Let’s Talk About Sleep

I was at work the other day, and inevitably as a night shifter, everyone’s sleep schedules became a topic of conversation.

I touched on my sleep scheduled a little while back in this post. I shared my sleep and workout schedule on a few nursing pages, and SO many people were appalled that I “only” got 6-6.5 hours of sleep in between shifts. Now, I do not disagree with these arguing 6 hours is not enough. However, after talking to some other people who work nights, I am confident that my sleep schedule is so much better than many other shift workers, especially if you consider that I also make time to prioritize working out in between shifts. I have recently been able to push my bedtime up a little because my commute time has decreased, so I have made it a goal to get closer to the 7-8 hours of sleep range if I can.

I’ve heard many people tell me they take sleep aids, or they stay up for 36+ hours after nights, so by the time they hit their bed they are in zombie-mode and just pass out. As someone who has worked nights for over 2.5 years, I can successfully say I have never used more than Melatonin (which I have used maybe a dozen times) and I rarely have days I can’t sleep.

Why? Because I take steps to ensure that I get good, quality sleep, and I prioritize sleep as much as I prioritize workouts and healthy eating. In addition, by striking an ideal sleep+exercise balance, you can limit caffeine intake and reduce stress, which also keeps cortisol levels at bay. This is key if you are trying to build muscle, and you can read more about cortisol and its effects on the body here.

Here is an interesting graphic on the importance of sleep:
unnamed.jpg

Some things I do to make sure I get QUALITY sleep, which is just as important as the quantity:

  • I have my iPad and iPhone set to turn to “Night Shift” at 0800. This switches the lighting from a blue hue to an amber hue, which helps the brain Business Insider published an interesting graphic on the importance of this, and I can say from personal experience that this has helped me fall asleep faster after I get off work.
  • Blackout curtains are also crucial. I am lucky in my new apartment that we have heavy-duty blinds and my apartment faces the courtyard so there’s less light anyway, but in previous places I’ve used even just simple blackout curtains from Target or Walmart.
  • Refrain from Facebook, Netflix, or other social media before bead. After a busy work night, your brain has a much harder time winding down when trying to engage in a show or on social media. Read a book or magazine to help your brain relax and wind down, or listen to calming music. This was another habit I had to break, but I noticed a huge difference when I did.
  • Make your bed extra comfy. Now, I am a bargain shopper to a fault. But I have found that having an excellent mattress, sheets, and pillows makes such a huge difference when it comes to sleep quality. I didn’t ever miss my bed as a kid (probably because my mom bought cheap “kid” mattresses). But ever since investing in a quality mattress, even the 5-star resort mattresses can’t compete with my bed at home. I’m super intrigued by this brand and may have to give their sheets a test drive soon (I’ll let you know if I do!).
  • Recognize that all night shifters have bad days. Some days, I don’t get off work until 8:30, so I sleep in and just do some mobility at home if I can’t get to the gym. Or my neighbor’s dog barks for 2 hours in the afternoon, so I call it a wash and drink some extra coffee. Regardless, it is consistency over time that makes a difference, so if you continue to rest and recover on every other day, the few bad days will not make a difference.
ti_graphics_how-blue-light-affects-body-1

Another handy visual on why blue light/electronic light is important to limit before bedtime. 

 

d3ce5ff03009975d17763fedce275d52

Tuition is PAID

Happy Friday! Not only is it almost the WEEKEND, but it is my personal favorite day of the week: payday.

Now, suprisingly, this isn’t because my shopping fund is refilled, or I can finally spend money on some fancy item I’ve been keeping an eye on. This is my favorite day because every Friday, I get to scrape a little more money off of our Debt Snowball.

I was also super excited to make our new board-but I may have to edit it since half of it was dedicated to tuition!


I’ve talked about Our Dave Ramsey Adventure before, and my last update was in October when we we hit $15,000 put towards debt for the year. I told you guys that our goal was to pay cash for Keaton’s spring tuition and we got so, so close to that! However, we had a LOT going on in January, and while we socked away as much money as we could, we just didn’t quite hit our goal by the time tuition money was due in February.

We had two options when we realized that we were short on our needed savings: take out a small amount of loans or enroll in a payment plan. Now, Dave Ramsey himself would probably have recommended a payment plan. However, I fully believe that half the battle to paying off debt is the mental game, and we are SO READY to start on our debt snowball, and I think we will really get rolling when we see those numbers go down every month.

