Fashion

Stitch Fix June Review

June 14, 2015

SF2

It’s been so long since I’ve done a Stitch Fix review; I can hardly believe it! If you’re unfamiliar with Stitch Fix, it’s an online clothes delivery service. You fill out a style profile and get shipments of hand-picked clothes to try on in the comfort of your home with clothes and accessories in your own closet.

I’ve been getting Stitch Fix shipments monthly for the last couple years and have really enjoyed most of the things that my stylist picks out. Although I’ve had a bum box every now and again, the items I’ve been sent have generally been great. Now that I’m a mom and shopping trips are harder to come by, it’s fun to get a box delivered directly to my door so I can try the clothes on during nap time or after Ainsley goes to bed.

Okay, so let’s get to my box, shall we? I haven’t been super specific about the types of items I wanted to see in my box lately, although going forward I think I’m going to ask for pants, skirts and dresses rather than tops, since I’m pretty set in that department. Continue Reading…

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Budgeting Post-Baby: Grocery Shopping and Saving

June 12, 2015

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I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one area of our spending that was a little out of control was our grocery and food budget. Grocery shopping is somewhat of a hobby for me when I have the free time and I love testing and trying out new products, so although we had a budget, I rarely stuck with it each month.

We’ve waffled between various different grocery stores over the years: Target, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Cub Foods, etc. My husband had been trying to convince me to check out Aldi ever since he shopped there in college, but I was always more than a little hesitant.

When we re-examined our budget, we decided that spending around $300/month on groceries was a reasonable amount to spend, cutting back from the $400/month we were budgeting previously. To some that may seem high and others that may seem low, but for us it was a pretty comfortable number. We take all our lunches from home and rarely do take-out during the week, so that’s a lot of meals for $300. Side note: Dining out and entertainment are a separate item in our budget.

When my grocery budget got cut, I knew I needed to get creative. I’m not a good coupon-clipper, especially now that time is precious with a little one around the house. So a few weeks ago I finally bit the bullet and made the trek to Aldi with my hubby and baby in tow.

First Impressions 
I was really shocked by the prices. Like, seriously in awe of how cheap some of the food was. I had a few experiences with Aldi while in college, but I was blown away by how much less everything costs. One of my prior assumptions about Aldi was that everything was really poor quality, but the way they keep their prices down (like bringing food in on pallets, not hiring people to stock the shelves, making you return your own cart and bag your own groceries) is passed along in cost-savings to the consumer. It’s not a “fun” grocery shopping experience, but it certainly does make for a cheaper bill!

After browsing the store, I was also surprised by the number of healthy, high-quality products they had available. There were plenty of items branded under their “Simply Nature” line that were organic, gluten-free, non GMO, etc. Not really what I expected from a store like Aldi. Additionally, the produce was, for the most part, really great.

Things We Love at Aldi
-Veggies/Produce
-Dark chocolate
-Cereal
-Tortilla chips and crackers (especially the black bean and corn variety)
-Plan and flavored Greek yogurt (their house brand tastes just like some major national brands)
-Milk and shredded cheese
-Grains and Bread (quinoa/rice blends, bread, sandwich thins and wraps, oats)
-Baking staples like brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, etc.
-Nuts and trail mix (their walnuts and almonds are great!)
-Sparkling water (they frequently have LaCroix, my favorite)
-Canned items like beans, crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes

Things We Buy Elsewhere
-Chocolate chips (I was not impressed with the quality of their chocolate chips at all)
-Fresh berries (their fresh berries have never looked great when we’ve been there)
-Meat (we don’t buy much meat because we get beef free from Joe’s parents, but we buy our chicken, deli turkey and the like at other stores)
-Peanut butter (I prefer brands that are made with just peanuts and salt, nothing else)
-Salad dressing (Aldi only has a limited selection of basics, like ranch and honey mustard)

Things We Buy in Bulk (Costco)
-Diapers and formula
-Toilet paper
-Olive oil
-Baby wipes
-Keurig pods
-Frozen salmon and chicken breasts

Thus far, it’s been entirely possible to shop at Aldi for a majority of our grocery needs and save a bunch of money in the process. Our weekly grocery trip runs between $60 and $75 dollars each week, and any money that we don’t spend for the month can go toward fun things (like coffee!) or saving for something else.

