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Dairy Free Creamy Bacon Spinach Pasta

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My hubby craving comfort food strikes again! In case you missed it, a couple of days ago he made up (with a little help) a dairy free sausage gravy. Biscuits and gravy are one of his favorite foods. Another favorite food? Creamy pastas. The issue […]

Dairy Free Sausage Gravy

Dairy Free Sausage Gravy

This recipe comes courtesy of my husband, who is a huge “biscuits and gravy” fan. The problem? After he did a round of Whole30, he realized that dairy really doesn’t agree with him. I could’ve told you that years ago because of the, ahem, effects, but he was in denial until his reintroduction. That said, it’s still an occassional splurge because he just loves biscuits and gravy that much. He was the one who decided to try out a dairy free sausage gravy, and it’s AWESOME.

Lately, my husband has been doing 99% of the cooking because I gave birth to our second kiddo (a baby boy named Marshall – click here to see on my Instagram) only a week ago. This morning, he announced he was going to attempt a dairy free sausage gravy. This made me nervous because honestly, while my husband is a great cook and grillmaster, converting traditional recipes to a different style isn’t his forte. I didn’t say anything because I certainly didn’t have the energy to cook, and well….it was going rough. The sauce wouldn’t thicken enough, which I would’ve told him but he was so “in the zone” that I didn’t want to discourage. He asked me after about 15 more minutes, “dear, what do I do?” and thankfully my guess worked. Arrowroot! Specifically making an arrowroot slurry. Once he added that the sauce came together beautifully. I always purchase 1lb+ bags of arrowroot. This is usually found in the baking section (NOT with the spices. You will severely overpay if you buy a spice jar of arrowroot). If you can’t find in a grocery store, health food stores have them or Amazon. I’ve bought online before too until Meijer, a regional grocery store, began carrying it. Arrowroot is excellent in grain free, Paleo, or Whole30 baking and is a great equivalent to corn starch.

click here to see where I get my 2.5lbs of arrowroot online

Disclaimer: This is NOT 100% dairy free if you have a true allergy. This recipe uses ghee (slightly browned clarified butter) which is butter with the milk solids removed. For both of us, who have a strong dairy intolerance this works fine. If you have a true milk allergy with severe reactions, this is one recipe to pass. I feel confident that for the average lactose-intolerant or dairy-intolerant that ghee is a great substitute for butter. If you don’t know what ghee is, I have a super easy DIY recipe! It doesn’t require cheesecloth and is how I’ve made mine for years. Click here to go to my easy three step ghee recipe.

click here for my easy ghee recipe!

While this dairy free sausage gravy recipe is dairy free (ish), this does use regular all-purpose flour. This works fine in our “Food Freedom” as neither of us have issues with gluten. I will mention substitute options in the recipe notes below, but please note we have only tried with regular flour at this time. If you do try it let me know! And next time we’ll try to make this Whole30 compliant and I will give an update.

Don’t want biscuits with your “biscuits and gravy” ? Here are some other options of what to top this dairy free sausage gravy over….

  • roasted potatoes of any variety
  • eggs over medium or easy
  • mixed with toasted cauli-rice (click here for recipe!)
  • salmon cakes – yea I know it sounds weird but trust me
  • spiralized veggies, it’s like a creamy breakfast pasta

 

Print Recipe
Dairy Free Sausage Gravy
a thick, creamy dairy free sausage gravy that uses almondmilk and ghee. Perfect for your biscuits and gravy, or over loads of vegetables!
Cuisine Homestyle, Paleo, Whole30
Servings
Ingredients
Cuisine Homestyle, Paleo, Whole30
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. brown the sausage with the onion, worcestershire sauce, and pepper
  2. create a roux: add in the ghee, once melted, slowly add in the flour (see notes for gluten free/paleo/ whole30 options) while stirring constantly. You need to stir to keep lumps from forming. Continue to stir until the flour appears browned.
  3. Add in almond milk (See recipe notes for substitution suggestions), and add in any salt and pepper to taste - see recipe notes for my suggestion.
  4. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
  5. While the gravy is simmering, create an arrowroot slurry by mixing the arrowroot and water in a small bowl. Make sure there are no lumps.
  6. Slowly pour in the arrowroot slurry, stirring constantly. Simmer uncovered for 5-10 more minutes until desired consistency is reached (see recipe notes). Enjoy.
Recipe Notes

Other options for almond milk that may work. Please let me know if you try these how it works out!

  • original unsweetened cashewmilk
  • oat milk
  • rice milk (though you may need additional arrowroot slurry)

coconut milk is not recommended as you will pick up the coconut taste.

