3 Ways to Achieve Your Blog Goals

As I sat writing this blog post this morning, I felt a bit like a fraud. I feel like I've written this sentence multiple times already, but: March was a bit of a rough month for me. The very first Friday of the month, I got the flu and was sick for a solid 3.5 weeks. Just as I started to feel 100% better, I woke up this morning with a sore throat again. How's that for getting better? As a result of being sick, a lot of things have fallen to the wayside, the main one being this blog. 

So, yeah, I feel a bit like a fraud writing this post knowing I won't have hit my goals for March in terms of page views and growth. But, that's life, isn't it? Some months you do everything right and have a great month (January); some months you achieve your goals even when you aren't sure why (February); and some months, you really want to try, but you just can't (March). 

Anyway, what I'm saying is: blogging should, at the end of the day, be about passion. If it's taking it away from you, you need to adjust what you're doing. I know a lot of people start blogs in the hopes of doing it full time, but I highly discourage this behavior. We've seen multiple "blog bubble bursts" in the last few years--the first round of very famous Mommy Bloggers are currently in the process of downsizing their homes, selling off all the trendy furniture they bought, and locking down real jobs. I'm not kidding. All I'm saying is: don't put all your eggs in one blogging basket. Be realistic: blogging is, at most, a supplemental side gig. Use it to supplement a full time position. 

Ok, that's my only little PSA/soapbox. Let's get onto some tips for actually hitting those blog goals. 

1. Actually Set (Realistic) Goals

I mean, duh-est of duhs, but you should actually set blog goals. Every month, on my editorial calendar, I write a few little goals: usually a page view increase of 3-5% (nothing crazy), and a certain number of Twitter or Instagram followers. The most important thing is to set realistic goals. You might see some people claiming to gain 2,000 Instagram followers in a month, and not to doubt those people, but buying followers doesn't count. Using hashtags and an increased Instagram strategy, I've gotten about 150 followers in 4 months or so. Yeah, that's realistic. My goal every month is 10 engaged followers on Instagram. 

2. Strategize Social Media, but Don't Go Overboard

Here's the thing about social media: it's easy to let it drive you crazy. When you're trying to schedule posts for Facebook, for Instagram, for Twitter, for Pinterest, and more, it gets really overwhelming, especially if you're also a full time student, or parent, or worker. The truth is, you probably just don't have time to do all that managing. I decided to stop scheduling Twitter posts recently (unless something really tickles my fancy). Instead, I focus on scheduling posts for Facebook and that's it. I get a higher return from Facebook, so that's where my energy should go. My goal for Instagram is two posts a day (one around 10am-1pm, and then one after 6pm). 

Ok, but what about Pinterest? Every day, I spend about 20 minutes pinning 5 of my blog posts to two group boards. That's it. And I get a ton of traffic from Pinterest by repinning, by creating dedicated boards to specific topics that are popular on Pinterest, and by creating graphics that look good on Pinterest. You don't need to pay a whole heap of money for a fancy Pinterest scheduler, I swear. I do most of my Pinterest work from my phone while my son sleeps. 

3. Join Facebook groups. 

I really groaned about including this one tip. Because it feels a bit like cheating, doesn't it? Facebook groups dedicated to blogging are great places to promote your blog posts, join threads where people share your most recent post (and you share theirs), and learn how to optimize and improve your blog. It can be really time consuming to try to do everything though. I am only a member of three groups and I participate in maybe one thread a week. That's my goal for the moment! For some good Facebook groups to join, I really like this blog post. 


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10 Quotes to Use on Instagram

I've written before about how I struggle with Instagram captions. It's definitely a challenge for me to write engaging content both on my blog and on so many social media platforms! But I'm trying... I started thinking recently about quotes that can be used in captions to add a bit of humor, thought, and, of course, engagement. I found a few great ones on Pinterest that I thought would be perfect to share. 

