The Genius Blogger’s Toolkit (GBT) is something you can’t help but run across right now – whether you’re a professional blogger, other online entrepreneur, or do it only for the fun of it, the GBT is everywhere.
Now the question stands: is it because A) it really is that awesome or is it B) because everyone and their mom (myself included) are affiliates for them?
Answer: Mostly A, maybe a bit of B…BUT I say that with the disclaimer that honestly everyone plugs GBT because it REALLY is that awesome!
What is the Genius Blogger’s Toolkit?
The Genius Blogger’s Toolkit is this amazing bundle of e-courses, books, trainings, and more, all neatly wrapped up and sold to you at a WILDLY discounted rate. Now if you know anything about my blogging mentor programs, you know that I don’t automatically equate low price with low quality, but c’mon now — nearly $7,500 worth of products for less than $100? How can that be??
Well if you’ve read my review on Ultimate Bundles before, you know that they’re able to sell these bundles at a low cost for a variety of reasons, namely that they’re VERY limited in the times that they sell them and also because of people (like me) who contribute their products in exchange for a higher affiliate commission fee. It’s a genius business model if you ask me.
My First Experience with the Genius Blogger’s Toolkit
I first bought The Genius Blogger’s Toolkit three years ago, before I was an affiliate or even knew much about Ultimate Bundles! Along those lines, though, I do want to mention again that I am an affiliate for Ultimate Bundles and therefore links within may earn me commission at no additional cost to you.
With that out of the way, let’s get back to my first experience with GBT —
I knew within moments of landing on that sales page that I was going to make the $97 investment because I immediately recognized SO many big names with courses I’d been dying to check out, but ya know…money and all. And guess what? Not only are there dozens of “big names” back again this year, but the bundle is nearly TWICE as big (and still only $97!!)
Will I Use Everything in The Genius Blogger’s Toolkit?
The toolkit contains such a huge assortment of blogging related topics, from marketing your blog to avoiding burnout, and so much more. It can be pretty overwhelming at first, but believe me when I say it is incredibly fun to dive into. Now does that mean you’ll use each and every resource within the bundle? No, probably not. But that’s expected, right?
The idea isn’t that now you have 94 resources on your to-do list to work through. Rather, it’s that you have access to all the ones that make sense for you and your blog’s needs as you need them, but at a fantastic price. Some of these will be perfect for you immediately and others you might not come back to for a little while. But when you’re ready for them, you’ll be so glad they’re there. Plus, most people will find at least a few bonuses that are a great value for them, so that’s an additional perk on top of the products.
Genius Blogger’s Toolkit Review
Do I Lose Access to the Genius Blogger’s Toolkit eventually?
You’ll have these eBooks forever, and access to the eCourses for six months, so there’s really no rush. They also organize everything so well to help you figure out what to dive into first so you can focus in on the products that best meet your blog’s needs.
Isn’t all this information already out there for free?
While you can find some of this information from the various authors on their websites, in their podcasts, through their emails newsletters, and all the good stuff they offer for free, most content creators save their very best content for the products they sell (and understandably so).
For example, last year I was lucky enough to be selected to include my Automation Education course – something that I normally sell for $49.
Could you go through and piece together everything I have within my course? Maybe…but probably not. And regardless, it would literally take you hundreds of hours and MANY trial-and-error attempts to put together the strategies within my course. And that’s only one course.
Still not sold?
Oh hey, did I mention that not only will you get access to an absolute gold mine of information, but it also comes with a 30-day guarantee. If for any reason, you don’t feel the Genius Blogger’s Toolkit is right for you, simply email the Ultimate Bundles customer service team within 30 days for a full refund. How amazing is that?!
STILL not sold? Okay, how about if I told you that not only do you get access to all these goodies, but if you buy through my link, you’ll also get ANOTHER set of bonuses — a pitch-free strategy session with me PLUS a copy of P3 (the MUST HAVE business planner pack for 2020)!! That’s right — you’ll get everything in the bundle (again, that’s nearly $7,500 worth of products!) for LESS THAN HALF of what it’d cost you to JUST buy P3.
But you know you need it.
Act fast – this sale ends on Monday Oct 7th at 11:59pm!!!
Creating a healthy meal plan on a budget can be tricky. We so often have the best of intentions: we develop a meal plan(ish), buy our groceries, fist pump when we’re $16 under budget, and then suddenly your two year old is screaming, the baby has a rash, and making that Pinterest-worthy quiche for dinner is the last thing on your mind because McDonalds here we come!!
The guilt of feeding your toddler a Go-Gurt and cheeseburger for dinner doesn’t weigh as heavy as your eyelids from not having slept all week, so you brush it off and pray you get to bed before midnight tonight. You tell yourself you’ll do better next week. You’ll create a better meal plan that is healthy but that allows for some flexibility. This week was just a rough week. Next week will be better…hopefully…
But then next week comes and your budget is all out of whack because you went over your food allowance thanks to one too many “happy” meals and the produce you bought last week is now squirrel food and and AND….
Take a breath. I’ve been there.
Creating (and sticking to) a healthy meal plan can be tough when we’re constantly pulled in a thousand different directions and there’s only so many minutes in the evening to get things done. Fortunately I can help.
A few simple steps can be the key to keeping your family fed and healthy, and your wallet fat and happy.
(Please note this article contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission should you click through. This in no way impacts my recommendation of any products/services.)
How to Meal Plan on a Budget
Take Your Time Meal Planning
“Step 1: My TIME? Did you miss the memo about my lack of time??! Thanks, Amber…”
Stick with me, dear reader. If you’re creating a meal plan just before you go grocery shopping, you’re going to create a panicked, rushed menu that might be short-sighted or be missing key ingredients; suddenly it’s Wednesday, you’re supposed to have lasagna, and you don’t have marinara sauce or noodles.