We did not add in any extra salt because the ghee I make uses salted butter. (for the ghee recipe click here)

Paleo/Whole30 Flour Substitutions - these have not yet been tested by me but is a typical substitution I've used in other roux-based sauces that work well. If you try these please let me know in the comments how it works.

  • 1/4 cup almond flour with 2tbsp coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup almond flour with 2tbsp tapioca flour

Whole30 Paleo Serving Suggestions (instead of biscuits or other SWYPO things)

  • roasted potatoes of any variety
  • eggs over medium or easy
  • mixed with toasted cauli-rice (click here for recipe!)
  • salmon cakes - yea I know it sounds weird but trust me
  • spiralized veggies, it's like a creamy breakfast pasta

Note for Whole30 or Paleo that your worcestershire sauce  and italian sausage are both compliant. If you cannot find any worcestershire sauce, substitute coconut aminos.

 

click to purchase

click to purchase

click to purchase as a substitue for worchestire sauce

Enjoy!

-Rachel (and Travis!)

 

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Golden Milk Latte for Allergies

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I’ve been meaning to try a “golden milk” latte for a long time. If you aren’t familiar, this is basically a tumeric “latte.” I looked up several recipes, and I’d say Weeknight Bite is the one who convinced me to give it a try. But […]

My Working Mom Morning Routine

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How To Get the BEST Deals at Ulta

How To Get the BEST Deals at Ulta

This post has been a long time coming, but I figured since I got another almost unbelievable deal that it was time to share my tips. This isn’t just “sign up for the Ultamate Rewards,” but more information about bonus offers that help you accumulate points faster and get way more bang for your buck on deals at Ulta. I’ve been able to get the Anastasia Brow Wiz for $1.50 (retail is $21) and recently, the Lorac PRO Contour Palette for $2.50 (retail is $45!!). On a more “normal” level, how I got $35.96 worth of hair products for $23.57. How did I do this? The answer is in a few parts. 1. I save my points until something really good comes along 2. I find ways to get points faster through bonus offers (these have to be activated and I will show you how! This is KEY and if you don’t know how to do this you are missing out on a lot of rewards $$). But I also think it’s important to share the ways I’ve found to avoid any overspending. How I get the best deals at Ulta has gotten me some great rewards and saved me money along the way.

ulta deals
Do you see what I paid?! With tax, a grand total of $2.65. Retail price $45. That’s about 94% off!

Ultamate Rewards (but NOT the credit card)

Ulta has a free rewards program, and the best part is that these points accumulate as cash back. That means you don’t have to save up points just to receive a deluxe sample of a product you may or may not care about (*cough* Sephora *cough* – though I also do love Sephora. I just think their rewards are lacking). It’s free to sign up, and I suggest you do otherwise most of this article will not be relevant. Click here to sign up and get a free $10 off your first purchase! I do want to be clear that I am not talking about the credit card, and I actively advise you not to sign up for the credit card. In fact, Ulta employees will ask at nearly every checkout if you are interested. Say no. The whole point is to cause overspending, and it may already be difficult with the rewards. Which leads me to my next point….

Only Look When You NEED Something (or are fairly close to it)

This may be a huge change to your beauty shopping style. I know it was to mine several years ago. As an ex-makeup junkie, I know what it’s like to have drawers of makeup that you “love” but realistically will never use up. Get yourself out of that habit NOW. Find one (okay, maybe two) of each makeup category that you love and use.them.up. Lip products are a bit more lenient on the ONE or TWO but still should be reasonable. This is where it can be wuality vs. quantitiy. Here’s some quick math: If you try out 5 different $10 foundations, and don’t use up any of them…did you get a “better deal” than if you had bought one great $40 foundation and used it completely? Food for thought. The same applies to any type of makeup or beauty product. You may be $5 purchasing your way out of a makeup collection you love. Cut the impulse crap. This means, if you have run out of something, need something in a new category, are close to out (1/3 or less but you MUST finish before opening the new one!) or the product is not working (example: maybe a skin product is now breaking you out), that”s when you go to the Ulta website or store. NOT just to online browse. I know those dangers. Thankfully the thought of paying for shipping snaps me out if I do break down and browse. Please note that I’m not saying drugstore products aren’t good. That’s definintely not what I mean, I loooooove drugstore makeup. I’m just saying whatever you buy you need to love! For me at the moment, that’s a drugstore mascara but a high end eyeliner. Here are a few tips to help minimize temptation with your Ulta spending that made a tangible difference for me:

  • Stop email subscriptions
  • Stop mail subscriptions
  • Cut Ulta from your Instagram feed
  • Avoid going to the Ulta website
  • Unfollow beauty gurus who cause you to want to try something new every week (that really could be a separate post). Remember, they get sent the majority for free. You have to put your hard earned money towards it!

