We wanted to highlight a few more fantastic fashions, but as a special treat, we enlisted the help of some of our favorite bloggers to share their picks for hottest summer looks. We think their picks are simply stunning, and we’re sure you’ll find something to tickle your fancy.
Category: guest posts
David Bakke is a health and money nut who shares his best tips and insights on Money Crashers Personal Finance.
The health benefits associated with a vegetarian diet are tremendous. Sticking to a vegetarian diet often increases your intake of healthy superfoods, which boosts the immune system and can result in decreased medical costs. Vegetarians also have a lower rate of becoming afflicted with heart disease and cancer.
When I became a vegetarian, my diet was at first a bit limited, as I just hadn’t done enough research. However, there is a wide variety of vegetarian foods that will expand your menu and have little effect on your wallet.
Healthy Vegetarian Foods to Add to Your Diet
1. Quinoa - Most people consider quinoa (pronounced “keen-wa”) to be a whole grain, but it’s actually a seed. Nutritionally, it’s similar to brown rice, but with a higher protein content. It cooks rapidly, is very versatile, and has a creamy, nutty taste. You can make a meal out of it by combining it with vegetables, or mix cooled quinoa into a fresh green salad. Also, cooled quinoa mixed with a few eggs and bread crumbs and cooked in the oven makes for a great deep dish pizza crust.
2. Couscous - Couscous is a coarsely ground pasta made from semolina, and it also works as a standalone dish when combined with other veggies, or as a complement. Its creamy texture is sure to be a hit with adults and children alike. It cooks in about 10 minutes.
3. Hummus - Hummus can serve as a dip or a topping, and is a perfect substitute for high-calorie dressings, such as ranch. Though you can purchase prepared hummus, if you have the time, you can make a homemade version. You’ll just need some chickpeas, Tahini, salt, lemon juice, garlic, and oil.
4. Eggplant - Eggplant is actually a great tasting veggie, despite its curious name. The classic use of it is Parmesan-style, but you can also stuff two halves of it with ricotta cheese or other fillings.
If you’re concerned about the fat content of fried eggplant, you can grill it to lower the calories. Just be sure to spice it beforehand or it may come out a little bland, and be sure to grill it thoroughly, as tough eggplant is not very palatable. Eggplant makes for a very filling dish, and is very inexpensive.
5. Frozen Vegetables - I originally assumed that frozen veggies did not contain the same nutritional value as fresh. As it turns out, they are just about equal. Vegetables picked for freezing are done so at their peak ripeness, whereas vegetables picked for grocery stores are done so before they are fully ripe, which slightly limits their vitamin and mineral content. Therefore, to cut down on the time spent in the kitchen and to save money, my freezer is fully stocked with this staple.
6. Dairy-Free Yogurt - If you wish to transition to a vegan diet, or if you have a lactose intolerance, your biggest challenge will be to eliminate dairy from your diet. Switching to soy yogurt, however, is one of the simplest changes to make. Not only are there a variety of brands and flavors, which are delicious right out of the carton, plain dairy-free yogurt is very versatile. It can be used as a substitute for mayonnaise (of course, you may want to try Veganaise) and put on veggie burgers, and you can also prepare a tasty guacamole with it.
7. Lentils - Lentils are a delicious member of the legume family that are also convenient. They require no soaking, and usually cook in well under an hour. Lentils are low in fat and cholesterol, and packed with protein and fiber. You can use them in soups or even make burgers out of them. This is another highly versatile, low-cost vegetarian option.
8. Tofu - The main ingredient in tofu is soybeans. It is both healthy and versatile: Tofu can be cubed and mixed with salads, sliced and grilled for sandwiches, and blended with fruit and juices to make a healthy smoothie. It’s high in protein, calcium, and iron and comes in a variety of textures. Choose firm tofu for cooking, and soft tofu for all other uses.
9. Fruit and Vegetable Pulp - Fresh vegetable and fruit juices make for a healthy breakfast food idea or a great midday snack. Just make sure you keep the pulp! If it’s a vegetable pulp, throw it into your next soup or casserole. If it’s fruit pulp, there are a variety of sweet bread recipes you can prepare. Pulp stored in the refrigerator will usually be good for a day or so, and it can be frozen for up to one month.
