Saturday, August 31, 2013

Amy's Organic Low Sodium Lentil Soup Review


Amy's offers a line of organic food choices for those of us who are health or environmentally conscious. The particular soup I'm reviewing and eating at the moment is organic, free from gluten and Gmo's, has no trans fat, no added msg, and no preservatives; it also has no flavor!

While I would love to be a fan of this product, I'm not. This soup is entirely too bland. I would suggest Muir Glen's Lentil soup rather than Amy's. While Amy's has a great tomato bisque this lentil isn't worth the money... unfortunately I bought two thinking it would be so I'll be exchanging the other can!

DON'T BUY IT! Amy's does have great products, unfortunately this isn't one of them!

Friday, August 30, 2013

How I saved $400 on textbooks this semester


To be perfectly honest, I didn't save $400 on textbooks; I saved $442.45 off my textbooks! It is a fact I'm very happy about. I had to pay the full cost of my textbooks and part of my tuition out of pocket this semester, which isn't easy. I don't take out loans for college, and I'm not independently wealthy.

The retail price of all of the books I needed for this semester, if bought from our bookstore, was $614.94. Anyone else suffering from sticker shock? I know seeing a book with a $209.25 price made me cringe. That book alone would have costed more than I paid for ALL 5 books that were "required" this semester.

Now, your all wondering how I saved so much money. Many of you are already jumping to conclusions, and they are probably correct. I did say the retail price was $614.94, meaning I saved $442.45 off of retail. 

Buying used or renting is the first step to saving money.
If I went into my bookstore and simply went for the cheapest options then my total would have been: $321.18. A far cry from the $614.94 retail price but still over $100 more than I paid. Plus by renting then I don't get to keep the books which means no resale value on the rented books.
 Buying new and used (as my bookstore didn't have any option but new for 2 of my textbooks), would be $458.54. Again, cheaper than retail but MUCH more than I paid.

I always start out at my bookstore. The college bookstore is where we get our "back to school list" if you will; where we find out what materials are "needed" for our specific courses. I said I always start out at the bookstore because this is also where I get my max price that I will have to pay for the textbooks. I would say our bookstore is priced fairly well, having heard what other college student are paying for their textbooks... however as the commercial goes "why pay more?"

Email or ask you teachers what textbooks you will need for the class
I know I just said we get the list from the bookstore, however not all teachers actually use textbooks. I have a "required" book for my MacroEconomics class and the first day the teacher told us he has no clue why the bookstore tells us its required when he told them its optional. He gives lectures and his tests are based on those lectures. The book can be used as a supplement or not.
Fortunately I didn't buy ALL my books early this year so I hadn't bought this one yet. I picked up an earlier edition on amazon really cheap paying only $6.48 for the textbook including shipping! Being an Economics major I want to get my hands on this book and read and learn as much about it as possible!

Buy Online
I bought all but one of my books online this semester. It's easy to compare prices online and grab the best deals. I personally bought 5 of my books from two online sites: Amazon, and I bought them all from the marketplace, all were used but in good condition.

Buy from other students
Some of the best deals you can find is through other students. I picked up a book that retailed for $209.25 for $50. It was really only $40 but I gave my mom an extra $10 as a thank you for picking it up so I count it as a $50 textbook. I have also seen students resell NEW textbooks below retail because they chose to drop the class.

Buy the last edition
There are very few subjects where the latest edition will truly be very different from the last one. Yes, you will have to deal with page differences but it was worth it to me to save $50 on a textbook. Some professors don't like you to do this, they are probably the author of the book or getting some kind of kickback from the sale however. I am lucky to have a professor who told our class that using the last edition is okay and is willing to help us with differences in the books! Most books only have subtle differences!

So far I have recouped $70 by reselling books that I had last semester. I still have two of the textbooks from last semester as well. I didn't count this $70 in my savings however, but this is the reason I advocate buying used over renting if the price difference isn't much of a difference. If I had included the $70 I got back from selling last semesters books my total cost for this semester would be only $102.49!

You work hard for your money, so shop smarter! 

Finance Extraordinaire (in the making)!


Hello Everyone,

If you have read all my blog postings then you are already aware that I'm planning on branching out this blog to cover all kinds of different subjects. I want to post anything that inspires me, or that I want to write about. This blog is my own and I don't want to feel restricted, so I'm not restricting myself!

I don't ever really remember sharing with any of my followers much about who I am. Since I plan on adding posts about Finance from here forward I wanted to share a little about me that relates to that subject.

