Avocado Chicken Salad – Keto Lunch Idea

simple avocado chicken salad, keto recipe, keto lunch idea, keto meal idea

Lunch is the hardest meal to plan for – I get so bored with the usual lunch ideas.  I have been thinking long and hard about new recipes that are simple to prepare.  

I came up with this easy avocado chicken salad the other day and I love it.  I may or may not have made it a few times since that day, too.  

This avocado chicken salad is even keto friendly, which is great since I’ve been trying to eat more of a ketogenic diet (some days are better than others!).  All you need is a bowl, fork and 5 ingredients to make this yummy dish.  

Check out this quick video of how I made it!

Avocado Chicken Salad
Serves 2
A delicious keto friendly lunch recipe.
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Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 Large can of chicken or 2 cups cooked chicken
  2. 1 Ripe Avocado
  3. 2 Tablespoon Sour Cream
  4. 1/4 teaspoon celery salt
  5. 1 teaspoon lime juice
Instructions
  1. Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
merelynne http://merelynne.com/

Winding Down Summer

I don’t know about you, but the end of August always marks the end of Summer in our house.  Now I know the actually first day of Fall isn’t for a few more weeks, which means we still have some Summer days left.  But it just doesn’t feel like it.  

School is back in session (even though our little guy isn’t in school yet, I still feel it), which means the town just seems quieter.  We’ve been busy soaking up the last few bits of Summer and it has been amazing.  

meredith rines, merelynne, budget expert, toddler, superman, little boy, toddler boy

meredith rines, merelynne, budget expert, toddler, superman, little boy, toddler boy

We have been working hard at crossing off everything on our Summer Bucket List before the temps start to dip too much.  We’re even planning a new list for next year.  I think since our little one is going to be 2 and J’s school won’t be as crazy then we’re going to make a bigger and badder list to conquer.  

meredith rines, merelynne, budget expert, toddler, superman, little boy, toddler boy

meredith rines, merelynne, budget expert, toddler, superman, little boy, toddler boy

meredith rines, merelynne, budget expert, toddler, superman, little boy, toddler boy

What are your end of Summer traditions?  

What We Use Our Credit Card Reward Points On

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When you think of budget tools most people do not think about credit cards.  Actually credit cards are the last thing that comes to mind for so many of us.  There is a reason for it too – it’s too easy to spend too much using a credit card.  

I have mentioned before, but it doesn’t hurt to say it again.  You should not use a credit card if you have any problems with debt or if you do not have the will power to say no.  For the longest time we did not use a credit card because we didn’t feel like we were financially responsible enough for one.  We were too busy trying to pay off our individual cards that we racked up debt on from before we were married, so when we finally got those paid off the last thing we wanted was another one.  

After a few years of no credit card, we decided to give one a try.  We agreed to only use it for gas and groceries.  Once we were able to stick to our monthly budget for our groceries, it made using a credit card a lot more feasible.

I also researched different cards available to find one with the best reward points.  I had a vision of letting our reward points grow so we can turn them in for cash back.  Then we can use that cash to help our budget.  It has worked out great!  

Now, before I share with you what we use our reward points on I want to have an honest conversation.  Credit cards work for some, but not everyone – and that’s okay.  When you’re in the trenches of paying down debt then having a credit card can be used as a crutch.  It can actually hold you back.  

You can be working so hard on paying down one bill, but at the same time spending too much on your credit card without realizing it.  It’s too easy to swipe a card when you’re unsure of your bank balance.  So before even considering a credit card, you need to make sure your budget can handle it.  You need to make sure you can handle it.  

Once you have your budget ready and your financial mindset focused then you need to do your research.  You need to think of what you want this credit card to be used for.  Do you want to use it only when traveling?  Do you want to use it when you’re grocery shopping?  Do you only want to pull it out when online shopping?  Whatever your goal is for your credit card is fine, but you need to have a spending vision for it.  

Having a vision of how you will use the credit card will help you from overspending on it.  Since we use it for gas and groceries then we understand that it’s off limits for other purchases like eating out, going to the movies, buying clothes, and so on.  