Ultimately, we paid over $11,000 in cash for his school, which is $11,000 we don’t have to pay interest on! In a 10 year period that saves us close to $5,000 in interest at 6.8%! FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS SAVED!

945df3738fe7edb559aa2f3e6316cd23.jpg

 

Now, we have our Emergency Fund in place, so we are able to start on our main goal: paying off my student loans. If you remember, our goal time frame for this is October of this year. This is probably a little ambitious due to the fact that we also want to take a few small vacations and have lots of weddings to attend (and Keaton is in two of them), but we are determined to get it done as fast as possible! I started with around $33,000 in loans back in January 2015, and am down to $27,000 with just barely overpaying on the smallest ones, so I think now that we are focusing on one main financial goal we can EASILY pay down 2/3 or more in the next 6 to 8 months.

So today, I sat down, re-did our monthly budget using this form, and found myself with a renewed excitement for what is to come this year! Keep in mind, there is plenty of room for fun in our budget, but sometimes you have to re-focus and remember what’s worth it to spend money on, and how great you feel when you accomplish your goals.

70a79bb9c1ce39603ec751410ad49029.jpg

Here’s to hoping and praying that we can stay focused, Good Ole Bess keeps behaving, and we get a nice tax return to throw at our debt snowball as well!

How To Get Sh*t Done When You Have Literally No Time

Let me start off by saying, I’ve got it pretty easy. I have zero kids, and a super low maintenance cat. I work a normal full-time amount of hours, and I do not have any super-imposing life or family issues that I have to manage.

However, I am a big proponent of the idea that if you do not like your life–DO SOMETHING TO CHANGE IT. I have worked with far too many sick and dying people to ever not be appreciative of the time I have. You cannot always control what happens to you, but you can control how to adapt and change to handle it.

Okay, enough with the heavy, let’s get to the point of this post.

One of my favorite blog posts that has stuck with me for a long time is How To Have It All by Stacy of Real Everything Blog (formerly Paleo Parents). I think this stuck with me because it is so simple, and so honest.

So as someone who has worked hard to build a life I love, including travel nursing while being happily married and training for a bikini competition while on the road, here are MY tips to keep your life moving in the direction you want, even when you feel overwhelmed or like there just isn’t enough time in the day.

9f31a2d7ccccbca596b6bcf735ec9b07.jpg

My unofficial advice–supplement no time with lots of coffee 🙂

  1. Make a list of things you need to get done
    • Do this DAILY. Even if it’s just a mental list (although I think a physical list has a greater effect). On super busy days, write down these items. It takes 1-2 minutes and keeps you moving in the right direction.
  2. Prioritize your to-do list
    • On work days, my priorities go in this order: Sleep, workout, healthy food. I don’t plan on doing laundry, running errands, or getting much else done because I work 13 hours, which only leaves 11 hours for driving, sleeping, gym time, cooking dinner, etc. I wrote a whole post about managing night shift schedules here.
    • One thing to note: “Healthy eating” is last on the priority list not because I don’t think it’s important, but because I know in a pinch I can get decent options in my current assignment’s cafeteria at 12 am. This isn’t always the case overnight at hospitals, but I’m pretty lucky right now in that aspect.
  3. Stay off of social media
    • I recently made a pact with myself to only use Facebook on my home computer UNLESS I have a super slow night at work, or I’m uploading pictures from my phone. This. Saves. So. Much. Time. I feel more engaged and focused, and I spend less time stressing over current events, or just mindlessly scrolling. I check Instagram and SnapChat 1-2 times a day, but those don’t suck time as much as Facebook (for me anyway).
  4. Multi-Task
    • I got home from the grocery store yesterday, and before I even put the groceries away, I chopped up some veggies for meal prep and turned on the oven. Then, while the veggies roasted, I put the groceries away, and cleaned up the kitchen. A simply step, but otherwise I’d be waiting 20-30 minutes at some point anyway for my food to be done cooking. I do this all the time, and find ways to “stack” tasks to get them done more efficiently.
  5. Learn to Say “No”
    • Also very hard for someone like me, and this is something I still struggle with. My coach actually challenged me one week to say “no” to one activity each week and it was SO HARD. I want to be everywhere, do everything. I HATE missing out. But practice saying no, and take that time to finish something hanging over your head, or just relax for an extra hour or two.
e9b58087798ad735f31c59a0d36599f0

It’s quite simple, really. 

