Five Simple Choices That Help Me Save Money

Millennials are having a really hard time these days when it comes to finances. Mountains of student debt, underemployment, housing prices through the roof… It’s crazy! And without a clear game plan, a lot of us are struggling to make ends meet and achieve our goals. While it’s not as easy as forgoing avocado toast (for a few decades), every money-saving habit helps to build the foundation for your financial future. For me, the most reliable ways to save money are the ones I don’t even think about. Here are five everyday choices and habits that help me save up. 

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5 Reasons You Should Start Gardening in Your Twenties

When it comes to gardening, most people tend to imagine older ladies in large-brimmed hats tending to flowerbeds outside their sprawling suburban homes. (At least, that’s what I think of.) So when my boyfriend and I started a backyard garden during our very first spring out of university, we were met with some surprise. Now that we’re into our third season of growing vegetables, fruits, and herbs, we can’t recommend it highly enough to other twenty-somethings! In fact, it seems that millennial gardeners are becoming a bit of a trend. (Finally, something millennials aren’t killing…) Here are five reasons why gardening in your twenties is a definite must-do. Continue reading

Why I'm Not Coaching for Beachbody

In the past few months, I’ve done a complete 180 when it comes to healthy living. I started exercising and eating right (for the most part…), and I shared the process on a fitness-focused Instagram account. I noticed it almost right away: these mysterious “virtual fitness coaches” saturating my feed with sweaty selfies and motivational quotes. And it didn’t take long, once my account started to gather a following, for these ladies to start reaching out to me with offers to become a coach myself. They didn’t always mention their employer outright, but I only needed a quick Google search to tell me that these women work for a multi-level marketing company called Beachbody. That’s right, the dreaded “MLM” — what some people refer to as a “pyramid scheme”. Yikes.

But the peppy posts and the promise of a rewarding, engaging, self-propelled career were getting to me. So I did a bit of research. Continue reading

Tone It Up Bikini Series

Hello, dear readers! I’ve been AWOL again for a while, but between work and the Tone It Up Bikini Series beginning last week, I simply haven’t had the energy for my poor little blog. I have mentioned Tone It Up on this page before (check that out here). But you might be wondering, “What the heck is the Bikini Series?” Friends, six months ago, I would have been asking the exact same question.

Here it is in a nutshell. The Tone It Up Bikini Series is an eight week fitness challenge with an optional nutrition component, leading up to the first day of summer. Every day you have an assigned daily workout, some or all of which you complete first thing in the morning for your “Bootycall”. (Cheesy, I know — but hey, I didn’t come up with the lingo.) Then, if you’re a nutrition plan member, you also follow along with the meal plan. That means planning out and prepping “Lean Clean’N Green” meals every Sunday for eight weeks straight. And also trying not to eat Timbits. Which is basically impossibleContinue reading

How I Faced My Fitness Fears

About a year ago, I published a blog post entitled “3 Reasons Hiking is my Favourite Hobby for Exercise”. I provided those three reasons: a clear goal to achieve, no expectations about fitness levels, and the chance to experience the great outdoors. But I’ll tell you a secret, friends. Sure, I love hiking and its many benefits for the body, mind, and spirit. But the only reason it was my favourite hobby for exercise at the time was the second one on the list. I was afraid to try anything else because of judgment, both from others and myself. I was held back by my fitness fears. Continue reading

My Tone It Up Meal Prep Process

Hey friends! If you’ve been following along on Flinntrospection recently, you’ll know that I joined the Tone It Up 2017 Challenge two weeks ago. It’s a six week healthy living challenge with both a fitness and a nutrition component. (Oops, I joined two weeks late!) I’d been following along with the Tone It Up workouts for a few weeks beforehand. So in spite of a crazy work schedule, I’ve been keeping up with the fitness portion. The nutrition, on the other hand, has been a struggle. There is a ton of planning, effort, and time that has to go into preparing healthy meals for the week. But this week, for my third round of Sunday Tone It Up Meal Prep, I’ve settled into a routine. If you’re on the TIU Nutrition Plan — or even if you’re not — this method might work for you!

Note: I do Steps 1-4 on Saturdays, and 5-6 on Sundays!

Step 1: Choose Your Meals

The 2017 Challenge edition of the Nutrition Plan includes a full six-week meal plan breakdown. But you’re fully welcome, and often encouraged, to choose your own meals. Plus, once the challenge is over, you’re on your own with choosing meals for the week. For Week Five of the challenge, I’m loosely following the schedule, but making lots of substitutions.