So many people talk about needing a credit card for emergencies.  Like “what happens if I’m traveling and I need to buy a plane ticket?”  or “What if I have to buy a tire while I’m out of town and my debit card won’t go through for the high amount?”  Credit cards are even used as a cushion between paydays for a lot of Americans.

And that’s scary.

We know we shouldn’t use our credit card unless we have the money in our account right then and there to pay it off, but yet, we swipe it anyway.  I want you to avoid making those mistakes, so make sure you have your budget ready, your mindset ready and the vision of your spending in focus.  

Here are some areas you can use your reward points on:

You can use it for birthday gifts

You can use it for the slush fund, which means the fun stuff you want to do with your family.  Like trips to the zoo, overnight trips, and days at the water park.  

You can use it for Christmas gifts, which is what we use our points for.  

Around the middle of November we cash in our reward points and transfer the cash to our bank account.  Then we earmark that money to use for Christmas presents.  We pride ourselves on sticking to a pretty tight budget for Christmas.  Using our credit card reward points is one way we can do it.  

We use the same concept I talked about in a previous post to set a budget for each person in our family.  After the budget is set then we brainstorm gift ideas.  On Black Friday and Cyber Monday I do most (if not all) of our shopping online.  I even use our Ebates accounts (which I love) when I do online shopping to help build even more cash back.

If you have a credit card, what do you use your reward points on?

How Much to Spend on Birthdays

how much to spend on birthdays, how much to spend on birthday gifts, birthday budget, budget for birthday gifts

Creating a budget for all the birthdays in your life can be hard.  There are so many questions – Do we need to buy them a gift?  Did they get us a gift?  How much should we spend?  Should we spend the same on everyone?  

It can get complicated, but I want to share with you a simple rule we live by that has helped us a lot!  We have classified everyone in our family and our close friends into groups. Each group has a specific budget to use.  If someone is in the group then that’s how much we spend on them.  

The reason we created this budget system for birthdays was to make sure everything was equal.  It was important to us to make sure we treated my family the same as we treated my husband’s family.  Now before I get into it, I do want to have a disclaimer:

This budget idea is a just a suggestion.  It may not work the exact same for your family as it does for ours – and that’s okay. You also need to have the wisdom to know it’s okay to spend more or less for a specific person.  For a big birthday then we might spend a bit more than usual.  If we find a really good deal then we spend less.  For instance a few years ago J and I (along with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law) spent more for J’s Dad.  We bought NASCAR tickets for him and at the same time we bought a ticket for J so he could go with him.  That was an exception to our budget rule.  We saved more money and gave ourselves permission to spend more, and it was awesome.  Now we don’t splurge on everyone, which is why we get to do it every once in awhile.  

Again, these are just guidelines for your budget.  You can spend less or you can spend more depending on the space you have in your budget.   

Spouse – $30 each
Children – $30 each
Parents – $25 each
Siblings – $20 each
Nieces and Nephews – $15 each
Friends – $15 each
Children’s Friends – $15 each
Others – $10 each

A great way to be prepared for birthdays is to treat them as a sinking fund.  Make a list of everyone you buy gifts for, how much you budget to spend and then add it up.  Take that total and divide by 12.  That’s how much you need to be putting back each month to afford birthday gifts.  

For example, let’s say you have 15 people you need to buy for through out the year.  This includes spouse, kids, parents, sisters, nephews and nieces, coworkers, friends, and birthday parties that your kids will go to.  You take the amount for each category, let’s say equals $350 for the year.  You would divide $350 by 12 months to get about $30.00.  You need to be saving $30.00 each month into a separate account or earmark it in your checking so you can buy gifts.

Here’s what our family’s birthday budget looks like:

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We spend about $475 a year on birthday gifts. This means we save $39.60 each month to cover everyone’s birthday.  Now our family is kind of big.  J has 2 brothers and a sister while I have one sister.  They are all married (or in serious relationships) and some have kids.  We have also come to an agreement to skip buying larger gifts for each other.  We might spend $10 on one another so we can have a little more wiggle room in our birthday budget.

Again, I want to be fully honest here.  If I can find a great gift for less than my budget then I call that a win.  I don’t have to spend my budgeted amount.  I just try not to spend more than my budget. 

We even use these budget amounts for Christmas gifts, too.  I have a great way to help with our Christmas budget and I plan on doing it again this year.  It has really streamlined everything.

