Why I <3 Couponing

Why I ❤ Couponing

When sh*t happens…like an injured foot that requires being wrapped for the next six+ weeks…you don’t freak out about how to pay for it.

Because even though you planned on saving your extra coupons, discounts, what have you, you remember Colin’s mantra:

“It isn’t how much you save, it’s how much you spend on the stuff you need.” 

And yes, you really need this.

So after making some money at the store (as in I spent $1.15 and I received $3 Extra Care Bucks…), you realize that only paying $0.99 <–instead of $5.30 for an ace bandage sure trumps having to buy kinesio tape repeatedly.

Although, the kinesio tape sure is prettier…

Yes, having the thong between my second & third toes felt as awkward as it looks!

Yoga/beauty/life,

Kait xo

Wednsday Revelations: On Religiousness

For someone who claims not to be religious, I pray a whole lot.

But let me back up.  Because this topic requires  bit of, shall we say, unpacking, to really understand where I’m coming from.  SO let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

I grew up in a town where the public schools were less than stellar…or so my momma always said.  Instead, she busted her butt working multiple jobs to put my brother and I through the slightly better Catholic K-8 school.  While a bunch of students left between 5th and 6th grade, and though we looked at  the public schools in hopes of finding something that would challenge me a bit more, I stayed.  And promptly went to a Catholic high school, completed CCD, and got confirmed.  By the time I graduated and went to a Catholic college, I had put a lot of distance between myself and religion in general.  To me it had become about following the rules, about restricting individuals from living their lives, and about blind acceptance and ignoring of negative truths.  What it wasn’t really about was how you lived your life because unless you lived your life how the religion told you to, you were wrong.

I didn’t like this vey much.  Truth be told, I still don’t.

In my first semester I was required to take a religious studies class and it opened my eyes up to Judaism (and Islam although less has stuck with me).  I don’t remember a ton of specifics besides the fact that sex is a mitzvah and female birth control is a-okay but I do remember that a large part of the religion is about studying…questioning…searching.  Though I didn’t know it until recently, this attracted my interest more than anything (yes, even the mandated weekly sex. 😉 ).  Because up until then, I was taught to blindly follow and accept, to not question, and to ignore wrongdoings.

But I still rebelled against religion. I couldn’t sync it with my political views or my scientific studies.  While I still felt spiritual and often described myself as such, I built up a lot of resentment against religiousness.  It became something that I didn’t really talk about because, like a petulant child, I would roll my eyes when people brought it up.  Yet years of indoctrination meant I would still feel guilty over little things…like writing the word god without a capital letter, which I couldn’t do until recently and which still, truth be told, isn’t a habit.

Fast forward to June 2011.  I’ve been on a journey at this point and am exploring the metaphysical world.  I’ve found this group of people who talk about The Universe and I’ve read The Secret and yes you know I never stopped believing in a higher power.  And I have a life changing retreat.  And then I get sick…and my life falls to pieces and I retret so far into myself that when I finally come too I’ve convinced myself that I never really went way when, in fact, I hadn’t told practically anyone what was going on.

And in the meantime I’ve poured my heart and soul onto my yoga mat.  I’ve found the spiritual practice that yogis speak of…after all, I had no choice since my injuries meant I had to put my ego in the corner and modify nearly every posture.  I start to tell people that yoga is my religion…my practice is just a part of it.  I ask my teachers how I can learn more about this community, this spiritual path that teaches truth and gentleness, the pushing of limits and the respecting of boundaries, the opening of the body and the spirit.

Fast forward to my coaching program with Hillary when she says, “I prefer to use the word God but some people like Universe better.  Do whatever feels more authentic to you.”  Wait, what?  Not only are you telling me that metaphysics and religiousness can go together but I get to choose?  It isn’t wrong to question my beliefs?  I’m not doomed to hell if I do so?  Its ok to believe in a higher power that I don’t call god?  What world is this.

