How to Save Money: Traveling

how to save money traveling

How to Save Money is a  monthly think fruitful series with helpful hints and tips for taking control of your finances. Get your free monthly budget template and 4 tips for traveling on a budget!

If you know me well, then you know that I love to travel. Especially if you know my family, then you’ll know that it practically runs in my blood.

My parents have traveled everywhere from Myanmar to Cuba, and my mom is the best travel planner I know.

I’ve been to about 10 countries myself and spent 4 months studying abroad in England during college (saving my pennies to travel to France and Germany during my stay). This year, we’ve already got 3 trips in the works (Asheville, Charleston and Maine if you want to know).

Like I’ve said before, budgeting influences every part of your life, and it can take a lot stress out of traveling.

Here are my 4 quick tips for saving money when you travel:

1. Start planning and saving early

Make sure to include your trip expenses in your monthly budget. In fact, you can even start to save a few months before the trip to spread out the costs. To do this, you’ll need to calculate what your travel expenses, food and transport will cost.

I enjoy starting to plan my trips months ahead of time, so I can make sure I have the time to do ample research. Start with your transport (plane tickets, trane tickets, gas budget), then where you will stay, then restaurant reservations.

Pro Tip: For plane tickets, I like to buy them about 2-3 months ahead of time. Although they used to say Tuesday was the best day to buy, now they say it’s Sunday. Also, check out Google Flights to see when it’s cheaper to fly if your dates are flexible.

2. Consider hotel alternatives

While hotels can be a great option for a relaxing and luxurious stay, I would suggest you compare prices with alternatives like Homeaway and Airbnb. I’ve found that I usually prefer to go through a home rental service because it’s often cheaper (especially with a bigger group), it’s roomier and you can have a kitchen, patio, etc.

Read more

A Tasty Shrub

summer shrub cocktail

Have you heard of shrubs before?

If you’re into the cocktail world, then you probably have. But, if not, it’s typically a fruit syrup preserved with vinegar (also known as drinking vinegar). I think the story goes that farmers used to preserve their harvested fruit by creating a shrub syrup.

If you’re someone who likes forward, refreshing flavors (and kombucha tea), then you will love shrubs. They’ve got a nice punch, and they bring some complexity to cocktails.

We were lucky enough to score some of Crude Bitters & Sodas barrel-aged black tea shrub, and it made this cocktail so delicious!

summer shrub cocktail

Without even realizing that the shrub was aged in apple brandy barrels, I decided to use our Fair Game apple brandy for the spirit in this one. It was a match made in cocktail heaven!

For the upcoming warm summer days, this Summer Shrub will be your best friend to cooling down and celebrating with others.

*Click or tap on recipe card to enlarge and save.

Pi Day Ideas

Pi Day Ideas

Tuesday is Pi Day!

Did you know about this annual food/science celebration on March 14 (3.14)?

We’ve been celebrating this “holiday” for the past few years, using it as an excuse to buy or make a pie to enjoy just because. (Pro Tip: Places like Fresh Market often have a Pi Day special with a reduced price pie.)

Since it’s a day before Pi Day, you still have time to make your own pie! Think of this as a chance to get creative and impress your friends and family on a Tuesday.

Here are some ideas/tips to get you started:

1. Make your crust ahead of time or buy it

If you’re joining in on the homemade Pi Day fun, you’ll want to think about whether you’ll be making or buying your crust. I’ve got a super easy, food processor pie crust recipe (that just needs an hour in the fridge), but it’s OK to go the store-bought route, too.

2. Pick your filling

Even in early March, there are some good filling options out there. Grab your favorite apples for an American classic, use beautiful lemons and limes (or clementines, Meyer lemons or blood oranges) to create a citrus-based pie. Personally, I’m just going to fall back on a classic pecan pie or Kentucky derby pie, a recipe that I can almost make with my eyes closed by this point. Who can go wrong with chocolate and/or pecans?! Or coconut!

3. Get to baking!

Whether you make it on Monday to enjoy it on Tuesday or make some fun Pi Day memories on the day of, set aside an hour to make or roll out your crust, make the filling and pop that bad boy into the oven. And make sure you have some ice cream and/or whipped cream on hand for topping!

