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  • Pesto Chicken & Orzo

    This quick and easy recipe will have you putting Pesto Chicken & Orzo on your weeknight rotation. 5 minutes of prep then just let it bake! Ingredients: 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound) 2 cups (16 ounces) dry orzo 7 ounces prepared pesto 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half 2 cups chicken broth 1 cup feta cheese To Prepare: Preheat oven to 375 Grease a 9x13 casserole dish Cut up chicken breasts into bite sized pieces Pour the orzo in the bottom of the casserole dish evenly. Top with chicken pieces and tomatoes. In a bowl, whisk together the pesto and broth. Pour evenly over the orzo. Sprinkle feta cheese on top. Cover and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake another 10-15 minutes.

  • Asian Style Chicken Noodle Soup

    Asian-style chicken noodle soup is a comfort food with an Asian flare! An easy slow-cooker meal that is healthy and delicious! Ingredients for the Asian Style Chicken Noodle Soup 2 boneless chicken breasts, sliced into small strips 32-ounce chicken broth (low sodium) 1/4 cup soy sauce 1/8 cup sesame oil 4 cups water 2 tbsp pad thai sauce 1 small yellow onion, sliced extremely thin 1 1/2 cups chopped carrots or shreds 1 large rib celery, sliced 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced 1 tsp ginger 2 tsp Chinese 5-spice 10.5-ounce Cantonese egg noddles 3 baby boy choy Instructions for the Asian Style Chicken Noodle Soup Mix well with all ingredients except the noodles and box choy into the slow cooker. Set to high and cook 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Add the noodles and bok choy and cook for about 10 minutes until the noodles are soft. Serve immediately. I have a plethora of slow cooker healthy recipes for your next dinner. Be sure to check out my entire recipe section for easy, healthy meals for you and your family.

  • Say No to Being a People Pleaser

    Listen on the podcast HERE or watch the podcast HERE I confess! I have been a people pleaser my entire life. I have focused on fulfilling the expectations of others ahead of my own. It causes stress, frustration, overwhelm, and can wreck your confidence. Most people pleasers were conditioned to be that way as children. They would receive positive affirmations, love, encouragement, and all the positive emotions when they would do what pleases others. The child quickly equates their self-worth to their ability to keep others pleased with them while ignoring their wants and desires. My Start as a People Pleaser Growing up, I was conditioned to be a people pleaser. Life was peaceful when I kept others happy. It wasn't worth the ramifications to step out of line. When I was about 18, I made a life-changing decision in the name of people pleasing. I had wanted to be an architect since I was a little girl. However, when it came time to declare my major, I people-pleasing sat down for a conversation in which I was told (and sold) that I should go into Business and Finance and the family business. It would greatly please everyone if I did that. And so I did. An Adult People Pleaser Fast forward about 15 years and I was still people-pleasing. When my son was about 8 years old, we planned a week in Ocracoke during his spring break. I notified everyone at the family business and officially took the week off. However, I was quickly guilted that I was going to miss an important meeting. I was letting people down and disappointing them by not being a part of the meeting. What did I do the day of the meeting while I was in Ocracoke with my husband and son? I got up at 4am, caught the 5am ferry, arrived to the mainland at 7:00, then drove two more hours to the office to make the meeting at 9:00. Nothing pertinent occurred in the meeting and I turned around and drove 2 hours back to the ferry then made the 2 hour ferry ride back to Ocracoke. I was angry and frustrated and I had let my husband and son down because I was focused on making sure I kept everyone at work pleased with me. That's the thing with people pleasers, we constantly let ourselves down and we generally let down the people most important to us because we already feel loved and accepted by them. Misconception of People Pleasers People pleasers get a reputation of being reliable and dependable. Therefore, people keep asking and taking but you can never do enough to satisfy everyone. You begin to feel unappreciated and taken advantage of so you put your foot down. Then you get labeled as being unreasonable. This label is triggering to a people pleaser, guilt sets in, and the people pleasing begins again on a whole new cycle. Boundaries to Stop People Pleasing While I still have tendencies to fall back into my people-pleasing mentality, I have to focus on my boundaries and what gets put in the Yes column and what gets put in the No column. I have developed 5 questions I ask myself when evaluating if something I have been asked to do is going into the Yes column. Is this aligned with who I am and the person I am becoming? If there isn't alignment, then it goes into the No column. Is this the best use of my time? I relate this to opportunity cost in Economics. What will I have to give up to make room for this on my calendar? Which task is the best use of my time? Is this investing me in the right relationships? Who will I be surrounded by and what types of people will I be creating new relationships with? If these relationships aren't the type to support the best version of you, then the "No" column it's going to have to be. Will this matter in 5 years? Or 1 year? If you don't see long-term value being created then it is most likely not worth you doing. Will I be appreciated or taken advantage of? I don't mean this in a recognition way. I mean this in the gratitude way. When people are truly grateful for your help, it makes the experience much more meaningful and worthwhile. If you struggle with saying no to others because you are a people pleaser, ask yourself these 5 questions before saying yes. They will aid the logical part of your brain in taking over the decision-making process. If you found this helpful, check out my freebies page where I have plenty of resources available such as my Habit Tracker or my Vision Board Template.