10. Seaweed - Seaweed is a staple among Asian diets, and has been attributed to longer life spans. You can typically find it at a farmers’ market or an Asian grocery store, and it’s quite affordable. Eat it as a side dish, or mix it in with a fresh salad or cold pasta. Believe it or not, it tastes great and is packed with minerals straight from the ocean. It is also considered to be a natural energy booster.
Ways to Save Money
You might wonder how you’re going to pay for all of this, as most vegetarian foods typically come with rather high price tags. One solution is to utilize manufacturers’ coupons. Sign up for email updates at websites such as So Delicious and Morningstar Farms, and you’ll get printable coupons sent right to your email inbox.
Next, seek out local farmers’ markets or farms to get fresh fruits and vegetables at significantly discounted prices. When you see other items like lentils and frozen vegetables on sale, stock up to boost the savings.
You should consider analyzing your current vegetarian diet to make sure you’re getting all the necessary nutrients. You can become iron-deficient if you’re not careful, so be sure to include split peas, potatoes, and spinach in your diet. Vegans need to make sure they’re consuming enough calcium-rich foods such as broccoli, kidney beans, and certain nuts.
However, so long as you take proper precautions, you, like many vegetarians, will enjoy the benefit of a healthier lifestyle. Those who do their research can significantly save money on groceries as well.
What unique vegetarian foods do you include in your diet?
Coming up on February 14th, Valentine’s Day can be a costly holiday, but there are creative ways to celebrate on a budget.
Coupon & savings expert Jon Lal offers these ten tips. His site BeFrugal.com offers free online coupons offering an average savings of $27, and free Cash Back which averages 5% for more than 1600 popular online stores such as Macy’s, Target, Dell, Amazon among others. For even sweeter savings, those who sign up for a free account for a limited time get a $10 bonus.
- Give an old-fashioned, homemade paper valentine.
- Write a poem expressing your feelings.
- Publish an iTunes playlist of your favorite love songs for free.
- Use the free app Songify to create your own love song. Writing your own lyrics shows that you care!
- Film a YouTube video describing why you care about that special someone. You can arrange the settings so it can only be viewed with a special link, which you can send your valentine in a free e-card.
- Make a coupon booklet to do fun activities together throughout the year.
- Create a scrapbook capturing your wonderful memories together.
- Bake cookies or make candy to demonstrate how much you care.
- Serve your valentine’s favorite meal for a romantic homemade candlelit dinner. Be sure to check out the weekly ads for sales and clip coupons when you buy the ingredients.
- Treat your sweetie to something sweet. When on a budget, dining out is an indulgence saved for a special occasion, but it doesn’t have to be out of reach. To avoid overspending, enjoy a meal at home then go out on the town just for dessert. Check for a free money-saving coupon before you visit the restaurant.
How do you stay frugal on Valentine’s Day?
When most of us use social media, we do it for fun. Twitter, Facebook and blogs are platforms to get information, socialize and even get our daily dosages of humor.
But, Shannon Schulte, the full-time sweeper behind the blog Sweepstakes Mama, has taken the social media boom, twisted it and made it into a career.
Though her methods may be controversial to some, you can’t deny the payoff. Shannon has won some impressive swag. So, we decided to ask her a few questions to better understand the Sweepstakes phenomenon and learn the benefits of sweeping.
What is sweeping and what first drew you to it?
Sweeping or “Sweepstaking” is a hobby that is tons of fun and has become part of my daily life. What started as a passion for finding deals, coupons, and freebies and finding a sweepstakes to win a new truck started a new part of my life. I was drawn to sweeping by trying to find a way to help our family financially, without sacrificing being at home for my kids and husband. When I started winning, I was enjoying bringing fun things home for free! Restaurant gift cards, movie tickets, toys, and even cash made us able to enjoy things we could not otherwise afford.
How long have you been entering sweepstakes?
I’ve been sweeping for almost two years now. I started from entering just a few giveaways and sweepstakes a day to about 400-600 sweepstakes a day. I’ve taken it from a hobby to a career. I love sharing sweeps with my readers!