Overall, you just have to figure out how to stay focused. The people you see who juggle great careers, a healthy lifestyle, and still manage to have meaningful relationships aren’t blessed with a special superpower or the ability to pause time, they just know what they want, and they utilize their time to best make that happen. Look at what you want, and ask yourself if your actions are getting you closer to that, or farther away.

Cut out the fluff, and the dead space, and you’ll be amazed at how much you can get accomplished in the time you used to think didn’t even exist 😉

 

13732137_1762177674029242_1598333557_n

One Year Down

February 1st, 2016 was the day I started my traveling nurse career! It is just crazy to me to think that a year has gone by already.

Although I have been lucky enough to work locally for the last 6 months, I am so thankful for my husband’s support in my initial delve into this world. After working a very stressful job for almost two years, it has been refreshing to see new hospitals, meet new people, and learn new ways of doing things.

I feel like a little reflection is in order to better sum up how much travel nursing changed our life.

In the past year we have:

  • Paid down over $17,000 worth of debt. Our average monthly contribution towards debt/school tuition was $1458! That is more than one bi-weekly paycheck at my staff job.
  • Taken an amazing trip to the Dominican Republic, one to St. Louis to see Blink-182, and a couple trips to Ohio to see family.
  • Moved home to KC. This has been great especially with knowing we plan to be on the move for the next few years, so we’ve savored time with family and friends.
  • Bought and paid cash for two cars, including putting a new transmission in one of them.
  • I competed in my second bikini competition, which was mentally and fiscally taxing, but definitely a lot of fun.
  • Survived 4 total travel assignments, including a combination of day and night shifts, and 2 that were two hours from home.

Honestly, I cannot be thankful enough for these opportunities that were afforded through travel nursing. Prior to traveling, I was worn out, stressed out, and working tons of overtime. By earning more money for my time, I have allowed my marriage to prosper, and given myself more time to work on bettering myself as an individual, because I don’t have to work overtime if I want to have money to do something fun or buy a specific item.

Our goals for this year include me staying close until July or August when Keaton will take boards, then we plan to hit the road as a traveling duo 😉 We really don’t have a specific plan beyond that, but we cannot wait to expand our knowledge of the US and work on scratching off some states (and countries in between) from our travel map!

img_4492

Where will we go next?!

 

Keat and Me DR.jpg

Cheers to the next year!

 

How to Find the Right Recruiter For You

Hey friends!

So I am trying to do some sort of weekly “advice” for travel nurses. I am approaching my one year mark, and I feel like I have learned a fair amount in that time. I have worked with several different companies either as a contract worker or for per diem, and I have started to feel out what I really want to see in a company that I work for. The beauty of travel nursing is the flexibility to do what is best for you!

That being said, one of the key people who can help make or break your travel experience is your recruiter. This is your link to jobs, to your travel company. Your go-between for pretty much anything you need while on assignment.

However, for many people, this role looks very different. Each company and recruiter is different, so here are some key things to think about when deciding what “recruiter style” works best for you.

  • How much contact do you want with your recruiter?
    • Weekly? Monthly? Some recruiters may just check in at the beginning of the assignment and towards the end to see if you are ready to find the next one. In between, there is often no need to speak with your recruiter unless you have a problem.
  • What is your preferred method of contact?
    • Many recruiters rely on texts and emails to keep in touch with their nurses. However, this may not work well for everyone.
  • What role do you want your recruiter to play in your traveling experience?
    • While your recruiter is ultimately responsible for putting you in contact with specific hospitals, sometimes as a nurse you can put in some leg work as well. I often reach out to fellow travelers to find out about jobs in different areas, and I also look at travel company job boards to scout out potential placements. I will admit I am a teensy bit on the control-freak side, so this may just be me being a little over-involved.
    • Similarly, some companies will utilize your recruiter as your go-to person for anything: paperwork, schedule or time clock issues, etc. However, larger companies often have different divisions and departments that handle each individual component.
  • Can you trust your recruiter?
    • Too often on travel nurse pages, I get a very strong “Us Vs. Them” mentality when nurses are talking about recruiters. While some surely take advantage, most recruiters know it is mutually beneficial to keep an open an honest dialogue with their nurses. One thing I would not handle well as traveler would be catching my recruiter in a lie, and I believe that most of them would try to avoid lying for this very reason.
    • Pro Tip: When first looking into travel nursing, I got quotes for the exact same job from two different recruiters. When one low-balled me on housing, I called them out. Almost immediately she “miraculously” found some “extra” way to give me some money. The other recruiter was upfront and honest, and the housing stipend came close to the GSA standards for the area. Obviously, I went with the more straight-forward recruiter. The shady one could have cost me an extra $600 a month in tax-free money if I had not asked the right questions and compared packages.