Happy Pi Day!

Ingredient of the Month: Eggs


Today’s Ingredient of the Month is something that you all probably already have in your fridge. I mean, even lots of vegetarian people eat eggs because they’re such a good source of protein and are so incredibly versatile.

Eggs are made for frying, scrambling, poaching, baking and accompanying whatever you’re cooking with ease. They’re almost like the perfect package within a shell. You could even say they egg-cel at being egg-ceptionally tasty.

Tell me more:

The eggs that we most commonly eat come from chickens and contain a white and a yolk. They are a great source of protein with the orange yolk being the fat-containing part and the white containing more protein.

Where do I buy eggs:

Always buy eggs local if you can! There is a huge difference in taste and quality between fresh eggs and not. Thankfully these days, you don’t have to have a friend with chickens down the road (though, that’s the ideal situation) when stores like Whole Foods and local grocery stores carry eggs ra ised nearby.

I prefer the brown eggs because I like the look of them and it’s what I grew up eating. But, the color just depends on the breed of chicken and doesn’t necessarily affect the taste. There can also be blue, green and speckled eggs depending on the breed.

How do I store eggs:

Because of the way eggs are transported and sold in the US, eggs should always be refrigerated. (Unless you’re about to bake with them, then I suggest leaving out for an hour or so.)

How do I cook with eggs:

Egg dishes can range from incredibly simple (classic fried or scrambled) to eggs being one of many ingredients in a dish. I always like to have a carton of eggs in the fridge for baking and easy, tasty meals.

Read more

New Day, New Burger

What comes to mind when you hear “turkey burger”?

For me, it used to be: Why am I eating this when I could be eating a regular burger?

Ya’ll know that I’m not a huge meat eater, but I like my occasional burger. And I used to be convinced that only a beef burger would hit the spot (preferably from Cook-Out).

And then this Turkey Burger recipe came into our lives thanks to the Dude Diet cookbook.

Read more

Simple Saturday: Easy Baked Brie

It’s about time for another quick, easy, no-recipe-card-needed Simple Saturday recipe.

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen this delicious baked Brie a few weekends ago.

My husband has been making this easy baked Brie for about a year, and it has totally upped our appetizer game.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to say no to puff pastry or crescent dough and jam around my Brie. BUT, to be honest, you really don’t need it.

This simple, herb oil baked Brie is everything you want: quick (15 minutes), creamy and still classy.

Read more

Mac & Cheese + Tater Tots = Amazing!

mac and cheese tot casserole

I know. I know.

It’s getting a bit warmer (at least where I live), and I’m absolutely soaking up all of the sun. Right now, I’ve got my porch chair pushed out to where my face it out of the sun, but my legs are in the midst of its heat. I know- smart, right?!

Even though it’s a bit unlike February, I have totally been enjoying the warmer temps. I just got my garden seeds in the mail, and we just tilled our new garden spot in the backyard.

But but but…I want you to know that there’s still time to enjoy some amazing casseroles. No matter where you live or what the weather is like, you still have a chance to try out this comforting, simple masterpiece of a Mac & Cheese Tot Casserole!

mac and cheese tot casserole

Read more

How to Save Money: Eating Out

How to Save Money is a  monthly think fruitful series with helpful hints and tips for taking control of your finances. Get your free monthly budget template and 4 tips for eating out on a budget!

I’m glad to be back with this month’s How to Save Money post, and it’s going to be a really relevant one, I think.

Eating out!

I remember as a kid, we did not eat out much. My parents were good budgeters, and they were smart not to try to entertain us three girls in a public restaurant. We stuck with the occasional, local Mexican joint after church on Sunday, or Taco Bell or Burger King when my mom was traveling and Dad was in charge. Man, I loved those treats.

1. It should be a treat

These memories bring me to my first tip for saving money while eating out: make it an occasional treat. If you want to save money, then eating out can’t be the norm. Although you can find some good deals eating out (I’ll show you in a minute), eating in is always cheaper. But, it’s also not always as fun.

That’s why you should include eating out expenses in your monthly budget and stick to them.

Budget per week, so you can make sure you have a meal or two out each week. If your budget is tighter, then go out to eat once or twice a month.

