Category Archives: Seasonal

Chocolate Covered Pretzel Shamrocks

Chocolate Covered Pretzel Shamrocks

Chocolate Covered Pretzel Shamrock // Money Savvy Living

New twist on a classic!  Chocolate covered pretzels are always a hit at my house… and I imagine they are at your house too.  It’s sweet, it’s salty, chocolate is involved… you really can’t go wrong with that kind of dessert.

So the only thing left to do is figure out fun ways to make chocolate covered pretzels festive for whatever holiday or season you want to celebrate.  And we’ve done just that for St. Patrick’s Day!  Here you have it, chocolate covered pretzel shamrocks!

Chocolate Covered Pretzel Shamrock // Money Savvy Living

These chocolate covered pretzel shamrocks are so easy to make!  You really only need 5 things to get started:

  • green colored chocolate melting wafers
  • pretzel twists
  • pretzels sticks
  • shortening
  • wax paper
  • sprinkles *optional*

You just get a bag of green chocolate melting wafers and melt according to the instructions.  Then add a little bit of shortening to the melted chocolate.  That will help to thin it out a bit and give it a nice gloss.

**Tip: A good rule of thumb for melting chocolate is to do so in 30 second increments at 50% power until melted that way you avoid burning it**

Cover table or counter with wax paper.  This works great because the pretzels can lay on the wax paper to dry and then they will easily peel off when the chocolate has completely set.

To make each shamrock, you will need 3 pretzel twists and 1 pretzel stick.  Dip them in the green melted chocolate to even coat and as you lay them on the wax paper, start forming your shamrock!  Make sure sides are touching so that the chocolate dries and holds the shape intact.

This was even a fun little project that my kids helped with!  So have fun and make some memories with your kids in the kitchen!

Chocolate Covered Pretzel Shamrock // Money Savvy Living Chocolate Covered Pretzel Shamrock // Money Savvy Living Chocolate Covered Pretzel Shamrock // Money Savvy Living

 

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

 

*This post contains affiliate links. Should you choose to make a purchase, I will receive a commission, but it does not change the overall price to you, the consumer.

Classic Reuben Sandwich

 

Classic Reuben Sandwich // Money Savvy Living

 

St. Patrick’s Day will be here soon… and I literally can’t get by this holiday without craving a good corned beef sandwich!  Of course, they are delicious any time of year, but it’s just like turkey at Thanksgiving, cookies at Christmas…and corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day.

 

While the corned beef brisket with potatoes, macaroni and cheese, or some other comfort food is tasty, I have to say that my very favorite way to eat corned beef is in a classic reuben sandwich!  Oh my…. so good.

 

Of course, you can buy a delicious reuben sandwich, but it is so easy to make, you won’t even need to find an Irish Pub in order to get that authentic taste…

 

Yes, it’s easy, but it will take some time if you’re going to cook your own corned beef bristketbut I did include a shopping list with a quicker option below as an alternative option.

 

So to start, cover a 2-3 pound corned beef in a crockpot with water, add the seasoning packet (and a bay leaf, if you want, but don’t forget to remove it later).  Cook for 6-8 hours, or until tender.  Meat should easily pull apart.  You can cook it on the stop top or in the oven, I just prefer a crockpot because it is so easy to just put on before work, then when you get home, most of dinner is ready!  Easy-peasy!

 

Next is the sauerkraut.  I never, ever just warm up sauerkraut from the jar or the bag (for me, that is just a little too sauer!).  I always like to cook it down for a few minutes with applesauce and brown sugar, and a little salt and pepper to taste.  This literally takes less than 5 minutes…

 

While that is cooking, you can butter your rye & pumpernickel bread and toast it on a griddle, put the provolone cheese (ok, so this is a twist on the “classic” reuben because my kids don’t like swiss cheese) on to melt on one side of the sandwich, and generously apply the Thousand Island dressing to the other side of the sandwich.  Pull the bread off the griddle because you are ready for a plate!

 

Layer on the thin chuncks of corned beef, top with sauerkraut, and you now have the most delicious reuben sandwich… oh yeah, seriously mouth-wateringly delicious!

 

Classic Reuben Sandwich // Money Savvy Living

Classic Reuben Sandwich

  • Corned beef
  • Sauerkraut
  • Thousand Island dressing
  • Rye & Pumpernickel bread
  • Provolone Cheese

Layer ingredients, hot or cold, to make a delicious sandwich!

*if you don’t have Thousand Island dressing, you can just mix some mayo, ketchup, and pickle relish together and you will have a great homemade Thousand Island dressing!

 

Enjoy!
 

