Booking a Vacation? 6 Money Saving Hacks for Ballin’ Out…On a Budget.

Lifestyle

Happy Thursday, my friends!

Let me just say, ya girl here, is about to save you some serious cash on travel. As I sit planning our family’s annual pilgrimage to Orlando, it occurred to me that I have gotten pretttty dang savvy over the years when it comes to saving moolah while vacationing.

For those of you eye-rolling that we go to Disney year after year…yes we are total Disney freaks, yes we are all adults, yes we have gone to this magical world for the past consecutive 20 years… and yes, there is no end in sight. If you too are a Disney person, you get it. If not, it’s not just for kids, OK???? Oh yeah, and we are TOTALLY ‘that family’ who goes decked out in cheesy outfits to boot! …the proof is in the pudding….see below.

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Back to my original point: Any way you slice it, vacations are freaking expensive. I am a bargain shark and wanted to share some tips to save you the big ones, without compromising on trip necessities. We ALLLL want to feel like divas on vacation. What if I told you this was possible without taking out a second mortgage on your home?….keep reading, I got you fam.

*note: this is not a sponsored post (I wish it were though!…..). These sites are simply my personal favorites and have worked for me, so I am passing them along.

 

1. Groupon Getaways

You guys. I went to IRELAND for 8 days using Groupon Getaways. Oh and it was only $750.00 bucks…total. Yes, rub your eyes, you did read that correctly. This vacation package included round-trip flights from Chicago to Dublin, 7 nights in various 4 star hotels (which included breakfast), and a flipping CAR for the entire trip. Are you kidding me? Groupon, I’m not sure how you do it…but if it weren’t for you…I sure as hell wouldn’t have been able to afford Ireland.I am eternally grateful.

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I also went to Cancun for $500 dollars two years ago using Groupon Getaways. This trip was 5 nights/6 days. The $500 dollars covered our stay at a nice beachfront all-inclusive resort (unlimited food & drinks), and round-trip flights from Milwaukee to Cancun. Once again, SUCH a deal.

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I know many people are nervous to try something like Groupon Getaways in fear that it could be scammy, but seriously it’s legit. I will continue to use GG for many, many, trips in the future. Give them a chance to save you money while providing the vacation of your dreams.

Pro tip: the regular Groupon site has tons of discounts for spas, and activities too. Once you figure out your destination, snag a Groupon for spa services or a cool activity in that area. Just be sure to book your service/activity wayyyyy ahead so you are able to redeem it while on vacation.

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2. VRBO

VRBO or, Vacation Rentals By Owner, …is… in short- fantastic.  Individuals who own a timeshare, condo, or home are able to rent out their pad when they aren’t using it.

Our family uses this site for our trip to Orlando every year. Being the creatures of habit that we are, we always stay at the same resort. VRBO mostly rents out in increments of a week at a time, but we have found the owners to be incredibly kind and flexible too. The rates the owners charge are much lower than what the hotels/condos would charge per week when booking directly through them. 

VRBO is especially great for families. A condo is a must whenever we travel, because we enjoy the luxury of having a kitchen and multiple bedrooms/bathrooms. You will also save big on food when vacationing condo-style. Having access to a kitchen = no need to go out for every. single. meal. #winning. VRBO-logo

3. Restaurants.com

I love to eat. There I said it. I LOVE TO EAT. Especially on vacation. The more, the better. You won’t find me waking up for a workout and eating salads when I’m traveling, I can promise you that. You WILL, however, find me gorging on delicious chow and downing adult beverages ….because, life is short right?!

Which leads me to restaurants.com, I use this site allll the time, people. All you do is plug in your destination, and viola, tons of restaurants will pop up that are in that area. You save money by purchasing vouchers that are worth more in the restaurant. For example, purchasing a voucher for $10 dollars might get you $20 to $50 dollars worth of food in the establishment. My only tip is to make sure you read the fine print before purchasing a voucher. Some restaurants have specific rules for redeeming, just be safe and check. 

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4. The Honey App

This is probably one of my greatest discoveries of all time. Download this website to your browser IMMEDIATELY.  Any store (and I mean ANY) most likely has some sort of promo code running at any given time. Before Honey, I would go to retailmenot to find codes. I’d then return to the site I was purchasing from, and manually plug in whatever promo codes I found. Sometimes they would work, sometimes not. Either way, it took forever for me to scour the internet MYSELF trying to find these codes. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

That is, until I found Honey. This website does all the searching for you! After downloading Honey to your browser, it automatically searches and plugs in dozens of codes during your check out process. I love it because it guarantees you are getting the best price on virtually anything.