And somewhere in all of this I had found Gabby Bernstein, the girl known for making spirituality cool.  And so cool with spirtituality I became.  But even some of her content seemed too woo-woo for me sometimes because lets be real…GOD?  Honestly people? *teenage eye roll*

Fast forward to this fall.  Sometime late September/early October I look around at my group of close friends, people I’ve known for practically no time at all and yet who get me on such an intuitive level, and I realize that me…the girl who rolls her eyes when people say they are going to Church and doing mission trips (which are clearly wrong since really who are we to tell anyone what to believe?) and who talk about Bible study or Christian fellowship…has surrounded herself with deeply religious individuals of various faiths.  Friends who go to church every week, who actively participate in their church community, who talk openly about a merciful God.

The situation was ludicrous.  Yet I knew because it was so different that I was meant to learn from it.  So I committed to keeping myself open to whatever lesson I am supposed to learn from these friends.

And slowly but surely I started to see that we do in fact speak the same language.  My unwavering faith in a Universe that wants the best for us and helps us manifest all good things is not all that different from my friend’s belief in a merciful, loving God.  Yes we use different words, but our prayers, be them of gratitude or for assistance, are the same. Better yet, these differences don’t stop us from being able to talk openly about anything and everything, religion and prayer included.  Instead, they broaden our understanding of it.  This is religion  as I’ve never experienced it before: open, doable, and accepting.

I’m still not completely  sure what to do with this newfound concept because it is so far from the religion I know and was taught for 22 years of my life that I’m [insert metaphor re: being lost].  But you know what?  This, my friends’, form of religion, Gabby’s form of spirituality?  It is pretty cool.  And I can do this.  In fact I do it…every. single. day. Because I no longer can imagine starting my day without silently speaking the Serenity prayer before getting out of bed and stumbling to my meditation pillow, a practice that I hate to skip, no matter how pressed I am for time, and which, if we’re getting serious, is really a form of prayer. 

So that brings us to now (well the time I wrote this)…to me sitting on my couch crying and finding myself reaching out for comfort with the serenity prayer.  And realizing that for a girl who still hates religiousness, I really do pray an awful lot.  All the time actually…giving thanks for the flow of money and energy in…asking for help to make it through weeks where the energy is only flowing out…and seeking peace when I know the answers I need are all within me and I just need to open myself up to listening for them.  For the first time in a long time, I’m ok with this whole religious thing.

So maybe this was the lesson I was supposed to learn.  Maybe not.  All I know is that I’ve come a long way from that scarred, indoctrinated girl who couldn’t even think about religion without a perfectly mastered eye-roll-and-sigh combo. I still identify with yoga as my religion in part because it is a way of life that is constantly challenging and supporting me.  It has opened me up to so many beautiful things, including the relationships I mention here and the lessons I’ve gained.  Yoga has allowed me to open up to myself, to learn to listen in, and to understand why when I do something “harmless” that in reality clashes with my values, I feel guilty.  But it has also taught me to let go of that guilt.

Breathe in compassion.  Breathe out suffering.

It has taught me that its ok to ugly cry…to completely release.  But also that sometimes you must push through and carry on.

Breathe in strength.  Breathe out doubt.

It has taught me to let others in, to be okay with imperfections, theirs and mine.

Breathe in acceptance.  Breathe out judgement.

Yoga, this my religion, has taught me that religion is, in fact, simply okay.

Breathe in joy…love…grace…life…freedom.  Breathe out fear…hatred…worry…deception…harm.

What are your thoughts on religion and religiousness?

Yoga/beauty/life,

Kait

Saying Goodbye to Tom: Thoughts on “Natural” Brands

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This week I decided to delve into the world of couponing again.  I spent a good amount of time on the We Use Coupons (WUC) forums where, clearly, I made a beeline for the Organic & Natural threads.  Part of me still wishes I hadn’t.