  1. Everybody has a chapter they don't read out loud. 
  2. Better an "oops" than a "what if." 
  3. "It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are." ee cummings 
  4. We look up at the stars and see such different things. 
  5. "Maybe one day we'll finally learn to love ourselves and stop apologizing for the things that make us who we are." R.M. Drake
  6. "Of course I feel too much, I'm a universe of exploding stars." S. Ajna 
  7. We take photos as a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone. 
  8. You can ask the universe for all the signs you want, but ultimately, we see what we want to see when we're ready to see it. 
  9. Don't let someone dim your light, simply because it's shining in their eyes. 
  10. When it rains, look for rainbows. When it's dark, look for stars. 

For more great Instagram captions, I always turn to Pinterest. You can follow me here


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How to Be More Active When You Don't Have Time

For an entire year after Forrest was born, I really struggled to get back into being active. When you feel like you don't have time, when you're always moving from one thing to the next, it can be hard to add "go for a walk" or "do an exercise video" to that. In the last three months, I've tried harder to be active: to take Forrest on walks, to not just sit on the couch. 

If you're busy in the same way I'm busy, and you're not willing to wake up at 4am ahead of your toddler (someday, Forrest will sleep in, right?), here are a few tips for trying to be more active. Here's the caveat of these tips: I'm not claiming you'll be able to work in a 2 hour work out. It won't be easy. But here's what I do. 

1. Get a Fitbit 

This is a daunting one for some people. But I love my Fitbit. I have a cheap, $50 Fitbit (it's the most simple version) and a hand-me-down Fitbit One. Both work just fine. You don't have to get the fanciest version for it to work, I promise. I mostly just need my steps. Here's the thing: I work a sedentary job, I have a toddler. I know it's going to take a while of practice for me to hit 10,000 steps a day. (For some people, who live in cities where walking everywhere is possible, this is nothing.) So my goal everyday is 5,000 and if I hit that, I feel pretty good. If I can hit 7,000, I feel like a champ. Set realistic goals for you and your Fitbit. 

2. Fit in what you can 

Ok, this is a big one for me. I used to love going to the gym every single day after work. I would spend an hour doing cardio and lifting weights. It kept me healthy, made me feel good, and improve my mood. But the truth is, I just don't have time to do that anymore. I've thought of ways to fit it in: going before work, leaving work earlier, going in the evening once Forrest is in bed. But I'm so exhausted by the end of the day. Instead, I try to go walking when the weather permits. Forrest and I will walk around the park, then play on the play structure. It's a nice little exercise and we get outside the house. On days where I'm home with Forrest, we go in the morning, and then usually play outside for a little while in the afternoon. 

3. Download workout apps. 

I have tons of work out apps. FitStar and Pump Up are two of my favorites. In the evening, I have about enough energy to clean the house and then for a 10-15 minute work out using one of these apps. It's not a huge time commitment, but it's enough to make me feel like I'm active. I like FitStar because it automatically syncs to my FitBit. However, I like Pump Up because you can generate work outs depending on what areas you want to target and whether to include cardio or not. So if nothing else, a quick work out using an app is doable, especially in the evening or early morning. 


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Book Review: All the Dead Girls, by Rita Herron

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley. You can read my disclosure policy here. As a warning, this review does contain significant spoilers. 

Uuuuuuuuugh, where do I start with this book?

As I posted on Instagram recently, I... wanted to like it. I feel like it had a lot of good things going for it. Unfortunately, it suffered from a few flaws. But a few, I mean quite a few. By quite a few, I mean, ok, a lot. I'm trying to be nice here. 

Here's a brief synopsis: Beth, formerly JJ, was abducted, alongside her best friend, Sunny, 15 years before. In the small town of Graveyard Falls, after a tornado devastates the the area, a massive graveyard full of the bodies of adolescent girls is discovered. Beth, now an FBI agent, teams up with her former high school crush-turned-sheriff (Ian, who ditched her the night she was abducted and whose stepfather was arrested for her abduction and Sunny's disappearance) to investigate the crime. 