What to Pack In A Diaper Bag for Your Toddler

Affiliate Disclosure: please note that when you click links and purchase items, in most (not all) cases I will receive a referral commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link. 

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Motherhood is one wild ride.  So many changes happen in the first year and then when we reached toddler status the changes just kept coming.  I’ve learned not to be so worried about the little things and to have more fun in the moment.  One of the biggest things I’ve changed is the super heavy diaper bag that was weighing me down.  It was such a relief the first time I carried this smaller packed bag out of the house.  I can’t tell you how happy I was when we had everything we needed, too.  Such a great feeling!

As our little boy gets older my diaper bag has changed from this stuffed tote for a newborn to a much lighter bag.  I’ve realized I don’t need to carry all that stuff anymore and it’s so nice.  Now don’t get me wrong as a new Mom I was very unsure about a lot of things (like a lot, a lot).  It was nice having everything that could be possibly needed when he was a newborn.  As I’ve become more confident with motherhood, I have been able to improvise on the fly.  I’ve also learned that as mothers, we don’t need all the stuff in the diaper bag we imagined.  It was a hard lesson to learn, but once I had the light bulb moment it brought a whole new perspective.

Now my diaper bag has changed quite a bit.  No more are the days of leaning over and everything falling out.  I recorded a quick video to show you exactly what’s inside and what I recommend to keep in your diaper bag for your toddler.  Take a look at what I carry for our very active 16 month old.

The diaper backpack I have is no longer available on Amazon, but you can find a similar diaper bag here.

The thirty-one bag can be found here (I have an older version).

My purse can be found here (remember this was a gift from J using his reward points from work – not that there is anything wrong with investing in a nice purse, but with a small child and living on a budget it’s not always possible).

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Some of Our Favorites to Include

Diapers
Wipes
Change of clothes
Sippy Cup that doesn’t leak
Book (similar set to what we have)
Small Toy (I prefer quiet toys for when we’re out to eat or in public places)
Snacks (Goldfish, crackers, Cheerios)
Snack Holder

What do you pack in your diaper bag for your toddler?  Leave a comment below with the details.

 

Check out more posts about parenting a toddler, even help with being a new mom and overall the whole motherhood thing.

Avoid the Lunch Burnout

How To Avoid The Lunch Burnout

Now that we’ve survived our first No Eating Out Challenge, it’s time to shake things up a bit.  Every time we try to pack lunches we do so good for the first week or so and then we start slipping.  I know it’s because we’re getting bored with what we’re bringing.  The same thing (or variation of the same meal) every day can get old.  

We have been working hard to avoid the lunch burnout and have found a few recipes that we rotate.  I wanted to share these quick lunch ideas that you can take to eat cold OR heat up.

egg roll in a bowl

This egg roll in a bowl has been one of my favorites to make.  I typically will make a big recipe on Sunday and then measure it out to last all week.  I’ve eaten it warm and cold, and either way is tasty.  

This turkey club roll-up is a great low-carb idea.  I tend to add a little more avocado since I like it so much.

Justin even made this Big Mac salad and it was prefect.  All you have to do is brown the hamburger on Sunday or one evening during the week.  You can even pre-make the dressing and store in a container until you’re ready to eat.

fried chicken salad

One of the easiest meals to make is this fried chicken salad.  You can make it super simple by buying fried chicken from the store to use or even make your own.  Since switching to low-carb we’ve made these yummy chicken tenders that work perfectly.  

whole30, avocado lime salad dressing recipe

I’m also a huge lover of salad so I’ve been known to make this Avocado Lime dressing to top mine, too.  It’s easy to make and can keep in the fridge all week.

What are some of your favorite lunches to avoid the weekly burnout?  Leave a comment letting me know!

How To Balance Life When Your Have Kids and a Career

How To Balance Life, work life balance, mom balance, how to stay sane as a mom

I had been working on this post about how to balance life for a very long time.  I’ve had the idea scribbled in a notebook for months.  I’ve had a draft started, but not finished for weeks.  Yet here I am completely changing the whole premise of this topic.  

Let’s get real for a second – when you have kids there is no balance.  Sure you can feel like everything is rocking and rolling for a few days, maybe even a few weeks, but it will come crashing down at some point.  I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but it does.