In the end, your relationship with your recruiter is similar to a business partnership. As nurses, it is such a blessing to have the opportunity to work ANYWHERE in the United States and its territories, but without recruiters this would be much more difficult. When beginning as a traveler, I encourage you to ask around for other travelers’ experiences, make phone calls, and compare different companies to find the right fit for you. Because we have the flexibility to do what’s best for us, do not hesitate to find someone who you can work with easily and who is supportive and listens to your plans and goals.

Happy adventuring, friends!

What We’re Eating This Week + Aldi Haul

Hey lovely people reading this post! Whew, this week snuck up on me! We had a busy busy weekend, but also had lots of fun. I normally try to grocery shop on days I don’t work, but Sunday morning just called for laziness, so I slept in till noon so I could get up, get to the store, and workout before heading to work tonight without needing to sneak in a nap.

This week I knew we needed lots of staple items for the pantry, so I decided to make the trip to Aldi instead of HyVee because I can get much more bang for my buck. And I got a TON of stuff! I am still focusing on using the protein we already have on hand, so I didn’t buy much in the way of meats, which helped keep costs down. Our freezer is overflowing with the ham I got on super sale, and meat from our Local Pig boxes. These posts have definitely kept me accountable when sticking to my budget, and I am thankful for that! I have a tendency to throw lots of random stuff in my cart at Aldi, but this week I knew I had to report back so I didn’t as much 😉

Here is what we are eating this week:

The recipes I am using for inspiration are some of my staple recipes I’ve used over the years.

  • Pizza Spaghetti Pie is hands down one of the most delicious recipes I’ve ever eaten! And you can throw almost anything in it, and you get lots of veggies! Win-win. I usually sub some of the whole eggs for egg whites just to keep fat a little lower.
  • I’ve never made ham and beans solo before, so I found this recipe I plan on letting sit in my crockpot while I sleep tomorrow!
  • I am re-using the Cracklin’ Chicken recipe I used last week, because it’s easy, delicious, and we have chicken thighs in the freezer.

After making it through Aldi in record time, I came home with this spread:

  • 2 Packages Lunch Meat (I buy the nitrite/nitrate free kind): $6.58
  • Mixed Salad Greens: $1.99
  • Frozen Broccoli: $1.19
  • Frozen Green Beans: $1.59
  • Ciabatta Rolls: $2.49
  • CrockPot Sauce Mix: $1.99
  • 2 Dozen Large Eggs: $1.72
  • Peanut Butter Crackers: $0.89
  • Low Fat Cottage Cheese: $1.79
  • 6 Greek Yogurts: $3.90
  • Cheez-It Grooves: $2.59
  • 4 Cans Tuna: $2.60
  • K Cups: $4.99
  • Brioche Buns (Aka “bread” for lunches): $1.99
  • Alfredo Sauce: $1.69
  • Coffee Creamer: $1.79
  • 2 Jars Tomato Sauce: $3.98
  • 2 Pounds Dried Beans: $1.99
  • Yellow Potatoes: $2.99
  • Stevia Packets: $2.99
  • Turkey Italian Sausage: $3.69
  • Pineapple Cups: $1.69
  • Protein Bars (new product-we’ll see how they taste!): $5.99
  • Croutons: $0.89
  • Bag of Onions: $1.79
  • Sweet & Salty Bars: $1.49
  • 2 Boxes of Jiffy Corn Muffins: $0.94
  • Frozen Asparagus: $2.29
  • 1/2 Gallon Skim Milk: $1.05
  • Goldfish Crackers: $1.89
  • Frozen Strawberries: $2.09

TOTAL (with tax): $82.31

I may be a little biased, but this just seems like a TON of food for $80! I also only ended up with a few things not on my list:

  • Mixed Salad Greens (on sale, and we can eat them as a side for the pasta and the spaghetti pie)
  • Crock Pot Sauce Mix (it looked yummy, and was an easy fix for my pork shoulder for Friday)
  • Stevia (an item I have forgotten for the last 3 weeks to restock)
  • I also ended up with Cheez-Its and Goldfish, but I found the Cheez-It’s on an end cap, and Keaton prefers those better, so I just bought both. I knew by my mental tally we were under budget, so I decided to go for it.