Firstly, we are introduced to FAR too many characters throughout the book. The point of view switches too many times. First we have JJ, then Beth, who is JJ, then Ian, then Prissy, then the murderer, then the Reverend, then Vanessa. It's. Just. Too. Many. It's back and forth, back and forth. I'm a firm believer in keeping point of view as simple as possible to avoid tense confusion. (I'm terrible with tense in the first place in my own writer. Don't confuse me while I'm reading too!) 

I think my biggest issue with all this is the way that plot moves forward. Too much happens, but none of it makes sense or is logical. We as readers as asked to suspend disbelief too many times. Within any novel, you are suspending disbelief because novels don't necessarily represent reality, but rather an artistic representation of the world. But sometimes, it's just too much.  

Firstly, Beth would not be allowed to work on a case where a girl she was kidnapped with was found. This is her case. She is investigating a serial killer that targeted her specifically. I mean, that's really the biggest suspension of disbelief: the FBI would never allow a victim to work on the case as in the capacity of an agent. There is just no way for her to remain partial regarding the case. The same goes for the main male character, Ian, whose father was arrested for Beth's abduction when they were teenagers. Guess what? He's working the case too! Two people who would never be allowed to work on a case in reality are solving it as partners. That makes absolutely no sense. The FBI would never compromise themselves or a case this way. These storylines don't stand up on shows like Bones or Criminal Minds, let alone in novels. 

So, that's a shaky, rough start. One funny part at the beginning was when the "boneyard" (groan) is found. At least a dozen girls buried in a remote patch of woods. Ian, when gazing out over this field, notes that one skeleton is less deteriorated than the others. Throughout the novels, these are referred to as bones, suggesting that all of bodies have decomposed; however, they also talk about a girl who was murdered like a few weeks before. There is no way she would have been completely skeletonized at that point. Then I realized it: Rita Herron is uncomfortable writing about the actual appearance of these bodies, so she just refers to them as skeletons and the skeletons decomposing. It's so bizarre. 

I also took serious issue with the introduction of Prissy: we sympathize with her, we see the unsub return to her again and again and again throughout the novel, we hope for her survival... and then she's just dead. And then, it switches and it's Vanessa! Listen, Herron, a word of advice, one writer to another: if you introduce a character like this, in jeopardy, the reader is attached. It is a bad idea to 1) kill that character, but also 2) kill that character and then have the unsub abduct ANOTHER character right after. Like, c'mon. I feel like it was only done to add time, but I feel like so much could have been cut (the constant spoon-feeding of how "broken" and "victimized" Beth was... please, gag me, the mushy romance that was just super gross at times, Ian's worries about his mom which only bother him when the book needs a little filler) to actually save Prissy and keep that tension. We spend too much time at Prissy's house, learning about her, following her, and then she's just gone... and so is the tension of the book. It falls flat on its face before the story is even resolved. 

Ok, so, everyone take a seat. It's time to talk about Cocoa. The minute Cocoa was introduced (alongside her restaurant Cocoa's Cafe), I thought, "she better not be black." Guess what, guys? This book is not only operating on the assumption that the FBI would ever let a kidnapping victim investigate her own case, but it's also racist. Fun! 

Hey, Rita Herron, FYI: This is racist as all hell. DO NOT compare a person of color's skin to food in your novel. And then, do not name your only POC character after that color! GOOD GOD. And then the constant, "Cocoa is the heart of this community! She takes care of everybody! She gives away food!" And yet all the kids in town are racist as hell towards her granddaughter? 

Don't play that game, Rita Herron. The town you created is racist as hell and Cocoa would not be running a successful restaurant. If the kids are being racist to the granddaughter, it's because the parents are racist and while they might go to Cocoa's Cafe, they sure as hell wouldn't treat Cocoa much better. (God, I hate typing the name Cocoa.) I have trouble putting into words how inappropriate the character of Cocoa (and by extension, Cocoa's husband Deon and the granddaughter Vanessa) are, but if I'm offended and weirded out by these characters, I cannot imagine how a POC actually reading this book would react. This is the most problematic part of this book and it's because it feels so gross and so racist. 