The TIU Nutrition Plan has some helpful printables for filling out your weekly meal schedule:

 Tone It Up Meal Prep — Meal Plan Template

Obviously, you can make this for yourself too. Just type one up in Word, or literally draw it on a blank sheet of paper. (Or you can grab one of these — not an affiliate link, just a cool find.)

Once you have your template, write in all the meals and snacks you’re planning to eat for the week. I’m following the Nutrition Plan’s lead in making each weekday M3 (lunch) the leftovers from the previous night’s M5 (dinner). More complex recipes will show up on weekends, when I have time for them. I’m also loving make-ahead meals for weekday breakfasts, like Overnight Oats.

Step 2: Make Your Ingredient List

This step takes a bit of cross-referencing with your fridge or pantry. I pick a meal, look at the list of ingredients in the Nutrition Plan (if necessary), and write down whatever I don’t have in my kitchen. It’s also important to include quantities for the week, so you can aggregate them later on in the process. If you’re making enough for leftovers, make sure you’re duplicating quantities in single-serving recipes! After each meal’s ingredients have been accounted for, check it off everywhere it appears on your meal plan template. Keep going until you’ve listed ingredients for all of your meals, even if the ingredients overlap. It will look something like this:

 Tone It Up Meal Prep — Ingredient List

Step 3: Make Your Grocery List

Now you walk through your Ingredient List and consolidate it into a grocery list, sorted by product category. Cross them off on the ingredients list as you go, and don’t forget to add your quantities. I have one of those “All Out Of” grocery checklists, so that helps the process!

 Tone It Up Meal Prep — Grocery List

Why did I separate these two steps? Because it’s hard to look at a huge list of meals and flip back and forth between recipes to put together a list of, say, all the veggies you need for the week. I find it much easier to work by recipe. And once the ingredients are all on one page, consolidation is a breeze.

If you’re thinking of using the pre-made Challenge grocery list, a word of warning: it lies. (Okay, maybe not on purpose.) I followed it to the letter in my first week on the Nutrition Plan. I ended up missing some ingredients I needed, and having lots of things that weren’t even on the meal plan docket. For the sake of the environment and your wallet, I’d recommend making your own list!

Step 4: Write Your Meal Prep Checklist

The 2017 Challenge booklet also comes with a simple checklist for your meal prep adventures. It’s pretty reliable, but because of my volatile work schedule, I have to prep beyond the suggested list. Feel free to prepare whatever works for you. Pre-chop your veggies, make your frozen smoothie packs, cook your Monday night dinner, prepare your proteins, whatever! Make a list of all the tasks you’re going to tackle on Sunday.

Step 5: Grocery Shop

In the TIU world, Sunday has two purposes: Sunday Runday, and Tone It Up Meal Prep.

With your list in hand, head out to the grocery store and shop till you drop! But don’t drop. You have work to do.

Step 6: The Real Deal — Tone It Up Meal Prep

Organize your groceries, pull out your checklist, and start knocking those things off one by one. Try to prioritize oven tasks, especially with long cook times, so you can maximize your efficiency. This is where I find it was the most helpful to have my Nutrition Plan printed out for easy reference, especially for new dishes. I have tried fifteen new recipes in the past two weeks, which is absolutely insane for me! It also helps to clean up as you go. Prepare for high volumes of dishes, food waste/compost, and Tupperware filling up your entire fridge! (And don’t forget to share #tiuteam photos of the process and the delish food on Instagram!)


That’s how I do my Tone It Up Meal Prep! How do you prepare your meals for the week ahead?

Getting On The Wagon With Tone It Up

I signed up for Tone It Up last week. I’ve been following the daily workouts for seven days now. And I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.

 Tone It Up: I have no idea what I'm doing

Okay, let me provide some background here.

Exercise has never been a priority of mine. Unlike many young professionals, I’m not saying that I “fell off the wagon” when I graduated. I was never on the wagon to begin with. In fact, here’s a rundown of my fitness history:

  • Took ballet at the age of five. Was horrible. Never went back.
  • Passed swimming lessons up to Level 12, when they had that — basically, the one before official lifeguard training — then stopped. Never went back.
  • Tried out for exactly zero sports in high school.
  • Stopped taking gym class after Grade Nine. (Swapped it out for science or music courses…)
  • Basically hated all things related to exercise.

Recently, I’ve participated in Zumba, done some hiking, and practiced yoga (including some month-long challenges). I even did a bit of circuit training, sort of… But the frequency and/or intensity of these activities don’t constitute a healthy lifestyle by anyone’s standards, including my own.