I am currently a full time college student, and I also work part time. I am working on an Economics undergraduate degree, hence the title of this blog post. The key words you should be noting in the title of this blog post are: in the making. That being said I don't know EVERYTHING about finance or economics, but I'm learning. I will say I probably know more than the average person.

My goal is to make a successful career as a personal financial adviser; Ideally I would like to have my own business own day. This is a long term goal. One of my short term goals is to graduate college without any debt. So far I'm on my way to achieving my short term goal, at least for my associates degree! I am working on my sophomore year of college and so far I haven't taken out any student loans.

Growing up in a household where I was told we didn't have money I naturally worried about it. I knew money was essential. I mean think about it, what doesn't require money? There isn't a whole lot. What I never knew growing up is how much any of our bills were or how much money my parents made. Many of you are thinking, "well thats none of your business".... I disagree. If your telling your child that you don't have any money then I think its natural in today's world that that child will worry. I'm not saying you have to buy your child anything they want, I'm saying you either teach them about money and finances so when you say you don't have money they know its for that item due to priorities or you just tell them no!

Growing up in a household worrying about money definitely impacted me as an adult. My husband and I are very focused on achieving financial security. We aren't cheap, well I kind of am, but we still have fun and make purchases. We don't purchase a lot of big ticket items however. We both drive older paid off cars; his car was a gift from his parents when he got his license. I bought my car from my mom when my other one proved unreliable.

We have a household budget, and I'm proud of it. I know probably 60% or more households have no budget. I know, I know, budget is a dirty word. I generally call it a spending plan instead. It is simply how we chose to allocate our money, our priorities. We aren't always on the mark. Sometimes we over spend in certain categories and then we have to pull the money from somewhere else. The one thing we are diligent about is savings!

At the moment we have a take home pay of around $3,000. Despite looking around I'm having a hard time finding what the AVERAGE american take home pay is. I would guess ours is below average; however, we manage to save 1/3 of our income or $1,000 every month. I think it really is ALL about setting priorities!

I'm very much into thinking about the future and insuring that we are financially secure; I don't know a person who can honestly say they don't want financial security for themselves. I want to share what I've learned from school, life, and other sources.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Big Picture Blog


So I hope all of you subscribe and read all of my blog posts because in addition to reviewing products I usually share a bit in each blog post. I like to hit on the topic of the company and on myself and my goals and how I'm doing. Sure, if this is your first time and you just wound up here doing a google search on a product then I can see why you would be like "who are you and why do I care about you or your blog?" I can get that.

This blog started out being about trying to share with people how to make decisions that are more environmentally friendly. How you and I can make minor changes that will be positive for both ourselves and the planet without being painful to our wallets! It's still about that but I think it can and should be about so much more! Human beings are diverse! While I love the parenting section of Yahoo Shine, I also cross over into Yahoo Finance, Well Being, Love and Sex! We have more than just one interest, in fact in any given day I read somewhere in the ballpark of 10 articles on various subjects!

I've been debating with myself what direction this blog should take since the beginning and I've reached the conclusion that so far I've been limiting it by just focusing on reviews and eco friendly. The environment does matter, don't get me wrong but so does life. Music, Love, Travel, Money, Goals, Career! I feel like I should be able to share anything and everything on here that inspires me and that I feel is worthy of sharing! My goal for this blog has always been first to inspire, and to share my opinions.

I want to inspire people to live a better life. No I'm not preaching! I just think everyone should be happy, and if your not then its time to re examine your life and what makes you happy! I'm not going to lie and say that I'm happy 24/7, I'm away from my husband, at a job that is not my absolute favorite and away from my friends! It's not ideal but I still feel like my life is pretty good, I have a bright future and I've got to put in the time at my job for my resume, I've got to minimize expenses because I want to be a young home owner and be financially secure! I think overall I'm happy and I know several people who can't say that, and that's sad.

There is something to say for eating right and working out. You don't even have to do both but either one seems to make us feel soo much better! I have just been eating better and now I feel like I want to work out! I want to clean my house and keep it in good shape and I want to learn piano and take those classes! Eating healthier has invigorated me and it makes me more productive which is actually a huge mood booster. I think as humans we all feel the need for some purpose or passion.

I'm not where I would like to be but honestly I think I'm getting better everyday and thats refreshing, thats huge! We can't change the past all we can do is look to the future, prepare for it! I'm not going backward, I'm going forward. No one's life is perfect but I think we all need to carve in more me time and do more for ourselves. Cleaning our house does count as does cooking, I mean really do you want to live in a sty? Vegging out in front of a tv all day doesn't help us.