Let me back up and say that over the past few years I’ve done the best I can to shop locally + seasonally.  I’m a big believer in supporting small, local business, partially because I am one, but also because I believe they tend to be better run and more conscious (or at least the small, local companies I buy from).  I know that some of “my brands” are owned by mega -corporations and conglomerates but I choose to buy their products because they are the best priced lesser of two evils.  Muir Glen is a great example of this.  Despite being owned by General Mills, I continue to “buy” their products for two reasons: 1) they have BPA-free cans and 2) I can usually get their products for free or, at least, less than $0.50.  Ideally I would buy only BioNaturae and Eden’s Organics but as a grad student, and even last year as an entry-level worker, that wasn’t part of the budget, especially not when I use canned diced tomatoes as much as I do.  One last side note, the reason I’m so picky about BPA-free tomatoes and not beans is because the acidity of the tomatoes causes more of the chemical to leach than other foods.  And because I can usually get Goya beans for about $0.50/can.  <–dried beans are still FTW though!

Anyway, while perusing the WUC last night, I stumbled upon this article which talks about 13 mom-and-pop natural companies now owned by mega-corporations like GM, Clorox, and Colgate.  Many of them I was aware of, Tom’s and Burt’s Bees included, but some I was not.  <–aka Lightlife!  =(  The one that disturbed me the most, however, was Tom’s.  Yes, I knew they weren’t independently owned.  But I hadn’t realized that a somewhat recent redesign was responsible for a huge product change…and a whole lot of outcry.

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Old school toothpaste…still in the aluminum tubes!

You see, each of the highlighted companies features and article dealing with the merger.  While I highly recommend the Burt’s Bees one, it was the Tom’s one that struck a chord.  Reading through the comments I realized that when I first bought Tom’s in 2009, I hated it.  It tasted so friggin disgusting but somehow my mouth felt so damn clean.  It was flavored only with real mint oils and took a couple of days to get used the lack of sweetness but once I did, I never looked back.  I haven’t used “regular” toothpaste since, with the exception of a handful of trips where I used my hostess’.  As a side note, when I do use “regular” toothpaste, I get a buildup of gobbly goop in my mouth overnight.  I know, real scientific.  😉  

Nowadays, though, the Tom’s is like a special treat, especially when compared to the Trader Joe’s which I used for almost a year straight (for price reasons).  When that stopped making me feel clean, I made a deal with myself that I could buy the Tom’s when I could get it for less than $3.00.  It isn’t special for this reason though, especially considering I can get that price almost always, but because it tastes so damn good compared to the comparatively lackluster TJ’s brand.  Reading through the comments made me realize that things have changed…and I can’t help but think that it isn’t for the better.

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That being said, I was hesitant to write about this topic for two reasons.  Firstly, Tom’s still leaves a whole lot of  cr*p out of their products and is committed to sustainable practices, as the above image shows.  They are doing far more than most companies to give back and make a difference in this world.  Secondly, it is really only because of the Colgate buyout that I can purchase Tom’s just about anywhere from CVS to Trader Joe’s.  And herein lies my biggest struggle with natural products.  The very reason hippies are no longer sequestered in communes, living off the land and a handful of communal shops is because “natural” has become mainstream.  <–maybe a gross exaggeration but you get my point  I hate mega-corporations because many of their actions go against almost everything I believe in, especially science and health, which they seem to laugh at and ignore in the name of higher profits.  After all, who cares if the scientific world basically accepts as fact that ingredient x is toxic if getting rid of it means we’ll make less?  But a part of me is also thankful that they have allowed me to incorporate more natural and sustainable products into my everyday life and my student budget.  I think my shopping habits wholly reflect this conundrum and it is likely more my being torn over this issue than price that shapes my them.

Right now (at 3 am), I’m feeling very torn about whether I will buy Tom’s again.  I don’t like that they went and changed something that didn’t appear broken.  While admittedly I have no clue what went on behind the scenes, the fact that their blog post includes nothing about an environmental, healthy, or sustainability reason for the change, I am going to assume that it was less than consumer-minded.  Additionally, it does not appear that Tom’s responded to the numerous concerns expressed by formerly loyal customers who were disappointed, outraged, and just plain hurt.  There is this recent blog post that seems to talk around the issue…but, to me, it isn’t enough.  For now I think I’ll wait to see if I can snag an amazing deal with the coupons I currently have and, if they expire before that, I will share the love and go back to the Trader’s brand or another independently-owned, natural brand such as Kiss my Face or Jason* if, and when, I can snag them for a similar price.