So I realized recently that it’s probably in my best interest to take care of my body. You know, so I can live longer, feel better, not get winded when I go up a flight of stairs… That kind of thing. Plus, I want to avoid a midlife epiphany that getting in shape would have been so much easier if I had only started earlier. Right now, for example.

Except I’m not the type of person that can motivate myself to do something brand new, and then commit to it from the get-go. Plus, gyms are scary for newbies like me. Like I said, I really don’t know what I’m doing.

Enter Tone It Up.

Tone It Up: Karena & KatrinaIf you haven’t heard of it, Tone It Up (or TIU) is a website, a YouTube channel, and a massive social media presence run by Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott, two (extremely) peppy fitness trainers. Their site has workouts, recipes, an online store, and a community forum. The Tone It Up videos are pretty tough for me, though it’s clear how to modify the difficulty up or down with weights, duration, etc. They are also bright, musical, beach-y, and usually very feminine. A decent portion of their videos and a few of their recipes are available for free, but their famous “Nutrition Plan” and video series are for sale in the shop. So far, I haven’t personally purchased anything from TIU.

I’ll post a bit later on why I chose this program over the countless others out there, but here’s a quick update on how it’s going.

I’ve probably exercised more this week than ever before. (That’s not saying much… but still!) Everything on me has been sore at some point. I haven’t bought into the social media component yet, and I think that will be a long time coming. I’m getting used to waking up early to complete at least some of the daily workout first thing in the morning. That’s one of the requirements, known as the “Bootycall”. Also, I have never heard or used the word “booty” as often in my entire life — and it’s getting kind of weird, to be honest.

Will I stick with it? No idea. The ultimate goal of this experience for me is to normalize exercise in my everyday life. Having a video series and daily challenges gives it some structure and external motivation, which is helpful in this (very) early stage!

How do you stay fit — or get fit in the first place?

Motivation Monday — 5 Tips for Getting Things Done

Happy Monday, everyone! Or perhaps not-so-happy Monday… If you’re like me, you had a generally relaxing, lethargic weekend, and you’re not feeling entirely prepared to take on the long week ahead. I spent some time these past few days (mostly while sitting on the couch) thinking about what gets me motivated to succeed and get things done. Here are some of my findings — hopefully we can kickstart Motivation Monday together!

Create a productive atmosphere.

Sometimes, in spite of your plans to spend the day getting things done, your surroundings drag you back into your comfort zone. I find that it’s a lot easier to get to work when I first:

  • Make the room bright by opening the windows or turning on the lights
  • Play some working music
  • Clear away any distracting clutter — but be careful not to get sucked into procrasti-cleaning!

Make a list.

It’s always helpful to have a roadmap when it feels like there’s way too much to do. Making a list with manageable, “bite-sized” tasks allows you to prioritize the things you need to do. It also shows you the light at the end of the tunnel: once these items are checked off, you’re done! I currently use Todoist for my to-do lists at work and at home.

Make it a habit.

It’s hard enough to get things done. It’s even harder when your usual routine is to lay about and not get things done. This is usually compounded by sleeping in on weekends, which is apparently equivalent to giving yourself jet lag every weekend and then expecting it to just magically disappear on Monday. I’ve been making an effort to shift my schedule seven days a week so that I have the energy and habitual foundation for motivation each and every day.

Solidify your motivations.

People make goals for lots of reasons: out of necessity (like work), to improve themselves, to impress others, and lots more. Some motivations are stronger than others. This step is a personal one: find out what’s important to you, and pursue the goals that match that motivation. And more importantly, don’t wallow in guilt when you fail to achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself. It might be a clue that you’re not seeking motivation in the right places. Set goals that truly matter to you.

Just do it!

Sometimes there’s a task that I know will be pretty quick, but rather painful. Rather than hemming and hawing over when to do it, if ever, this is the time when it’s best to just rip off the Band-Aid, so to speak. Just hold your breath, shut off all of your internal complaining, and do it. This approach definitely doesn’t work for everything, and it’s usually only sufficient motivation every so often. But sometimes, as much as you’re going to hate it, you just have to do it.


I have an exhausting week ahead, but I’m hoping to take things one day at a time and find motivation for the tasks on my list!

Side Note: I had to use a couple of these tips today to motivate myself to write a blog post in the first place!

How do you prepare to get things done on Motivation Monday?