One of the best ways to start your meal plan is to flip through your local grocery ads. This way you can craft your menu around the great deals being offered on produce or meat that week.
You should also take the time to consider what your kids will actually eat, what’s in season, and what day of the week your grocer creates sale prices. Often you can find meat or produce drastically marked down on a specific day of the week because it’s nearing the end of its shelf-life. This doesn’t mean it’s bad, but just that it’s nearing the time in which it can still be sold.
It’s especially important to keep an eye out for great deals on meat, because that can be frozen and used at a later date, and still picked up for half the cost of what it was just one day before.
Cook Once, Eat Twice
Cooking enough for your family is a given, but if you take five minutes to cook extra of the base ingredients, you can save yourself thirty minutes in the long run.
If you’re cooking a grain like rice or quinoa, or a big pot of pasta, it takes hardly any extra effort at all to toss some extra in and store it individually for a future meal. In fact, to get the most mileage out of the time spent cooking, you’re shortchanging yourself if you’re not getting at least dinner and a lunch out of your efforts.
In addition, cooking a large batch of a grain or pasta on a Sunday will leave you with a base from which to work later in the week for the meals on your plan. This cuts down significantly on the prep work for the weeknights, time far better spent relaxing with your family.
Put Your Leftovers to Work
Beyond simply increasing your portions for future meals, a good meal plan flows together as the week goes on.
Cooking a protein on Monday can mean that Tuesday’s dinner is already prepped. For instance, you can roast a chicken on Monday night then shred the leftovers, toss in some seasonings, and have chicken tacos on Tuesday!
This is a great way to make the most of the leftovers you have, even if reheating leftovers isn’t necessarily your thing.
A dinner meal plan that flows might look like this:
You also want to take into consideration what produce you can cut up ahead of time for multiple meals. For example, we make a vegan bolognese that incorporates a lot of the same veggies that go into korma so I often try to make those meals close together.
Cut once, cook twice!
Shop Locally, Shop Seasonally
I went looking for eggplant the other day and when I finally found it at the local HyVee, it was exceptionally expensive. I swear I just bought one for like $1 the other da….oh, nope, that was three months ago. Heh. Oops.
When I last bought eggplant, it was from the Farmer’s Market when they were at their peak and everyone had dozens of them for sale. When fruits and vegetables are in season, there’s an abundance, and what’s more you can get them from local farmers that are concerned about how they manage their produce. Normally you can count on food that’s not doused in pesticide, or eggs that are free range and fed normal feed instead of industrialized garbage.
Learning to find out what produce is in season is a great way to train your body to enjoying a wealth of different foods, not to mention how much better they taste than the tiny, off-season offerings we have at the stores now. If you’ve shopped for zucchini in the last few months, you know what I’m talking about – they’re tiny! I’ll wait until summer when they’re the size of small dogs and bursting with flavor, not to mention cheaper.
How Big is Your Chest?
Being able to freeze leftovers, extra meat you purchased on sale, or in-season produce can make all the difference when it comes to eating healthy on a budget. Not having enough freezer space can be quite costly, so consider investing in a chest freezer.
If you have the time, canning is considerable work with a wonderful payout, but again, there’s that catch – if you have the time. If you don’t, freezing can be a viable substitute for in-season fruits and vegetables that are plentiful and cheap. Buying in bulk, divvying up into containers or baggies, and then freezing produce is a great way to stretch those dollars.
Similarly, you can buy a lot of meat in bulk from local farmers (we’re talking a quarter of a cow!) for a great price and then freeze it all, using as you need it.
If you’re patient, you can usually find someone on Craigslist or a Facebook resale page selling an old deep freeze for cheap. It doesn’t need bells and whistles; it just needs to get and stay cold.
As I often recommend for many of those who have a harder time sticking to a budget, use cash. Figure out how much you’re going to spend on groceries per week and get to the ATM.
This allows for two things:
1. You can see exactly where your money is going in a way that using a debit or credit card doesn’t allow for.
2. It discourages impulse spending.
Keep a tally as you shop so you know whether or not you can actually afford that sweet treat or a six-pack (no, sadly, I do not count that as an essential!)
Know Where to Cut Back
We used to have a pretty insane food budget per week – $200 for our family of three (at the time). And we’d go over it sometimes! That’s pretty much the definition of insane idiocy!
Knowing we had to cut back (and quick!) we started first by developing a meal plan and tracking where our biggest expenditures were coming from.
Once we had a good grasp on how much we were spending and where we were spending it, we began by cutting it down a bit each week, and as of the time of publishing, we’ve cut it in half.
$75 for (now four) of us is much more palatable. There are still days we go over a bit, because having two little ones is nothing if not busy. That’s ok, though! At least the days of going over $200/week are done and gone.
Here’s how we cut back:
– We started off only cutting $20/week and saw how we had to adjust and what we were comfortable with/without.
– We changed the stores where we bought most of our food. Schnucks became Aldi and believe me when I say we’ve never looked back.
– We improved the quality of the food we eat, and by that I mean we cut out a great deal of the processed foods and replaced them with whole, natural produce, meat, eggs, and dairy that actually left us sated.
– We cut out impulse buys significantly by only using cash to make our purchases. Aldi is a two-fold boon here, because they only take cash or debit cards. It helps with this strategy.
As I mentioned above, we often buy a lot of our dry goods online, such as pasta, flour, and sugar. While your grocer probably has a lot of what you’re looking for, chances are it’s going to be more expensive than you need to pay.
An example of this would be quinoa – we use a lot in our household because it’s incredibly healthy, very versatile, and can be used in a huge variety of applications from savory to sweet, breakfast to dinner. Local stores, if they even have it, usually charge $5/lb+, but on Amazon, I recently bought a 10lb bulk bag for a little over $2.50/lb, and that includes shipping.