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*Follow the instructions for this one-step rapid roast.  Preparation for it would be different than cooking a raw corned beef brisket.

 

 

*This post contains affiliate links. Should you choose to buy a product through here, I would receive a commission, but it does not change the price to you, the consumer.

Cranberry Cinnamon Roll Drop Biscuits

Cranberry Cinnamon Roll Drop Biscuits

Cranberry Cinnamon Roll Drop Biscuits | Money Savvy Living

Christmas morning is less than one week away.  If your home is anything like ours, the kids will be up probably several times throughout the night and then ready to run downstairs and see what Santa left for them!  So at 5am, you are probably not ready to cook a huge breakfast, but I have the perfect solution for you… cranberry cinnamon roll drop biscuits.  They are quick and easy to make or you can even make them the night before so you don’t have to do anything Christmas morning except for try to wake up with your cup of coffee while the kids feverishly rip open their gifts…

Cranberry Cinnamon Roll Drop Biscuits | Money Savvy Living

I’m making these with cranberries to make a wonderful Christmas morning treat, but this basic recipe could be used year round by substituting the cranberries with raisins, blueberries & lavender, strawberries, pumpkin you get the idea…

I also have to admit, I’m not exactly making these from scratch, but I guarantee, you won’t be able to tell!

Cranberry Cinnamon Roll Drop Biscuits | Money Savvy Living

I am using Bisquick baking mix for my base, so this makes it quick and easy and just a little bit healthier because all I have to do for the base is add milk to the Bisquick.  If I was making this from scratch, I’d typically cut in cold butter to make biscuits.

So I am going to start by cutting up about ¼ cup of Craisins so they are smaller bits and spread out more evenly in the drop biscuits.  And I am going to soak them in a bit of water to help moisten them up.

Cranberry Cinnamon Roll Drop Biscuits | Money Savvy Living

*If you have an adult only Christmas morning, you could soak the Craisins in rum or vodka…

Combine the Bisquick and milk.  Add the Craisins, cinnamon, sugar, melted butter and maple syrup.  Drop onto baking sheet.  I like to line the baking sheet with parchment paper so the biscuits don’t stick and it makes for easier clean up when you put the icing on too.

Cranberry Cinnamon Roll Drop Biscuits | Money Savvy Living

While the biscuits are in the oven, mix the powdered sugar, butter, milk, and maple flavoring for the icing/glaze.

If you put the icing on when the biscuits come out of the oven, it will melt down over the biscuits like a glaze… YUM!

Cranberry Cinnamon Roll Drop Biscuits | Money Savvy Living

 

It all comes together pretty easily:


Cranberry Cinnamon Roll Drop Biscuits

  • Servings: 4-6 biscuits
  • Time: 15 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 1/2 cup Bisquick baking mix

1/2 cup milk (I use 2%)

1/4 cup soaked Craisins *optional reserve some for garnish*

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp sugar

1 Tbsp melted butter

1 Tbsp maple syrup

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Combine all ingredients.  Spoon onto baking sheet.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

While the biscuits are baking, make the icing:

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp milk

1/8 tsp maple flavor

*Put icing on while biscuits are hot…will melt like a glaze

 


Cranberry Cinnamon Roll Drop Biscuits | Money Savvy LivingSo delicious and so easy!  I love this because you will still have plenty of time to watch the kids open gifts and relax… and still make a homemade breakfast!  Perfect for Christmas morning!

Have a very Merry Christmas!

 

Best Ever Christmas Sugar Cookies

Best Ever Christmas Sugar Cookies

Best Ever Christmas Sugar Cookies | Money Savvy Living

 

What do you think of when I mention Christmas?  Santa Claus, the Nativity and the birth of Jesus, a decorated Christmas tree, beautifully wrapped gifts, lights… and Christmas cookies!  Of course, there are all types of Christmas cookies and goodies, but I think the sugar cookies are the best!

I don’t know about you, but for me, Christmas cookies conjure up memories from childhood… so I’m going to share Grandma’s Best Every Christmas Sugar Cookies.  They are so easy to make (you won’t even have to buy that pre-packaged sugar cookie mix!) and they taste AMAZING!!

Best Ever Christmas Sugar Cookies | Money Savvy Living


Best Ever Christmas Sugar Cookies

Christmas Sugar Cookie Recipe

3¾ cups sifted, all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1½ cups sugar

2 eggs

1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature

1½ tsp pure vanilla extract

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, stir together flour and baking powder.

In another bowl, beat butter with sugar until fluffy and light.

Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Stir in flour mixture, a third at a time to make a stiff dough.

*For best results, refrigerate for 15 minutes before rolling out cookie dough.