Approximately how much time in a day do you devote to sweeping?
I spend about 7 hours a day on sweeps. Normally I get up very early, and do some sweeps before my sons wake up. I take a break and get them ready for the day. I normally start some chores, play with the boys for a while, then start them a quiet time activity so I can get to work. My daily sweepstakes routine normally starts about 6:30 am, earlier if I can, and I often don’t log off until about 8-9pm, sometimes later if there’s a Twitter party. This often means waking up as early as 5 am to get my family ready for the day. I start off as early as possible to complete my IWGs (Instant Win Games) and my first run of tweets for twitter contests. If I have other obligations or I’m running late sometimes I finish them at the end of the day. Next, I do my dailies which is somewhere between 200-400. This will take about 2-3 hours to finish, when I’m not disrupted. (That’s rarely the case as I’m a Navy wife, Mommy to a 6 and 2 year old boys, I have an eBay business, and I’m a busy blogger.) I continue on the evenings after dinner with Facebook and Twitter Sweeps and research of new sweeps for my readers at http://www.sweepstakesmama.com and maybe even a Twitter Party or two.
Does the time you put in usually pay off in the end?
The time has consistently paid off in the end. Usually at least 6 days a week I have a win, whether it be big or small. My family relies on my wins to be able to afford to do fun things and have things we could not afford otherwise. Most days, my husband comes home and first thing he asks is “What did you win today?”
What’s the best prize you’ve ever won?
My favorite prize by far has been our trip to South Africa! It was fabulous! Here’s some other prizes I’ve won.
- Many Gift Cards ranging in value from $5-$1000
- Big Screen HD 3d TV
- Days at the Spa
- Gaming Systems like a Wii and a PS3 Move
- $1000 entertainment prize pack from Family Dollar
- Several Trips including a luxury safari in South Africa and to an all inclusive resort in Jamaica. I recently won a trip for our family to the Mall of America to visit Nickelodeon’s new theme park.
- Over $4500 in Groceries and Free Food Coupons
- Home Appliances
- Celebrity Meet and Greets including hanging with Sarah McLachlan at Lilith Fair, chatting with Paula Deen and Michael, and jamming with Stone Temple Pilots and video taping their performance on stage. My boys loved getting to play basketball with the Harlem Globetrotters.
- Season Passes to Six Flags
- Designer Shoes, Purses, and Jewelry (you should see my closet I love shoes!)
- 8 Flip Cams
- iPod Touch
- JVC Camcorder
- Several Cash Prizes
- Gift Baskets
- Toys and Board Games for my boys
- Tickets to many fun concerts and shows and family passes to the zoo
- LOTS of other miscellaneous prizes
What are your favorite contests to enter?
I love to enter Twitter sweeps and one-time entries. One-time entries are great because you can enter and hope that luck’s on your side. Daily sweepstakes can become very time consuming.
How has sweeping benefited your life?
Last year (2010) was the first year we did not have to buy Christmas for any family members. I am definitely making more winning sweepstakes than I did on a teacher’s income, and I don’t have to pay for daycare. Winning sweepstakes helps those on a middle class income afford to do things they never could imagine doing. Some jokingly say we can do things when they “win the lottery.” I don’t know about winning the lottery (I have won some scratch off tickets), but it’s more than that. Once in a lifetime experiences, taking luxurious trips, and indulging in things we could only dream of is possible by winning sweepstakes. Our grocery bill has gone down about 25-30% since I’ve been sweeping due to food coupon wins, and I love that I can cover most of our date nights out with my husband.
If you’d like to get started sweeping, visit Shannon’s blog Sweepstakes Mama to find instant win games, daily sweeps, and more. She offers one-on-one sessions for those that are ready to get serious about winning as well. Send her an email for more information.
What are your thoughts on sweeping? Do you do it, or have you done it in the past? Share in a comment below!
Whether they’re paying tuition themselves or on their parents’ dime, college students are probably some of the last people on earth who should be spending money willy-nilly. They are, unfortunately, some of most regular customers of Starbucks, Camel, and Budweiser. I know—I was a college kid not too long ago.
