifestyle, but I was nervous since I’m not a fan of fanny packs.  I was relieved when it came that it doesn’t look like a fanny pack at all, allows full range of motion and is super comfortable to wear, even with a full bottle.  Wearing it a little low on the hips is super comfortable and distributes weight well.

This Bollstr was founded by Tamra Johnson, a friend I met 10 years ago at a training seminar for Spell to Write and Read.  She developed the Bolstr to help her daughter who received a kidney transplant. You can find out more about their story in the video below.

Even though I have 2 healthy kidneys, I still need plenty of water for adrenal support and weight management. I’ve made several water bottle holders from tutorials on pinterest, but none of them are as comfortable or effective as my Bollstr.   If you are looking for a health conscious gift, this is a good one.

5 Favorite Chicken Marinades

bacon wrapped chicken

We eat a lot of chicken because it’s so affordable.  Bone in is nice for all the health benefits of bone especially if you are boiling it for broth or soup.  I like a boneless breast for fast cooking convenience.  It’s hard to admit this but I don’t like bones very much….it’s much harder for me to eat bone in chicken emotionally…..it’s weird.  Just being real.

5 favorite chicken marinade recipes for your freezer

Recently I’ve been struggling with weight gain. Our busy schedule tempts me to grab something that’s unsupportive to my goals and it shows in my waistline.

chicken breast 3 marinades

Last week, I decided to spend 15 minutes and prep ahead marinated chicken for the freezer.  It’s easy to thaw in the microwave then throw on the table top grill.  The breasts cook in just 7 minutes that way! (Since it cooks from both sides at the same time.)   It takes less time to cook these than to go get take out.

Not all chicken breasts are created equal.  My favorite for marinating and grilling are from Costco.  They are the least expensive brand there, but are nice and thin for uniform cookingchicken breast costco thin

Costco isn’t as close to our house as Aldi, so I ran in and grabbed a bag of frozen chicken for a slow cooker meal.  Aldi’s chicken is a few cents more expensive per pound and it’s wonky.  This type of chicken is okay to dice for casseroles, or to cook and shred into soup, but not so good for marinating and grilling.

chicken breast aldi wonky Chicken breast too thick

Marinating for the freezer is the easiest prep ahead meal type. I start by placing 8 breasts (about 2 lbs) of chicken in each freezer bag.  ChickenBreasts marinade

Then mix up the marinades and pour them in.  If you want to grill chicken in the next 3 days you can seal the bags and stick them in the fridge.  If it’s for later than that, throw them in the freezer.  They will still marinate frozen.

Here are 5 of my favorite marinades.  Do you have a favorite? Leave it in the comments.  I’d love to try something new.

Honey Lemon Chicken Marinade

1 cup lemon juice (I used from concentrate from Aldi)

1/2 cup Braggs Liquid Aminos

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon dried Rosemary

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 Tablespoon lemon extract or zest

 (I used homemade lemon extract–video at the end.)

Combine all and warm slightly to mix the honey in well.  Pour over chicken and refrigerate overnight.  We grilled ours, but I think slow cooking the chicken in the marinade would be yummy too.

Thyme Chicken Marinade

This one is our favorite!  It’s really good with A1 steak sauce for dipping, but you really don’t need anything to help the flavor.

3/4 cup water or oil

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup vinegar (red wine or rice vinegars are nice)

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

Fresh Black Pepper

Favorite Fajita Marinade

2 Tablespoons oil

2 Tablespoons lemon or lime juice

1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt

1 1/2 teaspoons oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Teriyaki Chicken Marinade

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup pineapple juice

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp ground ginger

Instead of buying pineapple juice, I drain it off a can of fruit, then serve the fruit :).

BBQ Chicken Marinade

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup BBQ sauce

2 Tbs Brown Sugar or Truvia with a splash of molasses

1 Tbs yellow mustard

1 tsp salt

Crushed Red Pepper

 If you are curious about making your own extracts, here’s how I do it:



Broccoli Cauliflower Salad

broccoli cauliflower salad

This is my favorite salad.  It’s the fancy enough for potlucks or having company over, but it’s easy enough for weeknight dinners.  It keeps for several days and the leftovers pack nicely for lunch.  Add a grilled chicken breast or salmon filet on the side for a complete meal.

Broccoli Cauliflower Salad


  • 2 broccoli crowns, chopped into bite sized florets
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 6 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled (or 6 Tbs real bacon crumbles)
  • 6 green onions, sliced (Or 1 cup diced red onion)
  • 1/2 cup raisins (soaked in warm water to plump and then drained)
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds or sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup Olive Oil Mayo (or part plain Greek Yogurt)
  • 2 Tbs Red Wine Vinegar
  • 4 packets truvia (or 1/4 cup sugar or honey)
  • Pink Himalayan Salt and Fresh black pepper, to taste


  1. In a large bowl combine broccoli, cauliflower, bacon crumbles, raisins, onion, and almonds or sunflower seeds.
  2. Beat together mayo, vinegar, sweetener and salt and pepper. Stir into salad. Serve right away or chill until serving.
We are having a busy week.  My mom decided to have a garage sale at her home and today was opening day.  It’s been 10 years since she had one there, but she had enough stuff it was be easier than hauling it to another sale location.  I filled my 15 passenger van twice and took it over, and I committed to being there as much as I can to help her.  I still have 2 rooms in my house to declutter, so I’ll be hosting my own sale again in the spring.