  • Chicken & Spinach Orzo

    Easy, healthy, and delicious! This recipe makes about 6 hearty portions and can easily be halved. Ingredients: 16 ounce package orzo 4 chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces 3 tbsp olive oil 1 large lemon, juiced 2 tbsp minced fresh garlic 3-4 tbsp basil paste 20 ounce cherry tomatoes 5 ounce fresh spinach 1 cup feta cheese (more to garnish if desired) To Make: Prepare orzo per package directions and set aside. In a dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic. Cook about 3 minutes stirring regularly. Add the cubed chicken to the olive oil and garlic then add the lemon juice and basil paste. Stir well and sauté 8-10 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Add the tomatoes and stir well. Cover and simmer 3-4 minutes. Then stir well again and press the tomatoes to make them burst. Cover and simmer another 4-6 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down. Stir in the fresh spinach. Simmer 3-5 minutes until the spinach wilts. Add the cooked orzo and feta. Stir thoroughly and simmer 2-3 minutes. Serve and top with additional feta if desired.

  • Sausage, Bean, and Veggie Soup

    This recipe is similar to my Veggie and Sausage Soup and my Veggie, Bean, and Hamburger Soup but with a different mix of veggies for a slow cooker variety! Ingredients: 1 pound sausage, cooked and crumbed (hot adds more flavor) 1 10 ounce can cream of chicken soup 32 ounce chicken broth 1 sweet onion chopped 15 ounce can kidney beans, drained 15 ounce can northern beans, drained 12 ounce bag frozen lima beans 8 ounce chopped baby carrots 12 ounce bag frozen sweet peas 12 ounce bag frozen green beans shredded parmesan for garnish Add all ingredients except sweet peas, green beans, and parmesan to slow cooker. Mix well. Set the setting on low for 8 hours. When there are two hours left, add the green beans and sweet peas. Mix well. Serve and top with parmesan! Goes great with a grilled cheese!