Roll dough out on floured counter-top.  Make cookies approx. 3/8 inch thick.

Divide cookie dough into thirds.  Only roll out  one-third of the dough at a time.  This way, once the dough has been covered in flour and rolled out, the excess will be mixed with fresh dough (that has not been floured or rolled yet), so it keeps it from becoming too tough.

Bake 8-10 minutes.

 

Icing

1 Tbsp butter, room temperature

1 tsp vanilla

2 ½ cup confectioners sugar

3 Tbsp milk

Beat butter, vanilla, and confectioner’s sugar until smooth.

Add in milk 1 Tbsp at a time.

 


Make sure each batch of cookies is approximately the same size and thickness.  If cookies are different thickness or size, they will not cook evenly and you will have some that are overcooked, while others may be undercooked.

Best Ever Christmas Sugar Cookies | Money Savvy Living

 

From our family to yours, we wish you a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year.  May the love of Christ fill your hearts and lives this Christmas and throughout the year!

And I truly hope that your family will take the time to make some wonderful memories as you bake and eat cookies together!

 

 

Best Ever Christmas Sugar Cookies | Money Savvy Living

 

And if you want to try something different than these traditional Christmas Sugar Cookies, this recipe for classic Linzer Cookies is absolutely delicious!
Christmas in Switzerland: Traditional Linzer Cookies

Or for more family time together, you can gather the kids around and make some wonderful ornaments to decorate your tree. I love doing this because every year when we decorate the tree, we reminisce a bit. The kids love looking back at stuff they did in preschool and it is just fun memories. Not to mention, they are the most cherished ornaments on the tree because they were made by the kids… Take a look at my posts for how to make these special keepsake ornaments:

Homemade Cinnamon & Applesauce Ornaments
Cinnamon Glitter Ornament

 

Christmas Ornaments that Your Kids Can Make That You Will Actually Want on Your Tree

Christmas Ornaments Collage |Money Savvy Living Porcelain Painted Ornament | Money Savvy Living Cardboard ornament Paperplate angel

It’s a Credit Card Christmas

It's a Credit Card Christmas | Money Savvy Living

 

I’ll be fine and dandy, Lord it’s like a… credit card Christmas. I’m barely getting through tomorrow… But still I won’t let… spending get me way down…

 

Did you think I was going for a “hard candy” Christmas?  You probably even started to sing along, didn’t you?  Don’t be shy… I know you heard the tune and now it’s stuck in your head, am I right?!

 

Well, it may or may not be a “hard candy” Christmas for you, but it certainly is going to be a credit card Christmas for millions of Americans this year.  A recent Holiday Spending Survey, found that the average individual plans to spend $738 for Christmas this year.  When you add that up for the 245 million adults that plan on doing this shopping, you reach a staggering figure of $181 billion on gifts this holiday season!

 

If you were floored by that figure, wait until you hear this… of those 245 million shoppers, 64 percent of them will use credit cards, or some form of debt, to buy those gifts!  So within the next couple of weeks, over $103 billion dollars in debt will be acquired by Americans just for Christmas shopping.

 

Buying the Perfect Gift is Not an Excuse to Overspend | Money Savvy Living

 

So, how can you keep yourself from having a credit card Christmas?

 

If you haven’t been planning throughout the year already, you can’t really change that at this point, but there are a few things that you can do to help yourself from relying totally on credit cards to pay for Christmas:

 

Use cash—yes, obvious, but as much as you can, use cash.  Using cash keeps you in the clear, so you don’t have to worry about compounding interest on those high interest rate cards.  Even if you pay for half of your gifts in cash, that will be less to pay off in January.  Every small step that you can take to paying off debt makes a huge difference!

 

Pay off credit quickly—sometimes it makes sense to use credit.  Maybe you get a store discount for using their store credit card—and that can actually save you money, but only if you take advantage of the savings and pay the bill off as soon as it arrives next month.

 

Don’t buy gifts that people don’t want—this one gets a bit tricky, but let me explain what I mean.  Have you ever opened a gift and had to try to grin and say thank you when you have no idea what it is?  Perhaps you received a gift, like a $30 canister of gourmet popcorn and thought, “I would have rather had the money that was spent on that instead.”  You know, the nice gift that you really didn’t need or want.  The one that may never be used… I think that we’ve all received them, and probably even given them.  So this year, if you aren’t sure about what to buy, give something that is more meaningful… and here are a few ideas:

 

