Friday, September 30, 2016

Treat yourself: Why you need the POPSUGAR #MustHaveBox.

POPSUGAR sent me the following Must Have Box to review. I was not compensated for my thoughts, all of which are my own. Additionally, this post does not contain affiliate links.

It's probably safe to say that you are amazing. All of you reading this, right here right now, are amazing. You do things that no one else does, and you do them with grace and style—because true grace and style are defined only by your ability to be the best version of yourself. I know, I know. But I don't even know you and guess what—that doesn't matter to me because I truly believe you are doing your best day in and day out.

Which means, of course, that you deserve something special.

True, you probably buy yourself little things throughout the week, like a latte or those pants you've been eyeing up. But I think it's time you really treat yourself to a legit surprise. Something that will bring a smile to your face simply because it's unexpected. Let me suggest to you my favorite monthly subscription box: The POPSUGAR Must Have Box.

monthly subscription box

Whenever I get an opportunity to review this box, I jump on it because the contents  always...ALWAYS!...surprise me. The POPSUGAR Must Have box is filled with items I wouldn't necessarily put on a list of things I need or want, but that's what makes them special. They are surprises much like the surprises you'd find in a stocking after Santa's visit.

You deserve surprises.
Surprises bring simple joys to an otherwise normal day or week.

Or month.

The POPSUGAR Must Have box is curated monthly, arriving at your doorstep in all its glory with fresh pics that fall underneath a specific theme. September's box focuses on the arrival of Fall.

september fashion, fall fashion, must have box, monthly subscription box
It starts out with a Jack and Lucy Bicoastal wide brim hat:

POPSUGAR Must Have Box, fall fashion, fashion hat
Now, true confession time. I'm not a hat person. I never wear them. I don't know how to wear them:

fall fashion, accessories, hat, pop sugar must have box
I may just give it to my kid to play with  because she makes it look dang cute. CLICK HERE TO SEE HER on my Instagram page, and make note of her precious little smile. It's the Smith and Cult lip lacquer in The Warning. I think red lips are really pretty, but I never really know what red works for me, and honestly, I feel like I get it all over my mouth and teeth. But this lip lacquer is more like a gloss, which I can rock with the best of them.

monthly subscription box, beauty products, hair products, makeup
I haven't used the Briogeo Don't Despair, Repair! conditioning mask yet. I'll probably use it tomorrow when I shower because I actually dried my hair today.

Let's talk about the traveling NCLA Mani-ER tool kit.

You guys, my nails. I work at a gym. Enough said. So I've thrown this little guy into my gym back because there's nothing worse than picking up a weight and knocking off the tip of your nail and not having anything on hand to repair it.

nail kit, lint roller, fall fashion, monthly subscription box
I'm also going to have the cleanest black leggings around this Fall because I'll have that sweet little FLINT lint roller in my purse.

Black leggings and lint do not go together, amiright?

One last thing in the box: The Gluten Free Bites in Dark Chocolate Coconut.

POPSUGAR Must Have Box, snack bites, protein balls, snack balls
I mean. Who doesn't love a delicious and nutritious snack? I get so stuck in a rut with prepackaged snacks, partly because I have my favorites and partly because my stores aren't adventurous and I see the same stuff all the time, which is why I love that the POPSUGAR Must Have box comes with a snack of sorts.

This snack gets bonus points for it's choice of fonts, too. Please note the word "bites" on the bag and check out my header. Oh yeah, I see you Hand of Sean font. #greatmindsthinkalike

Now, tell me, are you due for a special surprise? If so, check out the POPSUGAR Must Have box. I guarantee you'll love it when the postal service puts the pink and white box at your door. You can even use code SHOP5 at checkout to save $5 on your very first box. Subscriptions start at $39.95/month and go down in price based on the number of months purchased.

And just so you know, this month's box was worth over $145, so the monthly fee is a pretty sweet deal that's worth every penny.

Question: What are some of the ways you like to treat yourself? Do you have any monthly rituals or routines, or special things you save up for? Have you ever tried the POPSUGAR Must Have box? Thoughts? Tell me everything.

Monday, September 26, 2016

2016 Chicago Half Marathon Race Recap

I love running half marathons, but I don't really love training for them by myself because #longruns. So when my running partner decided to join a triathlon relay team that would require him to run a half marathon (his first), I agreed to run long with him. As his race day got closer, I felt the urge to find one for myself. So I signed up for the 2016 Chicago Half Marathon. I knew it would be my only official half marathon in 2016, so go big or go home.