6 Tips for a Better Night's Sleep

I did not have a very good sleep last night. Lying in bed with my eyes (almost) closed, my mind was racing! Ironically, I was thinking of all of the things I had done wrong that evening when it comes to preparing for the night. So in the interest of learning from mistakes and taking advantage of the online accountability of a blog, here are some of my best tips for a restful night — a.k.a. how to get a better night’s sleep than me.

1. Stick to a sleep schedule.

Having a steady schedule is key when you want your body to just know when it’s time to wind down. In fact, Fitbit just added a fun feature to their mobile app that plans out your sleep schedule for you, and sends you notifications when it’s time for bed. Of course, I left my phone in another room, and completely lost track of time. Mistake number one.

2. Avoid screens.

You have probably heard that it’s best to turn off electronics a couple of hours before bed. And if you’re like me, you probably completely ignored that advice. Logically, though, it’s understandable that getting your eyes and brain active by staring at a screen right before bed isn’t a great idea. Plus, there’s the biological component: the artificial light from a screen simulates daylight, messing with your melatonin levels and prompting your body to wake itself up (more on that here, if you’re interested). And yet, I was on the computer right up until bedtime tonight. Oops.

3. Get things done the night before.

Some of my issues with falling asleep stem from the dread at having to wake up early in the morning, with so much on my list of to-dos before I even leave the house. I find that I sleep easier knowing that some of my early morning chores are complete. So pack that lunch, pick that outfit, or take out the recycling in the evening to save yourself some stress.

4. Make a list.

The previous suggestion isn’t always feasible, of course. If that’s the case for you, I’d recommend keeping a pen and paper on your nightstand. That way, when you do remember something important, you won’t need to keep yourself awake, worrying about whether you might forget it. This is a tip that’s super helpful for novelists as well (NaNoWriMo, anyone?) for those midnight flashes of inspiration!

5. Cool off.

Instinctively, cooler temperatures indicate to our bodies that it’s nighttime. (Believe me, it’s science!) However, the allure of fuzzy PJs or a cozy comforter can sometimes lead us astray. Don’t bother going down the path of getting all bundled up, only to spend the next hour removing layer after layer before falling asleep!

6. Cut down on the caffeine.

I may have mentioned that I work at Tim Hortons. (Just kidding. I definitely mentioned it.) And since I transferred to a new department this month, I’ve been leaving the office around 8pm each night. That means my last cup of coffee is around 5 or 6 to get me through to the end. So when I read that I should be avoiding caffeine six hours before bedtime to ensure a good night’s sleep, all I can do is laugh and move on. But hey, maybe this advice will work for you!


With these suggestions in mind, I hope we can all get a better sleep tonight!

What’s your best advice for a good night’s sleep?

K is for Knuckle Cracking

I have the bad habit of getting into bad habits. First it was thumb-sucking, then it was nail-biting, and now, it’s knuckle cracking. (And hair splitting. And hangnail pulling. The list goes on.) I do it when I’m bored, when I’m stressed, while I’m talking or listening… So essentially, I do it all the time. Whenever I think about it, my joints suddenly feel like they’re floating or something, and I get the irrepressible urge to crack them. One unique thing about my personal knuckle cracking is that because I have very tiny hands, when I crack my knuckles, the sound is particularly high-pitched. Instead of that shudder-inducing cracking sound that some people’s joints make, my knuckles just make a little clicking sound. That’s not annoying, right?

Okay, I know, it’s totally annoying. So today, for the letter “K” in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I did some research on knuckle cracking, and the negative impacts it can have on my joints. But first, let’s talk about what is actually happening in those joints.

 K is for Knuckle Cracking - An MRI of Knuckle Cracking

According to this Wired post (from which I also got the above gross GIF), the popping sound and feeling comes from a bubble forming within the synovial fluid, due to the negative pressure as the joint comes apart. Weird, but let’s move on to the facts: what are the long-term impacts?

Well, according to this article from Mental Floss, this academic paper, and this video (which actually cites the paper as well, but maybe you’d rather have a British guy explain it to you instead of reading it):

…the answer is no, guys. Knuckle cracking doesn’t cause arthritis, or any long-term pain. In fact, it increases the range of motion of the joint — at least, immediately following the knuckle cracking.

So unfortunately, my plan to convince myself not to crack my knuckles for health reasons has failed miserably. I guess my motivation will have to come from a desire to not bug my coworkers anymore with my incessant knuckle cracking.

Do you crack your knuckles? If you quit, how did you do it?