  • Kids and Credit Cards

    There are a lot of opinions on credit cards and credit scores. Different financial gurus have different perspectives on the needs and use of both. So, before we dive into talking about adding your child to your credit card, I am going to give you an overview of my perspective. Do I think credit cards are good or bad? My answer is that credit cards in themselves aren't either good or bad but our behavior with them is either good or bad, thus creating good or bad results. If you are someone that can't control your spending with a credit card then by all means use cash or a debit card. If you are a disciplined spender and only use your credit card for expenses within your monthly budget and pay the balance in full every month then using a credit card can be a good thing. I personally use the same credit card for almost all of my purchases from gas and groceries to vet bills for our dogs. At the end of each month, I apply any points or rewards directly back to the balance and then payoff the remaining full balance. I never carry a balance that would be subjected to interest charges and putting myself into credit card debt. Plus, it is generally easier to dispute fraudulent charges on a credit card rather than a debit card. And I also prefer a credit card when traveling because, for example, if you check into a hotel with a debit card they generally charge your card for significantly more than your actual charges will be and it is oftentimes up to a week before you have that overage back in your account. But again, if you can't control your spending with a credit card use a debit card or cash. Credit scores have also been called an "I love debt" score and I can agree with that statement to an extent. Credit scores are often negatively impacted when you pay off debt but we all know that paying off debt is generally a good thing. Credit scores are also negatively impacted when you miss payments so you want to make sure to make payments on time. Having a credit score, specifically a good credit score, makes the approval process of acquiring debt a lot simpler. But credit scores extend to a lot more these days than just acquiring debt. Credit scores are routinely checked for leasing an apartment, setting up utilities, acquiring insurance, and by prospective employers. A poor credit score or not having a credit score or credit history can create a situation of higher deposits, higher premiums, and potentially not getting a certain job. So for these reasons, having some credit history can make a big difference. It's not just for acquiring debt these days. It can be difficult for young adults just starting out when they don't have a credit score or credit history, even if they aren't trying to acquire debt. Back to your child and your credit card. You can add your child to your existing credit card account as an authorized user. Different card types have different age requirements but generally a child 15 or older can be added to your account (some cards allow a younger age). When you add your child to your account as an authorized user, the history of that account attaches to your child's credit history and can help your child create a credit history before they turn 18. One thing to think about though is if your account doesn't have a good history then adding your child may actually hurt them so you want to add them to an account with a good history and be sure to maintain good history on the account. This can also be a great time to teach your child about debt and credit and making a spending budget and adhering to it. When I was 14, I went away to boarding school so my parents added me as an authorized user on their account and I had a credit card to pay for my expenses. When I turned 18, I was able to open up an account on my own. I chose an American Express card that required monthly payment in full and did not allow you to carry a balance and put yourself in credit card debt. It was a great option for a college kid and I was mindful about my spending and paying the bill in full each month and on time. I opened that account in 1995 and I still use an American Express today and my card says "account holder since 1995." Needless to say, that is a good bit of account history. My son is 17 and I added him to my account last year. He also has his own checking account and debit card that he uses for most of his personal purchases. He earns money, deposits it into his account, then pays for things out of that account with the debit card. He also is an authorized user on my American Express and has a card from that account. He uses that card when he is running errands for me such as picking up some groceries. He is a responsible kid and I trust him not to go on a spending spree with it. LOL This is a win win situation for both of us. He is able to pick up items for me without me needing to reimburse him, the charges reflect on my account when I login so I can easily account for them in my budget, and he is building credit history from a solid account with a long (and positive) track record. When he is ready to lease an apartment or establish utilities, he will have some history attached to his social security number which will make the process simpler and most likely require smaller deposits. A few years ago I began teaching a high school personal finance class and I can attest to the need for kids to understand how money works. When your child has a credit card it is a great time to teach them how that cycle works, when the balance needs to be paid in full to avoid interest charges, late fees, and going into debt. It is also a great time to teach your child about creating a budget, adhering to it, and tracking their spending. Not every teen is ready to be turned loose with their parent's credit card, after all you are liable for any charges they put on the card. But once you feel your teen is responsible enough to have a card, it can be a great learning tool and a great way to get them started on the right path to a positive credit history. It is important to note that different card issuers have different age requirements and report differently to the credit bureaus so be sure to get the details before adding your child. It sure is nice being able to have my son help with household errands and not have to constantly reimburse him. If your child isn't quite old enough for this yet, don't worry it will be here before you know it! Information contained in this post is for educational purposes only and is not considered financial advice.

