May 25, 2012

Why Healthy Eating is Cheaper

There’s a common misconception that going on a diet means spending more money on food.  While I’ll agree that a bag of apples costs more than a bag of potato chips or a .99 hamburger at McDonald’s, if you’re a smart eater AND a smart shopper, eating healthy will save you money in the end.

In just a few weeks of dieting, I’m learning that as I grow thinner, my wallet is growing fatter.   Before starting to diet and focusing on getting healthy, going out to eat meant spending at least $7 unless I was cheating and bought the crap they put on the dollar menu at a fast food chain.  Now, the average meal out to eat costs me less than $5.

Before I was paying attention to what I was eating, I placed convenience above almost anything else when choosing foods.  So, of course, that meant that I ate fast food more often than I’d like to admit.  Pre-diet I would usually order a value meal at a place like Taco Bell or Wendy’s (usually meaning I was consuming almost 1,000 calories in one sitting).  Now, going to Wendy’s means ordering a small chili for under $2, and at Taco Bell, dinner means 3 fresco soft tacos for less than $3.  At my favorite local restaurant, El Campesino’s, I used to order a variety of items off the menu: a quesadilla and rice, a grilled chicken taco salad, etc, each totally about $6-$10 for the meal.  Now, I almost always order two soft chicken tacos, totalling just over $3.  And, of course, don’t forget the trick to saving on every single meal out: drink water…it’s free!  Ask for a lemon slice (also free) to add a little flavor.

Eating cheaper doesn’t end with eating out.  Eating at home is also cheaper if you’re a smart shopper.  The key to saving money when shopping for anything is to shop around for a bit until you get an idea of which stores has the cheapest prices overall.  Of course, when it comes to healthier foods like produce, high quality is very important.  After all, buying produce that is barely ripe or has gone bad will do nothing for your efforts to incorporate them into your daily routine and diet.

So, my tips for eating cheaper at home are:

  1. During the summer, find a local farmer’s market and go as often as possible.  You can get amazing deals at a farmer’s market (like a flat of strawberries for $7.  That’s NINE cases of strawberries for $7, compared to 1.69 a piece on sale at Giant Eagle.  That’s a savings of $8.21, and that’s only comparing to Giant Eagle when the strawberries are on sale!). And as an added bonus, you’re helping local farmers! 
  2. Plan ahead for meals, make a list, and stick to that list at the store.  Dieting or not, this is a trick that will always save you money.  It’s one thing to add to your list because you realize you forgot an item from a recipe, but don’t let yourself by this snack or that.  In the long run, the savings from cutting sugary and fatty snacks like potato chips from your grocery list will save you money and not having them in the house will make it easier to avoid them.
  3. Pre-portion as much as possible.  I come home from the store and the first chance I get, I’m cleaning, cutting and portioning my fruits and vegetables.  I use my food scale to note how many calories are in each pre-portioned pack to make it easier to plan, and for the rest of the week I have convenient, highly accessible, healthy snacks.  My diet includes counting calories, so having portions with exact calorie counts makes my life a lot easier.  Plus, since I’m more likely to eat all of the fruits and vegetables I buy when they’re easy to grab, I’m wasting less food and once again saving money.

So there you have it.  Eating healthier is cheaper when you do it right.  And I’m sure that I’ve only touched on a couple of the ways that that is true.  Try incorporating just one of these tips into your routine and I’m sure you’ll find that you’re saving some money and saving on calories too. 

How do you save money while staying eating healthier?  Do you have any tips to add?

May 20, 2012

Starting a new….life

So as you all know, I started a new job a few months back.  Since then, life has been pretty hectic, sometimes I have to force myself to stop and take it all in. Monday was a big day for me; one of those days that made me stop and look around.  It was my first official day at my company (before I was a contractor/temp) and it was also the one year anniversary of my graduation from college.  When I left college, frustrated with the job I had at the time and even more frustrated with the job market, I told my boyfriend that I needed to have a job come May 14 of this year or else I’d want to go back to school sooner rather than later.  Thankfully, I waded through the torture known as job hunting and dealing with HR and landed a job that, with a few tweeks as I build seniority, I’ll really love.  I am happy to say that I love my job.

Monday made me really think about college and I realized how little my life now resembles my life in college.  My last year of college was rough.  I was horribly burnt out on material I was no longer interested in, making senioritis even worse.  Beyond that, I was dealing with the first big on-set of the PCOS symptoms I’d endured since I was eleven, resulting in almost uncontrollable weight gain.  These details are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what was different in my life just a year ago.  Looking back, I’m realizing I’m starting to live that life that I worked so hard to reach.