  • For new parents or parents of toddlers—offer babysitting as your gift.  Seriously, any new parent or parent of a toddler knows that free babysitting is pure GOLD.  I guarantee they will love this gift!
  • For grandparents— make a keepsake ornament from the kids.  Grandparents love anything that is made by their grandchildren, so whether it’s a handprint ornament, craft, or special card, it will be way more meaningful that then sweatshirt that says “World’s Best Grandpa.”  I’ll let you in on a secret: No one really wants to wear these shirts.  Ever.
  • For mom and dad—dad doesn’t need another tie, and mom doesn’t want kitchen utensils.  They probably just want some extra time with you.  So, instead of spending money on something that they don’t really need, invite mom out to lunch just because, make time to go on that hunting trip with dad that you have been too busy to take… they will appreciate this much more…
  • For your kids—as parents we want to make sure that our kids have a HUGE pile of gifts to open.  Because what is better than the joy on their faces and they run downstairs on Christmas morning to see all the wonderful packages that Santa left?!  But, we all know that joy only lasts as long as there are more gifts to tear open and when the dust settles, the kids play with their new loot for about 5 minutes and then life goes back to normal—and all those big bucks you spent to fulfil every Christmas list wish are seemingly wasted… talk to your kids about the true meaning of Christmas and find a way to have them learn the joy of giving… that will last for them a lot longer than getting the hottest, most expensive toy of the season…

 

Just because it seems like everyone around you is giving and receiving the latest and greatest gifts this season, based on the recent Holiday Spending Survey, they may very well be going into debt to do so.

 

Check out one of my posts, 10 Ways to Avoid Overspending This Year for Christmas and find out even more ways to get the perfect gift without overspending and going into debt.

10 Ways to Avoid Overspending this Christmas | Money Savvy Living

Cyber Monday: Hot Amazon Deals!

Cyber Monday Deals | Money Savvy Living

 

Thanksgiving is barely over and Christmas shopping is well underway!  If you didn’t get everything you needed on Black Friday, you can still pick up some great deals today… Cyber MondayAmazon has tons of great deals today, and I’m going to share a few of the best ones with you, but click here to shop all of Amazon’s Cyber Monday deals!

 

One of the hottest sellers this season is The Magnolia Story, so if you love watching them on HGTV’s Fixer Upper, you should definitely pick up their book.  Less than $5 makes this a great stocking stuffer!

Need a TV?  You literally cannot beat the price of this one:  $89 for this Acer 23.8 inch HD TV!!

Need faster internet?  You might want to pick up a new router or range extender… and Netgear is making that so easy to do day, with 50% off!

Toys.  If you are a parent, getting the toys that your kids want is a big deal at Christmas… so here’s a great Cyber Monday deal for you: Hasbro has 50% a huge selection today! Check out this Pie Face Showdown game, Trivial Pursuit, Nerf, Furbys, and more!

If you plan on baking Christmas cookies this season (and I know you are!), you will definitely need a table mixer for that!  KitchenAid has a great deal on their 6 Qt Bowl-Lift Stand Mixer today for only $219!

Want to decorate for Christmas without climbing on the roof to put up lights?  Here’s your answer: Star Shower Motion Laser Light Projector, save 29% today…priced around $35.

And, of course, the hottest item of the season:  drum roll, please!!  HATCHIMALS!  Okay, these are not a Cyber Monday deal, but if your kid just has to have one, you can still get them on Amazon…

Happy shopping… and happy saving!

Valentine Sugar Cut-Out Cookies

Valentine Sugar Cut-Out Cookies

Valentine Sugar Cut-Out Cookies | Money Savvy Living

 

Cut-out cookies are a classic sweet treat.  I know that I remember my Grandma making these cut-out cookies for nearly every holiday… and they are my absolute favorite!  And I think your family will love them too.

 

Cut-out cookies can be tricky to make, so I’m going to share a few secrets with you to make cut-out cookies so good, you will never want to buy a pre-made sugar cookie dough or mix again!

 

Valentine cookie collage

 

Secret #1 Use a table mixer.  This is one of the only recipes that I actually get out the table mixer, but I don’t think that you can make these without it.  While you don’t want to over mix and make the dough too tough, it does need to be mixed until it is a stiff dough and a hand mixer just doesn’t do as good.

 

Valentine Sugar Cut-Out Cookies | Money Savvy Living

 

Sugar Cut-Out Cookies

Sugar Cut-Out Cookies

3 ¾ cups sifted, all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 ½ cups sugar

2 eggs

1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature

1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, stir together flour and baking powder.

In another bowl, beat butter with sugar until fluffy and light.

Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Stir in flour mixture, a third at a time to make a stiff dough.

Secret #2 For best results, refrigerate for 15 minutes before rolling out cookie dough.