Random fact: I ran the Chicago Half Marathon in 2009, it was my first half marathon. Seven years later, I've got a new PR and a runner's high that might not go away. Yesterday was a great day.

Chicago Half Marathon, running, race recap
Hold on, though. I had some serious anxiety going into this race. Three things I worried about:

1) How would I get down to the race? It starts a few miles south of downtown where I'd be staying, and the shuttle I was scheduled for left Millennium Park at 4:15AM, which would put me at the start line fricken' early. Could I drive down and snag one of the parking spots in the museum lot?

2) Was it going to be hot? The Chicago Half Marathon travels Lake Shore Drive, which has zero amounts of shade. I hate running in the heat. And if it's humid...OMG. 

3) Could I possibly PR? My last long run was 11 miles and it felt really, really good.

Here's how it all shook out:

running in Chicago, half marathons
Packet Pick-Up
This took place at Soldier Field. I stopped on my way into town. I didn't stick around long enough to really dive in, but there were a number of great vendors there and packet pick-up itself was speedy. No lines, in and out. Those who couldn't pick up their packet had a will-call option to pick it up the  morning of the race. Some races do this, some don't, but it's always a nice option for those runners who can't get into town the night before. The shirt is cute, and the samples were surprisingly great:

running, Chicago, half marathon, free stuff, picky bars, kale chips
Getting to the Race
The Chicago Half Marathon starts and finishes in Jackson Park, which is south of the city by the Museum of Science and Industry. Not as easy to get to as Millennium Park, where a number of other Chicago races start and finish. The race organizers provided free shuttles and worked with the Metra train system to add additional rides to and from the race. There would also be a limited number of parking spots at the museum itself. I was scheduled to take a 4:15AM shuttle, which would put me at the race over two hours before it started. Thankfully, my husband agreed to drive me down—point of anxiety #1. Would we get a coveted parking spot at the museum?

Answer: Yes.

We left our hotel around 5:00AM, which was when the lot itself opened, and we zoomed right in. It was quite empty when we got there, so I think we timed that out right. I got to the starting line around 5:45AM, which was one hour before the corrals closed.

running in Chicago, half marathon, starting line
Race Day Weather
You guys. The race day gods shined down on the Chicago Half Marathon. I couldn't have asked for a better day. It was in the 60's when I got down to the race. Chilly, all things considered. Slightly humid, but that wasn't a problem because it wasn't hot—point of anxiety #2, gone. This girl was very happy.

runner, running, Chicago, half marathon, race day
You just never know what you'll get when you sign up for a September race in Chicago.

How I Ran
I had all sorts of high hopes for a personal best. Going into the race, my PR was 1:56:46...and honestly, I think the course was short in that race, so I've been wanting a new PR and I felt like I could do it at this Chicago Half Marathon. My training runs had been really strong. My partner really pushed my pace (benefit to running with a high school track and cross country coach). I just needed to believe in myself, so I stacked up the running motivation:

running quotes, inspirational quotes, jewelry
My plan was to start off around a  9:00/mile, then get myself down to an 8:30/mile. If I could do that, I knew my chances of getting a new personal best would be good. And that's what I did, honestly. Lots of congestion through the first three miles kept me in line with my goals. Things thinned out around mile 4 and I was able to catch my 8:30/mile pace. I had some serious side cramps between miles 8 and 9, but somehow worked them out to keep going steady.

My Fuel
There were water and energy drinks at every mile. I started drinking water at the 4th mile and stuck with it through mile 6. Then I turned to a packet of GoGoSqueez (apple and banana). They had a hydration drink on the course that I wasn't familiar with, so I was hesitant to drink any. I'm not used to large amounts of fuel anyway, so it worked out fine to stick with water.

Also, every station also had a series of portable potties. I never used them, but it was nice to know they were there, just in case. And the volunteers at each station were awesome.

The Finish Line
The course itself was awesome. There was a lot of on-course entertainment and plenty of spectators, too. But the energy really picked up about a mile from the end so I ran for it and finished in 1:55:10. A new PR, for sure. Plus, I managed to turn off my Garmin on time, which is something I always forget to do. Looking back at my stats, I held a 9:00/mile for the first three miles, then broke out into 8:30/mile(give or take) for the rest of the race. This girl never holds a steady pace, so that alone gave me reason to celebrate.