Want more information on “who owns organic”?  Here’s a great master list. as well

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.  In the comments tell me, how do you solve this conundrum?

Yoga/beauty/life,

Kait xo

*Edited to add: Here I was thinking I was safe with Jason…apparently they, along with just about every other mainstream organic/natural company, are owned by Hain Celestial.  See the full list here.

My First Zumba Class

 

Just over three years ago, a friend told me about this dance fitness class she totally loved.  The teacher was amazing and I just had to try it.  So I gave it a go…and I was instantly hooked.  In fact I loved that class so much that when the instructor moved to a gym 45 minutes away, I continued to commute until she stopped teaching.  When I travelled, I searched for classes to attend, always judging it against the amazingness of my first instructor.  It took time, but eventually I found Tami’s class and, to this day, anytime I’m home it is expected that I stop in for at least one class…and usually many more.

I toyed with becoming an instructor back in 2009 but decided to start Passion by Kait instead, feeling it would be a better investment.  Clearly, I don’t regret this decision for the life of me!  When I received my Hopkins acceptance, though, and after many more negative Zumba experiences (shout out to Amy for being a light in a very dark time), I decided it was time.  After all, life as a grad student meant that any form of income was a good thing.  And getting paid to do a workout I normally would pay for?  That sounded like the sweetest income of all.

This past May I woke up early and headed to MA to become a licensed instructor.   The plan was to contact gyms and dance studios before moving to Baltimore so that I could begin getting paid to workout.  <–Are you seeing a pattern?  I love getting paid to do the things I love…like party, talk about sex, and dance my a$$ off.  Except the Universe had other plans and I couldn’t find work.  Gyms either weren’t hiring or I never heard back from group ex instructors.  After numerous attempts I would give up…then get frustrated and try again.  This paid off and I was given a job subbing for the grad school’s gym.

Last night I taught my first class.  My entire body aches.  I have blisters all over my feet.  And I spent two days full of nervous, frenetic energy.  Would they like my style?  What if they were disappointed?  What if I messed up?  I knew it was all in my head but try as I might I couldn’t shake the nerves.  Until I got to class…and expressed my nerves…and was accepted…and encouraged.

I messed up.  I tripped at one point.  I didn’t even have my regular sneakers!  And I loved every damn second of it.  No one cared that at one point I totally blanked on every bit of choreography…no one knew when I subbed in different moves than I had planned…and everyone left sweaty and smiling, the way they should.

I knew I would have fun but what I didn’t expect was to look back halfway through class and find myself grinning with pride.  I was doing an act of service, perhaps the highest act ever: offering health and vitality and de-stressing and fun.  I found myself encouraging people to keep going…to trust in their bodies’ strength…to take it down and listen to their bodies when they needed to.  And at one point when every footfall was perfectly in sync and all you could hear where foot taps, bass, and deep breathing…I was one with the Universe.

I am so proud of myself, mess-ups and all.  And when a first time student came up to tell me how much fun she had, how easy I was to follow, and how great the class was…well that was a feeling no words can quite describe.  It was a perfect moment and I plan on holding that close as finals loom this upcoming week.  For now, I’m going to just let the pride and joy continue to fill me up as my smile stays big and my heart, content.  And I’m going to keep on reaching out for subbing and job positions because I cannot wait to do it again!

What was the last scary-but-fun thing you did?

Yoga/beauty/life,

Kait xo

CT/NYC Weekend

So the title is slightly misleading since I spent a grand total of four hours in NYC but I got to take advantage of some awesome stuff so I’m totally counting on it.

Without further ado…welcome to my weekend. 🙂

Once Upon a Time windows at Bloomingdales on Lex.

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Funny enough, the lady I asked to take my photo wanted to know if I had done the window. Considering I was in leggings and a not-quite-long-enough tank (aka my standard travel attire) and am certainly not known for my style, this made my giggle. 😀

Next up, a stop at Organic Avenue, a new-to-me juice bar/store that the ever-helpful Happy Cow app told me was right around the corner from the store. I promptly got some delicious goodies.