Ok, we've covered the blatant racism. Now, let's talk about how everything is spoon-fed to us. 

Over and over again, Beth mulls (and mulls and mulls) over how victimized she is. How she experienced amnesia. How she needs to just remember. She just tells us these things. We aren't ever shown these things. Occasionally, Beth blanks out and freaks out over something, like the Deathscape game or a picture. This is not only super unprofessional, but it makes me think: How would Beth EVER pass the FBI psych test? (Hint: she probably wouldn't. Sorry, Beth/JJ/whatever.) It's all so blatantly spoon-fed to us and as a reader, it feels like pandering. I don't want Beth to tell me over and over that she's been victimized, but she's ok, but she's scared, but she's fine, really, but she's freaking out at a blood donation van. Like, ok, maybe just show me these things and let me draw the conclusion on my own? As a reader? Which is the job of the reader? 

The same goes for everything with Ian. We are spoon-fed everything about Ian, but my only takeaway regarding Ian is that he is super inappropriate with his female coworkers and he needs to calm down. Dude, don't be nasty. We're supposed to feel bad for him because his (step)father was arrested for Beth's abduction, but all the evidence pointed to his stepfather and I can't actually find any point where Ian shows genuine emotion for his stepfather. We're just told he does, but that's not the same as actually seeing. As every creative writing teacher has ever said ever: show, don't tell, stupid.  

Let's talk about how terrible at his job Ian is. In the first 25% of the book, right after Ian knows to look for someone obsessed with religious symbols and lives in the remote mountains around town, Cocoa herself tells him that a guy who lives in the mountains (ding) is painting religious paintings (ding) for an auction for the town. IAN, GET THAT GUY'S NAME. Cocoa just did at least 50% of your job. Why are you so bad at your job?? Multiple people mention this guy to Ian and he just ignores it. But when I first read it, I was like, "it was that guy." Guess what? It's not. But they DO arrest that guy near the end of the book. We could have literally skipped half of this terrible novel if Ian would just listen to the poor woman. 

Also, I refuse to believe that there are THIS MANY DUDES in a tiny town with only one restaurant obsessed with punishing 14-year-old girls, bloodletting, and religious symbology. It's another suspension of disbelief because, prior to this novel, two separate serial killers were found in this small town. So in this novel alone they arrest the actual serial killer plus a guy who was punishing girls and performing exorcisms with bloodletting plus a guy who paints religious symbology in blood. That's just too much in one small town. The serial killer aspect is fine, but the larger narrative of this religious cult that is obsessed with punishing 14-year-old girls for being "sinners" requires me to believe that men are just absolute scum and feminism teaches me otherwise. No thank you.  

Another big glaring FBI issue: when the director tells Beth she's off the case and she disobeys him. He says she's too close to the case (which he would have never allowed her onto in the first place, but whatever) and tells her she's on a break. She doesn't and Ian doesn't care. She would be fired immediately. ASAP. The FBI don't give a hoot. Also, when she shoots the coach? Yeah, her gun would IMMEDIATELY be confiscated as evidence, no exceptions. The director wouldn't "let her keep it because she needs to protect herself." No. It's evidence. She shot someone! This isn't how investigations work! She had also been kicked off the case at that point, so technically she's a rogue agent who just shot a civilian. She would be in handcuffs. I can't. It's so unrealistic. 

When I originally wrote my review on Goodreads, I forgot to include the dumbest part: at the end of the novel, Ian tracks Beth down in Knoxville (so... ugh, romantic?) and proposes. They've been friends for about 2 weeks at this point. Beth shot his dad. And he proposes? Ok, sure, that's how romantic relationships work. It's so gross. It feels like Beth is just like, "ok, I'm healed now! I went through some stuff and wasn't ok, but now I'm ok because I have a man!" And I just... I would like Beth to go to therapy and really think about if she likes Ian or not. Because Ian's gross. 