Roll dough out on floured counter-top.  Make cookies approx. 3/8 inch thick.

Secret #3 Divide cookie dough into thirds.  Only roll out  one-third of the dough at a time.  This way, once the dough has been covered in flour and rolled out, the excess will be mixed with fresh dough (that has not been floured or rolled yet), so it keeps it from becoming too tough.

Bake 8-10 minutes.

Secret #4 Make sure each batch of cookies is approximately the same size and thickness.  If cookies are different thickness or size, they will not cook evenly and you will have some that are overcooked, while others may be undercooked.

 

Icing

1 Tbsp butter, room temperature

1 tsp vanilla

2 ½ cup confectioners sugar

3 Tbsp milk

 

Beat butter, vanilla, and confectioner’s sugar until smooth.

Add in milk 1 Tbsp at a time.

 

 

Valentine Sugar Cut-Out Cookies | Money Savvy Living

 

Secret #5 Bake cookies on parchment paper.  Ok, this may not be a secret, but baking cookies on parchment paper prevents the cookies from sticking to the cookie sheet.  No need to buy a liner, just use parchment paper.

 

Valentine Sugar Cut-Out Cookies | Money Savvy Living

Valentine Sugar Cut-Out Cookies | Money Savvy Living

 

Secret #6 Let cookies sit on baking sheet after you get them our of the oven for at least 30 seconds to 1 minute before trying to move to cooling rack.  This is especially important with cut-out cookies because you want them to maintain their shape.

Let cool completely before icing.

 

 

If you don think you’re ready to tackle the cut-out cookies, you may want to try making some gourmet chocolates for Valentine’s Day.  Delicious… and much cheaper than buying gourmet chocolates…

Make beautiful, gourmet chocolates for Valentine's Day

Make beautiful, gourmet chocolates for Valentine’s Day

 

 

If you want the great taste of the frosted sugar cookies without the hassle of rolling out dough and using the cookie cutters, you can easily make cookie pops by taking a look at the post detailing how we make these for my son’s birthday treat at school.

Cookie Pops | Money Savvy Living

 

ENJOY!

Christmas in Switzerland: Traditional Linzer Cookies

Christmas in Switzerland: Traditional Linzer Cookies

Christmas will soon be here and my son’s class is studying Christmas around the world—and how countries celebrate Christmas similar to and different from right here, in the United States.

So my son wanted to choose a country that reflects our heritage.  We have quite a long list, mostly from European decent: German, French, English, Irish…. and Switzerland.  The ironic thing is, while researching this project, we have learned a lot about how the Swiss celebrate Christmas—and apparently, none of those traditions continued with our ancestors when they came to the United States.

Part of the project was to learn about the culture and traditions and another part of the assignment was to make a traditional cookies and bring in to share with the class.  We may need to start the tradition of making Linzer cookies for Christmas every year… because they are just so good!

Linzer Cookies

Linzer Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup finely ground almonds (approx. 2 oz.)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup raspberry jam
  • confectioner's sugar (optional)

Instructions

  1. Grind almonds in small coffee grinder or food processor.
  2. In a small bowl, combine flour, almonds, and cinnamon, set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy.
  4. Add egg and vanilla, mix well.
  5. Add flour mixture; mix only until incorporated.
  6. Divide dough into two balls.
  7. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until dough is firm enough to roll.
  8. Preheat over to 350 degrees F.
  9. On floured surface, roll out one ball of dough until it is around 1/8 inch thick.
  10. Use round cookie cutter on half the dough (this will the bottom of the sandwich cookie).
  11. On the other half, use the round cookie cutter with the insert (this will be the top of the sandwich cookie).
  12. Transfer to parchment paper-lined cookie sheets.
  13. Bake 10-12 minutes or until slightly golden brown.
  14. Cool on cookie sheet for a couple of minutes before removing.
  15. Invert bottom cookie and spread with jam.
  16. Dust the top cookies with confectioner's sugar and gently sandwich cookies together.
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Of course, you can use your own cookie cutters, but we bought a Linzer cookie cutter set (it was only $5 at Walmart) because we wanted them to be perfect.

Linzer cookie cutter set

We cut them out in even numbers for the sandwiches, putting the dough back in the refrigerator to chill in between rolling it out and baking.

After the cookies cool, sprinkle powdered sugar over the tops.

Linzer cookie recipe | Money Savvy Living

Then place on the bottom cookie with jam.  We used raspberry jam that has seeds, and it was delicious, but you can opt for seedless jam.

Linzer cookie recipe | Money Savvy Living

10 Ways to Avoid Gaining 10 Pounds this Holiday Season

10 Ways to Not Gain 10 Pounds over the Holidays | Money Savvy Living

 

Now that we are in early December, I am really starting to think about… drumroll please…. weight gain.