For instance, I started this post off (then deleted it) talking about how to find balance you need to be a planner.  You need to have a list of everything that needs to get done, be able to know when to delegate and when to say no, and you need help.  But that was before our little boy spent the better part of 3 hours nonstop crying last night.  No idea why.  He just did.

I’m tired.  I’m dragging and I sure know that today is going to be rough.

It’s 8 am and I’m already sipping on a Diet Mountain Dew (it’s my version of coffee).  This post was supposed to be finished last night so it could go live this morning, but that didn’t happen.  Because no matter how hard I try to plan, prepare and schedule my day – it doesn’t always play out like I hope.  So instead of finishing this post last night, I sat in complete darkness holding my crying boy in my arms until he fell asleep.

And there is no place I would have rather been.

Truth.

So maybe work life balance isn’t a fine balance act.  Maybe it’s having the ability to say no to some things so you can say yes to more important ones.

My son, my family and my well-being comes before anything else.  So on days like yesterday, I have to reschedule everything I had planned for the last 3 hours of my day, I have to go to bed later than I normally do and I have to wake up earlier than I thought was possible.

But to me balance isn’t doing it all and being perfect, it’s choosing what’s perfect for me.

I may not get it all done in the time frame I dreamed of and that’s okay.

You may not either and you have to be willing to accept it.  There are a few things you can do to help you not feel pressure to do things you HAVE to do when things you WANT to do come up.

  1. Plan your day.  I use Google calendar to plan out my family’s life.  Everything task, appointment, and reminder are scheduled in my calendar.
  2. Keep a running to-do list.  I am someone who will obsess over something until it’s done.  I have found that when I write a task or an idea down, then I can turn my brain off and focus on what I was supposed to be doing.
  3. Be okay with change.  Days don’t always go as planned and you have to be willing to accept it.  Let’s face it as Moms no two days are the same.  And if you think they can be, then just spend time with a toddler because they will correct your thought process in less than an hour.
  4. Build in buffers.  For me that means going to be later or getting up earlier (preferably not within a 12 hour period, but that’s mom life).  I also try to keep my lunch hour free to do other work.  I work full time so when my lunch break comes I usually run home to write posts, record videos or edit them.  This gives me some flexibility when my evenings or mornings don’t go as I hope. 
  5. Know your priorities.  Sometimes we get wrapped up in the hustle of life.  We get frustrated when we have to stop mid-thought to dig a toy out from under the couch just for your little one to do it all over again.  At those moments, just stop and remind yourself every day they are learning something new and one day they will be able to reach for a toy under the couch themselves and that day will be hard.  You may not realize it at the time, but it will be.  When our little one could finally hold his own bottle, I was happy until the day came that I wanted to rock him to sleep for nap time and he didn’t need me to any longer.  He could hold his own bottle and lay down on his own.

I may not be perfect with work life balance, but I don’t think anyone can be perfect when they’re a mom.  No matter if you’re a mom who works away from home, works from home or in between.  Any woman who mothers a child, runs a household and is making a difference will never have a perfect balance act.  And at the end of the day when you watch your little one sleep you realize that it’s okay because they are more perfect than you could ever imagine.

Changing My Wealth Mindset

wealth mindset, changing mindset, being wealthy, making money, mindset on wealth, money tips, budget help

What is your wealth mindset?

For so many the first thing that pops in their head is money.  And I was one of those people.  Being wealthy used to mean 

Wealth is so much more than the money you spend on stuff.  The stuff that fills your house and the toys in your garage doesn’t mean you’re wealthy.  I had this realization not that long ago when I was looking around my family room watching our little boy play.  He was so happy and in that moment life was perfect.  Those moments are so amazing and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.  

I know that’s a cliche example of being wealthy, but it’s the truth.  I also started thinking how wealth isn’t what the commercial standard of wealth is.  Being wealthy is a personal thing – what’s important to you and you alone.  Of course I started relating everything to our finances and family budgeting.  

I think of our family’s financial goals as a path.  We want to measure our wealth on how we’re doing reaching our goals.  I talk so much about goals and financial journeys, but how do you know when you’ve made it?  I guess when you actually reach your goals, but then those goals are replaced with bigger ones.  That’s life.  So now being wealthy is the good progress we’re making towards those goals.  