The volunteers greeted me with an ice cold towel, then a hefty piece of hardware:

race medal, race bling, gold medal, running, award
Not gonna lie, last year's medal was huge and one of the motivating factors in my decision to run this race. I'm not sure if they'll continue the large medal tradition or not, but I guarantee they'll continue putting on a race that's well organized, well attended and just downright good.

race recap, running, Chicago, race medal, race bling, race bib
The 2016 Chicago Half Marathon will go down in my books as a favorite, and not just because of the PR or the big medal. I mean, what's not to love about running in Chicago? Especially when you run strong for 13.2 down an iconic road worth traveling by car, too? You should run the Chicago Half Marathon.

Things to Think About
1) It's not cheap. Especially if you live outside of Chicago. You'll need a hotel and parking, all of that on top of a steep race fee. So sign up early to save some money.

2) Chicago weather is unpredictable in September, so if you're looking for a nice and crisp Fall race, then you'll need to cross your fingers and hope for the best. With a lack of shade on the course, this race has the potential to be a hot and humid hellhole for 13.2 miles.

3) Transportation is always tricky in Chicago. If they are available, sign yourself up for the latest shuttle possible. It's free, and will get you there on time. If I could have snagged a later shuttle, I would have taken it instead of parking at the museum for $22.

4) If you're traveling into the city, give yourself a buffer day to enjoy the sites. I walked around for a little bit on Saturday, but staying overnight in Chicago is like some slow form of torture when you can't get out and enjoy the evening scene.

Up next for this runner: The Color Run in South Bend on October 8.

Question: What race has a special place in your heart? Tell me why! Ever participate in a race in Chicago? Which one?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

45-Minute TRX Workout

One of my favorite pieces of fitness equipment is undoubtedly the TRX suspension trainer. I use it all the time with every single one of my clients—and my clients are fairly diverse. TRX workouts are approachable and absolutely challenging, but also adaptable to individual fitness needs. This is why TRX classes works so well, too.

I recently started teaching a TRX class. I used to teach them all the time, then I went on maternity leave and that stopped. But we added a Tuesday night class and it matches my schedule, so I'm back at it. Hooray!

Here are some quick benefits to using a TRX suspension trainer:
1) The workouts are highly adaptable to individual needs.
2) Modifications can always be made.
3) TRX straps travel well.
4) Your core is always engaged.
5) The straps are the only piece of equipment you need (and maybe a mat).

There is only one thing I struggle with when it comes to TRX workouts: Keeping it fresh. You have to get creative with TRX exercises, otherwise it's really easy to stick with the same old stuff, which leaves you, your clients or your students lacking in the results department.

I'm feeling fresh, though. So I thought I'd share tonight's workout with you.

suspension straps, suspension training, trx, workouts, exercises, at-home fitness, health
This 45-minute TRX workout can be done anywhere you can safely hang your suspension straps. You'll need a mat if your floor isn't soft enough for your elbows, and you'll need to warm up.

Please remember that, while I am a certified fitness professional, I do not now what your individual needs are. Before you try something new, please consult with your physician. Listen to your body, and  honor what it's telling you.

End rant.

suspension straps, suspension training, trx, workouts, exercises, at-home fitness, health
Repeat the following circuit twice. Do each exercise for 45 seconds.
Give yourself 15 seconds (at most) in between exercises.

suspension straps, suspension training, trx, workouts, exercises, at-home fitness, health
Let's break some of these moves down.

Row and Hold
A standard TRX row with a slight hold at the top. Row yourself up and hold it there for 10 seconds, release and repeat this twice.

Otherwise known as boat pose in yoga classes. Face your anchor, press down on the handles. Engage your core and lift your legs into the pose. Hold it there!

Hamstring Curl with Hip Press
Heels in the anchor for this one. You'll be down on your back. Lift your hips just off the mat, then bring your heels into your glutes. This is the hamstring curl. Take it one step further and, before releasing the heels again, press your hips up to the ceiling. Now release and repeat.

Side Plank with Knee Tucks
With your feet in the straps, hold a side plank position. Tuck your knees up into your chest—no twist in the spine, though! Keep everything in line. Release and repeat.