4 items again this week, not too bad! I did better about remembering what Keaton needed for his lunches 🙂 

Sorry this post was a little late this week 😬 Time is flying lately!

Weekly Meal Plan + Grocery Haul + A Local Pig Box

Hey everyone! Hope your weeks are you well so far. I happily survived #WinterStormJupiter [insert We Will Rebuild meme here]. I am working an extra shift this week and wanted to be well-prepared before my work week started, so my main concern was if there would be any food left by the time I braved the store Sunday.

I am happy to say HyVee was well stocked Sunday night, albeit a little low on bread. I got a lot of stuff this week, and still stuck to my budget! I have to say these posts are really keeping me accountable 😉 We also picked up our Local Pig box today so I’ll share our biweekly goodies as well!

I factor the box into our budget for the week, but we still have a lot of leftover meat in the freezer, so I actually based our meal planning around that, and I’ll use this week’s box for meals next week.

Here is my plan for the week:

Cold weather has me craving soups!

Recipe-wise, I used the following for inspiration (although I rarely follow directions well, and make some tweaks as I go):

Aaaaand based on that, the meat we have on hand, and leftovers from last week, this is the grocery list I came up with:

I’m trying to make it more visually pleasing for you guys ❤

And the final haul:

 

  • Coffee Creamer: $2.99
  • 4 Light & Fit Yogurts: $4
  • Dozen Large Eggs: $1.89
  • Half Gallon of Skim Milk: $1.89
  • Frozen Broccoli: $1.34
  • 2 Bags Frozen Cheesy Rice & Broccoli: $2.66
  • 2 Cans of Tuna: $1.58
  • Corn Tortillas: $1.68
  • Dill Relish (instead of pickles): $1.49
  • Pineapple Cups: $2.19
  • 2 Cans Diced Tomatoes: $1.34
  • Whole Wheat Rotini: $0.77
  • Wheat Bread: $1.28
  • Sweet & Salty Granola Bars: $2.50
  • Life Cereal: $2.50
  • Reduced Fat Cheez-Its: $2.50
  • K Cups: $5.99
  • 3 Quest Bars: $6.27
  • Reduced Fat Cheddar Cheese: $2.48
  • 2 Tubs of Lunch Meat: $5.98
  • Tortilla Crusted Tilapia: $6.02
  • Celery: $1.48
  • Bell Pepper: $0.99
  • Baby Spinach: $2.50
  • Roma Tomatoes: $.074

Total: $68.37 with taxes

So grand total for extra from last week ($21.53) and this week ($16.63) is $38.16!

Which as it works out, is perfectly planned to cover our Local Pig Box, which came to a total of $36.87. And here is what we got:

img_4370

  • 4 red wine Italian sausages
  • 3 chicken thighs
  • 16 ounces beef sirloin steak
  • 16 ounces pork shoulder
  • 8 ounces of roast beef
  • Chorizo stuffed pepper (not pictured)
  • Chili ginger vinegar

Now, let’s go over the items I purchased that were not on the list–were they necessary? Or just an impulse buy?

  • Whole Wheat Bread
  • Cheez-Its
  • Sweet & Salty Granola Bars
  • Tortilla Crusted Tilapia

Technically, the tilapia was an easy dinner for Sunday night, since I didn’t feel like cooking after I got home from the store. And the other items were all items I had forgotten to add to the list for Keaton’s lunches. So, based on last week’s off-list items compared to this week’s, I’d say I need to be better about remembering my husband’s lunch items before I get to the store 😉 Poor guy has to eat too!

All in all, I’d say I did pretty good this week! We have a pretty awesome menu coming up, and I cut down from SEVEN extra items to just FOUR. Improving a little bit at a time 🙂

So, any tips for how to streamline my grocery shopping? Super saver ideas I don’t know about? Easy and delicious recipes I need to try? Let me hear them!

 

 

 

126472f066741be635135185e12775b6

5 Tips If You’re Considering Travel Nursing

Happy Saturday everyone! I’m just sitting at home, watching the Bachelor, and waiting for this crazy winter storm to maybe sort of hit? Although we did have a fun time getting our car up a hill in a parking lot last night, I have yet to see anything worthy of this freak out yet:

Bread & Milk

Anyway, I will say it’s been a productive weekend so far. I worked out yesterday and did some back squat and toes to bar work, which should also help with pull up improvement! And we have already tried TWO of the KC Restaurant Week menus. Le Fou Frog and Brown & Loe were both BOMB.