There's so much more I could talk about. I wanted to like this novel because the serial killer aspect is so good and the crime is actually really convincing. I like Beth as a character when we aren't being spoonifed every single aspect of her personality. There are just so many issues that detract from what sounds like a good prompt. I wish it was better. But it's not. 

To read my original view on Goodreads (and follow my reviews!), click here. If you like the content here on Writing Between Pauses, I'd love if you'd take a second to subscribe to my newsletter

No More Instagram Themes

Does anyone else feel like something crazy is going on over on Instagram? I love nothing more than a careful Instagram: pretty photos, clever captions, glimpses of life behind the blog. But more and more, I've noticed the emphasis becoming about themes. A simple Google search reveals guides to theming your Instagram, tons of Pinterest results, and even more guides to keep your Instagram "on-trend."

Sorry, I had to take a break from yawning. 

Is it just me or are Instagram themes... boring? 

To be clear, I think some people do them right: they edit their photos the same way every time for a cohesive look. There's nothing wrong with that. But overwhelmingly, Instagram themes that focus on creating a specific look in the grid, or that plan out larger images, or only use certain colors, gosh, it's gets a little monotonous. 

Mostly, I think it removes the spontaneity and fun from Instagram. I don't really want to see the same, white-background photos over and over again. Already, the marble background flat lay has becoming devastatingly common and every time I see it, I can't help but want something, anything, else to come into style. 

So this is my plea to other bloggers: posting nice, curated photos in one thing. But no more Instagram themes. 


I would argue (and I mean, I am) that Instagram themes are boring. And not only are they boring, I think they remove the fun of Instagram. As a blog reader (as well as a blog writer), I don't want to follow people with perfect houses who only post perfect photos. Sometimes, life is messy: the dinner burns, the coffee doesn't taste good, your son has a blow out right before the newborn photo shoot. Excuse the language, but shit happens. That's life. 

And Instagram is meant to show a little bit more of your life, right? So why portray that life through an all-perfect theme? 

I carefully pick photos I post on Instagram now. But sometimes, I post a picture of my messy living room and linty leggings because, that's my life. And then, sometimes, I post a nice little flat lay, because that's my life too. 

All I'm saying is: you don't have to dedicate your Instagram to grainy, badly lit photos. But I beg you, let a little bit of your real life in. Not the curated side table that you keep clean for blog photos. Not the corner you keep meticulously clean. Not that piece of poster board you have covered in fake marble vinyl. Your readers deserve to know that sometimes life isn't perfect. Sometimes, it's not about a perfect Instagram feed. Sometimes, it's just about being authentic. 


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Beauty Review: Ole Henriksen Balance Skincare Line

As I recently posted on Instagram, I meant to post my review of these products way earlier. I received my VoxBox over two weeks ago. In that time, I came down with the flu, went to the doctor twice, and have almost recovered from the flu (12 hours without a fever flare up is about as recovered as I can expect 10 days on). At least I'm not flat on my back anymore, right? 

So here it is, my review. My review of these products is definitely colored by the fact that I haven't worn make up since I got sick. The number of times I've stumbled out of my house, hair a mess, wearing sweatpants, visible acne all over my face, is pretty astonishing, but very freeing. (I originally planned to post different content this week, actually. But reviews are easier to write on a fatigued brain like mine.) 

Let's start with the cleanser. 

Find Your Balance Control Cleanser

I have a really hard time finding cleansers that I like. I've been using the Beautycounter Charcoal bar since October (when I received it as a gift from my sister, who is a consultant) and I liked it: it removed my make up, it didn't leave my skin feeling covered in residue, it didn't dry out my very sensitive skin. That being said, it didn't seem to give me any benefit, but considering how sensitive my skin is to cleansers, I'm willing to take the bare minimum. 

The Ole Henriksen Find Your Balance Control Cleanser smells amazing, first off: it has eucalyptus and peppermint oils, which sounds really harsh, but is surprisingly gentle. It is a more gel-like cleanser that foams easily in water to later across your face. It gives my skin this super tingly, fresh feeling. And the smell. Did I mention the smell? It's amazing. For whatever, it reminds me of the scene in Mean Girls where Regina's face smells like peppermint. 