Of course you want to see your meat and veggies up close and it’s unlikely you could get those things online at a good price anyway, but buying bulk pantry items from Amazon.com is a fantastic way to stock up without burning a hole in your wallet. Plus they deliver straight to your door! Oh, how I love online shopping…(Don’t forget to use Rakuten and Ibotta to save even more!!)
Trying to cook elaborate meals when you have an infant and a toddler is like trying to catch a bunch of flies when you’re surrounded by bullfrogs; it doesn’t make sense. Your kids likely don’t care what they’re eating, if they’re eating at all, and your spouse is too busy going from odd stain to odd stain, deciphering if they’re spills or spit-ups, to care if your dinner looked amazing on Pinterest.
If you need to make a meal of jarred alfredo and rigatoni, with some frozen broccoli tossed in, then do it. It would only cost about $4 and would easily feed a family of four!
Sometimes you simply want a big salad for dinner, and you know what, that’s great! Salad comes together in minutes, can be full of healthy proteins, fats, and veggies, and can be incredibly cost effective.
My point is that homemade dinners don’t need to be elaborate or expensive. Like ever. Don’t stress about it.
Starting a new week with five new meal ideas, even if they’re simple, is a recipe (haha) for disaster. I’m not suggesting you never branch out to try new foods, but you should always have a good amount of solid, well-liked recipes in your repertoire so that you can pull an old standby out in a pinch. Remember how your older relatives always had actual physical recipe boxes? Use those!!
This also helps you easily gauge what you’ll need for leftovers or a flowing meal plan since you’re already exceptionally familiar with the ingredients and cooking involved.
Visualize Your Plan
Buy a magnetic white board, some wet erase markers, and stick it to your fridge where you’ll see it daily. From there, write down your meal plan so that everyone can see it, you are constantly aware of it, and there’s no surprises.
An added benefit to having it on a white board is being able to erase and adjust as needed. Just like having cash at hand when you go to buy groceries, awareness helps inform every decision you make, from purchase to plate.
This will go a long way to creating savings and efficiency in later meal plans.
Now go meal plan
This post isn’t exhaustive by any means, but it’s a great place to start if you want to cut your expenses and still eat healthy food.
If you focus on eating the majority of your meals at home, meals comprised of whole foods and minimal waste, you can improve your health and the health of your finances.
Remember, we’re not just trying to save money, we’re trying to save time so we can improve the quality of our lives.
Stuff steals your joy and suffocates your life. Do you believe this? I do. I’m on a mission to become weird.
Dave Ramsey says, “Don’t be broke. Be Weird”.
He suggests to look at what everyone else is doing and run the other way. The Joneses want stuff: cars, houses, furnishings, clothes, and the bills that pay for the stuff put a noose around their neck that one hiccup in life–an accident, a car repair, a broken appliance–leaves them “stuffocated”.
Nerdwallet says the average household is $135,924 in debt.
Bloomberg says $16,000 of that is credit card debt.
No. More. Stuff.
More than a year ago my family of four took a vacation and all of our needs fit into two backpacks. If we had taken more stuff we have checked bags and missed flight connections. We each had three or four sets of clothes and washed them in the sink and hung them to dry. We were minimalists and it was an experience that left us thirsting for more–I mean less–stuff.
Over the last eight weeks we have sold so much stuff. At the same time we put our house on the market to sell. Last week we closed on the sale. No one would have said our home was cluttered. Judgments say we lived simply. We didn’t pour additional concrete for the driveway or build a shop, or fill the house with furnishings. Simply to others felt “stuffocated” to us. We leased a 997 square foot 2-bedroom apartment for four people. The girls share a bedroom and we have a dog. No amount of downsizing prepared us for the transition. No matter how small our material goods are there was still too much stuff. We still have a few boxes of stuff to take to Goodwill, and we are 100% debt free. We are FREE! Here’s what we’ve learned.
Less stuff means more life.
Remember that backpacking trip? We can have great experiences like those more often. We can move quickly with less stuff, even be more spontaneous. There’s no house, yard, or anything else to maintain. We can go whenever we want, where ever we want to be. That thought alone leads to a lot less stress. Stuff doesn’t hold us back.
If your income comes from online sources the world becomes your playground. House sit for people around the world and your lodging and utilities are covered. Go have experiences stuff will never let you have.
My mom is a pack-rat. She still has my grade school worksheets. I recently convinced her to shut down a storage unit where she was storing stuff because it has cost her more than $5,000, for stuff that fit in her garage. My husband’s mom is a pack-rat. She doesn’t understand why we want less stuff when stuff can be handed down, passed around, or is generally useful. My Dad wants to know when I am coming to pick up my late Grandma’s china. It’s beautiful and I don’t have room for it. Dad chuckles when we talk about our next move. We get the, “Oh you kids…”. We’re in our 40’s, hardly kids, and this feels better all the time.
Shopping is fun, and what if having extra money leads to helping causes you care about. Start a foundation to touch people and needs with care. Do the work only you are meant to do.
I am not saying you don’t need to buy things. Plenty of people need a house. I think people need a place to live that doesn’t own them. For my family a house is a liability, not an asset. We move often. I wouldn’t call us nomads, but history says we move every 4-5 years. If that means selling a house in a downturned financial cycle then we have a lot to lose. Luckily, we sold our house while the market was high. Now we get to plan next steps. If you enjoy living in a house as part of the American Dream, that’s great. Hopefully the house fits your income. Dave Ramsey suggests no more than 40% of your income be tied to a house on a 15-year term, fixed rate mortgage.
You don’t have to furnish it with big box high priced things. Shop second hand if possible. You don’t have to furnish it with big box high priced things. Shop second hand if possible. Find Furniture sales in your area. Visit a garage sale. A little elbow grease and paint can make furniture or decor something you love with a great story. Tell your story.