A year ago, I wouldn’t have hired a personal trainer, and I couldn’t have afforded one.  As part of this new life I’m living, I’m very proud to say that I’ve taken a big step towards fighting PCOS and I joined a gym where I workout with a personal trainer twice a week.  I love it and I’ve never felt better!  I have hope that I will one day reach my goal weight, and even more hope that the symptoms of PCOS will slowly melt away along with the pounds.  (Just with the loss of about 10 pounds I already see differences!)  Thanks to My Personal Trainer, I’m going to wear a bikini on vacation this year…comfortably!

I have a fresh outlook on life and I’m looking towards the future.  Growing up, I focused on what I wanted to do “one day”.   Now, instead of studying and worrying about grades, I’m looking for a house and planning trips to Vegas, Alaska, and Ireland.  I’m finally checking things off of my “one day” list.  Isn’t that what all the hard work in school and work is truly for? 

After all these years, I can finally say, I’m truly happy.  I’m so optimistic about the future that I find it hard to stress about it anymore.  And THAT is the life I’ve always dreamed of.

 

February 28, 2012

B is for Bridesmaid

Weddings are a big part of growing up for most people.  You reach a certain age and you’re either attending a wedding, a part of a wedding, or sometimes, its your wedding!  Luckily for me, I love weddings, so this part of growing up is fine by me!

I didn’t have to wait until I was older to start getting wedding experience, though.  I started out as a bridesmaid at just 15 when my eldest sister married. 

Here I am waiting for my eldest sister's ceremony to begin

I’ve since been a bridesmaid two more times, once for my second sister and then again for my friend, Megan. 

Dancing during the bridal party dance with Best Man and brother of the groom, Shaun

Secretly, my life goal is to be Jane from 27 Dresses. I’m aware that this goal is completely realistic not likely to happen, but hey, a girl can dream.  One thing I’ve learned is that each wedding will bring its own special moments.  I’ve gone to countless bridal shows, cake tastings, dress fittings, and centerpiece making parties.  The most special thing about being a part of someone’s big day are the moments leading up to the nuptuals, and the memories made throughout the planning process. 

So when I found out that one of my best friend’s had gotten engaged in December I was thrilled!  True to form, her wedding has already given me some great memories.  One of the best I’ve had so far was an experience I had never gotten with the other brides.  I got to be a part of my friend finding her dress!  What a magical day.  I know its just a dress that you wear one day for 10 hours at most.  But its really so much more than that.  Seeing the look on a bride’s face when they find “the one” is an incredible experience that I won’t soon forget!  I am looking forward to more great memories with Natalie and any other bride that includes me in their big day!

 

Check out Natalie and I at our senior prom all dressed up.  I can’t believe the next time we “dress up” together it will be her wedding day! 

(L-R) Emily, Natalie, Me, Erin

 

Have you been a part of a friend or family member’s big day?  What special memories did you take away from it?

February 18, 2012

Lessons Learned from the First Two Weeks

We’ve all been there.  It’s the night before you start a new job, and you’re anxious, not knowing what to expect.  Every detail of the first day at a job can be unpredictable, from where you’re sitting, to who you run into, to not having a place to put the leftovers that you brought for lunch that day.

Most of these anxieties can be alleviated with just a little bit of planning.  I’ve had plenty of “first days” to worry about, and this time, I felt more prepared than ever.  Now that I’ve completed my two weeks at my new job, I’ve compiled a list of lessons learned to share.

  1. Prepare, prepare, prepare!
        Figure out a game plan and control as many details of your first few days as posisble.  This will  help you get into a routine that is going to work well for you, and give you some feeling of security.  Figure out what you’re going to wear the night before and sit it out (and remember that its easier to impress when you’re overdressed than when you’re underdressed.) 
        Make plans for lunch the night before as well, whether this means researching local restaurants near your new office or putting together a lunch to take with you and having it ready to grab and go in the morning.
         Don’t forget the tiny details, either.  Make sure your gas tank is full, remind yourself of how long your travel time will be, and be sure that you know where you’re going or who you’re requesting when you arrive.  Remember, never leave anything to chance if you have a way to avoid doing so.
  2. Your first impression isn’t about what you say, do, or have on your resume; its all about how professional you look.
        