So how is in on the actual cleansing part? It removes my make up extremely well and I've noticed a significant reduction in the amount of oil my skin produces since I started using it. My skin is less red and I've noticed that a lot of my cystic acne scars are lightening. Those are two benefits that really work for me. 

Balancing Force Oil Control Toner

I have never really been able to keep up the whole "cleanser-toner-moisturizer" routine. It's just too many steps for me. But I was willing to take a chance with this toner. It is not as strongly scented as toners I've used in the past and definitely not as harsh. It has the same clean, eucalyptus scent as the cleanser, but very toned down. It's super gentle and doesn't burn my skin like a lot of toners. 

Ok, here's my important question: does not using the toner throw off the oil control aspect of this line? Here's the spoiler: yes. If I just use the cleanser and moisturizer, I definitely produce less oil than I would normally; however, without the toner, my skin definitely doesn't stay as matte. I tested out this theory a few times. So the toner is an important step and one I'm willing to take because I've literally never found anything that keeps my skin so matte during the day. 

Counter Balance Oil Control Moisturizer

Technically, this is called a "hydrator" (but it's a moisturizer). Like the toner, it has a really clean scent, but definitely toned down from the cleanser. I appreciate this because it means you get that nice burst of scent when you wash your face, but it doesn't stick with you all day long. 

This moisturizer promises to be mattifying--and friends, it's not lying. I've used lots of mattifying moisturizers in the past (my favorite has been dermatologica, but it definitely didn't do wonders for my skin). Since I've used this line from Ole Henriksen, I've seen a significant reduction in my acne which is honestly incredible. This moisturizer also definitely doubles as a primer for me (except on my nose, which I need a separate primer for usually). It keeps my skin super matte, it's a great base for doing make up, and keeps me from getting too dry or too oily throughout the day. I'm obsessed with it. 

Also, unlike other moisturizers which I feel make my skin feel super, super grimy, this moisturizer feels so clean. It's perfect. 


Ok, so that's it. I love these Ole Henriksen products. I'm so glad that Influenster selected me for the Find Your Balance Voxbox. I did receive these products for free for review (you can read my disclosure policy here), but all thoughts on them are my own. If you'd like to follow me on Influenster, you can do so here. Also, if you love this review (and all the other content on my blog), I'd love if you'd sign up for my newsletter by clicking here

A Little Reading Nook Inspiration

If you follow me on any social media, you know that on Friday, I was hit by the flu. Well, both Forrest and I were hit by the flu. Having a toddler get so sick is bad enough. But trying to take care of him while simultaneously being taken down by a 103 degree fever is even worse. Nothing anyone can say will fully prepare you for the moment you just can't get off the couch to stop your toddler from throwing every book over the baby gate. But it happens. We've made it through the worst of it. All Forrest has left is a small cough; he's finally eating again (thank goodness!). 

I, on the other hand, can't sleep at night I cough so much and my throat hurts so bad. I have absolutely no voice (try ordering a tea at Starbucks with no voice, it's fun for everyone!). But we're making it through. 

One thing that fell by the wayside over the weekend was, obviously, my blog. I thought and thought about what I should try to post and one thing that came to mind was... reading nooks. 

I've been reading a lot since I got sick. When I wake up in the middle of the night and slather myself with Vick's VapoRub, I often read for an hour until I get sleep again. Looking at reading nooks on Pinterest is also a great way to pass those wee morning hours until everyone else wakes up. 

So here's a little fun reading nook inspiration. Just because it's fun to imagine. 

I definitely have a preferred "look" when it comes to reading nooks. This one (source) is pretty much perfect. The natural wood, tons of books, a bed. I could sleep there. Forever. It's very "cupboard under the stairs" in terms of size, but looks way cozier than Harry Potter's former bedroom. 