Open your mind and be free
On Dave Ramsey’s program he allows people a debt free celebratory scream. “FREEDOM”! It’s based on William Wallace from the movie Braveheart:
Don’t you want freedom from stuff, debt, and clutter?
Tell us how you plan to become free in the comments.
Nicole, owner of WeTalkHealthy, lives a healthy decluttered lifestyle. Her main focus is as a health advocate and mom of 2 who studies food, and general wellness. It’s her mission to help you live a healthier life by learning about the dangers in the food you feed your family. Whether it’s meal prep or creative exercise without setting foot in the gym, you don’t want to miss her tips. Connect on Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or the Facebook group. Save
How many times have you tried to get your kids to eat healthy……only to have them refuse to eat the meal you worked so hard to prepare?
Getting your kids to eat healthy while staying within your budget is not easy. Getting your kids to LIKE the healthy and budget friendly food is an entirely different subject!
Kid Friendly Meal Ideas
Fear not, we’ve got healthier versions of popular comfort food recipes that children love! You can adapt the recipes by using tofu or chicken, and we have provided non-dairy alternatives as well. Even if you end up using tofu, chances are, your kids may love it so much, it may end up being their new favorite!
You might even find yourself stealing food off you children’s plate! Don’t worry, these low cost high-protein recipes are healthy, budget friendly, and perfect for the whole family!
A word about the recipes and measurements:
While recipes revolve around measurements, don’t worry if you use a little bit more or less of one ingredient. These recipes are adaptable, and you have plenty of options to make it an awesome meal. Substitute the ingredients to your preferences (dairy free and vegetarian options are included below).
In the excitement of cooking, sometimes we overlook abbreviations (this has happened to everyone at some point), so this is worth mentioning, even though you know this – a tablespoon often gets mistaken for a teaspoon, and vice versa. Remember, a tablespoon is abbreviated as “tbsp.” and a teaspoon is abbreviated as “tsp”. Check out the recipes, and pick the ones that work for your family, and you’re good to go!
Before you dismiss tofu, consider this- it is healthy, easy to prepare, and it can conform to any of your favorite recipes, from savory meals to dessert! Tofu chocolate mousse has been a favorite at dinner parties AND with kids. When my nephew had the tofu enchilada casserole for the first time, he loved it! Whether you are trying to use it as a meat substitute, disguise, or healthy alternative, tofu is worth adding to your next meal.
Tofu is less than $2 for a block, and one block can serve 2-3 people. Not only that, tofu is versatile, healthy, and easy to store.
You can use it in your appetizers, main dishes, and desserts. With only 60 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 5 grams of protein per 3 ounce serving, tofu may end up being a staple at your house!
The key to making tofu taste good is to properly season the tofu, use the right accompanying seasonings, and make sure the ingredients complement each other. Because tofu itself does not have much flavor or smell, you have to make sure the other ingredients are flavorful for a balanced meal.
Take a look below, pick out a few recipes your kids will like, and soon, you will be adding these meals, sides, and desserts to your meal planning rotation!
Tofu “Chicken” Fingers And Sweet Potato Fries
Tofu (or Chicken) Enchilada Casserole
Butternut Squash Whole Grain Mac and Cheese
Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes
Tofu Chocolate Mousse
No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecake
Tofu Tenders And Sweet Potato Fries
Remember, you can make this recipe with chicken or tofu. If you’re not feeling adventurous enough to find out whether your kids will eat tofu, stick with chicken. Sweet potato fries add a fun and unexpected twist to the usual chicken tenders and fries meal!
Serves 4 people
1/4 cup Gold Medal™ all-purpose flour OR ¼ cup almond flour
1C plain or Italian style panko breadcrumbs
(1/2 cup parmesan cheese OR ¾ cup roasted peanuts, finely chopped)
1 lb uncooked chicken breast cut into strips OR two 14 oz. packets of firm tofu
3 sweet potatoes, cut into vertical strips
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Cut the uncooked chicken breast into lengthwise strips. If you are using tofu, cut the
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, then spray it with cooking spray, and set aside.
Pour the flour into a shallow dish, such as a plate or shallow bowl.
In another shallow dish, beat the egg and water.
In a third shallow dish, mix the breadcrumbs (or almond flour or peanuts) and cheese.
Place the tenders on a cookie sheet.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes, turning once. While the tenders are baking, get started on the sweet potato fries (step 9). If you are using tofu, be careful when turning. If you are using chicken, cook until chicken is no longer pink in center and coating is golden brown. Once the strips are done, don’t turn the oven off- keep it at 425°F for the sweet potato fries!
If you haven’t already done so, wash the sweet potatoes and cut them into vertical ½ inch strips.
On a separate baking sheet lined with foil, place the sweet potato strips on a separate baking sheet lined with foil. Add 1 tbsp olive oil on top, making sure all sweet potato strips are properly coated.
Arrange the sweet potato fries on the baking sheet in a single layer, avoiding any overlap.
Sprinkle with cinnamon and kosher salt, if desired, or just season with salt, pepper, and your choice of seasoning.
Place the sweet potato fries in the over and bake for 25 so that they have enough space (avoid overlapping).
Bake until crispy. If the edges start to burn, take the fries out of the oven immediately.
Serve the tenders and fries with your favorite dipping sauce.
Cheesy Enchilada Casserole
Most kids love burritos, tacos, and enchiladas- you can’t go wrong with cheesy enchilada casserole.
Serves 4 people
3 cups cooked chicken, diced OR 3 cups diced firm tofu (be sure to press it with a paper towel before dicing)
18- 6 inch corn tortillas
2 cups red enchilada sauce (you can also substitute your favorite red salsa)
4 Tablespoons canned, mild green chiles, diced ( use ½ cup of mild green salsa if you prefer)
¼ cup onion, finely diced
3 cups Mexican blend cheese (you can use a blend of cheddar, jack, and colby- a blend of white and cheddar cheese- as long as you have this ratio, it is flexible)
1 cup black beans (optional)
Preheat oven to 350F.