Wide-Leg Shoulder Squats
Raise your hands above your head, pressing the back of your hands into the handle bars. Be sure to position yourself directly underneath the handles. Take the legs into a wide squat position. As you squat down and up, keep pressing the back of your hands into the handle bars.

Any questions?

Question: What is your favorite piece of fitness equipment? How do you feel about the TRX suspension trainer? Ever use one?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Corn and Queso Chicken Tostadas

We eat a lot of tacos. They're easy to make, inexpensive and generally quite delicious. So when I had the option to choose a Summer Vegetable and Queso Tostada meal from Blue Apron a few days ago, I went for it—knowing I'd have to modify the recipe just a bit to fit our taste buds.

Let me explain.

When you order from Blue Apron, they automatically select a set number of meals for you. You can switch them out. However, your options are very limited and some meals can't be ordered together. I'm guessing they maximize space in their shipping containers AND do what they can to prevent food waste, which means sending out recipes that cross over ingredients.

So I picked the tostada recipe knowing it wouldn't be one of our favorites.

food swaps, blue apron, meal delivery service, dinner recipes
One word: Eggplant.
We hate it.

But the rest of the ingredients in the recipe sounded marvelous.

Blue Apron, recipes, dinner, healthy meals
Peppers, corn, onions, garlic and cheese, which would ultimately get fried. I mean, yes. So I decided right off the bat that I would swap out the eggplant for chicken.

Their eggplant tostadas became my Corn and Queso Chicken Tostadas.

recipe inspired by Blue Apron, dinner time
You guys.

I want more right now. Here's the recipe, which makes enough to serve two hefty portions.

Source: Inspired by a recipe from Blue Apron

• 4 Tortillas
• 1/2 Cup Queso Para Freír (cubed)
• 1/4 Cup Sour Cream
• 2 Chicken Breasts (seasoned with taco spices)
• 1 Cup Fresh or Frozen Corn
• 1 Bell Pepper
• 1/3 Cup Green Onion
• 2 Cloves of Garlic (minced)
• 1 Lime
• 1 Tablespoon Fresh Cilantro (chopped)
• Avocado (chopped)
• Cotija Cheese (grated)
• Salt and Pepper

1) Season the chicken with your favorite taco spices. I like to use the pre-mixed taco seasoning from Trader Joe's. (It's bomb. There are literally ten bags in my spice cupboard.) Bake the chicken in the oven until it's done, then chop it up into bite-sized pieces:

Corn and Queso Chicken Tostadas, recipe inspired by Blue Apron
2) While the chicken is cooking, zest about 2 teaspoons of the lime peel, then slice the lime in half.

3) Chop the pepper and green onions, then sauté them both in a pan with the corn and minced garlic until everything is soft. Add a squirt or two of fresh lime juice and some salt and pepper to taste.

Blue Apron, dinner recipes
4) Remove the veggies from the pan, then add the Queso Para Freir to the pan, which is basically Mexican white cheese that fries up nicely. It'll stay chunky, so if it starts to melt, you'll want to remove it. But try to leave it on long enough to brown a side or two.

5) Stir the lime zest into the sour cream. At this point, all of your ingredients are ready to be assembled! (Assuming your chicken is done, of course.)

Blue Apron recipes, healthy dinner
6) Final step, totally optional: Heat up your tortilla shells. Throw them in the oven for a bit if it's still on, or use a burner on your stove—just be careful with that last option, let's not start a fire, m'kay?

To plate:

Start with the shell, add the veggies, then the chicken and cheese. Top with the avocado, sour cream and cilantro.  Yum:

Blue Apron recipes, dinner recipe, tacos
It's so good, and not so complicated to make. Also, totally adaptable. Maybe you like eggplant! Use it! Maybe you hate meat, then try beans! Experiment with different veggie options, too. The cheese, though? Oh my. It was so good! Try to make it happen. If you can't find this kind of cheese, perhaps a bit of Manchego cheese will work? Or some white cheddar that's barely heated?

Whatever you do, I hope you enjoy it.