  • Pt. 3: Pivoting Towards Your Purpose

    If you missed them, catch Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE. In Part 3, we are looking at finding balance and living the season of life you are currently in. It can be difficult to find balance if you aren't embracing your current season of life. It can also be difficult to find balance if you are focused on fulfilling the expectations of others. Therefore, it's important to recognize what season you are in and the opportunities and challenges that season brings to your life, living in alignment with your purpose, and finding balance within it. Lack of balance is something that many struggle with and it causes stress and overwhelm. Before you can find balance, you have to recognize what it is. Oxford dictionary defines balances as "a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions." The different elements can range from career, family, home, personal time, and the list goes on. Women, in particular, struggle to find balance between their career, their role as a mom, and managing the home. Looking back at the definition, it is safe to say that all of these different elements are not going to land equally. For this reason, it is important to get them in the correct proportions. There are many seasons of life and they present different choices for us to make. I am in my mid 40s and if I simply look at my current season versus when I was in my 20's there are numerous differences such as: I need more sleep, I am less concerned about social functions, I am more concerned about healthy eating. My son is now 17. When he was a toddler our evenings were consumed with bath time, trying to get him to eat a vegetable, and story time. Now our evenings are filled with baseball games, family date nights trying new restaurants, and reliving chemistry homework. We won't get these seasons back, so embrace them, make memories, and have zero regrets. For example, my son will be off to college in less than two years. I have decided to table several things I want to do because right now I want to focus my time with him. Otherwise, I would get out of balance. How do you choose to live everyday? Are you living in alignment with your season of life, your core values, and your purpose? What is priority to you? Decide what these things are and make changes to shape your day around them. Your everyday lifestyle choices create your journey and your journey is your story. What do you want your story to be? What route is most aligned with you? Think about Google maps. You enter the destination and it gives you the fastest based on current traffic, the shortest based on miles, or the most scenic. Align your everyday lifestyle choices with the route that best fits your personality. Remember the vision board? It can be very useful in guiding you towards balance because it tells you how you want to spend your days. It's why our everyday choices on our agenda have to be aligned with our core values and purpose because that is where fulfillment is found. Balance is virtually impossible to find when you are unfulfilled. Organization and planning is very important on the road to balance. It's where you assign everything in the correct proportions to lower stress and overwhelm. As a recovering people pleaser, I know how difficult it can be to say no, especially once you have set a precedent that you are always going to say yes. We don't want to disappoint anyone but we are repeatedly disappointing ourselves. If it doesn't align with your current season of life, your core values, and your purpose, it has to be a NO! Don't let anything that could throw you out of balance creep onto your agenda. If you are looking for some great books to help you better your habits, find your purpose, set boundaries and more, here is a list I shared at the conference of some of my favorites. Get the list HERE! This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

  • Pt.2: Pivoting Towards Your Purpose

    If you missed Part 1, you can catch it HERE! In Part 2, we are looking at taking action! Getting started is oftentimes the hardest part of taking action to discover our purpose and ultimate success. I recently posted a survey on Instagram asking my followers what was their biggest hurdle in getting started to take action. While I wasn't surprised that Fear of Failure was number one, I was curious to see where the others would land. These 4 choices are actually very intertwined. First, comparison. Social media has made comparison a much larger problem than it what was. We get to see the edited and perfect highlights of where someone is presently and we compare where our real selves are now. This becomes the root of low self esteem and thus a lack of confidence. Second, fear of failure. A lot of the problem here lies in how you are defining failure. A lack of success? Whose defining the success. When we allow external definitions of success be our benchmark we will lose alignment with our purpose and the true meaning of success. Where there be hiccups along the road? Of course! But look at them as learning opportunities. Third, lack of confidence. This one stems from comparison and fear of failure. We are still concerned with what it looks like on the outside so where we are scared to take action. We tell ourselves we don't feel ready. The truth is, you will most likely never feel ready; you just have to start! Last, lack of self discipline. It's not lack of self discipline, it's the choice of inaction. Maybe from one of the above. Choosing not to take action is a decision. Action is what produces results. Baby steps are fine. Just start! But how? What are steps that get the ball rolling on taking action? We have all heard the saying "it takes a village." Let others help you take action and grow. Expand your network! Get out and meet people! Attend seminars and conferences. Get out of the comfort zone. Growth and success do not happen in the comfort zone. Your circle matters! There is a rule of thought that says "you are the summation of the 5 people you choose to spend the most time with." Think about your 5 right now. Do they bring you down or do they left you up? We can outgrow relationships. Surround yourself with a circle that encourages you to grow and be your best self. Expose yourself to new things. Opportunities are everywhere and sometimes they are found in the most unlikely go places. Do things like volunteer for boards and committees and get involved in your community. Put yourself out there and let people know what it is you are after! That is how you find the Law of Attraction! What you put out there is what comes back. Make your voice heard! If you have a hard time holding yourself accountable to your action list then get an accountability partner. Much like the person that makes sure you come to the 5 am working class, an accountability partner in your career can do the same for you! One of my all time favorite quotes is Benjamin Franklin's, "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail." I am definitely a planner geek but planning works! Digital versus paper planner: how about both? I use the digital (Google calendar) as my what. It is easy to mark out appointments etc while on the go and it links to my Calendly for people to book appointments. I use my paper planner as my how. I sit down at least once a week, usually Saturday mornings, and I put everything from my digital onto paper. It helps me get a visual and then from there I fill in all of my regular to dos like record a podcast, write a blog, etc to ensure that everything has a place. I time block out everything with a color code system (yellow for work, pink for personal, blue for family, etc). I have a freebie HERE that you can download and work on your time blocking. Create a morning routine that sets your day up for success. I am not a morning person by nature but getting up in time to get the morning tasks complete without being rushed or stressed is key. Our brains are fresh in the morning so reserve some time for good, core work in the morning. Make goals that are specific, measurable, and deadlined. You have to be able to track your progress. Little action steps each day. Think about the tortoise and the hare! A great idea is to set your goal and then back into the plan to get there. Map it out! Meal planning. This may seem odd on this list but it is a game changer to free up time on your calendar and relieve stress. Taking it one step farther to meal prepping is even better. I have templates HERE and blog posts The Value of Meal Planning and Tips to Meal Plan and Prep. Create a vision board for yourself and what you want your life and your days to look like. Define your ideal day and the begin putting items on the agenda that are aligned with that vision. Eye on the prize! Action and discipline always win over motivation. Even if you wake up not feeling motivated, make the choice of action. Each little action will create motivation to keep taking more action. The domino effect is alive and well. In Part 3, we will look at balance and living the season of life you are currently in!