Wealth is having the ability to bounce back from an emergency without sacrifice.  Wealth is seeing my child play in a yard with our dogs chasing after him.  It’s the ability to not have to worry about debt or not having enough in our bank account to do the things we want.  Wealth is reaching our financial goals and then setting new ones.  

We’re already wealthy even though we haven’t reached our bigger goals.  We’re wealthy because we’ve made so much progress to get towards those goals.  My wealth mindset has shifted to not be so concerned with the amount in our bank accounts and more focused on the bigger picture.  It’s a great feeling!

20 Ways To Make $100 Fast

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Are you looking for quick ways to make a buck?  Well you’re in luck!  I have put together a great list of 20 ways to make $100 fast.  

Now most of these on the list are things I have personally done and can share with you my opinion.  But before you take on any job or sell anything, please do your research.  Make sure it’s from a reputable company or from someone you personally know.  There are too many times people are taken advantage of and you should protect yourself.

Alright, now that my little disclaimer is out of the way let’s dive in.  Here are my 20 ways to make $100 fast:

Sell old phones, laptops and tablets

You can find different online companies, like gazelle.com that offer to buy old electronics (I have never used gazelle before, so please do your research).  You can also sell old phones, computers and such online through craigslist and Facebook swap shops.  A lot of times people are looking for parts and are willing to pay for an older phone.  

Sell old clothes

This is one of my favorite ways to make extra money!  All you have to do is clean out your closet, your husband’s closet and your kids’ closets.  You can sell on Facebook Swap Shops or create an Ebay account to sell.  I have sold older coats that I no longer wear on Ebay before and it’s super easy.  Plus Ebay will give you a few credits each month so you can list quite a few items at no cost.  Now you will pay a processing fee for selling, but it was minimal in my experience.  

Have a Yard Sale

I’ll admit I have a love/hate relationship with Yard Sales.  Here’s why – you can put so much work into them and then end having a dud.  Plus during the summer when it’s so hot, the last thing I want to do is sit outside most of the day.  However, with that being said I still love yard sales.  It forces us to clean out closets, get rid of items we no longer use and then we try to make some money off of them.  You can even come together with another family or with your neighborhood to hose a giant yard sale.  When you offer a multi-family yard sale then you typically end up with more buyers, which means increased number of eyes looking at your items.  If you’re looking for some great tips on how to host a successful yard sale then check out this post from Money Crashers.  

Sell Items You Don’t Use

This goes right along with selling old clothes and having a yard sale.  If you aren’t using something and haven’t used it in a long time then get rid of it.  You could easily make some cash and make more room in your house.  For instance, our old bassinet we had just sitting in our little guy’s room.  We hadn’t used it in months (I’m pretty sure we stopped using it before he was even three months old) and our little guy was over a year old.  We decided it was finally time to sell it.  We made back over half of what we paid for it, which was awesome.  Now we cleared a corner in his nursery for the growing pile of toys.

Volunteer for Overtime

If you work in a service industry type field then you may be able to volunteer for a few hours.  I know in the tax and accounting field a lot of overtime is earned during tax season, which is a great way to make some extra cash.  So just keep you eyes and ears open to see if any extra help is needed.  You can score some brownie points with the boss and make some money too!

Take Part in Your Company’s Customer Referral Program

A lot of workplaces offer a referral program – either refer a new client or a new employee.  This is a great way for you to earn money on the side, just by promoting what you do for a living. 

Offer Baby Sitting

I know a lot of parents are afraid of leaving their children with people they don’t know.  So offer babysitting to people you trust and who trust you.  You can put up flyers around your church or work to offer babysitting a few times each month.  You could make some serious cash!

Start Pet Sitting

Not that I want to compare a child to a pet, but people will do some crazy things to keep their pets comfortable.  Offer to some friends who are planning a vacation to take care of their dogs while they’re away.  More than likely it will be a lot more cost effective then a kennel for your friends and you could earn some money while doing it.