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I may have professed my love for the checkout girl when she pointed out that there were more flavors of Emmy’s than were at the register. This was after squealing with glee that they even had my most favorite macaroons EVER. I can’t get these in Baltimore and had been craving them since the DC VegFest when an imposter macaroon tried, rather unsuccessfully, to steal my loyalty.

I eventually made my way to Grand Central to catch my train to CT.  Does anyone else feel like GCT is the place where dreams begin?  Anyone?

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*Sigh* I love NYC.  I also love New England Fall foliage and the pretentiousness of NYC.  Tehehe

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Next up, dinner at Tarry Lodge, Mario Batali’s restaurant in Westport, CT. I knew I had a test ahead of me since it was the one month mark without dairy and the last time I had eaten it, I was with Bren and his family. I was determined to not give in this time an I am happy to say I didn’t! I plan on sending a special thank you to the management for their willingness to substitute other products for the dairy items that did come with my meal.

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Saturday I worked all day before the beau and I met up with his friends for a night of food and beer hopping.  After appetizers in downtown Bethel, we headed to the mall for some Cheesecake Factory deliciousness.  No seats in the bar?  No problem!  Deanna and I used this as an excuse to go shopping (or was that our evil plan all along? tehe) and I purchased these bad boys on sale at Old Navy.

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After the mall we hit up another Bethel restaurant, Rizzuto’s.  Yumminess immediately resulted.  Both Deanna and I couldn’t decide which we liked more: my Brussels Sprouts (braised with a Dijon vinaigrette) or her dessert trio which included a tiramisu, a bag of donuts with fudge and applesauce, and a cannoli/pastry tart thing.

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Sunday I had to catch a 1:18 train so we got up, ate breakfast, and had to run.  The beau waited with me at the train station and we happened to park next to the car with this license plate.  I felt it was a fitting reminder from the Universe.  <–yes I look for the lesson in everything.  Or rather, I do my best to keep myself open to receiving such lessons and messages.

 

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On the train I snacked on my FAVORITE granola ever which I’ve only ever found at Stew Leonard’s.  Where we clearly stopped after the beau picked me up on Friday. 

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Seriously, look at these stats?  And its made locally in CT. <–aka everything I ever wanted in a cereal!

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Because of the train schedule, I had about 2 hours to kill before my bus left so I decided to treat myself to another NYC solo date and hit up one of Gena’s highly recommended spots, Le Pain Quotidien.  I had never been before but knew it was Gena-approved and on my way to the bus stop so clearly it was a must.  It wasn’t the cheapest meal but hey, I was on vacation.

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I got the Berry Boost seltzer and the avocado tartine (with chickpeas, tomatoes, cukes, and a spicy tahini sauce), rice pudding, and mint tea.  The latter two they gave me to-go which was good considering I barely made bus.  I mistakenly thought I could take the subway next to the restaurant and when I couldn’t, I realized I had 15 minutes to make it from 40th and 6th all the way to 34th and 11th.  Sunday was not a warm day but I was sweating by the time I got to that damn bus…just in time to hear “last call.”  The best part?  I had a seat to myself!  😀

Just over three hours later (seriously…MegaBus rules for getting us to and from the City on time), I was back in Baltimore and on my way to Trader Joe’s to pick up the essentials.  🙂

What is your favorite city to visit?

Yoga/beauty/life,

Kait xo

 

 

 

Money Saving Money – Away All Weekend Edition

Hi All,

I hope you had a wonderful weekend and that you actually got to take advantage of the holiday (Columbus Day in the States & Thanksgiving in Canada).  For the first time in my life I do not have a long weekend, a fact about which I am not a happy camper!  That didn’t stop me from jetting home though, and I spent a lovely New England weekend in CT with the beau and his family.  🙂

I planned my return trip so I could grocery shop before the stores closed around traffic, meal planned on the bus (side note: MegaBus rocks.  I will happily take them again, anywhere.  The wifi actually worked well, there was much more space, and we didn’t take any 40 minute breaks at rest areas *coughBoltcough*), and was home from grocery shopping less than an hour after my bus got back.  This is a huge accomplishment folks!  However, it also means that I went to one store and one store only: Trader Joe’s.  So there isn’t much to share for this week except the fact that I was ridiculously under budget and to share the lesson that you <–err, me! don’t always have to go to three different stores to get what you need.  Most weeks I love the adventure of spending 2-3 hours driving around and grocery shopping but last night…all I wanted to do was get home!  And so I did…and it was a great reminder that just because you can spend (and save!) more money, doesn’t mean you have to.  