Okay, so on to the actual point of this post! I am approaching my 1 year anniversary of travel nursing. Which seems a little crazy, but it has seriously flown by. Even traveling just around the state, it has been so interesting to see the different ways each hospital is run, to meet new people, and to learn something new with each assignment. Travel nursing was sort of a knee-jerk decision for me, which is unusual, but I do not regret that decision for a second.

That being said, there are definitely a lot of people who are terrified to take the leap. I have had lots of people message me asking about how to get started, so I wanted to do a little post with some information I think is the most important to consider before getting started.

Tip 1: Reach out to people you already know who work as travel nurses

  • I started by talking to the travelers working at my permanent job. There are lots of tips and tricks of the trade, and everyone has different preferences in recruiter style, pay packages, housing options. There isn’t necessarily a wrong way to do things, but by talking to lots of different travelers you can put different opinions together and feel out what works best for you. I would also suggest getting the names of recommended recruiters from different people and compare pay packages at different jobs to see if you are getting taken advantage of. Typically, pay rates for a certain job should be about the same no matter which company you go through, so if one pay package is significantly lower, someone may be trying to take advantage of you as a “newbie”.

Tip 2: Pick and choose which recruiters to give your information to.

  • One of the first thing I did when I was considering traveling was to sign up on several travel company websites. The problem with this is you end up getting tons of cold calls, emails, and texts from random recruiters trying to “sell” you an assignment. Recruiters quality can vary a lot, so I would not recommend just listening to any recruiter who happens to call first, or who throws out the biggest numbers. Also, if you don’t want to field random phone calls for (essentially) forever, do not give your number out unless you are really interested in that particular company.

Tip 3: Research tax implications

  • Let’s face it, some travel companies are just in it for the money, and a recruiter may tell you inaccurate information about what you can and cannot receive tax free. While one of the best ways to make money in travel nursing is to utilize your stipends in the smartest way possible, it is also important to follow IRS guidelines in order to correctly follow the rules that go along with tax free money.
    • This site has a lot of free information directly from a tax professional.
    • The actual IRS code explains the legal rules regarding a “tax home”, but in general it is a good rule of thumb to make sure you’re paying rent or a house payment at home and traveling an hour or so to work each day.
    • GSA rates are important to know as well: AKA how much money the government says you should be allocated for housing. You often won’t get the maximum amount available, but you should get close!

Tip 4: Decide if you want to travel for money or location

  • Often times, the best money isn’t in the best locations. Florida and Colorado are some hot spots to travel to, but often do not pay the best. Similarly, it may be smarter to travel somewhere less exciting if you have family or friends you can stay with and save money on housing costs while you are there. Coming from someone who hasn’t traveled to the most “exciting” locations, I will say I still 100% recommend traveling. You get to meet new people, see new places. You don’t get wrapped up in work drama. And you will likely make 50-100% more than your income at a permanent job.

Tip 5: Just go for it!

  • This sounds so corny, I know. But forreal, I came home mad at my job one day, picked up the phone, said “Go” to my recruiter, and never looked back. 24 hours after that, I had my first job, and 3 weeks later I hit the road! I did take the safeguard of staying PRN, but after my first assignment, I let that go as well. This is a hard career to understand until you’re part of it, but I honestly think I’ll have a hard time ever going back to a regular job now. My income has increased, I get to dictate my vacation time, and my work-related stress is minimal. Thanks to travel nursing, we put over $17,000 towards debt last year, and took a couple awesome trips.

I’m so glad I took the leap to change my life a year ago, it was definitely the best angry decision I have ever made 😉 Feel free to message or email me if you have any questions, or tips of your own! I have recruiters for 4 different companies I have personally worked with as well, if you’d like any direct contacts 🙂

5185ed73ff114ddd617e8528f61af7da.jpg

With love and dream chasing,

❤ Alex

 

 

What We’re Eating This Week + Grocery Haul

Hey friends! So this weekend was AMAZING. Another friend who turned 25 yesterday and I got 14 of our friends together for a spa weekend. Lots of drinks, lots of food, lots of laughter. Truly a weekend to remember.

Then I came home and I was all pumped for yesterday. I had Monday off which meant time to get my life together for the upcoming week. I had time to clean, time to do laundry, time to meal prep, time to blog. False. It was they Monday-est Monday ever and I got almost nothing completed that I had planned. So here we go, starting again today.