2. Dine local

When you choose local restaurants that utilize locally-sourced ingredients, you can save yourself money (fewer ingredients have to be shipped in). And everything will likely taste better that way, too! Instead of getting a so-so salad at Chili’s for $15, you can have a tasty soup and salad for $12.

We’ve been enjoying eating out at a local dive near us, Simple Twist in Garner, where the prices are affordable since they have a farm-to-fork mentality.

If you’re looking for cheap lunch ideas in Raleigh, check out this post!

3. Pick Your Apps, Zerts & Drinks Wisely

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with going out and celebrating a bit, and your budget will let you do that within reason. During the meal, I like to pick and choose whether I’ll get a drink with my meal and an appetizer. Or maybe I’ll sacrifice a drink for dessert. Being flexible when you’re eating out will help you pick what you really want to eat and save money in the long run. You can also just go out for drinks and desserts if you feel like you can afford the whole shebang.

Wait for super special occasions like your birthday or anniversary to go for the app, entree, dessert and drinks.

Keep your eye out for local specials like restaurant week, or embrace the small plates craze to try a lot of things for a lower price. Remember like I’ve said before that vegetables are cheaper than meat, so the more veggies than meat you eat, the cheaper it will be.

4. Consider To-Go

While you might have your certain places to go on your special date night out, you should also have a few budget-friendly meal options for when you don’t want to cook. You’ll save money by not having to pay (with your tip) to sit in the restaurant, and you can have a glass of wine or beer at home for much cheaper. That said, always give at least a 20% tip when dining in!

In Raleigh, we love Mami Nora’s ($16 for a whole chicken with beans and rice), Whole Foods takeout pizzas ($10 for a large one night a week), Cook Out for a tasty burger and fries, Beansprout Chinese for takeout, and Oak City Meatball Shoppe for spaghetti and meatballs.

How do you save money eating out?

Enjoy treating yo’self!

Clumpy Granola At Last!

quinoa granola

I have been making homemade granola for over 5 years now.

Does that give me any street cred? I can only hope so.

I have given you quite a few granola recipes on the blog, and, before I made this Quinoa Granola, I thought this was the best. Don’t get me wrong- I’ll still stand by it.

But, this Quinoa Granola recipe from the fabulous Dude Diet Cookbook taught me how to make clumpy granola!

quinoa granola

I’m talking about crunchy, cinnamon-ey clumps of granola that are perfect with yogurt, milk, fruit or just as is. And hey, if you’re going to throw some healthy quinoa in there, I’m not opposed.

If you’re in the same “clumpy granola” camp, then you HAVE GOT to try this stuff!

Read more

Ingredient of the Month: Smoked Paprika

We’re delving into the world of a very unique and versatile spice today as our Ingredient of the Month for February.

It’s OK to be honest with ourselves that there just aren’t many new ingredients of types of produce that are coming on the scene in February. We’re still munching on our sweet potatoes, broccoli and greens, but what if there was something that you could put on those to jazz them up a bit. I’m talking about something with some smoke and spice that keeps your winter meals exciting!

I’m talking about something with some smoke and spice that keeps your winter meals exciting!

Smoked paprika to the rescue!

You might know it as Spanish paprika or paprika’s more dangerous and smoky cousin. Let’s learn a bit more about it and how best to use it!

Tell me more:

Smoked paprika is from Spain and differs from sweet Hungarian paprika (we’re talking about the red spice on your deviled eggs here). This variety is made from pimiento peppers that are dried and smoked over an oak fire. Smoke paprika is a fine powder with a rusty (red-orange) hue.

Where do you buy smoked paprika:

You can buy smoked paprika in most grocery or food stores in the spice aisle. I got my fancy container from my mom (which I think she brought back from Spain). It will be labeled as some variety of smoked paprika, Spanish paprika and/or pimenton.

How do you store smoked paprika:

You should store your smoked paprika with the rest of your spices in a cool, dry place. I keep mine in the front of my pantry (making it easy to grab and use).

How can you use smoked paprika:

It may sound crazy, but it’s hard to think of a savory dish that smoked paprika wouldn’t be good in! It kind of tastes like bacon, so you really can’t go wrong. It really brings out the flavor when you saute it in oil for a recipe, as well.

Read more