I did something crazy yesterday.  I called our drywall guy and hired him for Monday, November 16th to do a job I haven’t prepped yet.  That’s enough to light a fire under me!  I’m hoping to earn enough at this garage sale to pay him.  And to carve out 12 hours to prep the job for him.

Brandon and Grant's Room Gray rugby stripe

If you saw it on Facebook over the summer, I’ve been making plans to redo our shared boy’s room.  The ceiling has water damage and popcorn texture.  I plan to scrape off the popcorn and have it professionally skim coated.  Then paint, hang curtains and fluff.  This is what I’m hoping it will look like.  The opposite side of the room will be an art/lego station with toy storage and display areas.  It feels like an overwhelming project, but the boys are anxious for me to get it done.  With holiday season coming, I’m not going to stress about doing it in a week or anything crazy like that.  We’ll just take it one step at a time.

So that’s a quick update on us.  What are you up to?




Brownie Mix

Brownies…..savor the thought for a minute.  They are the perfect accent for unexpected company, potluck suppers, afterschool snacks….any time really.  Had a baby?  Here’s a brownie.  Experienced loss? I’ll bring a whole pan. I can’t think of a time a brownie isn’t appropriate.

If you are gluten free, you can substitute all purpose gluten free flour blend for the flour as long as the mix contains xanthan gum.  In theory, xylitol will work instead of sugar in the mix and almond flour instead of all-purose flour for those on a fitness kick. (I’d be tempted to try 1/3 almond flour, 1/3 flax meal, and 1/3 oat fiber.) I haven’t tested these variations yet, so try it in a smaller batch the first time and report back how it went.

This mix can also be used for creative Pinterest recipes that call for brownie mix. 4 1/2 cups mix = a box mix that makes a 9×13 family size pan of brownies.

brownie mix

Read more

Lazy Girl’s Guide to Freezing Spinach

the lazy girls guide to freezing spinach

I love buying spinach at Costco in the 40 oz bags.  It’s good quality and cheap, and it’s a LOT of spinach.  I use it in my eggs, salads, lasagna, smoothies, stir fries, you name it.  Sometimes I still can’t get through the whole bag before it spoils.


While the official method for freezing spinach involves blanching it.  I’ve had really good luck, just throwing the bag in the freezer.  (I just toss it in when I’m tired of eating spinach.) Once it’s frozen I mash the bag to break the leaves into pieces. Then it’s easy to throw into a recipe.

The idea behind blanching Spinach is to kill the enzymes that continue the ripening process. Freezing slows down but doesn’t stop or kill the enzyme process.  As long as you use it up within a couple of months and don’t try to store it for years, you’ll be fine.

The benefit besides the ease, is that it PRESERVES the enzymes that aid in the digestion process.  Now toss that into your morning smoothie :).

Some Cool Things

Today is a busy day.  This week I’ve gone through all my fabric (roughly 12 big tubs worth) and am letting it all go.  Well, almost all of it.  I’ve kept back just enough to fill 3 Sterilite tubs.  The rest needs to be cleaned, straightened, measured and marked for the craft show this weekend.  It’s supposed to snow!!!! I hope we have a good turn out anyway.

The idea is selling my fabric will help me reclaim my office and get us a little closer to baby step #3 (again.) At the rate we are going it will take us 7 years, but I have a goal to be done by this time next year.

Painting classes 4 kids

There are going to be some amazing vendors at the craft show, including my cousin who is offering $10 art sessions for kids while you shop.  If you are local, this is a must.

Before I run off to my sea of fabric, I wanted to share a couple of things with you.

I’ve been a crazy Facebook posting monkey.  If you haven’t liked me on facebook, you are missing out.  You should click like>>over there.  Then check out all the great frugal gift ideas that you have missed. (Plus we’ve talked about the best way to do winter Light Therapy; how to store silicone baking mats; and whether Pinterest ideas really make us feel inadequate–they don’t.)


This app. Food logging couldn’t be easier or more fun.  I’m only upset I didn’t find it sooner.

I’m healthy enough to exercise now!  I’ve been walking for a couple of weeks, and now that my baseline of fitness has come up a bit, I’m starting in with the beginner exercises in this series.

I’m still eating the FYM way, but I’m also adding some recipes from this. I have an amazing recipe for skinny chocolate, and yes, it’s as good as it sounds.  If you twist my arm, I might share it.

Have you discovered anything cool lately?