How does this relate to travel, you ask? Well, Groupon, Hotwire, Restaurants.com, Hotels.com, and many airline websites all have coupon codes floating around somewhere. So, if you’re already getting a great deal on Groupon Getways (for example) and then Honey finds an additional code …BOOM…you just saved MORE money. And more money = a little extra cash on your trip for shopping, treating yo’ self to a massage on the beach….essentially..BALLIN’ out on a BUDGET. Everybody got time for dat.

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5. Ebates

Y’all. This one is a no brainer. If you’re shopping online or booking a trip, why not get some cash back while you’re at it?? All Ebates is, is a site (similar to Honey) that tracks what you are purchasing and gives you a percentage of cash back. I’ve only used Ebates for a few months now and have earned over $400 cash back. They literally send you a check in the mail and you dump it into your account. That’s it. Seems too good to be true, I know!! Ebates links to your browser and will pop up right before checkout notifying you that you will be getting a percentage of cash back. Try it out and save yaaa monayyy peeps.

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6. Hotwire

I am sure you have heard of Hotwire. BUT have you ever used Hotwire while using the Honey and Ebates apps in unison?? Probably not. Hotwire is already incredible when it comes to saving you money on hotels… and even better when you can get cash back and/or even more of a discount using Honey & Ebates together. We have saved bookoo bucks using this holy trinity of travel. Trust us.

 

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To wrap it up, I hope these tips are helpful and even open doors to vacations that may seem unaffordable right now.  Please give these sites a try and let me know if you find success. We all need time off to rest, rejuvenate, and truly LIVE. Happy trails to you!

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Relationships Are Made in the Kitchen: 30 Day Vegetarian/Vegan Meal Prep Challenge! Free Download.

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Hey friends!

     My fiance and I decided that we wanted to write a book…on meal prepping! For those of you who follow me on Instagram or Snapchat, you have probably seen our cooking videos.  We meal prep every Sunday afternoon for 5 days worth of food. This is our special time to crack open a good bottle of wine, rock out to some music, and enjoy each other. We now look forward to Sunday’s (I used to dread them),  love to grocery shop, and prepare the food.  I mean, anytime I can make a ‘chore’ more enjoyable…I am alllllllll in. #lifehack

So how does meal prepping build relationships you ask?

Here are our notable effects when we meal prep:

We both feel a sense of relaxation during the day, knowing that we don’t have to worry about meals. The thought of having to run to the grocery store after work, or whip something up upon arriving home is an extra stressor which is completely eliminated by meal prepping.  Coming home to great meals and being properly nourished during the day, results in mental composure. It is much easier to take on life with a full belly! At the end of the day, we are able to focus on each other, rather than a sink full of dirty dishes or an upset stomach from delivery pizza.

Here is a look at what happens when we do not meal prep:

Basically…“if you have no plan, you are planning to fail”…

HANGER. It’s real. It sucks. It wares on relationships. When we don’t meal prep we feel chaotic, and every night seems to be a scramble. Before we began planning meals, we would ravenously get home…barely even greeting one other. Blinded by hunger while bickering at each other, one would angrily order takeout and end the night feeling bloated, annoyed, and not ready to take on the next day.  This was a draining cycle and as our pants got tighter, and wallets and patience ran thin, we realized a change was needed. 

As an avid pinterester, I began to watch meal prepping videos online and even purchased a few books of my own. Starting slow, we began to prep meals together on Sunday afternoons. This quickly became much more than just cooking. It became our special time that we spend together every Sunday, which slingshots us into a great week. In life, there are not many things we can control. However, food is one of them. So, by choosing to control this small aspect of our life, it makes other tasks seem a bit easier.

Soooooo why is it a vegetarian/vegan challenge?

          Although there are numerous reasons to go veg, ours is simple: we feel physically and mentally nourished completely through this way of eating.  We have tried many different diets together. Ketogenic, paleo, vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian, SAD (standard American diet) to name a few. Doing this gave us a real perspective on which type of eating makes us feel best. Most of us shop around before making a big life decision, right? We did the same…except, we ‘shopped’ around for a way of eating! This may sound silly, but we honestly wanted to try all different ‘diets’ before deciding to stick to one.  On a vegetarian/vegan diet, we feel full without the bloat, alert, and mentally clear. One thing we noticed right away, was our ability to wake up in the morning and head to work without that ‘ugh I am so tired’ feeling. We also noticed our moods and outlook on life, in general, improved. We dare you to try it too!

If you are interested in meal prepping, getting your spouse involved in cooking, would like more information, or simply want a few awesome recipes…. please download our eBook for a week of free vegetarian/vegan cooking!  Cheers!

Free Download

Vegetarian Challenge

If you enjoyed this week of eating, we will be releasing a full month of recipes at the end of December gearing up for a healthy January, be sure to check back!

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katie writes sig

Our Engagement Session!

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Hi Friends,

I am going to keep the text for this post short and sweet. I’ll let the pictures do the talkin’.  We had our engagement session in Fells Point, Maryland. It was incredible how well they captured our love for each other.  We cannot wait to be married next fall. Enjoy!