  • Pt 1: Pivoting Towards Your Purpose

    I was recently the keynote speaker at the Crystal Coast Women in Business Conference. My speech, Pivoting Towards your Purpose, focused on finding a fulfilling purpose and carrying it out to success. I have decided to break it down into a series of blog posts so stay tuned for more! Oftentimes, we find ourselves in careers that are unfulfilling to us. There is a constant search to fill that void of an unfulfilled purpose. We tend to not feel successful, not only in our career but life in general, because our days are not aligned with our purpose and what fills us up. It is key to discover what your purpose is, what you find fulfilling, and what you want your story to be so that you can begin the process of pivoting! What exactly is purpose? If you look up the definition you will get answers like "the reason for which something is done" or "one's intention or objective." Some may also define it as your passion, the reason you get up in the morning, or the central motivator of your life. Many of us can't nail that one thing down which is why we are lost and on the constant search for our purpose. First, you have to ask yourself, what are my talents, values, and strengths? Second, are your daily actions aligned with your talents, values, and strengths? If your daily actions are not aligned then it will be very difficult to find your purpose because you won't be doing actions that will fulfill you. You have to repeatedly take action that is aligned and you will begin the process of discovering your purpose and what fulfills you. It's like the domino effect, one action leads to more action. Even if the path changes along the way, each action drives you towards more action whether it's on the exact same path or starting down a new one. Each action must be intentional; leading to the discovery of who you are, what your purpose is, and what fills you up. It's also important to know what purpose is not. First, purpose is not static. It is going to change and evolve with the different seasons of life. That is why you have to continually try new things (i.e. step out of your comfort zone) and find new purpose within yourself so that you grow as a person. We don't want to just be fulfilled but to completely fulfill what our life's purpose(s) may be. Complete satisfaction and contentment! Purpose is not someone else's expectations of you but rather what you want from this life and what internal success looks like to you. If you focus on other's expectations then your actions won't be aligned and you will be on a hamster wheel searching for purpose and fulfillment. What you focus on grows!! Focus on fulfillment, purpose, and growing into the best you! Success is defined as "the accomplishment of an aim or purpose." Therefore, true success can only be achieved when we are living our purpose. That is why when you are focused on the expectations of others, you may be successful in their eyes but you aren't fulfilled. You have to define both your purpose and your success from within. We get focused on defining success by what it looks like from the outside and we abandon living our purpose on the inside. Thus, the never ending hamster wheel. In Part 2 we will look at taking action! Even if you are someone that knows your exact passion, you have to be able to execute it with your actions!