I am dedicating this blog to living, to all my passions and to my life. If your not interested then don't read it but if you are then know that in every review I post there will be more than just a review there will be updates and opinions and a little piece of me!

Amy's Organic Butternut Squash soup review


Life is about experiences and trying new thing, and that includes new foods. As any of you who regularly read my blog know I'm trying to eat healthier. I have actually lost 8 lbs and I wasn't big to begin with! I'm so excited to weigh in at just 117 lbs now! I can contribute all of my weight lost to healthier eating habits since I haven't been getting more exercise or changing other habits!

Butternut Squash is a new food for me! I am not even accustomed to eating squash, in fact I don't think I have ever tried it! However soup is a great low calorie food and the fact that Amy's makes organic soups I was all ready to try them despite the $3/can price tag.... and well now I can say I've had butternut squash and NEVER again! I'm not sure whether its Amy's recipe or just dislike of butternut squash soup in general but I had one bite and spit it out and the soup went down the sink!

Now being a smart consumer I did email Amy's to let them know how horrible I found their soup. I wasn't overly harsh just a nicely written comment to them about how they might consider a new recipe because I found their repugnant! Fortunately for me Amy's cares about my business! Days after writing it I received a coupon for a free Amy's soup in the mail as well as other coupons and a brochure explaining just what they offer!

I like companies who employ good customer service. I didn't get to eat that can of soup because frankly I just couldn't down it, however their tomato bisque is very good and I plan on using the free coupon to get another can of it! Also at just 200? calories for the whole can its definitely keeping me trim!

I like Amy's as a company for another reason! Amy's supports GMO labeling and thier products are free of GMO's! I think we all have the right to know whats in our food and if its natural or genetically modified, I personally prefer natural. That's my preference because I don't believe enough research has been done on the long term effect of GMO's not just in humans but in other species and what the effect will be on the world as an overall! I like that Amy's is keeping it natural, their can's are also BPA free another plus in my book!

So in case you have skipped to the end to avoid reading any part of my blog that you felt was extra fluff or not of interest to you the bottom line is unless you have tried butternut squash soup or at least butternut squash and liked it I wouldn't recommend this soup cause it was dis-gus-ting! That's right sound it out!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Muir Glen Organic Minestrone Review

Being eco friendly extends to your food choices. Buying locally is one way to cut down on the harmful impact to the environment, another is buying organic! A good rule of thumb is whats good for the earth is good for you!

This soup is a more eco friendly choice, its low calorie, and its good for the soul! This is the perfect sick food! This soup tastes AMAZING, I love it! The soup is suprisingly really low calorie! The soup is only 100 calories per serving and the can has two servings in it. For me I need both servings, however its alright to have both servings because for both servings its still only 200 calories!

I paid under $3.00 for the can and I'm not saying that is cheap but I am saying that this soup is really good! If you go out for lunch a lot then simply take this can instead. It will be cheaper, healthier, and better for your waistline!

Now if you will excuse me, I'm off to pick up some more ;)

Friday, August 2, 2013

My latest failed grocery adventure


So I was all ready to brag about how well I did on my latest grocery trip. In fact at the stores I actually thought I was doing pretty well... then I came home and started putting stuff away! "Wait is this really all I got after spending $100"? It was, and as I went to blog about my brave new choices and great finds I realized that I did even worse then I thought in terms of healthy and eco friendly options as well. You see out of that $100 only about $21 of it was used on what I would consider eco friendly products. Still not to bad if you think of it in terms of dollars, because I'm putting 21% of my grocery budget towards environmentally friendly products however that's also the percentage of environmentally friendly items I wound up with in my house and lets face it its not enough! Yes its a step forward but 4/5 of the items I'm buying are still not as good for the planet!

Of the good choices I did make I picked up some Seventh Generation body wash, that had a buy one get one free coupon attached making them $4.00 each. I also picked up some vinegar both white and apple cider for its many uses around the house! I love using the white for steam cleaning my carpets!  At the Commissary I was more daring in trying some new products like Jones All Natural Turkey Sausage (only $1), and Van's Organic blueberry waffles ($2.19)! Since I do still use paper towels occasionally for cleaning I also needed to pick up some of those so I got a 2 pack of Marcel 100% recycled content paper towels for just $2. Other than that I bought some organic produce!