That being said, I'm really into these two opposing nooks: you can roll from your computer nook to your reading nook. The window seat reading nook is super popular and you can find tons of options for it on Pinterest. To tour the entire house that features these nooks, click here

Let's get back to my aesthetic, however. If I had to have the flu anywhere, I'd prefer to have it here. Because it's just... better than anywhere else. A big comfy bed and a bunch of books (plus maybe some DayQuil and a few boxes of tissues and someone to bring me tea) would be much better than chasing a toddler and falling asleep on the couch while he watches BabyFirst TV. You can check out an entire Buzzfeed article of these beauties here

I had to include one more just for practicality. When it comes to reading nooks, ones that also act as bookshelves are genius. I love this style and could for sure see myself sleeping there for several days in a row. I couldn't find an original source for this, but you can view the Pin from Pinterest here


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4 Genius Meal Prep Ideas to Save Time & Money

Every Sunday, I do meal prep. This isn't something I've always done and to be completely honest, I dread it every single week. It's something I cannot do when Forrest is around because he loses his mind the moment he sees food. 

This is my way of saving: meal prep isn't fun. I won't pretend it is. However, I always thank Sunday me when Wednesday rolls around and Forrest is scream-crying because he has a fever from his molars and I just cannot cook

If you're like me and you end up buried up to your eyeballs by halfway through the workweek, then these meal tips are for you. 

1. Set aside one day, two hours, and do it. 

This is the most basic of basic tips, but meal prep doesn't have to take an entire day. In fact, I beseech you: don't torture yourself by meal prepping all day. Here's how I typically meal prep: 

  • I make my husband's lunches for the week (always stir fry). 
  • I make my husband's breakfasts for the week. 
  • I make something we can use in meals every single day (like a huge batch of roasted veggies or a bunch of rice). 
  • I make something I can grab as a quick lunch every single day (like pasta or chicken). 

That's it. I don't make huge batches of overnight oats or cute little jars that take up way too much room in my small fridge. I don't torture myself. Don't torture yourself. Set aside two or three hours in one day, plan a menu for the week, and execute it. 

2. Remember to actually eat the things you prep. 

Okay, another really basic tip: remember to eat all this stuff. Whenever my husband forgets his lunch, I basically want to start tearing the doors off our house. (I don't. But I want to.) Remember to keep a list on your fridge or phone of what you have prepped, as well as a rough outline of things you can make every day. I personally do not like to do a menu plan for each day because, guaranteed, by Tuesday evening, I will rebel. Instead, I just make a list of what I have and what possible combinations can come from that. 

3. It's ok to be simple. 

I recently started following a budgeting program and one of the most revolutionary tips was, dinners don't have to be over-the-top insane, crazy. Dinners don't have to be three or four courses. BLTs and salad is fine. Chicken and veggies is fine too. You don't need to go crazy! It's healthier, and will save you money, to not feel like you have to prep a ton of food for each dinner. My advice is to go after simple meals and items. Chicken with rice and veggies can be just as delicious as a huge, hearty, steak-and-potatoes meal. My husband's favorite dinners are stir fry days, when I literally just reheat roasted veggies with some teriyaki sauce, add some chicken, and cook some chow mein noodles. Minimal effort, truly. 

4. Stretch what you make with bulk items. 

When I prep rice and vegetables for the week, I make sure to have things like pre-cooked chicken, beef, and meatballs in the freezer. I usually keep a batch of turkey meatballs and beef meatballs frozen and thaw as needed. I also cook ground beef with peppers and onions and freeze in bags to use for spaghetti, tacos, lasagna, and more. Chicken is easy to cook in the oven, cool, and freeze in individual servings to be de-thawed as necessary. Having these things in your freezer can be added to your weekly prepped items, like rice and roasted vegetables, for a quick lunch or dinner. Keeping canned goods (like black beans, corn, and chickpeas) on hand can also be a quick addition. 

When you meal prep ahead of time, you save yourself time and you save money. None of these items are particularly expensive and if you shop sales, you can get good deals on ground beef and ground turkey to cook in advance. 


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