Frugal Finds: Super Groupon Scores

I feel like I scored big-time in the Groupon department recently.

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I’ve talked before about my love for Groupon and how it can be used as an opportunity to try out snazzy new fitness classes (or old favorites) on the cheap. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I stalk the Groupon deals daily to see if something catches my eye (and the Living Social Escapes as well…but that’s another story).

Despite how regularly I survey the deals, it’s rare that I actually buy something. I only want to snag things that I know I’ll use, so even if something looks interesting, I don’t usually buy it unless I can really imagine myself using it. Typically I just scan a gazillion deals each week and never think about them again.

So imagine my amazement when I found not one but three fantastic deals last week, one after another.

(To be honest, one of them was just a coupon for five Blockbuster Express rentals for $2. But the others were decidedly more awesome.)

I’ve been toying with the idea of buying new running shoes recently. My running increased significantly this year (although not enough to really meet my goal for the 10k this spring…but more about that later) and I’m beginning to wonder if my old sneakers are starting to take a negative toll on my body (my left foot consistently goes numb consistently when I run lately, even short distances….anyone else have this issue?). I couldn’t believe my good luck when one of the deals last week was for a $50 certificate to the only running store anywhere remotely nearby. Exciting! Now i can stop debating the new shoes and just go for it.

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Secondly, I found a super snazzy deal to this neat place: The Ayurvedic Path. It’s a bit of a drive for me, but it’s an awesome opportunity. I have the choice between four yoga classes, one private yoga session, or an Ayurvedic mind-body profile consultation. We talked about Ayurveda a bit when I was at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and I’ve always been interested in exploring it further…so here’s my chance!

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I’m really excited to take advantage of both of these deals (okay, and my Blockbuster Express movies too). I feel like I’ve been in a bit of a winter “rut” lately, particularly around my health and motivation in general. I’m hoping trying out some new things will give me a boost!

What do you do to cure the winter “blahs” when you’re feeling less motivated and energized? Have you worked with any Ayurvedic practitioners before?

Being Flexible Vs. Making Excuses

As I’ve started to work my way through the sugar challenge, I’ve mentioned that I try to be a bit flexible—that it isn’t about totally about giving up sugar, but rather reining in the habit, and that a treat is a treat and still fits into my goals. When I work with coaching clients, I have the same approach. Cutting all of your indulgences out of your diet is rarely effective for long-term health—it’s more of a matter of managing them so they’re really just indulgences. It’s important to incorporate treats into our lives, whether they’re favorite foods or something else entirely. We need that sweetness in our lives.

Furthermore, I think a sense of flexibility is essential in order to keep from going totally crazy. We can’t be in control of every situation, we can’t eat “perfectly” all the time (would we even want to?), and we can’t put so much pressure on ourselves that eating and living aren’t fun anymore. It just isn’t healthy.

That said, where do you draw the line between giving yourself the degree of flexibility and indulgence…and just using that rule as an excuse to slack off?

When you start to wonder if you’re getting too flexible, you might consider these points and do some evaluating:

  1. Are you setting standards for yourself? Ultimately, you’re responsible for your health and you’re the one who decide what goes. Set standards for yourself and aim high. Is cutting back to eating out once a day the goal you want to accomplish, or do you feel like you can do better? Is going from drinking six sodas a day to just five all you want to do, or can you ask a bit more of yourself? Remember, there’s a bit of a challenge involved whenever you make a change…Step up to it! (It’s fantastic to have goals, and, like I said, to put yourself up to a challenge. But take a good look at your goals and make sure they’re not putting unreasonable amounts of pressure on you. Think about what you want for your life and for your health. Additionally, there are often phases towards accomplishing goals, so consider the progress you want to make long-term and then the small steps you can take to get there). If you find the standards you’re setting for yourself are super low, then you’re probably pushing it with the flexibility rule and venturing close to the “making excuses” line. Consider reevaluating your plan of action.
  2. Embrace the 90/10 rule. (Or the 80/20 rule of that’s more your speed…just remember—set standards for yourself!). Focus on doing the best you can with your health and your food 90% of the time and use the last 10% to be flexible. If you find that you’re using the “flexible” rule more than you’ve planned, try to reel yourself back in.
  3. Check in with yourself regularly to see how you feel about the choices you’re making. For me, it’s easy to start abusing that sense of flexibility once I let it get out of control. A chunk of dark chocolate starts as an occasional treat…then it becomes a daily indulgence…and I suddenly can’t imagine an afternoon without it. Definitely pushing it. When I notice myself getting too flexible, I try to increase my awareness about the decisions I’m making. I ask myself questions like, “Am I really hungry?” and “When I look back on this later, will I feel happy with my decision?”. Sometimes, the answer to these questions is a yes! And I go ahead and enjoy my dark chocolate. But if I feel iffy about it and think that maaaybe I’m just eating this out of habit or to resolve another issue, I try to back away and reconsider my inclination to eat it. If I’m constantly having to have these discussions with myself, I know that something is out of balance in my life that needs attention—food-related or not.

How do you know whether you’re being too flexible with the standards you’ve set for yourself? What do you do to keep yourself on track while still indulging?

Shaking the Sugar Habit: Weekly Update

This post is part of the Shaking the Sugar Habit Blogger Challenge. Check out this post if you want to get involved!

This week certainly had is ups and downs. I’m frustrated with some aspects of my experience with the challenge, and happy with others. (If you’d like a reminder of what my specific goals are for this challenge, check out this post).

