Four Food Brands Worth Checking Out

Oh hey…I still exist. Just in case you were wondering.

Things here have been running at the continued frenzied pace of “omg hold on for dear life.” And I’ve loved every second of it.

Seriously, my love for this city sometimes utterly overwhelms me. There is no where else in the world (yes, the world) I’d rather be than in NYC. Even with the many bumps an bruises that came along with this move, I’m just so utterly at peace, finally. And yes I know it sounds counterintuitive to find peace in the city that never sleeps but for me, it just works.

All that being said, I must concede one point to Boston – VegFest. I’m officially counting myself a VegFest connoisseur at this point given that I’ve literally been to events up and down the eastern seaboard (ok ok…from Boston to DC). And to this day, Boston still wins. In fact, after having attended NYC’s this weekend, I can definitely say that there is no place like Boston…for VegFest. And VegFest only. Lest there be any confusion about my true affiliation. Winking smile

Even disregarding the fact that NYC’s is a ticketed event (thankfully they do $5 end-of-day tix for the last 2 hours), the choice of vendors…ok. It was fun to see all of the local brands but there weren’t a ton of commercially available products (read: no coupons). There’s obviously positives and negatives to both of this and I don’t want to get into the debate at this moment, but given the fact that we are, indeed, still on a budget, buying my goodies exclusively online (without a discount) just isn’t totally practical. I also didn’t think there were nearly as many hot food vendors as at other shows…

Plus, why is it in the middle of winter? Ok the end, but still…having to lug my coat was a PITA. Yes I know…I’m a spoiled New York-er. Get over it. Winking smile

Like I said, I did discover some fab brands that I’m excited to share with you today. Many of these do fall into the “can’t buy in stores” category but they are so worth sharing about because they rock.

Nuttin Ordinary
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I know that making cashew cheese is a fairly simply process. But the price of buying nuts in bulk still gives me a heart attack and honestly I usually just end up using them to make raw desserts. Enter Nuttin Ordinary. First of all, I ❤ their name. Secondly, their Spicy Cheese Spread has such a great kick to it without being overwhelming. And when they told me to think of their products as vegan goat cheese…and then it tasted like vegan goat cheese…for much less than the cost of Kite Hill or Treeline…I was hooked. Oh, and they’re a New Hampshire-based company. Love my New Englanders!

Right now their products are only available in NH, Brattleboro, VT, and Western MA. But they’re obviously expanding and I can’t wait until they’re more readily available!

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I was a little confused on these at first…and honestly had already spent a lot of money on chocolate. Shh, don’t tell! But alas I was hooked from first bite!

The best way to think Mountain Morsels is as chocolate-drenched trail mix. Do I have your attention yet? They’re mixtures of dried fruits, nuts, and spices all smothered in dark chocolate delicousness. And they aren’t overwhelmingly sweet. Win win win.

And since I’m clearly on an I<3theNortheast kick, I’ll add that each Morsel flavor is named after a part of the Appalachian Trial. A fact that my ego would like to inform you I figured out all by myself after seeing the name of one of the peaks the beau and I climbed several years back. Ego aside, love that this Bronx-ite is also a NH-native and is giving a delish shout-out to her roots!

Unfortunately, these goodies aren’t available in any stores but will be at NYC farmer’s markets. I win. Smile with tongue out

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First up, I really hate the name of this company. I know – not a good introduction. But it’s a) bulky and b) contains the word “superfood” which I generally dislike

All that aside, OLS’ stuff effing rocks. Like I sampled about 10 different things (I also was trying to shove as much food in my mouth as possible in the 75 minutes I had to see the whole damn expo) and proceeded to buy three of their products. They offer a ton of different products ranging from dried fruits (you know things like goji berries and mulberries), trail mixes, nuts, energy squares (omgosh so damn good) and my fave: Organic Dark Chocolate Covered Coconut Chunks. Which taste like a mounds bar except a million and one times better because its real chocolate and not a bunch of fake stuff.

OLS sells their goodies at over 50 locations in Boston. <—wait how the heck haven’t I seen them at Boston VegFest before?! What the what?!