Okay, so you need something. How to get the best Deals at Ulta? BONUS OFFERS and stacking deals.

This is where the game gets seriously changed if you don’t know about this. Pay attention to the images as they will show you where to go on the Ulta website.

  • Log In to your account. Again, if you haven’t signed up for Ultamate rewards, Click here to sign up and get a free $10 off your first purchase!
    The circled area will say “sign in” if you are not logged in
  • Once logged in, the screen should bring you to the “My Account” page, which shows your membership information. In the menu, click “My Rewards” as shown.
  • Scroll down and at the bottom of the “My Rewards” page are the Bonus Offers. These are KEY to earning points when you need something. Note that both that I have available to me are worth 5X the points!
    The black sections are personal information (you can see where I used 498 points to get the Lorac PRO palette for $2.50), but at the bottom of the screen is the bonus offers sections. Note that both are worth 5X the points (that can be HUGE depending on what you need to purchase), and both require you to actually “activate” them. That means you MUST click the “activate now” before you make the purchase to get the full reward.
  • This is where it can become critical to know what you need. Maybe you were out of a face cleanser and were interested in one by Murad and it was within your budget. If you were to spend $30 on a Murad cleanser, you’d get the points for if you’ve spent $150 otherwise!
  • Knowing your budget and self control are key here. Sure, that Donna Karen fragrance might earn you 5X points, but I’m perfectly content with the two perfumes I own (and LOVE). No need to even consider that purchase. This is also why I suggest only checking when you need something or are close to running out of something.
  • In the beginning, it’s okay to check a little more often – the only reason I say this is because it helps familiarize you with what types of offers are available. For instance, there will be 2X points offers, but if I think that a 5X points offer will be coming up, then I will wait to purchase (more on that later). But for things like say…..shampoo? If I’m actually out and Ulta is the best place to get the item, then I’m not going to wait. That’s when I like to keep an eye out when items are about 1/3 remaining. It gives a little buffer of time to find a good reward deal.

Have Patience – If you really want a specific product but aren’t completely out, wait until a good offer comes along

Story time…I really wanted Tarte ShapeTape. Really bad. REALLY bad. Everyone raved about it, but it’s expensive! $27 for a single concealer? Ouch. I had the money set aside, but knew I wanted to take advantage of a good bonus offer. I already had a concealer (Rimmel Match Perfection, it’s ony $4.50! but horrendouse shade selection) that worked, so I knew I had to be patient. I would look occassionally at the rewards, and within a couple of months (yes, I waited months and I’m glad I did!) a “5X all Tarte Cosmetics” bonus offer popped up. Hooray! My $27 purchase would now get me 135 points! It was worth the wait, and the concealer IS great.

The Best Bonus Offers

In my opinion, the best deals available in Bonus Offers are….

  • 5X points on Salon Services – This seems to come out twice a year, but since I get my brows waxed at Ulta I always take this offer. $21 service becomes 105 points, and I was going to get my brows waxed there anyways? Yep. Take the deal.
  • 5X points on ______ brand – This will be a bonus reward across the entire brand, and they are usually Prestige brands. That meants the expensive brands. The reason this is important to me is…if I’m going to shell out $30 on a product, then I definintely want 150 points!
  • 2X points (or 3X if you are lucky) on a category – things like “Haircare” or “makeup”…these are huge wide open categories where if I’m stocking up on shampoo (more on that later), then it’s worth it to get the extra points
  • 2X points on your entire purchase – I think this is only an offer during your birthday month, but it’s an important one to note! If you are about to make a purchase and it’s getting close to your birthday month, hold off on the purchase. Unless of course there is a better offer (like the 5x ones) available now.

But wait. There really is more! It’s time to stack the deals. Big time.

Stack. The. Deals.

If you aren’t familiar with Ulta, they have basically two sides to the store, “drugstore” and “Prestige.” The coupons and offers (except your rewards points!) are only applicable to the drugstore side. So here is how you can stack the deals.

  • Bonus Offers – I’ve already gone into that, but make sure to activate them if there is a relevant one
  • Buy 1 Get 1 40/50% off – On the drugstore side, a lot of the whole brands will be either “Buy 1 Get 1 40% off” or “Buy 1 Get 1 50% off”…if I know I need two things, I refuse to pay full price for both
  • Coupons! There is almost always a “$3.50 off of $15 purchase” coupon available on Ulta.com/coupons….again, this only applies to the “drugstore” side, but it really can make a difference.