  • What is a flow-through entity?

    What is a flow through (also called a pass through) entity? A lot of times when people think about a business, they think corporations. They think these businesses (these corporations) themselves pay corporate taxes. But, not all businesses are corporations. And, even those that are corporations can be different types of corporations. Yes, there are corporations, such as C corporations, that are required to file and pay income taxes on the income of the business. When the news is talking about the taxes that Amazon has to pay, Amazon as a corporation has to pay those taxes on it’s income. The thing is, most small businesses are flow through entities. Approximately 95% of small businesses in the U.S. are flow through entities. This means that the business itself doesn’t pay actual income taxes. Instead, the income from the business flows through from the business to the owner(s) of the business and the owner(s) report the income on their personal tax returns and pay the tax due personally. LLC’s and S corporations are examples of flow through entities. Some flow through entities are subject to self-employment tax while others, like an S corporation or an LLC with an S election, does not pay SE tax. This is why it is very important to know the different types of structures when setting up your business. Let’s look at a simple comparison. Bob and Sally are married and they own and operate a business together, B&S Wine Shop. B&S Wine Shop has net (taxable) income of $125,000 for 2023. That is total revenue minus total expenses. If B&S Wine Shop is a C corporation then B&S will pay a 21% corporate tax rate, or $26,250 in tax. That leaves B&S with $98,750 that it can declare as a dividend to Bob and Sally. That dividend will be taxed at 15% on their personal tax return, $14,813. Total tax paid $41,063 or 33% of the $125,000 income their business generated. If B&S Wine Shop is an LLC and is subject to self-employment tax, then the full $125,000 would flow through to their personal tax return. B&S itself would not pay taxes. Bob and Sally would pay $17,662 in SE tax and then they would pay $16,172 in income tax (they get a deduction for half the SE tax paid). Total tax paid $33,834 or 27% of the $125,000 income their business generated. Plus, there would be additional tax savings if they made an S election for their business but we won’t cover that here. Most small businesses choose a flow through entity because in the end it saves money in taxes. However, large businesses generally don’t meet the requirements to be a flow through entity so they are taxed at the corporate level instead. There are a lot of arguments whether or not big corporations pay their “fair” share of taxes. Many people often argue that the corporate tax rate of 21% is too low. However, it is important to note that when the income after taxes is distributed as a dividend to the shareholders, it is taxed again. In the example above, B&S paid a 33% effective rate on their $125,000 income if taxed at the corporate level whereas only 27% as a flow through entity. Information contained in this post is for educational purposes only and is not considered financial advice.

  • Chicken & Orzo Bake

    This meal is quick and simple to make and is delicious! It is packed full of flavor! Ingredients: 5.2 ounce Boursin cheese 1 1/2 pounds chicken breast, diced 2 cups dry orzo 0.7 ounce Italian dressing recipe mix 10 ounce jar quartered artichoke hearts (with juice) juice of 1 large lemon 1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped 1/2 cup olive oil 2 cups broth 2 cloves garlic, minced 3 ounce fresh spinach 3-4 slices bacon, cooked crisp (optional) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9x13 casserole dish and set the Boursin cheese in the middle. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix all other ingredients except bacon. Spoon around the Boursin cheese. Bake for 30 minutes uncovered. Stir well. Bake an additional 10-15 minutes. Garnish with bacon and serve.