Sell Your Photography Skills

Are you an avid photographer?  Well you could be making money.  If you’re willing to upload your pictures to a site like shutterstock then you could turn your hobby into a side job.  Online photography sites typically offer a way for you to sell good, quality images without much of a startup cost.  

Apply for extra work 

There are so many websites and job boards online that are looking for someone to edit images, grammar check posts, and even ghost write a few posts.  By joining a place like Upwork, you can put together an online resume and then bid on different jobs.  I actually use to write on Upwork quite a bit.  I would put together articles for other finance sites and even created a handout for a gym owner in Australia once.  

Clean Houses

Put together flyers to put around town, at your church or online to offer some cleaning skills.  Cleaning houses could turn into a regular side job that makes some pretty consistent money for you.

Detail Cars

How many people do you know that actually enjoy cleaning their car?  And it’s so hard to find a decent person who can detail a car without overcharging.  Put together a weekend job where you detail cars.  The startup cost is minimal and you can earn some serious money for the time you put 

Create on Fiverr

Can you quickly proofread a short document or have a simple way to create an image?  Well then you could be making some money over at Fiverr.  It’s a cool site that you can sell your services or products for $5.00.  Now you can offer an upcharge for any special add-ons, which is great.  I have personally used Fiverr on several different occassions and always end up with great service.  

Offer Tutoring

If you are profecient in a subject at the local high school or college then you can turn it into a weekend gig.  Offer tutoring to local students on the weekends or one evening a week.

Ghost Writer on a Blog

If you have some writing skills then you can easily turn that into a gig.  A lot of sites that publish articles multiples times a day are always looking for ghost writers.

Offer your Editing Skills

Along with becoming a ghost writer, you can offer your editing skills as an on-going job to websites and bloggers.

Become a Social Media Manager

If you know you’re way around the major social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest then you can easily offer yourself to bloggers and smaller companies.  They are always looking for a strong social media presence, but may not have the budget to hire some in-house full-time.  So offer your services on a small hourly or flat rate fee.

Donate Plasma

If you don’t mind donating blood then you can try your hand at plasma.  There are quite a few places that will actually pay you to donate.  

Give Up Cable

I know this one might be a bit harder to do because you probably have a show (or two) that you love, plus you may be a sports fanactic like my husband.  But if you’re willing to go with out your cable then that could potentially save you MORE than a $100 a month.  There are other services available to help with cutting the cord.  You can get the Amazon Fire Stick (affiliate link), you can try Hulu and Netflix to make sure that you still have some entertainment for the little ones.  We love our Fire Stick and have discovered a ton of great shows – for us and for our little guy for free.

Stop Eating Out for a few weeks

If you find yourself eating out way too often then try taking my No Eating Out Challenge.  You will be surprised by how much you save just by eating at home and taking your lunch with you for a week.

Which ones are you going to try to make $100 fast?  I know we love selling old items online and through yard sales as a quick way to get rid of junk while making money.  

How To Set Your Grocery Budget

How To Set The Perfect Grocery Budget, how to set your budget, grocery budget help

Do you know how much your monthly grocery budget should be?  I have received so many questions from you and I thought it was time to answer.  Setting the right budget each month is a cornerstone in reaching your financial goals.  You need a money plan, a realistic one at that.  

On the expenses that are only paid once a month, it’s a lot easier to not overspend.  It’s the things like running to a store or going out to eat that can really mess up our plan.  That’s where we tend to spend more than we realize.  Even if you’re tracking your spending (which you totally should), mistakes can still happen.  You need to have a plan set in stone (or at least flexible stone) so that you can make sure you’re on the right path.  

In the video below, we’re diving in just how much you should be spending each month for your groceries.  Learn how to set your grocery budget – the right way! 

 

If you’re looking for help on what all to include in your grocery budget, check out this video.  I’ll help you figure out a good plan of what to include, and not include each month.  Remember you’re family is not just like mine, so you need to be open and flexible to creating a money plan that works best for you.  If you set your grocery budget and it doesn’t work then make the right adjustments.  

How much do you spend each month on groceries for your family?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Need More Help?

If you’re looking for a great tool to help keep your family on budget, then check out out my budget spreadsheet.  Each month is laid out right in front of you where you can keep track of what you budget and what you actually spend. Now you’ll know in real time how you’re doing each month.