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Last but not least – my new fave bar. My previous fave bar decided to stop being peanut-free which broke my little heart…I found out at VegFest and lodged as formal of a complaint as possible before taking my money back. Soooo sad…but thankfully Amrita (which apparently means ‘immortal’ in Sanskrit) was there to be my rebound. #allhail

So as you can see these bars are all fantastically allergen free (and utterly delish) which is great because finding a vegan bar that isn’t made in a facility that processes peanuts (and isn’t just a shit ton of soy protein isolate b) is kind of hard. And by hard I mean “nearly impossible” and “outrageously expensive.” These bars unfortunately still fall into the latter category but they are available in stores throughout the Tri-State area. And sometimes its worth spending a little more so I can kiss my beau without worrying about brushing my teeth or potentially killing him because I just wanted a damn larabar.

My favorite part of NYC VegFest was the fact that my beloved Emmy’s was back. Yes I could buy these down in Balto but you know what? There’s nothing like stuffing yourself with unlimited samples of your fave macaroons and then buying a few bags for half the grocery store price. Sooo perfect and amazing.

Yoga/beauty/yum,

Kait xo

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Money Saving Monday: Eat More, Spend Less Review

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Man what a month it has been!  I travelled a total of 14 days during June and we moved in-between all that craziness!  The beau was gone just as much which means a) we still aren’t completely unpacked and b) we weren’t really doing anything resembling normal grocery shopping.  Since there was only one week when we were here for all of it, we did minimal meal planning and couponing.  It just wasn’t a priority this month.  However, I am super happy to report that despite all of this, we were under budget every single week.  Including splurges.  #win  Just please don’t look at my discretionary spending fund… *whistles*

Anyway, this week there isn’t anything particularly special about our spending.  In addition to the most perfect loaf of bread we picked up in the city, we went to Trader’s on our trip home, bought a handful of things that tickled our fancy (with the plan to go to the store again later in the week) and that was that.  Threw together a greens-grains-beans bowl last night (kale, Bulgar, and chickpeas) and voila!

Instead, this week its a special Money Saving Monday.  A little over a month ago, Emily Levenson, the fab gal behind Project: Food Budget, contacted me to see if I would review her new e-book, Eat More, Spend Less.  Of course I said yes immediately.  I truly loved doing P:FB, both for the challenge and the community.  I learned so much about couponing, self-discipline, meal-planning, my spending habits and motivations, and just being a savvy shopper.  These are the pieces I did my best to weave throughout my P:FB narrative, to inspire you and record my journey.  Therefore, I knew that Emily’s e-book would be a summary of all of that. And in this case, I was right.

Eat More, Spend Less: Mastering the Art of Food Budgeting
By: Emily Levenson, MSW,CHHC

Eat More, Spend Less (EMSL) is the perfect beginner’s guide to food budgeting.  Emily writes with both humor and grace, encouraging readers to have fun with this process and also to forgive themselves on weeks that aren’t “perfect.”  The guide, however, is also a great reminder for those of us who’ve been budgeting for a while now.  Though most of the information was not new to me, it was still good to see so many of hte lessons I’ve learned compiled into one quick read.

At 29 pages, EMSL is  concise and straightforward, all the while providing a plethora of important details and tools.  It is this very mix that makes the book so awesome.  Emily doesn’t just provide instructions on how to, say, set your budget or meal plan, she provides worksheets and examples that guide you through the process.  On ever page I felt like Emily was a spending-savvy girlfriend, guiding me through the maze of food budgeting with patience and without judgment. 

The book itself is divided into six parts:

  • Setting the Stage provides info on why budgeting is important and how it changed Emily’s life.
  • Setting a Budget takes you through the steps to choosing a realistic budget you can (mostly) stick to.
  • Budgeting Tools are the nitty gritty of the book and include tips and tricks for staying on-budget.
  • Budget-Friendly Meals offers guidance on stocking your pantry and a lot more detail on meal planning.
  • Resources include websites and books that will make this process more automatic and simple.
  • Appendix has all your worksheets (tracking your budget, weekly meal plan, etc).