Coffee: $167 a semester
My vice of choice was coffee—every day of the week excluding weekends (and the occasional Frapp on Saturday mornings). Had I known that a medium coffee ($1.96) five days a week for a single semester (about 85 weekdays) would cost me over $100, I probably would have invested in a coffee maker that would have paid for itself in two weeks. In fact, $100 doesn’t cover it:
|(Starbucks coffee size)||Tall ($1.75)||Medium ($1.96)||Venti ($2.07)|
Smoking: $425 a semester
Smoking is another popular vice among college students. You practically have to walk through a curtain of cancer every time you leave or enter the library building. Because prices vary according to both brands and states, let’s assume that a carton of cigarettes costs $5. Many of my friends went through a pack a day easily, but we’ll give them a little bit of slack and say that they went through a pack a day only on weekdays. At $5 a carton, that’s still $425 a semester that could have gone to better lodgings during Spring Break.
Beer: $225 a semester
The weekend generally calls for cheap beer, vodka, or (and?) wine. Let’s say that a student utterly lacking in taste buds opted to buy a case (24) of beer every Friday night. Even if he or she doesn’t finish the 24 beers him- or herself in two nights, he or she may not be paid back by friends who claim they will, and the excess beer makes up for the alcohol consumed while on Spring or Easter break and before graduation, which is not here calculated. Assuming that this 24-pack of dirt cheap beer costs $15, that amounts up to $255 spent on vomit-inducing hops over the course of a semester.
No one is saying to stop buying these things (although you might live a little longer if you do). Still, college students’ money and that of their parents might be better spent elsewhere, like buying better quality food than the cafeteria can offer for late-night snacks.
The above post is a guest post written by the #fabulous Alexis Bonari:
Bio: Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and researcher for College Scholarships, where recently she’s been researching scholarships from political parties as well as writing on distance education student loans. Whenever she gets some free time, she enjoys watching a funny movie or curling up with a good book.
A Q&A with Leah Ingram Author of Toss, Keep, Sell: The Suddenly Frugal Guide to Cleaning Out the Clutter and Cashing In
Leah Ingram is a frugal living expert, founder of the blog Suddenly Frugal and author of more than a dozen books, including her latest Toss, Keep, Sell! The Suddenly Frugal Guide to Cleaning Out the Clutter and Cashing In (Adams Media, 2010).
Get Leah’s book for less with our Amazon.com coupons!
Q: Why did you write your newest book?
A: I wanted this new book to serve a dual purpose: to help people get their homes organized, and discover ways that they could get cash for their clutter. This book grew out of my earlier book Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier and Healthier for Less, which grew out of my blog Suddenly Frugal . That book was written for recovering spendthrifts–people who used to spend, shop, and dine out freely, and then when the economy tanked, suddenly needed to live frugally. This was the plan my husband and I needed to follow in 2007 and how I ended up starting my blog Suddenly Frugal. I know from being one of those recovering spendthrifts that, thanks to my “shopper-tainment” days, when I went shopping when I was bored, I had more stuff than I needed so plenty of clutter to clear out.
Q: If you’ve already written a book on frugal living, why write another one?
A: The secret to living frugally is to continually reevaluate your spending and saving, and find ways that you can cut back on daily or regular expenses. But here’s what most people don’t realize: after a while, there’s nothing left to cut. And when there’s nothing left to cut, you’ve got to find ways to bring in more money. I’m lucky, in that I’m a self-employed writer and I can always take on additional assignments to bring in more income. But most people don’t have that luxury or don’t have the time to get a second job. Hopefully, Toss, Keep, Sell! will help them figure out ways to put more cash back in their wallets.
Q: Where did the idea of getting cash for your clutter come from?
A: I realized that most of the posts I’d done on my blog that talked about getting cash for my clutter or cash for my trash were the best received. Also, I’d done a survey on Suddenly Frugal that revealed this: 92% of my blog readers had sold their clutter for cash and would do so again in the future.
Many of the people who took this survey have used more than one selling method to sell various household items. When they sold stuff, they most often held a yard sale (74%) or sold stuff on Craigslist (51%). Of those items they were selling and making money from, furniture (43%) and clothing (19%) sold the best. One reader added a comment to the survey that she’d made nearly $3,000 from selling her old furniture.