  • Grocery Budget Tips

    My recent blog, Part 1: The 3 I’s and your Budget, focused on the I of Inflation and specifically talked about the cost of groceries. We all have to eat so the grocery category in our budget is essential. I further spoke about that with the increase in the cost of groceries, something else in the budget has to give or you need to increase your income. The most common casualty when something in the budget needs to give is saving. People generally don’t want to have to inconvenience themselves by reducing what they spend in another category (such as entertainment, etc) and they erroneously convince themselves that they have plenty of time to save later. However, it does make a difference in the end. For example, if you are 35 and you are investing (saving) $200/month and you do that until age 65, you will have about $282,000. However, if you tell yourself you can wait and start doing that at 45 and you invest $200/month from 45 to 65, you will only have about $114,000. So for a $24,000 additional savings (10 years at $200 per month), you gain an additional $168,000! This is why it’s important to make the budget work and continue saving! When we think of saving money on groceries, we tend to immediately think about coupons. While coupons can be a great way to save money on groceries, there are other ways to keep that grocery budget in line! Here are my top tips to keeping your grocery budget in line: Meal Plan! I know I continue to beat this dead horse but it’s because it works! When you buy groceries without a plan, the likelihood of food waste increases dramatically. When you throw food out, you are essentially throwing money in the trash. Plus, when you don’t have a plan for dinner, you are more likely to eat out. Eating out kills the food budget, especially when you add on fees for delivery. Stock Up On Specials! We don’t have a Costco or anything similar in our county so I take advantage of weekly specials but buying certain things in bulk can also be a big savings (just make sure it is things you will consume and won’t end up throwing out). When I do my weekly grocery order, the first thing I check are the weekly specials. If items I use regularly, such as chicken breasts, are on special, I will buy extra and put them in the freezer. However, I don’t stock up on things that we don’t regularly eat because they are likely to end up being thrown out and that is just money wasted. Stay Organized! Keep your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer organized so that you only buy what you need. Plus it will keep items from getting lost, going bad, and then getting thrown out. Create a purpose for any “extras” so they don’t turn into food waste. For example, I purchased croissants for lunch sandwiches last week but we didn’t use them all so on Saturday I made french toast with them. Not a conventional french toast bread but they worked and it was quite good. Don’t be fooled by convenience. While things like mini bags of chips and lunch meat sliced at the deli are convenient, they are markedly more expensive per ounce. It only takes a little more effort to put chips in a container when packing lunch rather than just grabbing a mini bag of chips. Plus, you cut down on packaging waste when you use a re-usable container. Want some more tips? Here are links to some more grocery budgeting blogs I have written: The Grocery Budget Tips to Meal Plan and Prep The Value of Meal Planning Lunch Box Savings You can download my meal planning templates HERE And if you are ready to up your meal planning to meal prepping, check out my class: How to Meal Prep

  • Part 3: The 3 I's and Your Budget

    In Part 3 of The 3 I's and Your Budget, we are talking about Income! Income can be a hot topic! People often feel that they don't earn as much as they should. Some jobs can be a noble profession but don't pay a high income. Some jobs have a lot of income growth potential and some are "dead end" so to speak with little to no income growth. Regardless of what your income amount is, it is the driver of your budget. Even the king of budgeting, Dave Ramsey, says your income is your most powerful tool. The idea when creating your budget is to allocate every dollar of income with intention! The amount of your income dictates how much you can spend in each category. There are guidelines for what percentage of your income you should spend in certain categories. But what happens when that suggested percentage creates a dollar amount that won't suffice? In Part 1 we focused on inflation with the high cost of groceries being an issue for most families. If you need to allocate more to a category then you have to decrease another category. This is where a lot of families are feeling the squeeze these days. We hear people say "if only I had more income then my budget would work." More income isn't always the answer to making a budget work. There are plenty of people that can make a budget work even without a large income. These are people that truly follow the principle of living on less than they make, avoiding debt, and saving. These are the people that generally will just choose to save more or pay off debt quicker if their income increases; they don't change their spending habits. On the flip side, there are people making $250,000 a year that are living paycheck to paycheck because their spending is out of control. More income wouldn't make their budget work until they changed their spending habits. If you are feeling a squeeze on your budget or less money going towards debt payoff or savings then more income may be a solution. Multiple streams of income can be ideal so that you aren't dependent on one source. Maybe a side hustle is right for you. Maybe doing a training or certification so that you can grow in your career is a good path. It's important to remember that not all jobs are meant to be in long term. You have to create the right path for you and your family; evolve, grow, and create situations for income growth. Information contained in this post is for educational purposes only and is not considered financial advice.