This shopping trip was a fail in many ways. First off I blew my budget for the month. I budget $134 a month for groceries (including hygiene and cleaning supplies) for myself. Since I live alone while my husbands in tech school its just the $134. That means, yes you can do the math... I have approximately $34 to last me the rest of the month. $42 if I take $8 from the dog budget for the items I bought them while grocery shopping. I have $14 a week, and I didn't really buy dinner foods.

Beyond blowing my budget when I was looking over my receipts I also realized that I bought more junk food then I meant to. There are new thin mint girl scount limited time candy bars that I just had to buy 2 of, and then ding dongs cause I haven't had one of them in ages, and then dark chocolate pudding that was on clearance (who could pass up that deal?), my favorite drink was on sale 2/$4 and its normally $2.89 each! You know I rarely buy myself these yummy pocky sticks, oh and I haven't had Nesquik chocolate milk mix in years! Yeah, WAYY to much!

I did get other healthier options, it wasn't a total bust but its try try again right!? It's time for me to learn to cook more than just baked fish! I was up last night reading blogs and scouring the internet for the average grocery budget for one person and I came across several people who eat on less than my budgeted amount and that eat healthier than I do. They shop sales and shop smart, but beyond that what they all have in common is they cook! Cooking your food at home is almost always more economical and healthier than eating out or buying premade food.

So anyone out there have any cheap easy to make recipes? Shopping tips? Can you help a girl out :)

Natural Cheap Eco Friendly Dog Chew!


I know, as usual, it has been way to long since my last post. Since in general I more review products or update you all on how I'm being more eco friendly I haven't had much to write about. However today I thought of something worthy of sharing. Something thats good for the environment, our wallets, and that our dogs will love: a cheap eco friendly natural dog chew.

If you have read my blog you should know that in addition to caring about the environment I care about the bottom line: money. I am an economics major and I believe in budgeting, scrimping, and saving. I don't want me or my husband to have to work harder or longer, I mean what for? I'm a more simple girl and there are many things I can do without or pay less for or find a cheaper version of!

My husband and I have two dogs. Nina and Shadow.

Well I'm definitely not taking frugality to the extreme level (anyone seen extreme couponers?) I do consider myself frugal. The one thing I don't skimp on is our dogs however. Before having seen a dog trainer for Shadow (the big one), he was ripping up his forelegs chewing them. He had a food allergy and we didn't know it until the trainer caught on (even before our vet!). She recommended we find food that the first 2 or 3 ingredients are meat or fish! Now we buy the dogs Whole Earth and Chicken Soup, its really not that much more expensive and the dogs are doing great on it! We buy Frontline Flea and Tick, yes I know not the most eco friendly. The eco friendly option I tried just really didn't work nearly as well though. We also see the vet regularly, about twice a year when the proheart and other vaccinations are due.

There are two areas in which I do save money on my dogs however and the reason you can to read this is to find a new chew toy for your dog. I came upon this by accident but my vet said it should be fine in moderation and from what I've read online other vets agree and even recommend it. It really does help with their teeth too! My dogs teeth have gotten better since the last vet visit and other people whose dogs use them say the same.

.... and the magical chew is.... COCONUT!

My dogs love both the meat of the coconut (why is it called the meat when its a fruit?) and chewing on the husk! They have has two coconuts thus far and no bad reactions at all! They shouldn't eat the husk however just play with it and chew on it so you may want to supervise the first few times you allow them a husk. If there is coconut attached to the husk then it becomes like a kong, it keeps them busy while they figure out how to eat it.

I just bought my dogs another coconut yesterday during my shopping trip for $2. I have two dogs and they probably chew on the husk at least two weeks. That means I'm paying $ .50 a week for each dog for a chew toy! Not bad right? Beyond that their chew toy is natural, eco friendly, cleans their teeth, keeps them preoccupied and out of trouble and is biodegradable. Does it get better?

What do you think? Have you tried it? Are your dogs loving the coconut as much as mine?

Update 01/07/2014

My dogs don't get AS excited about coconut as they did when we originally introduced it, still preferring rawhide to it. The coconut however lasts MUCH longer than rawhide. One piece of rawhide is gone in less than an hour with my big dog (which is an improvement to when I posted this because I'm working on teaching him to chew rather than swallow!), and the coconut they chew on for two weeks.
The coconut does a great job of cleaning their teeth, is a healthy treat, and I picked up 2 for $1 each this week, SCORE!