Rather than just give you this information, Emily really narrates a story, one that is directed right at the reader (hence that whole “it feels like I’m hanging with my bestie” vibe).  She doesn’t just write about the benefits of food budgeting, but shares her personal experiences and challenges with it.  The book really goes beyond the basic and heavily discussed ideas about the topic and delves into some reasons that you might not immediately think of.  For example, Emily writes that food budgeting can help build your self-esteem.  Though this wasn’t something I was actively aware of in my own adventures, once I read it I realized that, indeed, setting and rising to a challenge each week was really confidence-boosting!  To that end, I also appreciate the Emily does not shy away from the fact that whenever we’re talking about money, a lot of ‘stuff’ can come up – anger, resentment, guilt, etc.  This fact is acknowledged and the reader is reminded that this is both normal and ok.

In the same spirit, the ‘Tools’ section begins with all your basic, budgeting 101-esque advice.  Meal plan, use a shopping list, buy food in season.  But slowly it shifts to more novel ideas like working splurges into your budget and finding an accountability buddy.  Though unconventional, these tips are so important and vital for budgeting success.  Having my P:FB family was so key for those weeks when I felt I had totally failed or when I just wanted to forget about my budget and go a little cray at the supermarket.   Splurging–on things I’d normally make at home (e.g. hummus) or dessert or the brand I really love–also helps budgeting to feel less restrictive.  And this, ladies and gents, is the second major theme of the book:  budgeting does not have to hurt (too much).  Splurges are good if they are planned.  Going over is ok as long as your overall trajectory is towards spending less.  So on and so forth.

Overall, I’d highly recommend EMSL for anyone who is interested in learning more about food budgeting and/or beginning to budget for themselves.  Between it’s ‘girlfriend guide’ tone and guilt-free message, its the perfect book for exploring the world of saving money on what you eat.  For those who have been in the budgeting world for a while, it might not offer too much new information.  However, as a refresher it is definitely ideal because it reminds readers so well of why they started to budget and what is so awesome about it.  Plus its a gentle nudge to go back to those basic tools that work oh-so-well.

Want your own copy? Eat More, Spend Less can be purchased at Emily’s site for only $8.99!  #bargain

Thank you to Emily for the chance to review this new book and remember why I love couponing and budgeting.  And a special shout-out to my P:FB comrades for all of their continued inspiration and motivation.  You all rock!

Yoga/beauty/savings,

Kait xo

All views expressed in this post are my own.  A copy of EMSL was provided in exchange for writing a review.

Money Saving Monday: It’s back!

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Once upon a time, I participated in this great experiment called Project: Food Budget. I was sad when it ended and planned on continuing documenting my journey with some tweaks.  Unfortunately, it became a bit of a non-priority and though I continued to coupon and budget extensively, documenting it all was not as important to me.  This also coincided with the beginning of some rather trying times during the last year.  Despite the e-mails asking when this feature would be back, I just could not bring myself to do it.

Things have been tight lately given that the beau and I are living off less than we’d like.  So as we’ve tightened our belts and our budget, I’ve found myself returning to my spend-thrifty ways!  So the time officially has come to bring. it. back.

*dance break*

Dancing on the beach

For those of you who may be new to this series it goes a little something like this.  Every Monday I’ll post a meal-planning, deal-sighting, coupon-using, all around fab post.  I’ll clue you in on the (hopefully) awesome recipes I’ll be trying out and my favorite steals and deals that I took advantage of.  If there’s a particular company I’m obsessed with, I might highlight them.  If I have a great tip for saving money, I’ll share that too.  Sometimes there will be photos of my meals and my haul.  Sometimes there won’t.  I’m trying to be a more go-with-the-flow type of person. 

My general rules/goals are as follows:

  • Spend no more than  is $400/month ($80-100/week).  This is for my beau and I and includes everything (food, toilet paper, neosporin, makeup, etc).
  • Save as much as or more than we spend.
  • Never pay full price for packaged foods.  Produce in boxes/bags is the one exception.
  • Similarly, pay the lowest possible price for packaged foods and stock up at this time if possible.    This may be from a sale, coupons, a combination of the two, or simply shopping at a competitively-priced store (e.g. Trader Joe’s).
  • Unit prices trump actual prices 99% of the time.  The 1% exception occurs when we’re really short on our budget but need something.  Then we buy  whatever is the least expensive.
  • Purchase packaged foods primarily from those companies that are ethical, supporters of local business, and, preferably, independently owned (as opposed to, well, not).   Cost sometimes wins but generally I stick to this.  #votewithyourfork
  • Purchase locally-grown produce whenever possible.
  • Purchase only organic varieties of the “Dirty Dozen” foods.  <–something I still struggle with, mostly for cost reasons.  However locally-grown with minimal-no pesticide use > organic.