 

You probably thought that I was going to say Christmas, didn’t you? Well, you are sort-of right. The weight gain that I am thinking about is actually associated with Christmas and New Year’s…and to be perfectly honest, Thanksgiving and Halloween, as well.

 

This time of year is absolutely horrible to my body.

 

It is getting colder. So I know the number of days that I will have outside—and the more active lifestyle that the outdoors are conducive to—is fading away. I will be wearing big, bulky sweaters soon anyways, so I can just hide those few extra pounds and not worry about my weight until swimsuit season rolls around again.

 

We have soooo much candy from Halloween. I have three kids, who each hit the candy jackpot on October 31. Yes, I know that was well over a month ago, but the candy still lingers in the pantry… the candy is literally just staring at us every time we open the cupboard. I’m pretty sure the kids hear it calling their names because they ask several times a day if they can have a “treat.” And even though I can’t remember the last time that I actually bought a candy bar for myself, when these little bite-sized treats are around, it is very easy to tell myself that I can have one… or two, it’s really just a bite anyways, not very many calories or fat could possibly even be in something so small…

 

I want to enjoy the holidays. Christmas is coming. I don’t want to have to worry about counting calories at every family gathering or party that I attend. After all, nothing celebrates the birth of Jesus and ringing in the new year like excessive gluttony.

 

It is really easy to feel complacent about it too. I mean, these are all really good excuses as to why I will likely gain weight over the next few months, right?

 

Ummm, NO.

 

This year, I am making a commitment to not allow myself the excuses and I am taking action. Now, I started before Halloween, but it’s still not too late to either change your eating habits, or lay out a plan, before Christmas to help you avoid gaining that extra holiday weight.

 

I am not starving myself to do this though. I am eating somewhat normally, but have just tweaked things a bit—and I have lost five pounds in the last six weeks. Ok, that may not sound like much, however, I lost weight instead of gaining it through Halloween and Thanksgiving—and that’s a pretty big deal.

 

I have decided to make certain lifestyle changes that I can live with and not feel that I am depriving myself or starving my body—because, ultimately, your body will reject that and you may end up gaining more weight than what you lost when you decide to stop “dieting.”

 

So what am I doing? How am I implementing small changes into my lifestyle? Here are 10 simple things that I am doing—and anyone can do—to be healthier and avoid the holiday weight gain:

 

#OneSimpleChange

#OneSimpleChange

Wear an activity tracker. Everyday. Simple, right? Throughout the day, I find it quite motivating to see my progress and if my steps are low, I know to pick it up a bit and go for a walk outside, get on the treadmill, or do something with the kids (they are always begging me to play soccer or basketball or catch…)

 

Drink a protein shake in the morning. I am not a breakfast person. Never have been. But, if I don’t have anything breakfast, I am so hungry by lunch time that I tend to eat too much or just make terrible, unhealthy choices because I simply want to eat something—anything—and the unhealthy choices are typically convenient. Drinking a breakfast shake gives my body the feeling of being satisfied because it takes away the hunger factor. Now, I have tried several different types of protein powder and definitely don’t like the ones that are infused with manufactured vitamins and minerals. Those tend to have a metallic-taste to me, and give me a headache. Plus, if it is something that I am going to barely be able to choke down, I can tell you that I won’t keep the habit as a part of my life. That is why I love the Complete Shakes from Juice Plus+. (Just so you know, I don’t recommend these because I am a consultant with the company, I am a consultant with Juice Plus because I love their products so much—and I have been trying different products and making a smoothie for breakfast since I was in college, so I have tried a lot!) They are whole food based—no artificial fillers, colors, or flavors—and they actually taste good, so this is a habit that I can keep.

 

protein smoothie

 

Take a whole food supplement. Studies show that you are basically wasting your money on vitamins and supplements unless you are buying whole food supplements. In fact, a study by The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center states, “Whole foods contain a wide array of nutrients including vitamins, minerals and a number of other biologically active compounds, collectively known as phytonutrients. These phytonutrients, such as 3,3′-diindolylmethane (DIM) in broccoli or isoprenoids and polyphenols in other vegetables, may work in concert to provide the best support for cancer prevention and control.” A whole food supplement is just that, a supplement to your diet. It does not replace eating healthy, but it does help to bridge the gap in your diet from what you are actually getting and what you should be getting.