Q: If your readers are already selling their trash for cash, what new information will the book provide?
A: While I include some tried-and-true methods for selling your stuff and making money from it, I also offer options readers may not have considered but which definitely have the potential to bring in big money. For example, did you know that you don’t have to live on an estate to have an estate sale? One person I profile in the book held one in her suburban tract home and took in $4,000 over two days.
Q: Besides cash for clutter, what other benefits will people get from reading Toss, Keep, Sell!?
A: I want this book to help people clear out their excess stuff and love living in their home again. I’ve been there, and I know how it feels to have someone drop by unexpectedly, only to end up running around and closing off the rooms in a disaster state before you answer the front door. Because clutter usually isn’t limited to a single spot in the house, I’ve organized this book so that the chapters go room to room. I’ve suggested tasks you can do to slowly—but surely—to get your house, life and “stuff” in control over time.
Have you ever gotten cash for your clutter? Let us know in a comment below!
Alisa Bowman is the author of Project: Happily Ever After, a memoir about how she went from wishing her husband dead to falling back in love. She is also the creator of ProjectHappilyEverAfter.com, a safe community where recovering divorce daydreamers can find help, support and feel accepted and normal.
Are you pro or anti Valentine’s Day?
I’m neither. I am against the commercial aspect of Valentine’s Day because it sets people up for disappointment. Suddenly a holiday that was once about compassion and generosity becomes a holiday about “If he really loved me, he’d guess what I want and he’d spend his week’s paycheck on me.” In reality, a guy who really loves you supports you, listens to you, forgives your faults, and champions your strengths. It has nothing to do with buying you gifts and everything to do with everyday acts of generosity. If you are in a good relationship, every day is Valentine’s Day. It’s not just a once a year event.
What’s your advice for singles around Valentine’s Day?
Capture the spirit of this holiday in a way that allows you to feel good. Be generous and share your love with someone. Maybe you visit your grandparent in a nursing home. Maybe you spend the day sending complimentary notes to all of the people who love and support you. You can also make this a day about self love and self acceptance. Make Valentine’s Day the day you let go of that self loathing, guilt or shame that you’ve been carrying around with you for years. Give yourself the gift of a massage, pedicure or something else.
Do you have any advice for married couples who are looking to spice up their relationship?
Break out of your familiar routine. Many couples who tell me that their relationship is “dead” follow the same routine every day. In the evenings, they do separate activities. When one of them is watching TV, the other one is on Twitter. When he’s in the man cave, she’s scrapbooking or in her sewing room. They don’t take time to connect. As a result, the relationship gets stale.
Staying connected takes effort and creativity. Try to do it every day. Try to connect physically (through touch), emotionally (by talking and listening) and energetically (by seeming happy to be around each other).
In each of those areas (physical, emotional, and energetic) make efforts to break out of your routine. For instance, if he always initiates sex, she could take on the planning of every other sexual encounter—and she might seduce him instead of having him seduce her. A bikini wax, a strip tease, a new location, or a new position can all really go a long way.
What’s your best first date idea?
A first date is really a test drive. You want to get a sense for what you are both like. The stereotypical movie date doesn’t allow you to do this. And the stereotypical dinner date goes overboard. It puts you uncomfortably face to face for way too long. A dinner date is like taking that car you are supposed to be test-driving on a cross country road trip.
I think the best first dates allow you to talk, but they also give you something to do to take the pressure off the need to talk nonstop. Maybe you can go horseback riding or ice-skating. Maybe you can play pool or go bowling. Rather than a movie, go watch something that allows you to have a conversation—such as a baseball game.
Would you recommend using dating sites for singles that are looking?
I think the best way to find someone is to get outdoors more often. We’ve all become too insulated, and it not only hurts our ability to find love, it also brings on loneliness and depression. Dating sites are fine, but the best way to meet someone is in real life. Find some hobbies, clubs or other activities that get you out and with people.
What is the number one item of advice you give to married couples?
Be the change you want to see in your marriage. It’s much easier to change yourself than it is to change your partner. If you want your sex life to be more exciting, don’t wait for your partner to initiate that change. Initiate it yourself. Be the big person and be the problem solver. Lead your way to a better marriage.