Place 6 tortillas in the bottom of the baking dish sprayed with cooking spray, slightly overlapping the tortillas.
Top with ½ cup of enchilada sauce, spreading evenly over tortillas.
Top with 1 ½ cups of your chicken or tofu, 2 Tablespoons of onion, 2 Tablespoons of green chiles / green salsa, ½ cup black beans (if you use them) and 1 cup of cheese.
Repeat layer with six more tortillas, sauce, the remaining chicken or tofu, onion, green chiles, corn and another cup of cheese.
Complete the casserole with another layer of tortillas, 1 cup of enchilada sauce, and 1-1.5 cups of cheese. Bake in the oven for 30-40 min. Let stand 5- 10 mins before serving.
This is a healthy and tasty spin on a classic Italian dish- smiling faces and happy tummies!
2 blocks of firm tofu, pressed with a paper towel (two 14 oz. packets)
2/3 cup liquid egg whites or 3 eggs and 2 tbsp water
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs or almond flour
3 teaspoons dried parsley
1 jar marinara or meat sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
(optional: chopped basil as a garnish)
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Cut the tofu into chunks of your desired size. The larger the piece, the more careful you have to be to ensure it does not break.
Pat it dry with a paper towel to remove excess moisture.
Whisk the egg whites or eggs and water in a bowl.
Combine the dry ingredients (panko, parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper) in another bowl.
Add one pieces of tofu to the egg white mixture, coating both sides.
Next, dredge the coated tofu piece on both sides in the dry ingredient mixture.
Repeat this process until all pieces are fully coated.
Helpful tip: Use one had for the wet ingredients, and another for the dry ingredients.
Once coated, use the dry hand to arrange the tofu pieces on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Continue to repeat the process until each piece of tofu is breaded.
Place the baking sheet with tofu in the oven for 20 minutes. Flip each piece of tofu over and bake for another 20 minutes until golden brown.
Serve with marinara sauce and parmesan cheese. Garnish with chopped basil, if your kids like it!
For a side dish, chop up some veggies or serve with spaghetti pasta.
Butternut Squash Whole Grain Mac and Cheese
3 cups seeded and peeled butternut squash (cut into 1 inch cubes)
1 cup canned chicken or vegetable stock (preferably low sodium)
1 1/2 cups nonfat milk
1 package whole grain elbow macaroni
1 cup extra-sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated
4 tablespoons sprinkle parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons panko or breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tsp. Italian seasoning (oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary)
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 425 F.
In a medium sized sauce pan, sauté squash with olive oil for 6 minutes. Add the stock and milk, and bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to medium heat- simmer for 20 minutes (squash will be tender when pierced with a fork).
Remove from heat, add seasoning, and mash the contents in the pan. Once the mixture has cooled, use an electric mixer or put it in the blender.
Next, bring large pot of water to boil, and cook the macaroni according to instructions (usually about 8 minutes). Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add squash mixture, cheddar, parmesan to the bowl and combine, be careful not to break the macaroni.
In a medium sized baking dish coated with cooking spray, add the macaroni mixture. Layer parmesan and breadcrumbs on top of the macaroni.
Cover with foil, and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil, and continue baking until lightly browned and crisp on top, 30 to 40 minutes more. Serve immediately.
Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes
1 head cauliflower, stem and leaves removed, cut into small florets OR 2 8 oz. bags of cauliflower florets
1C (8 oz.) greek yogurt
1 cup (8 oz.) sour cream
1 tbsp Italian seasoning (basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary)
¼ cup bacon bits (optional)
¼ cup almond meal
¾ cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
parsley, for garnish
Pre-heat your oven to 425 F.
Cut the cauliflower into florets and remove the stems (if you have the bag of cauliflower florets, skip this step).
Steam the cauliflower or put it in a 2 large zip lock bags or a microwave safe glass dish and microwave for 6 minutes.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, mix the sour cream, greek yogurt, cheese, and spices.
Add the cauliflower and continue mixing until well combined. The cauliflower should be completely blended. (You can also use a blender in small batches, but it will be harder to blend because of the thickness. Also, if you use a blender, you will have to wait for the cauliflower to cool).
Place the cauliflower in a 9 x 13 casserole pan.
Dust the top of the cauliflower with the almond meal and parmesan cheese.
Bake in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the top is nice and toasty brown.
You can serve this as a side with a protein dish, or as a main dish if you serve it with a side salad or chopped vegetables (carrot sticks and celery sticks). Sprinkle with parsley, if desired.
Tofu Chocolate Mousse
Chocolate mousse is a delicious decadent dessert, usually made with eggs, and filled with calories- forget about eggs, complicated folding and the long prep time by making this indulgent yet healthy chocolate mousse that will help your kids be happy and healthy!
Serves 4 people
1C semi sweet chocolate chips (or ¾ cup unsweetened chocolate sweetened with the sweetener of your choice OR ¾ cup of your favorite chocolate bar chopped up)
1/2 cup warmed milk (you can also use coconut milk- the goal is to melt the chocolate, don’t overheat the milk)
1oz finely grated chocolate, or 2 tbsp chocolate chips, crushed in a bag
Microwave chocolate chips in 30-second increments, stirring each time, until melted.
In a food processor, puree the chocolate chips with warmed milk until smooth. Add the tofu, continuing to blend until smooth. The mixture will have a texture slightly thinner than pudding.
Pour the mixture into four serving dishes, and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes. Garnish desserts with finely chopped chocolate or chocolate chips, if desired.
No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecake
Cheesecake is a family favorite for dessert! You have to try this version-easy to make, no eggs, no baking, and less dishes.