 

Reduce the amount of processed foods that you eat. Many times, we turn to processed foods because they are basically dinner-in-a-box—they are convenient. While they may save you a bit of time, the nutritional value is definitely lacking… and you usually pay a bit of a premium for the convenience. Whole foods are foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. For example, when you eat an apple, you are getting all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are naturally occurring in that particular food. When foods are processed, they have been refined in some way. The natural form has changed, and through this processing or refinement, the naturally occurring vitamins and minerals may have been stripped away, so you are only getting the nutrients from what is left.

 

Drink more water. This may be the easiest thing that you can do to improve your health. Simply. Drink. Water. There are several health benefits of drinking water, including:

  • Water Helps Maintain the Balance of Body Fluids
  • Water Can Help Control Calories
  • Water Helps Energize Muscles
  • Water Helps Keep Skin Looking Good
  • Water Helps Your Kidneys
  • Water Helps Maintain Normal Bowel Function

If you are looking for more than just “plain” water to add to your diet, you may want to check out why some people drink salt water or lemon water

Read nutrition labels. Making healthy food choices starts by knowing what is in the food that you are eating. Make choices that are: gluten-free, organic, no preservatives or added nitrates, no artificial colors, and no artificial flavors.

 

sugar and weight gain

 

Cut down on your intake of soda and alcohol. Just think of all the extra sugar and calories that you are consuming when you drink a can of pop. Not only are there health problems associated with drinking soda, such as a link to obesity, kidney damage, certain cancers, and even elevated blood pressure, but studies have also shown that you can actually lose weight when you do nothing else besides stop drinking soda.

 

Get enough sleep. It is sometimes hard to see the immediate connection between sleep deprivation and potential weight gain, but your body needs enough time to rest and repair so that you are able to lead an active and healthy lifestyle. If you are tired, then you may not have the energy to cook a healthy meal and may pick up fast food instead. You may also feel like you don’t have the energy to work out or be active, so you would choose to sit on the sofa and watch TV rather than going for a walk… and those choices to eat the fast food and be a couch potato, in turn, make you feel even more sluggish.

 

healthy snack choice

 

Make healthy snack choices. Instead of picking up a bag of potato chips, reach for fruits and veggies. It does take a bit of planning and work sometimes to make these snack available. But if you have a container in your refrigerator with carrot and celery sticks, pre-washed grapes, or apple slices, it is easier for you—and your kids—to reach for a healthier snack. I happen to just love these little California mandarin oranges… they are so sweet it can cure your sweet tooth as well—a much better choice than a cookie!

 

Breathe deep. Did you know that breathing exercises can help to reduce stress and anxiety, stimulate energy, and benefit physical and emotional health? And all of these things can help contribute to weight loss. Try these different breathing exercises, and breathe your way to better health:

  • Deep Abdominal Breathing: Slow breathing exercises may affect corticol activity and help reduce anxiety, according to the report of A.W. Yuen and J.W. Sanders in “Can Slow Breathing Exercises Improve Seizure Control in People.” Shallow breathing can occur during times of stress. Deep abdominal breathing, which brings the breath deep into the belly, helps counteract shallow breathing and creates a sense of calm. Try this deep abdominal breathing technique to reduce stress and regain focus on your weight loss goals. Sit in a comfortable position and begin by slowly exhaling through your nose for a count of five. Let all the air in your abdomen out and imagine your stomach fully deflating. Pause at the bottom of the breath for two counts then slowly inhale for a five count, allowing your abdomen to fill back up with air. Repeat five to 10 times.
  • Bellows Breathing Exercise: The bellows breathing exercise stimulates energy. Also referred to as the fire breath or stimulating breath technique, this exercise activates the lungs and chest to allow for normal breathing to occur, according to Marcelle Pick, OBGYN, NP in “Deep Breathing: The Truly Essential Exercise.” Perform the bellows breathing exercise by sitting up straight in a chair. Close your mouth and breathe in and out rapidly. Imagine your breath moving similarly to a bike pump. Continue the rapid breathing for up to 15 seconds to stimulate energy. Try performing this technique for a boost of energy before your workouts or cardio exercise.
  • Three-Part Breathing: Breathing exercises benefit physical and emotional health. Use breathing consciously to influence the involuntary nervous system, which regulates bodily functions such as digestion and circulation. Try the three-part breathing exercise to influence your health and well-being. Begin by sitting comfortably. Exhale through your nose and slowly let the air flow out of your body. Release the air in a wave movement by letting the air out of the chest first, then the upper abdomen, and finally the diaphragm. Pause for two counts, then inhale slowly, reversing the order. Repeat for five to 10 breaths.

 

While I have this plan in place to live a healthier lifestyle, I will still be happy to partake in all the Christmas meals and goodies that will be around. Totally depriving yourself is not good, but overindulging isn’t an option either. As with anything—keep a healthy balance in mind.