Alright…let’s get to the good stuff!

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Qi’a™ Review

Now that I’m back, it’s time I do a little catch-up.  So let’s talk one of my favorite topics: food!

Far too long ago, the wonderful folks at Nature’s Path sent me some of their newest product: Qi’a Superfood Breakfast Cereal.  At this point I don’t even remember how I found out about Qi’a but I do remember being ridiculously excited and eager to try it.

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By now most of you know of my obsession with this company.  But just in case you need a reminder, here’s some of the reasons they rock:

“Nature’s Path is a family run, independent company that has been committed to organics and sustainability for over 25 years. Our goal is to be a trusted name for quality organic foods in every home – socially responsible, environmentally sustainable and financially viable. We are the number one producer of organic cereals in North America, with products ranging from breakfast cereals, granola, granola bars and waffles.

Nature's Path

All of Nature’s Path’s products are USDA certified organic, grown using a wholesome process using non-chemical agriculture. Furthermore, Nature’s Path is a founding member of the Non-GMO Project, a non-profit organization created by industry leaders to offer consumers a consistent choice for organic and natural products that are produced without genetic engineering or recombinant DNA technologies.” (emphasis added)  Source

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Qi’a (pronounced KEE-ah) is made from three nutrition superstars: chia, hemp, and buckwheat.  In other woods, each 2 Tbsp serving is chock full of plant-based goodness like protein (6 g), fiber (4g), iron, calcium, and Omega-3 fatty acids.  It’s also ridiculously low in sugar, ranging from 0-3g depending on the flavor.

Speaking of flavors, what are your options?  Well, you’ve got three: Original (og sugar), Apple Cinnamon (3g), and Cranberry Vanilla (3g).  You can probably tell by the above 2 photos which flavor I received.

Just in case, here’s another close-up (and my favorite photo from this shoot).

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The idea with Qi’a is that you mix 2 Tbsp with milk and let it gel, similar to chia pudding.  I personally wasn’t a fan of this approach, both because of the texture and because I didn’t feel full.  Then again, over the past few months I’ve come to realize that cereal generally doesn’t do it for me, even epic, calorie-dense bowls.

So instead of using it “as directed,” I got creative!

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My favorite way to use Qi’a on top of a bowl of either oatmeal or coconut milk yogurt, nuts/nut butter, and fruit.  <–or sometimes pumpkin, cinnamon, vanilla, and maple syrup…what can I say? It was fall!  One of the few dairy items I really miss is Greek yogurt, so from time-to-time I splurge on its non-dairy counterpart…and make bowls of deliciousness. Unfortunately, I’ve fond the nondairy version doesn’t keep me full quite as well as the Greek one did.  Enter Qi’a.  With its added boost of protein and fiber, I noticed myself feeling much fuller and more satisfied than if I had used, say, regular ole’ granola.

Because all yogurt bowls, diary or otherwise, need something crunchy on top!

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I also topped a couple of green smoothies with it.  This would have been awesome had I been eating said smoothie out of a bowl…with a spoon.  Because the flavor was phenomenal.  Just not while trying to drink out of a mason jar while driving to a different state.  Thankfully there was traffic so I could dig out the chunks of nutrition- and flavor-packed goodness.

At the end of the day, I would highly recommend Qi’a as a cereal/oatmeal/yogurt bowl/green smoothie topper.  Its heartier and healthier than most granola and adds great texture (read: crunch) + nutrition.  I can also see how awesome it would be on its own for my friends who aren’t super hungry in the morning. *coughAmandacough*  Or as a quick snack before or after workouts (or just because its delicious) to those who love the texture of chia gels and puddings.  Despite the fact that these latter uses weren’t for me, I had a ton of fun finding new ways to incorporate Qi’a into my diet!