    Wardrobe rule #1: When in doubt, don’t!  If you’re wondering if something is too wrinkled, faded, low-cut, or unprofessional, just pick something else.  Beyond that, make sure you are showered (you’d be surprised at what you see in some offices…), wearing a reasonable amount of cologne or perfume (one that allows co-workers to still breathe easily), and ladies, don’t forget your make-up.  And YES, your co-workers will notice that the dog chewed on your lucky heels, so choose something else!
         You never know who you’ll meet on your first day.  Your client list, potential promotions, and a variety of other professional goals could all stem from a great, professional appearance from the time you start.  And unfortunately, an unprofessional appearance could hurt your chances of reaching your professional potential.   Dressing professinally will increase your confidence and boost everything else you’ve already got going for you, so dress as if your life depends on it, because professionally, it can.     
  3. Don’t get too comfortable. 
         Its very important to be social in the first few weeks that you’re in a new position.  Showing your boss that you can work well with others and gaining friends and allies can help you in the long run.  But don’t get too comfortable too quickly.  Remember that priority number one needs to be showing that you’re serious about your new position.
        In my first week I witnessed a fellow newbie get the axe because they assumed that the supervisor’s friendly demeanor meant all rules of professionalism had gone out the window.  This now ex-employee complained about multiple tasks given on the first day, asked if she could take a nap more than once, interrupted our boss constantly, and eventually fell asleep, which was obvious to everyone as she snored loudly.  Needless to say, she got too comfortable too quickly and it cost her her job.
  4. Relax.
        Everyone knows that its your first day.  And from my experience, the days of bullying the new guy are pretty much over.  Plus, every single person you’re working with was once in your shoes.  No one is exempt from experiencing a first day on the job, so most people are incredibly understanding and often helpful when it comes to answering questions and offering advice. 
        So relax, before you know it, the first day, week, month and year of your job will have passed.

So just remember, be prepared, look professional, act profesionally, and relax!  You’ll get through your first day no matter how many roadblocks you encounter along the way, I promise!

Do you have any tips that you would add to this list?

January 30, 2012

The Beginning of a Journey Eleven Years in the Making

In July 2011, I was officially diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (or my least favorite 4-letter combo-PCOS).  Although I had speculated based on personal research that the cause of many symptoms I was experiencing were rooted in PCOS, it was great to have a definitive cause for the unpleasant side effects I had been noticing since I was 11.

Since receiving this diagnosis, I’ve hit the ground running researching various treatment options.  As an American raised in the 90′s and 2000′s, I was hoping to find that perfect pill to pop daily, the end-all be-all to my problems.  I was heavily disappointed.  No such pill exists. 

What I did find, though, was a treatment option in lifestyle change.  This is my only option, so I’m taking it.

In the past few months I’ve been taking slow steps towards my attempt at changing my future.  A lifestyle change can reduce my symptoms and decrease my chances of having heart disease, type-2 diabetes, cancer, infertility and a slew of other PCOS side effects. 

So let’s clear a few things up before continuing on this journey.

  1. What is PCOS?  PCOS is a syndrome, not a disease.  Females suffering from 1 of 5 basic symptoms are considered to have PCOS.  (These are weight gain/obesity, oily skin/acne, small cysts on one or both ovaries, irregular periods, and facial or other excessive hair). 
  2. What does it mean to have PCOS? Having this syndrome can mean many things.  For some, its a few cosmetic issues.  For most, the 2 biggest issues that any victim of this syndrome face is infertility and obesity.  For those of us dealing with PCOS, weight loss is a more difficult battle than it is for most.  PCOS is a vicious cycle.  Side effects of the syndrome result in weight gain, and the excess weight gain is often the source of fertility issues. 
    As was mentioned before, having PCOS can also mean future health issues, often related to the excess weight gain attributed to it, such as heart disease and type-2 diabetes.  (We’ll go into each of these issues more in-depth in future posts.)
  3. What are my biggest fears about having PCOS? The thought of not having children scares me more than anything.  Having kids has been a dream of mine since I was a child myself and it has been a long-term goal in my relationship since we started dating. 
    I’m also very afraid of the health risks, specifically type-2 diabetes, that could be heading my way in the future.
  4. Can PCOS be cured? Unfortunately, no.  There is no cure, but there is definitely a way to beat the symptoms and live a happy, healthy, PCOS symptom-free life.  And that is exactly what I plan to do.