Serves 4 people
1 12 oz. package strawberries, stems removed, roughly chopped *
12 ounces softened cream cheese, 1 1/2 (8-ounce) bricks * (see below for dairy-free option)
2/3 cup sour cream (see below for dairy-free option)
**Dairy Free Option**
If you want to go dairy free, omit the cream cheese and sour cream, and use 2 cans of coconut cream, with the water portion removed, and ½ a can of coconut milk- only add as much milk as needed to give the mixture a pudding like texture- be careful, otherwise, it will be watery. You can also use 1 8 oz. container of soft tofu mixed with ½ a small packet of Jello Cheesecake pudding mix
¼ cup sugar OR 6 packets Splenda OR ¼ cup honey (if you have another sweetener you prefer, look up the equivalent of ¼ cup of sugar online
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 sheets of graham crackers crumbled with vanilla, sugar, and salt OR ( low carb option: 1 cup almond meal, 2 tsp cinnamon, 2 tbsp coconut oil OR ¼ stick of butter, and 1 tsp vanilla extract)
In a food processor, process the graham crackers until it has the texture of fine crumbs. If you are using almond meal, you can skip this step.
In a medium bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs or almond flour, vanilla, sugar, and salt.
Pour the crust mixture into small ramekins, cupcake tins, cake pan, or a pie pan.
Pat the mixture into the container of your choice until firmly packed.
Roughly chop the strawberries and place in food processor.
Add cream cheese, sour cream, sweetener, and vanilla extract, and process until smooth.
Using a rubber spatula, fill ramekins or pie pan. Garnish cheesecakes with slices of remaining berries. Refrigerate for 15-25 minutes, but even if you don’t, it will still be ready to serve!
Meal Planning for Kids
Once you find a few recipes that your kids like (and your whole family likes), start working them into your meal plan. If you decide to go the tofu route, don’t draw attention to this “new ingredient” until your child gets a chance to try it. Just like us, kids have their preconceived notions of what is “yucky”! Depending on your child, you can be brave and just tell them its tofu up front, or tell them this is a new yummy dish, and watch for their reaction.
What is YOUR child’s favorite meal? Tell us about it in the comments below!
You may have noticed lately that ThriftyGuardian has had a LOT of guest posts and I promise it’s not because I’m getting lazy 😉
Rather (if you haven’t yet heard….)
WE GOT MARRIED! 😀
So needless to say, I had to bring a few friends to help keep ThriftyGuardian running while I juggled wedding planning + #thetoddlers + running my own business…easy peasey, right?
Well I’m happy to say that I’m back at it and I’m eager to share with you how I put together a frugal wedding that didn’t look frugal!
The Beginning of My Frugal Wedding Planning
When we finally picked a date, my first thought was of course about the budget (heh I can’t help it! Frugality is life!)
I knew I wanted to throw a wedding downtown, it was important to me that no one feel tempted to drive, regardless of how much they were or weren’t drinking. I also wanted to be able to continue the party at my all-time favorite bar (Floyd’s, for those of you who are local!)
When I brought up my plans to my maid-of-honor, she scoffed. “There’s no way you can throw a wedding in Springfield for less than $5k,” she told me. And after I spoke to a few other friends, I began to fear she was right.
The Right Place, The Right Time
As luck would have it, my MoH and I happened to head out for a girl’s night to a new(ish) place in town – Arlington’s Restaurant. As we walked in, I was immediately in awe — this place was GORGEOUS! And the food….oooh my goodness. I was in love.
And guess what?
Our waitress just happened to mention that the upstairs area was available for rent!!
Now not only were we lucky in that this beautiful space was available (I’ve recently heard they’ll well booked through January 2018!) but it fit well within our budget.
I was sold.
You’ve got the wedding venue – now what?
Once the wedding venue was booked, the hard part began. There were so many decisions to be made! Time frame, food, drinks, hotel block, colors, decorations…so much to do and I’d given myself only six months to do it!
Given that my entire business runs around my ability to be efficient, I knew the first thing to do was to develop that budget. Having a number in mind is great, but was it possible? Only one way to find out…
(Please note this article contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission should you click through. This in no way impacts my recommendation of any products/services.)
Developing Your Wedding Budget
To begin, set a budget that gives you a tiny bit of buffer, but not so much that you’ll be tempted to spend when you don’t have to. Again, my budget was $5,000 (with us ideally staying under $4,000!) If you’re getting ready to plan your own wedding, please take my advice when I say – do NOT Google average prices of various wedding components! For example, wedding flowers cost an average of $2,000 (!!) Ooph. No.
Figure out what you feel is fair/reasonable and go from there, adjusting as necessary but recognizing that adding to one area will pull from another.
Our original Wedding Budget was as follows:
Bridal Party Gifts
Now, I already know what you’re thinking – $150 for the bride?! $500 for a photographer?! Where’s the DJ??!
Well stick with me, we’ll get there…
Wedding Budget – The Clothing
I’ve never been a “big wedding, expensive white dress” kind of gal, so that alone really helped us in saving money while still giving us an end result we loved. I had two desires when it came to the wedding clothing –
1. I wanted to wear a petticoat. I love petticoats.
2. Henry (our 3 yr old) needed suspenders. He looks flippin’ ADORABLE in suspenders.
Now if you’ve never seen my first born, I need you to prepare yourself for the cuteness coming your way…
Crushingly adorable, is he not?
So my starting place involved petticoats and suspenders…how could I NOT do a Rockabilly/50s theme??
And because I’m a kind, wonderful bride (though maybe too kind…more on that later…) I had my bridesmaids buy the same dresses, but in a different color. Having spent nearly $200 on my own bridesmaid dress a few years ago, there was no way I’d inflict the same financial pain on someone else.