This is a post series I have wanted to do for a while. I am going to try to do weekly meal plans and share what I bought for the week as well. I have written before about our grocery budget and how we eat healthy for $75 a week. We did actually slightly increase this budget to $85, just as a disclaimer.

Anyway, I wanted to give some examples of how we do this, and make myself have a little accountability!

Every week I start by assessing what I have in my fridge/freezer/pantry. With the holidays and being out of town quite a bit in the last month, I have a lot of meat stocked up in the freezer. We get a bi-weekly box of meat from The Local Pig, so there was a good variety of beef, pork, and chicken. We also had plenty of snack-type items, and some frozen veggies.

Based on my protein choices, this was the meal plan I came up for the week:

IMG_4325.JPG

I got this cute board at Target for $3 in the bargain section! It works super well for writing out our meal plan. For lunches, we pretty much eat leftovers, or Keaton will do sandwiches. Breakfast is usually a couple of eggs or toast, so I don’t typically “plan” those two meals, I just make sure to always have lunch meat, bread, and eggs.

Next, I worked on the grocery list:

IMG_4326.JPG

Pretty simple. And I did end up going off the list a little bit today, but we’ll get to that later 😉

Once I get to the store, I really try to stick to the list. Occasionally I’ll pick up a few sale items if I have room in the budget, or if there is a great sale.

For example, today I found whole hams on sale for 99 cents PER POUND. That was $10 for a huge amount of meat, and I can cut it up and freeze it for soups, breakfast, sandwiches. It’s super versatile, this week was a short list, so I had plenty of room in the budget.

The key is to really think about those “extra” items and if they make sense, or if you will truly use them. Greek yogurt had a pretty good sale of buy 10, get 5 free. But $10 is a pretty large chunk out of our budget, the yogurt expired fairly quickly, and we don’t eat that much of it. So I skipped that particular one.

Here is a breakdown of my final purchases:

IMG_4330.JPG

  • Fat Free Cottage Cheese: $1.83
  • Dozen Large Eggs: $2.39 (thought I grabbed the sale ones, apparently not!)
  • 7 greek yogurt cups: $7
  • Green Mountain K Cups: $6.49
  • Sparkling Water (not pictured): $3.79
  • Decaf K Cups: $4.99
  • Hamburger buns: $1.49
  • 3 Mini Detour Bars: $4.17
  • 11 pound Spiral Ham: $10.96
  • Sliced Cheese: $2.50
  • Lunch Meat: $3.49
  • Bolthouse Ranch: $4.99
  • Broccoli: $2.50
  • Russet Potatoes: $2.50
  • Sweet Potatoes: $2.01

TOTAL: $64.27

$21.53 under budget!

This week I actually planned to be under budget. Next week we will pick up another Local Pig Box, so that’s an automatic $40 out of the budget. We also stocked up on snacks at Aldi last week, so I didn’t have to buy too many things for lunches this week.

Now let’s look at the items I purchased “not” on the list (we’re going for accountability here as well!)

  • Sparkling water
  • Detour Bars
  • Hamburger buns
  • Ham
  • Cheese
  • Ranch
  • Broccoli

If I am 100% honest, this is not too bad for me. The bars and sparkling water I had thought of on my way in, and didn’t write down. The buns and cheese are for Keaton’s lunches, so also just another item I forgot on my initial list. So really the ham, broccoli, and ranch were the main “extras”. The broccoli was on sale as well, and the ranch had a sale sticker, but I think it must have been for credit card holders. I need to pay better attention to this, because it’s a new tactic of HyVee. The key is to not let these impulse items blow your budget!

One main tactic I use throughout my shopping is to physically stop and total the items in my cart before I decide if I should “splurge” on a sale item I didn’t initially need. I may look silly standing and counting in the middle of the store, but if you just throw items in without mentally totalling your bill, you’re likely to get a surprise at the checkout. Also, if I know I have a bigger list for the week, I’ll take the extra time to drive to Aldi because the savings are REAL there, people!

My last tip if you’re struggling with your grocery bill is: BRING CASH. Physically leave your debit card at home. You don’t know pressure until you know you have to pay with the exact amount you have in your purse. This is what I did for the first year we tightened our budget, and I was the best at sticking to it back then.