 

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Thank you for scrolling through!

GIVEAWAY!!!!The dreamiest, creamiest, non-dairy yogurt you ever did taste. 

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Hi all,

I’ve got a giveaway going on my Instagram right now and wanted to let everyone here know too!! For the longest time, I searched and searched for a delicious vegan yogurt. I tried many; almond, coconut, soy….and none were hittin’ the spot.  

After numerous failed attempts, I stumbled upon Forager Cashewgurt…..

Y’all ….. my…..mind. was. blown

It truly is creamy and delicious! My favorite flavor is the classic vanilla topped with blueberries, Bee Free honey, and cinnamon. However, Foragers vanilla isn’t your run o’ the mill basic vanilla. It’s so legit you can see flecks of real  vanilla bean in the yogurt!!! Try it for yourself. Click below and enter !! 

Good luck, my loves!!! 

The Game Changing, Keto-Friendly, German Red Cabbage Recipe You NEED!

eats

Hi all,

As I sit, still reeling that I have somehow cultivated plant life and my garden is  yielding a sizable crop, …I run into the issue of ….

WHAT TO DO WITH IT ALL??

I’m not complaining, as this is a splendid ‘problem’ to have. Nevertheless, I despise wasting food…especially food that I have worked so hard to grow. Anyone who gardens, or gets too handsy in the produce section, knows the struggle. Seemingly everything is ripe at once, and you can only consume so much before trashing it, and calling for pizza.

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Case and point, alllll these babies were ready to go yesterday. In a household of 2, I needed to get creative and figure out a way to utilize everything before it wound up in the compost pile….my solution?

Crack open that icy box where unknown creatures lurk…

Your Freezer.

Freeze, freeze, freeze, baby,…freeeeeeze.

It’s a quick fix that many of us forget about. If you’re like me, and still have mom’s meatloaf from 2007 in the frosty depths somewhere…pitch it, and make room for some garden goodness. Also, I wish I were kidding about the meatloaf. Freezers have a way of harboring frigid fugitives…Please, please tell me I am not alone.

Moving on, I promised to let you in on the recipe for the greatest red cabbage you’ll ever eat. I’m getting there, and won’t disappoint. Pinky swear. Yes, I am that confident in this recipe. Yes, I have zero remorse for how cocky I sound.

Try it, and you’ll see.

Before I share the recipe… I have a confession: I was not a huge cabbage fan… until I rekindled my love for sweet, sour, delicious… German red cabbage.

However, I knew, if I planted it, I would be forced to muster up the courage to prepare and eat it. With my wedding around the corner…I am alllll about fibrous foods, that are figure friendly. Red cabbage is known for it’s *ahem* cleansing properties, so I planted away. Just look at this beaut.

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After picking and washing 6 heads of cabbage, I did what any thriving, independent woman would do…

I called my mom and asked her how the heck to prepare it.

Digging through her old recipe box, she dusted off Gram’s recipe for German red cabbage. Instantly, I remembered how I loved this dish. However, it was one of those recipes that I didn’t even try to replicate, after my grandma had passed. I doubted that it would taste the same and feared failure. She typically used recipes only as guidelines. Always one to add a little ‘this and that’, rarely picking up a measuring spoon. Luckily, she truly followed this recipe, and it turned out even better than I recalled. I couldn’t believe I had forgotten about it for so long!

 This stuff is life changing, guys.

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For those of you who aren’t following a Ketogenic diet, feel free to prepare it without the modifications. I am rockin’ the #ketolife right now so you’ll see my tips on making it keto-approved.

Also, I just like eating it with chop sticks..OK?! German red cabbage eaten with chop sticks. Whatever floats your boat, right?


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Here is the link to my fave sugar substitute which I used when preparing the cabbage:

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Remember: use that freezer! Let’s reduce our waste by conserving food. It is such a simple thing to do, and makes a huge difference for our planet. Also, I challenge you to prepare a recipe which has emotional ties to your heart. If you have a dish that you miss making because of someone who has passed, pay homage to them and go for it! Maybe its uncle Joe’s apple pie, or Grandpa’s roast chicken. Even if it doesn’t taste the same, you’ll be glad you did. Pass your love on by preparing something that brought both of you joy. Take a moment and reflect on how much you value and miss them. Too often we are afraid of these feelings but they are healthy. Cooking is an art which elicits so many memories and awakens the senses. Make a conscious effort to cherish that, instead of running the other way.

Have a wonderful week, and let me know what you think of my German red cabbage. I’d love to hear about recipes that connect you to those who have passed, or are special to you. Please share!