We lucked out with our daughter’s clothing, in that we happened to visit my mom when her local JcPenney was closing! My daughter’s dress cost us $7 and even with her shoes and the same set of pearls I bought myself, her overall outfit cost us $32 (original budget: $75)
For the men, we decided to keep things simple. They wore white shirts, black pants, and black/white Chucks. My husband’s and son’s clothing cost a total of $200 (original budget: $195) – a bit over budget, until we factored in Ebates! Ebates saved us an additional $22 and if you’re not yet a user of Ebates, sign up now to earn an automatic $10 (it’s literally free money!!)
Total spent on clothing for the family: $312 (original budget: $420)
Saving Money on the Wedding Venue
Thus far we were well on track to staying under budget, but food and drinks can add up FAST. Do you do an open bar or cash bar? Sit down dinner or a cocktail hour? Decisions, decisions…
Personally, I’m a beer drinker so if we were going to have ANY free drinks, it was going to be beer. With the guidance of our amazing venue owner, we went with keg beer and a soda bar, everything else being cash bar. And that would be my biggest tip here – TRUST YOUR VENUE OWNER! If you can’t trust the owner, you may need to reconsider where you’re doing business. Ideally your venue owner will be upfront and honest in what works and what doesn’t for your specific budget.
And as I mentioned earlier, our venue has absolutely PHENOMENAL food (heh and clearly I LOVE food!) so figuring out the best plan of action was a bit tough. We ended up going with a later wedding – a start time of 6:30pm – and doing a variety of appetizers (or “drunk people food” as I liked to call ’em). We did decide to provide dinner for the bridal party beforehand so they could eat in between pictures and the wedding, but even with that expense, our total venue cost ended up being right on the nose at about $2,000. So far, so good!
Do You Really Need a Fancy Wedding Cake?
I’ll be honest here – we could have saved a lot more on our wedding cakes than we did but uh…TOTALLY worth it.
Obviously the bigger/taller your cake, the more expensive it’ll be. We ordered “sheet cakes” (the prettiest darn sheet cakes I’ve ever seen!!) and got enough to feed 100 people. Total cost: $280
As with everything in wedding planning, you really have to decide what’s most important to you. Would you rather have a huge wedding cake that costs you $6/serving or something that actually lasts beyond the night – like photos or favors?
DIY Wedding Decor
I’m HUGE into DIY and crafting, so that went a long way in helping us save money in our “Misc./Decor” budget. Not to mention we chose a venue that was already gorgeous, so what decor we did need was minimal.
Rather than rent linens from the venue ($15/piece), I kept an eagle eye on our local Facebook resale groups. We were able to pick up all the linens and table runners we needed for only $8/piece and then resold them for $10! Not bad, eh?
We also found a ton of mason jars at a garage sale and I already had other necessities – ribbon, glue, and hot glue guns galore!
I did buy some submersible tea lights to glue to the top of the mason jars and then all I did to create the centerpieces was spray glitter inside the jars, glue flowers to the tops, and wrap some ribbon/pearls around ’em. I added a few butterflies in honor of my grandma who passed in 2001 – she LOVED butterflies.
I then used the extra pearl strands and ribbon we had to do some decor for the chair backs:
Can You Do Your Own Wedding Photos?
Our biggest budget-saver was when we decided to do our own wedding photos and I am SO glad we did. Now I’m definitely not discounting the benefits of hiring a professional photographer, but I love having saved so much money while also having full access to each and every photo taken that day. While there are a lot of reasons to hire a professional wedding photographer, I feel there were a lot of photos taken that would have otherwise been missed had we hired someone not familiar with our friends/family. So rather than spending $500+ on a photographer, we spent about $100 on a “thank you” gift for a friend who gave us over 500 BEAUTIFUL shots of our entire day.
Who else but a friend would understand my need to wear a poncho while eating a horseshoe??
We also decided to have a photo booth at our wedding and asked that everyone leave us a copy. We built a collapsible display board with chicken wire and everyone loved it. So not only did we have photos of our friends/family being fun and goofy, but everyone got as many favors as they wanted to remember this beautiful day. We even bought little butterfly clothespins from Amazon for only $10 – totally worth it!
Total cost for photographer/photo booth: $360 (original budget: $1,000)
Saving Money on Music & Wedding Flowers
When I first Googled “wedding flowers” and saw the average cost was usually $2,000, my heart dropped; that’s nearly half my budget!! Luckily I love gardening, so set aside some space in our backyard and went about our usual frugal gardening adventures. Unfortunately that didn’t turn out quite as it was supposed to (and legally I’m not allowed to say what happened…) but should you go the route of growing your own wedding flowers, take my word for it when I say you need to make sure no one will “accidentally” spray weed killer near your yard (*grumble grumble*)
Even if you don’t grow your own flowers, though, there are a number of ways you can still save money! We ended up using a lot of fake flowers and I simply cut and pieced them together to make our decorations and bouquets:
A few hot glue gun burns but totally worth it!
Then we stopped by our local farmer’s market on the day of and picked up a few bunches of live sunflowers – which we later had fun handing out downtown after the wedding to confused-but-happy bar friends.
In terms of music, we really had fun with that! Rather than spending $300-$500 on a DJ, I decided to do it myself…with a little help from our friend T-Rox:
Instead of a traditional “dollar dance”, we decided to encourage people to donate to our amazing DJ so he could fly first class back to the Prehistoric period (yes. seriously.)
All I did to DJ my own wedding was make separate playlists for each part of the wedding: music pre-ceremony, music during mingling after the ceremony, then dance music. Since I already own a microphone for my business, it was easy to record and plug in a few key pieces to keep the flow going as I wished. I used Raise to buy a discounted ITunes gift card (and Ebates saved me even more from there!) and even after I gave TRox his cut, we managed to only have to spend $70 on the music and I was able to guarantee the songs I wanted were played when I wanted them. This was probably my favorite part of the whole wedding shebang.