So, any tips or tricks I missed? Things you find helpful at the store? Next week I’ll share our Local Pig box plus our grocery buys so you can see how they all fit together into our budget!

 

 

 

2016 Reflections + 2017 Goals

Wow. It’s been TWO MONTHS since my last post. Sorry for the radio silence, it’s just been busy around here. New job assingment, trip to Ohio for Thanksgiving, Christmas activities the whole month of December.

But, I did want to do a quick post (probably more for my own accountability than anything else) and share my goals for 2017 and focus on some of the positives from 2016.

2016 was a long year. Lots of changes, but also lots of growth happened. Here are some of the positives for the year:

  • I started travel nursing and worked my way through 3 assingments (currently on my 4th contract!)
  • I prepped and competed in a 2nd  bikini competition
  • We really got the ball rolling on Our Dave Ramsey Adventure
  • We purchased two “new to us” cars without taking out any loans
  • We moved home over the summer
  • We took a vacation to the Domincan Republic
  • Keaton started his final year of PT school/clinicals
  • I started CrossFit again (one of the hardest things to mentally start back up, but I’m so glad I did)
  • I had a Christmas off (FINALLY) to enjoy with my family

All in all, not a bad year! There were lots of ups and downs, and lots of stressful moments and decisions.

Last year, I didn’t write down any goals. I had a rough idea in my mind of what they were, but I do agree with people who say writing down goals is important. I tried a goal board and was terrible at updating it. So here is my list of goals, forever burned into the Internet, to keep reminding me what I’m working towards this year. I’m also going to categorize them, because I’m a little OCD like that.

f73423aecd5e3b61be9e03e6c1cd7ada.jpg

Financial Goals

  • Pay at least $20,000 towards debt
    • I owe about $27k in student loans, so I’d love to get all of this done paid off. But we have a lot to pay for this Spring so I will start conservatively 🙂
  • Stick to my grocery budget better
    • This has been creeping up slowly, I know I can get my bill down, I just need to plan better. Also, I plan on doing some grocery shopping posts!
  • Start saving for a big vacation for next year
  • Start saving for a newish car (love Bess, but she won’t last forever)

Fitness Goals

  • Unassisted pull up
    • Upper body is THE WORST. Overall my overhead strength is something I need to work on.
  • 200 pound back squat
    • My form is really lacking from 2 years of lifting solo, so I’m hoping I can improve in strength+form this year
  • Workout at least 3 days per week EVEN if we’re on vacation, moving, etc. I managed this during the week of Christmas which almost never happens and I felt so much better. On normal weeks, I’m shooting for 5 days.
    • Side note: Loving PaleOMG  for some on-the-go CrossFit style workouts
  • Utilize macros to calculate my own numbers for a slight cut this Spring. I’ve been on a caloric excess for awhile and don’t have a “goal weight” per se, but I’d like to decrease my body fat closer to where it was over the summer.
  • Drink more water- at least 1/2 my body weight in ounces

57a48f16a522629345a9cb4bebb50411.jpg

 Personal Goals

  • Post twice a week on here.
    • This is a pretty hefty goal because I haven’t been the most regular, but I am going to try to utilize timing my posts more, so I can write several on my days off and time them out for the week. I would like to shoot for Monday and Wednesdays.
  • Read 12 books.
    • I’m currently working on the Outlander series, but I may take a break and read some others as well. Any suggestions appreciated 🙂
  • Take my CPN test (Certified Pediatric Nurse)
  • I’d really like to try this More Social, Less Media experiment. It’s like a Whole30 of the technology world. I find myself time-wasting on social media SO MUCH
  • Stay more up-to-date on politics and world events. If I’m going to look at a screen, I would rather have it be useful time.
  • Schedule date nights every week.
    • We got really good about this for awhile, but got away from it and we really enjoyed them when we did them.
  • Complete an out-of-state travel nurse assignment.
    • Keaton graduates in May and takes boards in July so, come August, we’re hitting the road hopefully!
  • Travel more.
    • This was hard with Keaton’s school, but if we do travel nursing/travel PT, this should happen by default. Some places on our agenda so far: Dallas and St. Louis (for weddings), California, and a short trip in May before boards studying begins. Thinking Hermann, MO or Colorado.

I think those are the big ones! I may come back and reflect/update these as time goes by. Of course, goals may change as life changes in the upcoming year, and as we know it’s hard to predict just exactly what is going to happen over the next few months. No matter what, I have high hopes for 2017 and some big goals.