Meal Plan

Acorn Squash Polenta
Pumpkin Risotto <–I made mine with leftover b’nut squash and brown rice
Hearty Pumpkin Soup with Tofu  <–ohmuhgoodness are you seeing a theme yet?  haha
Apple Dijon Kale Salad
Golden Crusted Brussels Sprouts

Spending Savings

I spent a grand total of…wait for it…$27.50!  I didn’t save a dime but I didn’t overspend either.  *weeee*

Now to be fair, there are some things I plan on picking up later in the week (like more $0.25 tofu since I have a rain check #win) but nothing that will put me over budget (and hopefully I will stay under).

This is all especially good news considering the amount of $ I spent on food in NYC.  Now this sounds normal except that I wasn’t actually visiting the City…just passing through to and from CT.  Believe me when I say I made those pass throughs oh-so-worth-it!  You can see for yourself on Wednesday.  tehehehe

Yoga/beauty/savings,

Kait o

Current Faves

Aka things I’m currently obsessed with.  😉

Winter Squash, especially when its $0.80/lb

These bars (BOGO at Whole Foods) which, dare I say, I like even better than Lara Bars.


This yoga studio in Towson, MD.

These food apps.

This spread, which I do could eat with a spoon.

These crackers.  Which make a great spoon.  Not that I would know or anything… 😉

My hydroponic basil plant (aka Basil take 2).  ^P.S. Oh HEY.  😉

Multipurpose work/snuggle/nap space.

Yoga/beauty/life,

Kait xo

Money Saving Monday

Hello loves and welcome to what is officially Money Saving Mondays!  Now that Project: Food Budget is officially over, I’ve decided to do a quick couponing-esque write-up every Monday.  I’ll share savings and spending and my favorite deals.  Every now and then there will be a food-tastic giveaway (I’m waiting on an amazing package to come in tehehe) along with a Company of the Week.  As tips come up, I’ll post them.  And I’ll continue to share foodie photos as well.

Alright…let’s do this.  🙂

Meal Plan

*Test recipes for the fourth Happy Herbivore cookbook are starred.*

Kale Salad with Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onions (from the Body Heart 3-Day Beauty Boost)
*Carrot Soup
Vegetable Cheater Pad Thai
Nigerian Kidney Bean Stew with a Peanut Sauce (leftovers from a Nigerian Independence Day potluck I attended this weekend)

Spending & Savings

I have a $200/month budget for groceries, including food, toiletries, and household items.

CVS: $9.26
Farm Stand: $10.00
Trader’s: $11.00
Wegmans: $13.76
Whole Foods: $16.22

Total Spent: $60.24

Total Saved: $30.30 (50%)

Huzzah for a new month!  And lots of good deals.  🙂

Steals & Deals

So most of the deals I got were “end of the month” deals aka the coupons expired yesterday and are therefore of no use to anyone else.  Sorry about that.  😦  However, I would highly suggest clipping the Arrowhead Mills coupons here and here and getting yourself some free corn/rice/kamut puffs since they are only $1.99.  And great mixed in with coconut milk yogurt, peanut butter, pumpkin, and an excessive just the right amount of pumpkin pie spice.

In other news, I was super stoked because a couple of items I needed, and had been waiting to go on sale…were on sale when I got to Whole Foods!  Its such a good feeling when you have a coupon for every single thing on your list and when you discover that some of those things are also on sale.  double#win.  😉

That’s it for this week.  Wednesday I’m sharing some of my new favorites…many of which I got on super sale on a whim and ended up falling in love with.  Cheers to that.

Yoga/beauty/savings,

Kait xo