 

#OneSimpleChange

 

*This article does contain affiliate links, so if you choose to purchase through here, I will make a commission, although it does not increase the cost to you, the consumer.

Christmas Ornaments that Your Kids Can Make that You Will Actually Want on Your Tree

Christmas Ornaments Collage |Money Savvy Living

Okay, let’s just start off by admitting it: some of the ornaments that your kids make at school are not exactly what you want on your Christmas tree. Of course, they are from your child, so you love them and every single gift that they make for you; however, they don’t always match your Christmas décor.

For example, last year, my oldest son brought home, wrapped as a Christmas present, a square of orange paper with his school picture on it, framed with orange and green crayons. Now, I’m not exactly sure what green and orange crayons have to do with Christmas, but of course, we hugged him and thanked him for the gift. Maybe all the other kids got the red and green, who knows. But I didn’t want to question him too much and make him feel like I didn’t like it, so I said that this would be a great ornament for the “kid tree.” This is a tree that my husband set up on our basement that has colorful, blinking lights and all sorts of colorful ornaments—the ones that don’t match my traditional tree in the living room. Orange and green fit right in on the kid tree.

Now, I know that some of you are starting to think that I am a horrible mom for not proudly displaying every ornament on the main Christmas tree. But, I know that you probably have a place for these ornaments too: maybe the back of the tree, perhaps you gifted it to Grandma and Grandpa last year because you know they will put it on their tree and it gets you off the hook… but you know what I am talking about.

If the stuff that your kids bring home isn’t always the most festive of Christmas ornaments, you can make some that are easy, inexpensive, and ones that you will want to put on the Christmas tree.

 

Applesauce & Cinnamon Ornament

Some of my favorite ornaments in the tree are the cinnamon and applesauce ornaments.  You can find the recipe for these ornaments here.  Not only can you make any shape that you want, but you can decorate them in any way that you would like as well… and the cinnamon makes your house smell wonderful!

Cinnamon Glitter Ornament

 

Cardboard Ornament

I love this ornament because it looks nice but it is simply cardboard with photo copied background (in this case, the Bible verse from Luke 2 about the birth of Jesus) with a simple nativity being cut out and glued on top. The entire ornament is coated with Mod Podge.
Cardboard ornament

 

Paper Plate Angel

This paper plate angel is so cute with a picture of my son for the angel’s face. A doily is cut in half and glued on the back for wings, a pipe cleaner halo, and glitter and sequins to decorate.
Paperplate angel

 

Painted Wooden Ornament

These wooden ornaments can be bought at your local craft store (very inexpensively!). Your child can paint them any way they’d like and can also be decorated with glitter to add a bit of sparkle.
paint and glitter wooden ornament | Money Savvy Living

 

Pipe Cleaner Candy Cane

So quick and easy! Your child will have fun putting beads on a pipe cleaner to make a candy cane. Just turn the ends of the pipe cleaner up at each end and you have a cute, homemade ornament!
pipe cleaner and bead candy cane

 

Paper Angel Ornament

This angel ornament is made, much like cutting out a snowflake. Fold the paper in half and create your (half) outline of the angel and allow your child to cut the different patterns on the angel. Open up and run a pip cleaner through some of the holes in the design. Of course, these angels could be painted with silver, gold, or decorated with glitter if you’d like.
Paper Angel and pipe cleaner Ornament

 

Fingerprint Snowmen

Using white paint on your child’s fingers, these snowmen will show up perfectly on any red, blue, or green ornament. Just let the pain dry and then decorate the snowmen by drawing on faces, scarves, hats, etc.
Fingerprint Snowmen | Money Savvy Living

 

Handprint Ornament

Of course, you can make the plaster, or by a handprint kit, like this Child to Cherish Handprint Ornament.  This is a wonderful keepsake that you will cherish for years
Handprint Plaster ornament

 

Iridescent Cellophane Ornament

Again, just a simple wooden ornament, but instead of painting, this one is decorated with iridescent cellophane. Just add glue and then sprinkle the iridescent shreds on top.

Iridescent Cellophane Glitter Flakes on Wooden Ornament | Money Savvy Living

 

Porcelain Painted Ornament

You can make a Christmas tradition of going to a local pottery kiln or simply paint and bake your own ornaments at home, with a kit like this by MindWare.

Porcelain Painted Ornament | Money Savvy Living

 

*This article does contain affiliate links, so if you choose to purchase through here, I will make a commission, although it does not increase the cost to you, the consumer. However, I highly recommend that you get an activity tracker whether you purchase through here or elsewhere.

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