Example of Deal Stacking

I love the Not Your Mother’s Naturals Blue Sea Kale and Coconut Water Line. I’ve only seen it at Ulta and Walmart, and with the combos I’ve disucssed, I’m able to get it much cheaper at Ulta than Walmart. Here is how: I waited until Not Your Mother’s was on Buy One Get One 50% off. since I know I LOVE this line, I actually bought one shampoo, one conditioner, and two mousses all at once. I was able to get 50% off two of those items, then apply my $3.50 coupon. Oh, and did I mention that “hair care” was 2X bonus rewards? Yea….that meant that instead of paying $35.96 at Ulta (or $33.96 at Walmart if you are curious), I actually paid $23.47! See the photo for my math on this. But what’s even better? I also got 46 (or 47? I don’t remember if Ulta rounds up) rewards points for this. So I paid way less than I had to, but got more points than if I had paid full price for everything! Note that this does mean I had to buy quite a bit at once. If you’re all about changing up your products, then make sure to at least get one of these options (either the BOGO or coupon).

How I paid $23.47 instead of $35.96!

SAVE YOIUR POINTS FOR SOMETHING GOOD.

Patience and knowledge are key here. Your points add up to cash value, which I’ll show in the image below. The more points you have, the more they are worth. There is also an increment for 250 points (it’s $8) but it doesn’t show up on here. Not sure why. Now, I’ve never gotten beyond the 750 points. Why? I don’t actually like to spend very much money, and that means even if I got 5x points on everything, I’d still be spending over $150 to get there. Realistically, I probably spent closer to $250 to get there. But that’s certainly better than spending the full $750 if you didn’t use Bonus Offers! For a combo of hair care, skin care, and makeup…that isn’t bad. I also buy makeup at Walmart/Target depending on sales. Do not force yourself to go to Ulta “for the points.” That’s a waste of money if the price is better elsewhere!

I’ve made this picture clickable so it will take you to the current Ulta points scale in case it changes. In the 4 years I’ve been a member I don’t think anything changed.

I only spend my rewards dollars on Prestige items. They are the only offers that work on those brands, so it’s nice to get the discount where you can. I also make sure to save it up for a time if something I’ve wanted actually goes on sale. Sales for the Prestige lines are few and far between, so make the most of your rewards $ and wait for them!

21 Days of Beauty (or Hair)

The exception to the “Prestige items don’t go on sale” is within the Ulta ads or the 21 Days of Beauty/Hair sales. This is where I think you will get the best value from hoarding those points you’ve earned through the Bonus offers and other deals. The 21 days of beauty have daily deals that are usually around 50% off Prestige items. This event is between 2-4 times a year between the hair and beauty ones. There are some good deals that last all 21 days, but the best discounts are on the daily deals. THIS is where I was able to get the Anastasia Brow Wiz for $1.50 and the Lorac PRO Contour Palette for $2.50. Ulta lets you use the rewards points you’ve earned towards these already deeply discounted Prestige items.

example of Spring 2018 daily steals in the Ulta 21 Days of Beauty

But also, don’t be afraid to pass up the 21 days of Beauty! If nothing screams your name, then don’t waste your points/money. Wait for that new palette, or use it towards your favorite foundation. Don’t feel obligated that you HAVE To get the best deal out of the points. Just make sure you use them towards something you really want! I got lucky with the Lorac PRO contour palette. That has been on my wish list for literally years, but I like my ELF contour palette (which costs a whopping $6 full price) enough. So when I saw this deal, I knew it was time to cash in my rewards.

Do note something REALLY important. The points DO expire in a year if you are a basic member (that means spending under $400 in a calendar year. I’ve always kept under that and been basic). So if you think you are getting close, you do want to spend the points instead of hoarding them so long that you lose them. My go-to the only time I got close was to redeem my $8 towards an eyebrow wax. Like I said earlier, that’s where I get my brows done regardless, and I didn’t feel pressured to put out money towards a product I didn’t need.

If you use Ulta rewards points wisely, they can save you a lot in the long run! My biggest advice? Be intentional with your purchases. Make sure you will use whatever it is you are buying, and make sure you get the most bang for your buck! Let me know if this helped you find some better deals at Ulta, or if I missed any other thing to do to get the best deals at Ulta.

-Rachel

There are no affiliate links posted. The $10 offer is the general “Invite a Friend” offer than any Ultamate Rewards Member can use. If any of you claim the $10, I get a “$10 off $30 purchase” coupon.