Other Tips for Saving
-When I do go to other stores like Target for groceries, I make sure to check out my Ibotta app to see if there are any items I can get cash back on. It’s a quick and easy way to get a little more cash in your pocket.
-I also check sites like Coupons.com for any printable coupons and Target’s online coupons as well. I don’t clip a ton of coupons, but I check a couple sites that are easy to navigate.
-Meal planning is an absolute necessity in order to eat well on a budget. I find that if I don’t plan ahead I end up spending so much more at the grocery store because I just toss things in the cart without a plan.
-Make some of your snacks! My husband snacks a lot, so to save money I have been making snacks and treats for the week on Sunday afternoons. I’ll make a batch of whole wheat banana muffins, protein bites (with oats, PB, honey and protein powder), and chop up some veggies for dipping in hummus.
-Every now and again, make it a practice to eat down your freezer. If you’re anything like us, you probably have a ton of food sitting around in your freezer just waiting to be used at mealtime. Although some of our freezer meals are less than glamorous, I feel good knowing I’m not letting food go to waste and I’m saving money in the process.

Madison

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Updated Top Knot Tutorial For Longer Hair

June 9, 2015

Photo on 5-19-15 at 3.10 PM #3

Lately I’ve been wearing my hair up in a top-knot more and more. As my hair has gotten longer it’s my go-to easy style for looking semi put-together while not having to spend a ton of time on my hair. Because, let’s be honest, I just don’t have a ton of time to spend on my hair these days and my hair is looking less than stellar thanks to that dreaded postpartum hair loss. The struggle is real, y’all.

Since it’s been a while since I last posted a top-knot tutorial, I decided to do a little updated video since the method I’ve been using has changed a bit now that my hair is longer. It takes about 5 minutes total and works great with hair that’s a little bit dirty. If you want to do the top knot with clean hair I would highly suggest spraying it with a little hair spray and then brushing the hair spray out to add texture OR spraying the roots with a little dry shampoo or texturizing spray before starting.

I filmed this video a little over a month ago while I was on maternity leave and found myself with a few extra minutes during baby nap time. Please excuse the rough nature of this video. Something is better than nothing, right?!

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Budgeting Post-Baby: Saving at the Salon

June 4, 2015

11304400_10205798241333469_1791695065_nToday I’m continuing on with the budgeting post-baby series and talking about how to save money on your hair. Once upon a time in college I got into a habit of coloring my hair with boxed drugstore hair color. I think it was the worst my hair has ever looked, but it was so much cheaper than getting it done at a salon and my budget was tight.

Now that we’re re-evaluating our budget post-baby the money spent at the salon was another area where I knew there was major room to save. Although I loved my regular hair gal (who had a lot of experience and was on the higher end of the price range) I decided to switch to a more junior-level stylist who was half (?!) the price. She’s done a great job, and I still get to enjoy salon-quality color. 

I asked my friend and hair stylist, Tracy Rozeboom, to answer a few of my pressing questions on saving money without sacrificing great hair.

What should people ask for if they’re searching for great-looking, low maintenance color? Are there any styles that people should steer clear of?

When looking for a low maintenance color I would recommend asking your colorist to show you a swatch of what your natural color is.  Then I would ask to stay within 2 levels of that color. That way your grow out can last longer without you having to come in as often. If you want a more noticeable change ombre & boliage  techniques that are super trendy for summer!  This allows you to have something fun and different, yet remain low maintenance.

Also, if you want to be lighter for summer just ask for a few foils around your face.  Everyone is naturally a bit lighter around the face so by enhancing that you are brightening up the face and the grow-out isn’t as harsh. I would steer clear of a style that has a ‘wow’ factor.  Anything that isn’t close to your natural color is going to be work to keep up.

As a stylist, would you prefer your clients to mention that they’re trying to be budget-savvy on the front end? Would that impact the cut or color you steer clients to or away from?

YES.  If your hairstylist does not do a full consultation when you sit in the chair then please be sure to speak up!  Hopefully they will ask you a hand full of questions, but if not tell them about your lifestyle.  Include what your daily routine looks like, how much time you spend on your hair in the mornings, how often you’ll go to the salon, what products you are using, any life events, budget, etc.  By doing so the haircut and/or color can be based on what works best for you.

Then when you show them a picture of what you want, they can pin point what you like about that style/color for you, yet tweak it to match your lifestyle & budget!

Once you get home from the salon, what are some of the best ways to preserve your color and make it last longer? Are there any at-home products you would recommend to help extend your color?