The Final Total
All-in-all our wedding total came in just under $4,000 (and that includes the honeymoon!) Obviously we could have cut corners even further, but I’m quite pleased with how it all came together and that we avoided hurting ourselves financially for one single event, even one as big as a wedding.
And we got to wear those petticoats:
If you have any questions (or want additional specifics on what we did!), please comment below!
I’d love to know your thoughts on our frugal wedding fun!
Today’s post is brought to you by Estefanía from Essentially Healed. Please note that these suggestions are simply that and you should always contact your doctor before making any changes to your exercise routine or diet. Thrifty Guardian in no way endorses the advice provided below.
(Please note this post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission should you click through to make a purchase.)
My name is Estefanía but you might know me as chefNia. I am honored to be sharing with you today here on Thrifty Guardian and grateful to Amber Temerity for the opportunity to shine some light on healing with you all. Let’s tell you just a little bit about me before we dive head first into 5 Ways To Heal Your Body Fast & Cheap!
I have lost 125 lbs all naturally by cutting sugar, flour and dairy out of my daily diet. Essentially Healed, my corner of the blogosphere, is my life beyond the scale! Through eHealed, I share healthy food recipes, fitness advice, weight loss motivation, essential oil healing, DIY projects, crafts tutorials, life hacks, travel tips, home decor and more.
There are so many different methods to heal your body from the inside out. I love anything that is inexpensive and quick to implement into my healthy lifestyle. It truly doesn’t take much but an ounce of determination and self-will to push forward to the end goal.
Beginning to heal your life is not an overnight process but there are certainly a few techniques that are affordable for you to start feeling better now and, if you truly want to, lose weight effectively. I can certainly attest to these five different steps changing my life over time. Today, I share with you five of the ways that helped me take the leap of faith to change my life for the better. One day at a time, you, too, can heal your body.
Here are 5 Ways To Heal Your Body Fast & Cheap:
From the very beginning of my weight loss journey, back in 2012, one of the first daily changes I made was implementing some morning lemon water. This was easy and cheap to do. How neat is that?
With just a couple dollars, I buy a sack of lemons every week at the grocery store. I use my handy dandy citrus squeezer to fill up mason jars with lemon water. Every morning, I open the fridge and grab one.
Lemon water is the first thing I drink every single morning and I can attest it is better than coffee. I still drink coffee but not on a daily basis anymore. I have seen tons of improvement in my overall health since implementing this simple, easy and tasty change.
These are some of the benefits of adding lemon water to your daily routine:
Assists weight loss
Boosts immune system
Balances pH levels
Hydrates lymph system
Now, who doesn’t want all of those benefits for the cost of a sack of lemons? For added benefits, I add raw local honey and ground cinnamon for my Warm Detox Drink.
Wouldn’t you want to start enjoying the ancient superfood that kept the Aztecs and Mayans alive and healthy for so long?
I have been using essential oils for a very long time now, about six to seven years. They have changed absolutely everything about the way I see healing. When I get a cut, I don’t reach for the typical “first-aid kit”. I grab one of my essential oil roll-on blends and heal myself naturally.
I am living proof that using high-grade therapeutic essential oils is a great way to heal your body inexpensively and rather quickly, too. If you don’t feel you have easy access to good quality essential oils, they are also available for purchase on Amazon.
These are some of the benefits of adding essential oils to your first-aid kit:
Fight cold/flu symptoms
Soothe sore muscles
Cure chronic acne
Heal skin conditions
Assists weight loss
Don’t you love the sound of that? And the list doesn’t even end there. This just merely scratches the surface of what essential oils are capable of.
About two or three years ago, I began looking for a supplement to aid for cramps, pains and headaches. I truly did not like or feel comfortable having aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen around the house to “cure” ourselves anymore.
These are some of the benefits of adding ginger caps to your medicine cabinet:
Heals the gut*
Cures motion sickness
Relieves menstrual cramps
Safe for pregnancy (!!)
High in Vitamin C
Decreases joint pain
* Ginger root is known to cure IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), colic, nausea or vomiting after intensive medical treatments or surgeries.
I certainly saved the best for last: Shakeology! This daily dose of dense nutrition has been one of the most recently incorporated piece to the puzzle of my healthy lifestyle. Reimplementing Shakeology in my meal plan has been the cornerstone of my success with the Beachbody On Demand workouts.
Shakeology is best used to replace one of your daily snacks or meals, for me a snack replacement is best. It comes in a ton of amazing flavors with Greenberry, Chocolate + Strawberry among the top three, they even have vegan flavors with Café Latte being one of them. Greenberry is truly my favorite!
The ingredients in Shakeology are all plant-derived agents that help the body to adapt or protect from antibodies including superfoods such as pomegranate, grape seed extract, green tea, maca root, goji berries, acai berries, yacon root, amaranth, camu-camu, sprouted quinoa, acerola cherry, bilberry, barley grass, blue-green algae, chia seeds (speaking of), chlorella, flax, hydrilla, spinach, spirulina, wheat grass, holy basil, pea fiber, papaya enzymes, ashwagandha and more.
These are some of the benefits of adding Shakeology to your daily diet:
Reduces oxidative damage
Melts fat away
Supports optimal brain function
Slows aging process
Signs of improved mood
Helps build lean muscle
Increased nutritional absorption
Stimulate growth of healthy bacteria
How else other than a daily dose of Shakeology can you get all of those macronutrients into your body in one single serving? You can work out every day & not see the full results if you’re not eating healthy, filling your body with the right wholesome foods and drinking plenty of water.
Using the 5 Ways To Heal Your Body Fast & Cheap can help get your body on the right path without forgetting Shakeology, the internal whole foods based drink that has been conditioning my body to be strong and healthy.
You don’t lose weight or begin to heal by starving your body of food but by only giving it the right food! In a nutshell, implementing these changes can curve the hunger, cut your cravings, boost your metabolism and heal your body through this tough journey that is called life.