  • Baked Pesto Chicken

    This recipe is simple and packs lots of flavor! Pairs well with a salad, pasta, or a veggie side! Ingredients: 4 boneless chicken breasts 4-6 pieces bacon, cooked crisp 8 ounces pesto 1-2 cups shredded mozzarella 1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a casserole dish. 2. Butterfly the chicken breasts. 3. Brush pesto onto the chicken breasts. 4. Add a slice of bacon plus a handful of mozzarella to one half of the chicken breast. 5. Fold closed and place in casserole dish. 6. Top chicken with remaining pesto, cheese, and crumbled bacon. 7. Bake for 30-35 minutes uncovered.

  • Part 2: The 3 I's and Your Budget

    Welcome to Part 2 of the 3 I's and Your Budget! This post is focused on the I of Interest Rates! Much like inflation, interest rates have been a hot topic in the news for the last few years! Consumers generally want to pay low interest rates because that means lower interest costs! But what drives changes in interest rates? Why are they intentionally increased? And what does that mean for your budget? Interest is essentially the cost to borrow money. If you borrow $1,000 at an interest rate of 5% and it is due to be repaid in one year, then you have to not only repay the $1,000 but you also pay $50 in interest for that year. When you look at a simple example like this, the difference between a 3% interest rate ($30) and an 8% interest rate ($80) is only $50 but when you start applying higher interest rates to larger amounts of money being borrowed like mortgages and auto loans, it quickly makes a huge difference! Interest rates are essentially "set" by a committee within the Federal Reserve. This committee establishes the federal funds rate. The federal funds rate is the rate that banks borrow and lend money back and forth to one another. Of course, banks and lenders are going to charge a higher interest rate than they have to pay so that they can also make money on the interest. When the federal funds rate goes up, lenders increase the interest rate they charge. Let's look at a comparison of the federal funds rate over the last twenty years. (averages for the year) 2003: 1% 2005: 3.2% 2007: 5% 2009: 0.16% 2011: 0.11% 2013: 0.13% 2015: 0.13% 2017: 1% 2019: 1.55% 2021: 0.08% 2023: 5.3% (current rate) As you can see, in 2007 the average rate was 5% but had increased from just 1% 4 years prior. This rate increase was a driver for the 2008 financial collapse. Why? Nearly 30% of mortgages were variable rate (also called an adjustable rate) in 2007 so when the interest rates increased, the monthly payment on the mortgage increased. The monthly payments were no longer affordable within people's budget and they began to default on their mortgages. To make matters worse, many landlords had used variable rate mortgages and the rents they were charging weren't enough to cover the increased payments so the landlords defaulted. So why has the Federal Reserve intentionally increased interest rates over the last few years? Their goal has been to curb inflation (inflation was discussed in Part 1). Higher interest rates means the cost to borrow money increases but it also means the interest rate paid on investments like CD's and savings accounts increases. The incentive is twofold for consumers: 1. not to make large purchases since the cost to borrow money has increased and 2. to put their money into savings rather than to spend it. When people spend less they decrease the demand for goods and services which in turn (theoretically) will drive down prices. There can be numerous affects of interest rate increases on your family budget. If you are currently paying off credit card debt at $250 per month and the rate increases on the credit card then more of your $250 payment is going towards interest rather than the actual debt. If you are in the market to purchase a home when interest rates are high then the monthly payment that works for your budget is going to have less purchasing power. For example, if a $2,000 per month mortgage payment is right for your budget then with a 3% mortgage rate you can afford a $475,000 loan but with an 8% mortgage rate (current rate) that goes down to a $275,000 loan. That is a big difference in the house you are purchasing! Plus, if you are enticed to save more so you can earn the higher rate in those CD's and such, then you will decrease the other spending in your monthly budget. (This is also where the thought process of reducing inflation comes into play.) In Part 1 we addressed the high costs of certain budget categories, especially groceries and how they impact your budget. Your budget is like a puzzle. Every piece to a puzzle has an intended place. Therefore, when you put a puzzle together you use every piece. When you put your budget together, you want every dollar of your income to have an intended purpose. That purpose needs to maximize that dollar to the fullest which is why you want to be paying the least amount of interest possible so you can be utilizing the dollars towards essential items like groceries, your home, and savings. Information contained in this post is for educational purposes only and is not considered financial advice.

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