Question: Do you like eggplant? We think it's really slimy and flavorless. Am I making it wrong?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

10 Quotes That Will Motivate And Inspire You

For the third year in a row, I'm using my favorite page-a-day calendar: Today is going to be a great day! And yes, I'll be getting it again for next year because it's that good. It's full of motivational quotes that are pretty AND pretty inspiring. I've literally kept every single quote I've ever torn off the calendar (which is literally every page).

motivational quotes
I thought it would be fun to sort through some of them (this is not all of them, I have a stack in my office at work). So today, I give you ten motivational quotes.

page-a-day calendar, inspiration, inspirational quotes
Be sure to follow me on Instagram, where I share the best of the best. And on Pinterest, where I've got an entire folder dedicated quotes (and some other folders, too, where quotes pop up).

page-a-day calendar, inspiration, motivation, inspirational quotes, motivational quotes,

page-a-day calendar, inspiration, motivation, inspirational quote, motivational quote, quotes

page-a-day calendar, inspiration, motivation, inspirational quote, motivational quote, quotes

page-a-day calendar, inspiration, motivation, inspirational quote, motivational quote, quotes

page-a-day calendar, inspiration, motivation, inspirational quote, motivational quote, quotes

page-a-day calendar, inspiration, motivation, inspirational quote, motivational quote, quotes

page-a-day calendar, inspiration, motivation, inspirational quote, motivational quote, quotes

page-a-day calendar, inspiration, motivation, inspirational quote, motivational quote, quotes

page-a-day calendar, inspiration, motivation, inspirational quote, motivational quote, quotes

page-a-day calendar, inspiration, motivation, inspirational quote, motivational quote, quotes
Question: Where do you find inspiration? Is there an inspirational quote that you live by? What kind of calendar do you use? 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

4 Healthy Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks

Life is crazy. When the going gets tough, so does the diet. The food industry makes it really easy for us to grab-and-go delicious foods that suppress hunger pangs, but these options aren’t always healthy. You can, however, stock your refrigerator and pantry with nutritious options that work with what little time you have. So set aside some time this Sunday to think through your grocery list, hit the store, then come home and prep whatever you can for the week ahead.

Easier said than done. Right?

Meal and snack prep can take hours. Some of us have that time, some of us don’t. But there are a few things you can do that don’t take much time at all—but they’ll still save you time (and calories) throughout the week:

meal planning tips and tricks
1) Freeze seasoned chicken breasts.

meal prep tips and tricks
Buy a bulk pack of chicken breasts. Put 2-3 chicken breasts in a freezer bag, add 1/4-cup of olive oil and a tablespoon of your favorite (low-salt) seasoning. Or get creative with fresh ingredients like garlic and honey. Label the bags and put them in the freezer. When you need a meal, pull them out when you eat breakfast. They’ll thaw by dinner time.

2) Make egg cupcakes.
Buy a carton of eggs and scramble them all in a bowl. Lightly grease a cupcake pan, then fill it with the eggs. Add your favorites, like green peppers or onions. Maybe some ham or a sprinkle of cheese. Bake the cups until the eggs cook through, then use a spatula and transfer them to a cooling rack. You can store them in the refrigerator or freeze them. They’ll be great for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

meal prep tips and tricks
3) Fill freezer bags with smoothie ingredients.
Smoothies are easy to make, but not so easy to prep when you only have a few minutes. Luckily, smoothy ingredients freeze well. Wash and dry your favorite fruits, then freeze them on a parchment-covered pan.

meal prep tips and tricks
Once frozen, divide them evenly among small freezer bags, adding in spinach or kale for an extra boost of nutrition. When you’re ready to make the smoothie, pour the ingredients into the blender, add a dash of milk (maybe even some protein powder) and enjoy.

4) Create your own snack bags/cups.
This is where the food industry really gets us good…they make unhealthy options look healthy with fancy packaging and confusing terminology (“low-fat” and “heart healthy,” for example). Next time you hit the grocery store, purchase a pack of snack bags or a few snack-size cups with lids. Then purchase a few things to put in them: Your favorite nuts, maybe some dried fruits or a small bag of chocolate chips. Or maybe you have a trail mix that’s healthy, but too tempting. Divide that up.

meal prep tips and tricks
Put a scoop of hummus or nut butter at the bottom of each snack cup, then add in a serving of your favorite dipper (baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, celery).

meal prep tips and tricks
These are just a few ideas that might help you make your week a little healthier. Of course, if you have major dietary concerns, you should always seek help from a registered dietitian or nutritionist. These professionals will dive deeper into your specific needs.

So, are we convinced that healthy eating doesn’t have to be hard? With a few small tweaks to your weekly routine, you’ll find this out for sure.