 

katie writes sig

 

My DIY Raised Bed Garden- Update. Tips, Tricks, and lots of Pics included.

gardening

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I wanted to give y’all a garden update. Prepare yourselves for lots of pictures! I have completely, totally, utterly, become a crazy. plant. lady. I don’t know what has happened, or what has taken over me. Since I do not have any kids to photograph, apparently this is my outlet? A year ago, I would have laughed in your face, if you told me that this  is how I spend my thyme now (..you guys, I even make garden jokes..). Either way, gardening and photographing nature’s beauties has become my recent obsession. It makes me happy, so I’m rollin’ with it.

Now that I have come clean about my addiction…I’ll start with some real talk.

First of all, I need to get this out there. I have NEVER  been able to grow anything. Ever.  Many thymes (…ugh…I can’t stop, sorry)…, my followers will say things like “I am so jealous of your green thumb” or “I’m so bad at gardening”…. I was no different, and do not have ANY special mother-earth-magical-garden superpowers. I promise. So please do not look at these pictures, or read my blog, thinking that I have any more talent than you do. I am brand spanking new to gardening, and this is the first time (in my life) that I have been able to keep anything alive…for more than a week, that is. If you want to start a garden, but are afraid that it will not be successful, I encourage you to try! I had these worries too, and it has really worked out for me. I know the biggest reason my plants are actually thriving is because of three basic things: Sun, water, and good soil. I’m sure you’re thinking ….DUHHHH, Katie…but hear me out.

Sun: there IS  such a thing as too much, or too little direct sunlight. Although this sounds silly, I genuinely did not know this. The way our garden is situated, it seems to be the perfect balance of shade and light. Our garden patch is surrounded by trees, so it isn’t getting full sun alllll day. In the past, I thought, the more light the better… makes sense, right? Wrong. plants need some shade too!

Water: Mother nature has been my home-girl this season, not gunna lie. This summer we have had alottttttt of rain. This has been wonderful for my thirsty, growing babes. I still water on hot, dry days, but like I said, the watering has basically been done for me.

GOOD soil: Since our beds are raised, we were forced to purchase fresh dirt, rather than use what was already there. This was a game changer. Getting quality soil is key for plant growth.  Once again, this sounds obvious, I know. In the past, we would simply get out the dusty ol’ tiller, and plant directly into the ground. Our soil quality was obviously lacking in nutrients, because we didn’t have much success. I urge you to take my word for it, and treat yo-self’ to some quality soil. Your plants will thank you.

 

If you have made it through all of the above ramblings, you’re in luck. Here are the pictures I promised. Enjoy.

 

This was about two/three weeks after we planted, in full sunlight. If you read my original garden post, you’ll know that we planted mostly everything pre-sprouted (about 3-4 inches). We did this because, by the time our garden was built, it was a bit late in the growing season. Next year we plan on starting everything from seeds.

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This is our garden in its current state, on a cloudy day. As you can see, it has really taken off. We went from cute, organized plants, to a full on jungle. I have embraced the chaos, and choose to see it’s unruly beauty.

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Pictured below, is our main fruit-growing section. We have blueberry and raspberry bushes planted here. These probably will not fruit this year, but hopefully next season there will be an abundance of berries! Good things come to those who wait, right? I am beyond eager for these sweet morsels to arrive.

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Best part? This garden is puppy approved. Our beloved 13 year old Bandit is a huge fan. He looks pretty excited for the blueberry and raspberry bushes to fruit, as well.

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We just love letting him run around the garden to explore. He adores all the different sniffs, twists, and turns the structure provides.  One thing man and beast have in common? It’s both of our happy places.

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*Disclaimer: I am going to do a separate post alllll about what we have harvested so far, and what we have made with the fruits of our labor. However, I couldn’t resist, so here’s a sneak peek of my favorite shots.

 

Bountiful broccoli. I honestly didn’t even know how broccoli grew, before we planted some. It started off almost floral looking. Then, voila, broccoli started to bloom from the center of the plant.

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Fresh, yummy, romaine. I cannot tell you how crisp and decadent this was with my homemade buttermilk ranch dressing.

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Check out this cute lil’ bell pepper! We have not harvested these yet,  but I can almost taste the stuffed peppers I will be making……yum!

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This grilled corn on the cob was just amazing. Every kernel popped in my mouth. It was so marvelous that I didn’t even top it with butter or salt!  I couldn’t get it in my face fast enough. No lie.

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For the final shot, I had to include our first official, farm-to-table, meal! We made Pasta Primavera. For the sauce, we used parsley, garlic, shallots, tomatoes, mushrooms, eggplant, and zucchini. This was decidedly the most rewarding moment so far. The meal was divine, I almost licked my plate. Of course, it tasted even better knowing that we somehow grew it all. #winning.

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Anyone else out there feeling empowered by growing and eating their own food? This garden adventure has been such a joy. Thank you for tuning in, and keep an eye out for my next posts containing recipes and more pictures!

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