As I continue to reveal my story, I will share the ups and downs of a continued attempt at weight loss and I will go more in depth into PCOS and what it is like to live with a syndrome that is even new to the medical world.  Tomorrow I will meet with a physician to discuss the results of my blood test (the first PCOS treatment step) and together we’ll decide where to go from here with my treatment. 

I am at the beginning of yet another journey, this one 11 years in the making and I invite you, as my readers, to join me on this quest to reclaim my health.

January 28, 2012

Signed, sealed, delivered!

My contract that is!  I am officially employed as of January 19, 2012!

Finding a job has been such a struggle since graduating last May, that it is actually surreal to say that I’m employed.  It’s difficult to the lose the mindset that I need to be looking for job opportunities at every corner.

Although I can’t reveal the name of my employer, I can report that its a great

company to work for; probably one of the best in my county.  This decision was a tough one to make, though.  At the time that I was offered this job I was also offered 3 others.  (Of course, I go months without any offers, and then all at once I get 4)  I really had to sit down and weigh the pros and cons of each position and each company.

My decision came down to the position I accepted and a position at a fairly large newspaper.  The decision was tough.  But with other job offers available, I couldn’t bring myself to put time and energy into a career in an industry that is rapidly dying.  Sorry newspapers, but you’re too unstable.  So although working at this newspaper seemed like a fantastic idea, when I really looked at it, it was not likely that I’d be there more than 3 or 4 years.

So I chose stability and a almost unlimited possibilities for new specialties and promotions.  I can’t wait to start a new position, at a new company, and see where this takes me.  It feels amazing to not know what is ahead of me, but still know that I don’t have to worry about the stability of my employer.  Right now, all I know is that I plan to be with this company for a long time and just knowing that lets me breathe.  Finally.

January 19, 2012

Dream Jobs: Fact or Fable?

After a recent discussion with a family member about juggling multiple job offers, I started to think, “Does the dream job truly exist?”  Yes, you may love your job.  But is there nothing about it that you would change?  Maybe you want to be paid more, work fewer hours so you can see your kids or spouse more often.  Maybe its not exactly in the dream location or your boss is less than enjoyable to work with.  I don’t know anyone that loves every aspect of their job.

As a recent college graduate, I think there’s an important lesson to be learned here. As with everything in life, finding the right job is not about every aspect of it being perfect; its about finding a job that has the right balance of pros and cons and fits into your life.  As I continue my job search, I’m going to focus more on finding the right job, rather than the perfect job.

I’m starting this job search transformation with the realization that I don’t want to do traditional PR.  I don’t want to work in a firm doing work I won’t enjoy simply to “work in my field.”  So I’m sucking it up and ignoring the fact my chosen  focus in my communication degree was PR.  In the end, my heart is in communication, whether its promotional or not.

So what will it be about a job that makes me say “This is it!”?

The perfect balance for me will include:

  • A great, stable company
  • A chance for tuition reimbursement (MBA here I come!)
  • A great boss
  • A location in Stark or Summit county
  • A chance to communicate, not necessarily promotionally

What made you or would make you say yes to a job offer?

January 13, 2012

When I grow up…

At 5, my answer was veterinarian.  At 10, my answer was lawyer.  At 15, the answer changed to  interior designer.  At 20, publicist.  And at 23, I just want to be employed.

Everyone hears the same question growing up: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  Some know from age five exactly what they want to be, and it never changes.  But no five-year old tells their mother that they want to grow up to be an endocrinologist, so some of us definitely need inspiration at an older age to find our true calling.

As a recent college graduate, I am at the beginning of where all of those years of tests, projects, reports and all-nighters were supposed to get me. I am just beginning my journey into adulthood, careers, mortgages, bills, and what I hope is a lifetime of love, happiness and adventure.  I’m hopefully at the end of my journey towards full-time, degree related employment, but in this harsh economy, it hasn’t been easy.

I am also at the beginning of a battle with a syndrome I’ve only recently discovered I’ll be fighting my entire life. Not to mention, it’s a new year! I’m starting a lot more than I thought I would be at this stage in my life, but I’m up for the challenge.

Along the way, I’ll share tips, emotions, and stories of everything I encounter.  From days packed full of interviews for jobs I’ll probably hate to the day I get engaged and begin yet another journey, and maybe even one day when I begin the adventures of home ownership and parenthood.  There’s a lesson to be learned at every new beginning and I’ll be sharing mine!

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