Question: What are some of your favorite make-ahead meals and snacks? What's your best tip for streamlining your healthy eating throughout the week?

Friday, September 9, 2016

Spotlight on a Fitness Professional: Get to know me!

I love getting to know people, so it makes perfect sense that my favorite part of any IDEA Fitness Journal is the "spotlight a pro" column. For those of you that are unfamiliar with this magazine, it's a fitness magazine that comes with any IDEA membership or ACE personal trainer or group fitness certification. It's chock full of up-to-date studies, tips and tricks for us fitness professionals.

So it makes sense to feature fitness professionals within.

The "spotlight a pro" column is basically a page of questions and answers, and I thought it would be fun to replicate that here on Daily Dose. I'll be the pro, you be the question asker.


1) What inspired you to start a career in fitness?
People always tell you to pursue what you love, and with a Communications degree, I thought a career in advertising was it for me. And it was for quite awhile, but then one day, it wasn't. I hated my job, but I loved my workouts...and those workouts got me through some tough 8AM-5PM days. So I decided to pursue a personal training certification to use on the side. I was dishing out advice unofficially and loving every minute of it. Why not make it official? So when I eventually lost my advertising job, I decided to be honest with myself—I didn't want that life anymore. I wanted fitness, and I did everything I could to make that happen.

2) What do you love most about your job?
I have been working at the same gym for over six years. I started off as a personal trainer, added on group fitness classes, and I am now the Fitness Director. In addition to running the fitness department, I write a monthly column in a local paper, and work closely with upper management on various marketing and advertising initiatives. So I have come full-circle. I am literally working my dream job. But that's not why I love it. I love my job because I work in an environment that makes everyone happy. We have a diverse membership, so I see members of every age pursuing their health and fitness goals. Some of them are my clients and students, others are the friendly faces I pass on the fitness floor. All of them are my friends and fitness family. And I am better for knowing them. (Also, let's be honest, I work at a gym...which is essentially a glorified playground, so there's that, too.)

3) What is your specialty? What made you pursue it?
From a personal training perspective, I adore working with expecting and new mothers. I have two children, so with that first-hand experience and some additional education, prenatal and postpartum fitness instruction comes quite naturally. Fitness and pregnancy truly do go together, and I love helping other women embrace that. From a group fitness perspective, I am head over heels for PiYo Live. I teach a variety of formats, but this one never gets old to me. Plus, I sincerely believe in its ability to change the body. People light up when they try it. It's just a great format.

4) Do you have a favorite workout to do on your own?
Running. It's therapeutic, constantly challenging and always rewarding. And I can do it for me. Just me. I am not a trainer or an instructor when I am out clocking miles. I am just me, a girl who likes to run.

5) Do you have a favorite piece of workout clothing or gear?
Chaturanga tights from Athleta are all that and a protein bar, I swear. They fit like butter, wash wonderfully, and look super fabulous on. Plus, they always come in a wide variety of stylish colors and prints. Worth the price, for sure. I also can't live without my Saucony Kinvaras and my Garmin Forerunner 15—hands down, two pieces of fitness equipment that always go together. I can't run without them. When it comes to my clients, I love TRX workouts. Especially when I have them do it for the first time! Most assume they can't do it, but find that it's quite approachable and adjustable, which makes their faces light up.

6) What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
My kids are my spare time, and they're the best. We hit the beach, library, children's museum...or we pretend to record YouTube videos and have dance parties. When they're not around, Daily Dose is my release, and nights out at quiet restaurants are special treats. Love trying new restaurants! I also like going to Target and TJ Maxx alone because who doesn't.

7) How would you describe yourself?
I'm generally pretty outgoing. I like to interact with people, and I like that interaction to be fun. I'm not afraid to be silly or goofy, but I am always professional and respectful. Even when I'm having a bad day and don't feel like doing or being any of the above. As a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor, I try to be approachable and welcoming. I do my best to bring the motivation and the education, so my clients and students walk away from our sessions and classes feeling empowered to pursue whatever is coming next.

8) Any recommendations to people who want to start a fitness career?
Follow your heart. If your heart takes you to the gym, do the research and figure out how a fitness career might fit into your life. It's fun, it's also hard—but it's worth all the sweat in the world if you can get a job in the fitness industry.