Do you have any love advice of your own? Leave a comment below!
Colleen is the creator of Bee Fit – a blog that follows her weight loss journey and offers tips, advice and healthy recipes for fellow dieters.
The Motivation Factor
Weight loss is never an easy beast to tackle. The main problem is getting the motivation to begin and keep the momentum going long enough to reach your goal weight. Often many people are desperately seeking a quick fix and want to reach their goal quickly. This is unrealistic; a true healthy journey will take time and dedication.
One should not get discouraged when they do not see the weight come off immediately. A reasonable amount of weight to lose is 1-2 pounds per week. If you lose massive amounts of weight at once you risk losing muscle too. And muscle burns calories; you do not want to lose muscle!
Small Changes = Big Results
Anyone can get healthy and lose the weight. It takes small changes over time to build a healthy new lifestyle. One of the main things to do is track your calorie intake. By writing down everything you eat every day you become accountable for yourself and more aware of what you are eating. You can track your calorie intake accurately and help reduce the amount you eat.
Preparation is a main component of any weight loss regimen as well. By preparing meals ahead of time and bringing healthy snacks and a lunch to work you can help your weight loss. When you prepare ahead of time you are ensuring you will be successful with your plan!
Come visit my page anytime for tips, tricks, and recipes. Remember you are not just going on a diet, you are committing to a life style change!
Do you have any weight loss tips of your own? We’d love to hear ‘em! Leave a comment below!
We took the opportunity to ask them about their own weight loss stories, and if they had any advice for those who have decided to finally get serious about weight loss in 2011.
January is our Resolutions month and one of the most popular is diet. What are your feelings on weight loss as a Resolution?
Jen - I think losing weight can be a great New Year’s resolution if it’s really coming from a place inside you that is truly ready to change. However, the need to “lose weight,” isn’t always as motivating as other resolutions such as “I want to have the energy to play with my kids” or “I want to lower my cholesterol so that I don’t have to go on medication.” Tapping into something more meaningful than just weight, can help focus on what really matters and therefore motivate more.
Erin - Weight-loss is a valid goal and the New Year can be a perfect time to wipe the slate clean and get going. I think the key to resolution success is to not do too much too fast. It can be tough going from the indulgent holidays to working out every day and eating salads. Ease into it!
One of the things we loved about your site is your FitStars Interview. Who has been your favourite interviewee?
Jen - Hands down, Bob Harper. We have a smidge of a crush on him. Okay, a HUGE crush on him. :)
Erin - I won’t pick favorites, but will say that we love any opportunity to put Bob’s pretty face on our site!
With that said, what is your number one fitness or weight loss advice for someone trying to lose weight?
Jen- Have a plan and be nice to yourself. Don’t expect perfection and don’t expect to change overnight. Make one very small change each week instead of drastically changing everything on January 1. Small changes made over time that stick can lead to huge results!
Erin - Don’t adopt extreme tactics. Make healthy changes you can live with. And don’t beat yourself up if you miss a workout or indulge in a treat. Just get back on the wagon!
What are some of your New Year’s Resolutions for 2011?
Jen - Although I’ve been eating intuitively and according to my hunger for years now, every year I recommit to that practice — especially after the holidays when I probably had a few too many cookies or glasses of wine. This year I’m also vowing to make meditation a more regular practice (right now I probably do it two to three times a week), and I’m going to try vegetarianism for a month to see how it effects my body.
Erin – One of mine is to cut down on my sweet treats. I’m the type that needs something sweet after dinner, but lately one cookie has turned into several. I’m going to try to enjoy my splurges, but not let them turn into diet disasters! I’d also like to lose the remaining 8 or so pounds of pregnancy weight, but I’m in no big hurry on that!
And we have to ask. Jenn, what’s the MarioKart score?
Ha! Well, I normally play on a team with my husband, and although he’s better than me, I almost always place in the top three — and Yoshi is always my dude. He’s such a cutie, but totally kicks MarioKart butt!
Thanks Erin and Jen for answering our questions! Good luck with your weight loss journeys!