Here’s my weekly breakdown:

Positives:

  • Sweet/sour candies are a huge temptation of mine, and I was able to resist the urge to swing by the store and snag some this week. I didn’t crave them as much as usual, which leads me to believe that a lot of these cravings really are just how I respond to stress.
  • I felt I did better with my “use treats as treats” plan, instead of just snacking all the time. Nathan gave me a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day, and I definitely ate them all…but I didn’t feel like it was a poor choice. It was a treat and a special occasion.
  • I experimented with recipes using natural sweeteners (successfully!).

Challenges:

  • I did the grocery shopping last night (despite my big plans to change my shopping day) and got stressed out about the ending weekend as a result. Sooo I decided to buy some candies to make myself feel better (oh, and because I convinced myself it was a good idea because they were on sale). Not pleased.
  • I haven’t been reading labels as much as I’d like to be. I want to get motivated to be more aware of the sugars in food that I’m eating. I used to be a great label-reader, taking my time to meander through the store and check everything I bought, but lately…Not so much. I’ve been rushing through the stores and just trying to get the shopping over with. I miss my lazy, relaxed shopping trips!

I definitely have a lot to work on in the coming weeks!

Take a peek at the other bloggers participating in the challenge:

LauraJayne

Emilie

Annie

Rachel (Rachel, can you send me your blog link if you have one? The one on your comment isn’t working)

Remember, non-bloggers can participate too! Just comment on this post and update us on your progress. Looking forward to hearing about how everyone’s weeks went!

Muffins, Balls, and Big Packages: A Valentine’s Plan Gone Awry

Despite the fact that Nathan and I aren’t big on Valentine’s Day, I decided to put a little extra effort forth this year because he was going to be out of town all week for a conference. Mostly I just thought it would be snazzy to receive some unexpected little gifts while staying at a hotel (I’d be totally into it, anyway…you?).

As I mentioned before, I started out by arranging for some beer to be placed in Nathan’s hotel room so that he’d have a surprise at check-in (the hotel had a local San Francisco beer on the menu, so I picked that so that Nathan could try something new that he’d be unlikely to have had at home). The surprise was a success (though Nathan didn’t notice it right away, causing me to call the hotel in slight panic to make sure that they’d placed it in the room as planned).

The second part of the plan was for me to package up some tasty homemade treats so Nathan would have snacks for the week and a book for the plane ride back.

After I dropped Nathan off at the airport on Sunday morning, my roommate and I got crafty in the kitchen, whipping up Oh She Glows Itty Bitty Carrot Cake Cookies, a Purely Elizabeth muffin mix that I happened to have around, and finally some banana bread muffins (since we were already on a roll). I was especially excited about the first two, since they fell in line with my plan of gravitating toward gentler, more natural sweeteners (yay maple syrup!).

Everything turned out to be pretty tasty, but the cookies were especially delicious.

IMG_1809Tasty little balls of deliciousness! Win!

We definitely made a good decision in making a double batch, as it was almost impossible to avoid enjoying them as we baked the muffins.

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Spoiler: here’s when my fantastic plan fails miserably.

On Monday, Annabelle (the baby I nanny for) and I ventured off to the bookstore (where the cashier told me that I looked, “Well rested…for a mom…”) and then post office to send the package off. The employee at the post office gave me the options of overnighting the package (which guaranteed delivery the following day, but cost more than the contents of the package) or sending it priority mail (which averaged delivery in 2-3 days, and cost half as much). I went for the latter, crossing my fingers that they’d make it by Wednesday so that Nathan could actually enjoy the treats on his trip. We sent the package on it’s way and I spent the next two days anxiously anticipating its delivery.

Wednesday came and went.

No package.

I panicked a little, but hoped for the best for Thursday…which unfortunately was equally unsuccessful.

So here we. Friday. Nathan has checked out of his hotel and he and his package will likely pass each other going opposite directions across the country this afternoon. And perhaps some lucky hotel employees will get to enjoy the delicious baked goods, as well as the possibly offensive book I sent his way.

The only upside? Nathan’s snazzy Flytrap Valentine’s Day card arrived after I’d mailed his package, so it’s safely in my possession. I’d give it to him along with some of those extra cookies we’d made…but I think we all know that those didn’t stand a chance in my house.

Note to self: when dealing with muffins, balls, and/or big packages, always overnight.

On Urges and Figurative Muscles. (If You Know What I Mean?)

After reading this post from Then Heather Said, I felt the urge to be creative. (Honestly, this happens an awful lot after I read Heather’s blog, but this particular urge was especially intense because of the call to action at the end of her post). I sat for a while, threw together some ramblings that hardly summarized more than two minutes of “my story”, continued on my way.

It felt good to write something that deviated from my usual blog topics of being frugal and eating well and avoiding sugar and thinking about what you put in your ladybits. Instead, it was something with characters and feelings and a setting and, somehow, less focus and less purpose that what I usually write. It was a few moments of rambling and fragments of memories and then it was done and I felt refreshed.

I realized, after settling back in to hash out some details on the sugar challenge, that I’d exercised a long-ignored muscle. Despite trying to keep my mind on the projects I was juggling, I had something in the back of my head that kept me going back to Heather’s request—to write YOUR STORY.

I powered through, squashed the creative urges, and decided to be productive instead.

(It happens. A lot.)

But since that day, I’ve been considering how I can bring more attention back to that creative muscle that I’ve been neglecting. Through journaling? By entering contests like Jasmine’s? By hoping that I stumble across other blog posts that randomly encourage me to put time aside to write my story?

I’m not sure yet. But I’m realizing that I benefit from bringing a little attention to some writing that’s more on the creative side, and I’m excited to figure out how to do it.

What (figurative) muscles do you need to exercise more?

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