Auto Ship Your Pet Food: Yes or No?

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Budget Friendly Trader Joe’s Essentials (and What to Skip!) 2018

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Like many others, I love Trader Joes. In fact, when one opened near (okay 45mins away from) me, I was stoked. Except, my first grocery trip was really expensive compared to what we’d usually spend. Like….I spent double and came away with what felt like […]

Three Ingredient Roasted Carrots

Three Ingredient Roasted Carrots

I have always hated cooked carrots, until I made these three ingredient roasted carrots. Truth be told, there was a similar recipe within the Well Fed Weeknights Cookbook for “Everything Carrots.” My lazy (read: extremely busy as we all are) self knew this title meant I  had to try just throwing on the Trader Joe’s “Everything but the Bagel” seasoning instead of basically making my own. It worked! It worked well enough that my husband complemented them. Well enough that I enjoy a food I historically hated, and well enough that our toddler eats as many helpings as we will allow her. Yep, we actually have to cut her off! That’s how much our two year old loves these three ingredient roasted carrots. AND, they are easy. AND they are cheap to make!

A part of me hates calling these a “recipe” but the formatting makes more sense for anyone who wants to print. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, I’m sorry for torturing you! The nearest Trader Joe’s to me is about 45minutes away, so I buy literally 3+ of these spices at a time.

These three ingredient roasted carrots make a great side dish, especially with red meats or poultry. Give them a try, I think the whole family will love them.


Print Recipe
Three Ingredient Roasted Carrots
The easiest, tastiest, most Whole30iest (yes that's a real word) three ingredient roasted carrots. The whole family will love them!
Cuisine Paleo, Vegan, Whole30
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Cuisine Paleo, Vegan, Whole30
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. While oven preheats, cut carrots into chunks. I like mine thinner so they get quite crispy. That's how I started to enjoy these carrots.
  3. Coat in the oil. Again, it doesn't have to be avocado oil, just something with a higher smoke point.
  4. Shake on the Everything but the Bagel Seasoning. I don't typically measure this but do approximately 3tbsp. Also, it's okay if the seasoning doesn't stick to the carrots completely. You can always scoop the extra on after the carrots are done cooking.
  5. Roast for approximately 25 minutes.
  6. Broil for 3 minutes. Enjoy! These are best served immediately.
Recipe Notes
  • While these are best served fresh, they reheat well. The reheated three ingredient roasted carrots just aren't crispy.
  • If you don't live near a Trader Joe's, there are some of the Everything but the Bagel Seasoning sold on Amazon...but I'm not sure who is selling them (I don't think it's actually Trader Joe's despite the name). So purchase at your own risk {link}
  • For extra crispy carrots (my favorite!) put your pans into the oven as it pre-heats. Then, when you put your carrots on the pan, that side gets a nice sear. I do this for ALL roasted vegetables!
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When in Doubt, Dice it Up!

When in Doubt, Dice it Up!

One of the questions I get asked often is, “How does Riley eat so many vegetables?!” And while I really think that the key to this was how we introduced her to solids, a huge thing we do now is dice up anything she doesn’t […]


Welcome

Welcome

Hi, my name is Rachel Smith. I’m a 23-year-old full time engineer, mom, and MBA student. My husband Travis and I are working to pay off over six figures in student loans. It’s been a crazy ride, but in 2016 we paid off 25K in student loans and 3K in medical loans. Our goal for 2017 is to pay off 30K in student loans.
Of course, the tips and what we do can help out anyone who is trying to pay off debt, or to live a simple life. The reason I didn’t want this to become a “debt payoff” blog entirely is because I hope to reach the goal of being debt free fairly quickly. One thing we won’t let go of is budgeting. Our financial goals will certainly shift, but we’ll still have a budget. So there is the “budget” in the title. Kale? Well, most people link kale to health, so I just kind of threw it in there tbh.I wanted to begin writing to reach out to those who have acquired massive student loan debt. It’s a MAJOR problem in the U.S. that not many people talk about. Paying off debt this intensely can affect every aspect of life. One aspect is health. Some who talk about eliminating debt say to “eat rice and beans,” etc but I don’t agree with that for several reasons to be discussed elsewhere. Somthing that our family decided right away is that we would NOT sacrifice our health for the sake of becoming debt free. We eat Paleo (Whole30-ish) with the occassional Whole30. We pay for gym memberships (yes more than one) and use them. We also LOVE being outdoors. Camping and hiking will always be a priority of ours.

If you are interested to see how we live life and some other fun, random things from me (I also love skincare and makeup) then please join me in the journey!

Cheers,

Rachel