This awesome product Qi’a can be found at some natural food grocers.  In addition, you can buy it online here, here, or here.

What do you think: is this a product you’d love to try?

Yoga/beauty/mmmm,

Kait o

Sharing the Couponing Love…with you!

One of my favorite things about couponing is the chance to get free stuff.  And I don’t mean just at the store…oh no, there’s a ton of companies ready and willing to give out free samples to those who take the time to look.

Luckily for me (and you), Hip2Save does the searching for us.

Though my dedication to couponing waxes and wanes depending on my mood, my coursework, etc, I diligently read Colin’s daily newsletter to see what free samples are up for grabs.  After all, it usually takes about five minutes to read the e-mail and an additional minute to fill in any sample request forms.  Six to eight weeks later, the goodies, which at this point you barely remember requesting, show up in your mailbox.  Its kind of like Christmas/Chanukah come early, dontcha think?  😉

Most of the time the companies giving out the swag allow you to opt-out of their newsletter.  Even if that isn’t the case, there’s always the handy “unsubscribe” button.  And really, at the end of the day, free stuff is worth a minute of your time and the “hassle” *coughcough* of unsubscribing from a newsletter.

Especially when the surprise goodies look like this…

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Cute box…but what’s inside???

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Everything…

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The goodies I kept!

In the spirit of full disclosure, I didn’t get the Love with Food box completely free since I had to pay the whopping $2 for shipping but I’d still cal it a win.  😉  Although I couldn’t eat everything in the box, I signed up for the December box because a) it was on sale for only $5 (including shipping) and b) for the months of November and December the company was donating two meals to Sandy victims for every box purchased.  I figured $7 for two months (versus $24) was pretty good.  And those mini crunch things were soooo good!  In fact, they were my favorite goodie in this box.  The juice spruced up some smoothies and the Inca Corn satisfied my PMS. The cookie, on the other hand, was stale-tasting and a huge disappointment.  You win some you lose some, right?

I’ve gotten a ton of other random samples in the meantime…and I must say, there really isn’t anything quite like opening your mailbox to free stuff you forgot you ordered.  It always brings a smile to my day, regardless of how stressful or long or difficult it has been.  And today I’m sharing some of that (holiday) joy with you all!

You see, in the various samples that I’ve gotten there’s undoubtedly been stuff that doesn’t interest me, either because it isn’t vegan, it has caffeine, or I just don’t care for it.  Instead of tossing it or letting the beau take it all (true story: he couldn’t resist the Asian-flavored Turkey Jerky that came in the Love Box <–I know this breaks many hearts, right?! tehe), I figured I would do a mishmash giveaway.

I don’t want to ruin the surprise by telling you exactly what’s coming but I will say there is chocolate, tea, and baking stuff.  <–ok I guess that kind of ruined it but you don’t know the specifics. *evil laugh*

To enter, simply leave a comment below telling me about your ultimate free sample.  Aka if you could receive anything from a company, what would it be?  The contest ends on Thursday, Dec 13 at 11:59 EST.  A winner will be chosen at random.  *Not all products are vegan.

Now since its the Holiday season and I’m the only person in my apartment complex with a Christmas tree up <–#wishIwerejoking I figured I share my little slice of Christmas spirit with you all.  It isn’t much, but it makes me ridiculously happy.

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And finally…a sneak peak at my first speaking event!  This past Saturday I partnered with Johns Hopkins’ Center for Health Education and Wellness (CHEW) to present at the first ever Panhellenic Council aka sorority council) Wellness Day.  I had a blast and am excited to be working with CHEW on a number of future events.  I am so grateful for the opportunity and the day really reaffirmed my love for public speaking & performing <–because isn’t every public speaking event a bit of a performance?  I think so! as well as for working with women to create change.  It was a great day and I can’t wait until February’s events.

Leading a yoga-inspired gratitude exercise.

Leading a yoga-inspired gratitude exercise.

Now that I’ve totally distracted you…don’t forget to enter the giveaway by telling me about your ultimate free sample!  😉

Yoga/beauty/life,

Kait xo

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Love with Food or Hip2Save.  All opinions expressed here are my own.

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

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