The best way to preserve your color when getting home from the salon is to not wash it for 24 hours. There isn’t a rule about that, but I have attended professional classes that teach this to be true! In general, the less you wash your hair,the better. Washing your hair less will help preserve your color, balance your scalp’s pH with the natural oils of your skin, and make your products last longer. I recommend washing every other day.

As far as at home products go, I would stick to the recommendations of your stylist. The companies that make your hair color also make the product to work with your color. I know they cost more upfront, but they will save you money by making your color last longer! One money-saving tip I pass along to my clients? If you have blonde hair, you can use baby powder instead of dry shampoo!

Tip for the blondes: Ask your stylist about using a purple shampoo once every other week! It will brighten up your hair, save you some salon time and money and blow your mind!

What are the biggest mistakes, in your opinion, that people make when caring for their hair?

NUMBER 1 RULE: HEAT PROTECTANT. I think the biggest mistake that people make is to skip the products and fry their hair.  Beautiful hair begins with healthy hair.  You don’t need to spend a ton of money on a whole cupboard of products. The top two products I recommend to everyone that sits in my chair are a deep conditioner to be used twice a week and a heat protectant (with protein) to be used everyday.

Money-Saving Tip: You can swap a deep conditioner for a jar of coconut oil!

In your opinion, is it necessary to buy salon-quality hair products to have great hair? If you want to keep your hair healthy and can only splurge on one salon-quality product, what would it be?

I know salon products can cost a lot! The reason is the ingredients. Cheap products are full of wax that make you think your hair is soft and healthy when really it is coated and the hair strand isn’t absorbing any nutrients.  This can also lead to a wax build-up on your scalp.  Choose to splurge on a good shampoo and conditioner.  The shampoo will clean your scalp and hair without adding wax to the problem and the conditioner is like lotion full of moisture and nutrients.  By doing so you can get back to liking LOVING your hair!

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Ainsley 3 Month Update

June 3, 2015

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Likes and Dislikes: Little Miss Ainsley is non-stop action and personality these days! I love continuing to get to know her more and more and she truly is so much FUN to be around.

Ainsley Loves: people singing, being lifted into the air again and again by dad, playing in her Jumparoo bouncer, eating, watching her puppies run around the house and laughing at mom and dad

Ainsley Dislikes: having to wait to eat, waking up early from naps (she gets super crabby when she wakes early and can’t fall back asleep), having her onesie changed, going to bed at night

Daytime Schedule: Ainsley is waking up sometime between 6 and 7 each morning. During the day she is awake for about 1 1/2 hours before taking another nap. Her daytime naps are usually only about 1 hour in length, meaning we’re on a 2 1/2 hour schedule throughout the day. It works pretty well for us and means that she is getting extra calories in during the day, which equals better nighttime sleep!

Eating: Ainsley is eating 5 ounces pretty consistently in each bottle and taking between 6 and 7 feedings each day. Her bottles are a 50/50 mix of breast milk and formula. We’re on the fast-track to transitioning to 100% formula, both for my own benefit and because I’m pretty convinced that Ainsley does better on the formula as well.

Sleep: Sleep has gotten quite a bit better this month! We put her down for bed between 7 and 7:30 and then I sneak into her room and give her a “dream feed” around 9:30, right before I go to bed. By doing that, Ainsley can usually sleep until 2 or 3, eat, and then sleep again until morning. Waking up only once in the night is such a game-changer! It’s amazing what five hours of consecutive sleep will do for your mental health!

Family Transition: At the end of Ainsley’s third month of life, I returned to work! I was really emotional and nervous about the whole thing, since I was returning to a “new-old-new” job at General Mills. Basically, I was returning to my “old job” but my job description changed quite a bit after the layoffs and our team was quite a bit smaller, so I still have a lot to learn and catch up on.

Going back to work takes a lot of planning; meal-planning and lunch prepping and packing, getting Ainsley’s bottles ready and making sure we are all prepared to tackle the day ahead. But I’m finding that if I prepare for the week and put in the extra time on the front end, I can enjoy the week all that much more. Ainsley is taking to the childcare situation really well, and I’m convinced that the whole transition is harder for me than it is for her!

Mommy Body Update: The three month mark was the point in the recovery process where I really felt my body had returned to some version of “normal.” Don’t get me wrong, I still have some work to do in terms of strengthening and toning, but I’m fitting into most of my old clothes and feeling a lot more like myself. That said, this month I tossed a couple pairs of jeans that I’m convinced will just never fit the way they used to, and that’s okay, too.

Resources: Same as months 1 and 2!

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