Question: Your turn! If there's something you'd like me to answer, use the comments section and I'll respond! If you are a fitness professional, I want to know what your specialty is!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Is a meal delivery service right for you? (plus, a Blue Apron review)

My kids are pretty good eaters—when they like what they're eating. At the ages of two and four, they are getting pickier and pickier by the day. Couple this challenge with an evening work schedule that's crazy, and a desire to constantly serve up healthy (and easy) meals...well, meal planning is quite helpful in our house. But I must say, I sometimes get into a rut with recipes. So when a Blue Apron coupon showed up in my mailbox a week ago, I put it to good use in the name of #whynot.

My food box showed up on Friday.

meal delivery, recipe box, food review
I spent about $25 of my own money on enough ingredients for three meals that will ultimately serve two people, my husband and myself. I could've purchased a family meal, but again—picky kids, so I opted to get the most out of the money I was willing to spend.

Is a meal delivery service right for you? A Blue Apron review.
When you set up your Blue Apron account, you can choose between meals for two or family meals that serve four people. From there, you can decide how many meals you'd like to receive each week (the price of each plan will adjust accordingly). So, without the discount, I would have spent around $60 for three meals. We'll get to that later.

Once you choose your plan, you can then pick which meals you'd like to receive. I chose to receive three meals, and was able to pick from five different options:

I'm not sure we'll like the tostadas. I may swap out the eggplant for chicken, but we'll see. I opted to start with the Porchetta-Style Sandwiches with Baby Kale Pesto and Marinated Cucumber Salad. It ended up being quite delicious:

Is a meal delivery service right for you? A Blue Apron Recipe Box Review
Now, in addition to the ingredients, you get step-by-step instructions. Many people told me that these were long and involved, but that wasn't my impression (at least not with this recipe). I followed the recipe easily, and was able to keep moving from one step to the next fairly smoothly. Word of advice, though: It never hurts to read through the recipe before you start cooking, just so you're slightly familiar with the process ahead of you.

Is a meal delivery service right for you? (plus, a Blue Apron review)
Long story short, I had fun prepping this meal. This kids would not have eaten it, that's for sure, but the husband did. And his initial response when I showed him the recipe card was "I will make it work." But he ended up liking it, too (minus the lemon flavor, which was subtle but strong enough to make a non-lemon fan cringe slightly).

Here's the thing, though. As much as I liked this meal, and as fun as it was to get the box and prep the ingredients, I'm not entirely convinced a meal delivery service is right for me. So, here:

recipe box, mail order food, fresh ingredients, delicious dinners
Is a meal delivery service like Blue Apron right for you? Here are a few things to consider:

1) A meal delivery service will introduce you to new foods.
But, fair warning, you don't always get to pick the meals you receive. So you have to be open to getting foods that might not appeal to your palate. This can be troublesome if you have picky eaters in the house. But it can be quite helpful if you're in a food rut. So if you want to try a delivery service that lets you pick the meals, Blue Apron might work. Hello Fresh might not.

2) A meal delivery service will streamline your dinners.
Everything you need to make a few delicious meals will arrive in a cold-packed box. All you have to do is pay for the service and (obviously) cook the meal. So if meal prep and grocery shopping stress you out, a few clicks of your mouse will ultimately help you out.

3) A meal delivery service might not mesh with food allergies.
Some of the services are very good at working with food allergies, others make no guarantees. And when it comes to food allergies, one can never be too cautious. So putting your meals in the hands of a delivery service might seem daunting and, well...might not be smart. Do your research. Always smart.

4) A meal delivery service can be expensive.
Had I not used a coupon, I would have spent around $60 for three meals that will feed two people per meal. I hit the grocery store weekly to purchase food for my family of four, and $60 could typically pay for half of what goes into my cart. So from my perspective, meal delivery services are expensive. With the discount, it seemed silly to not give it a try. Without the discount, it seems silly to continue. 

So when does it make sense to sign up for Blue Apron, or any other meal delivery service?

If you want to get out of a food rut. If you want a personal chef, but have time to make your own meals. If you know you won't be able to hit the grocery store for a week or two. If you don't have kids that are picky. Or, there's this: I think recipe box subscriptions make great gifts!

Is anyone else hungry?
We have two Blue Apron meals left.
I think it's a past night...

Question: Have you ever tried a recipe box subscription? Which one? Was it right for you? Why or why not?


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