What I’ve Learned in One Month of Blogging

MM-Happiness vs. Passion

I can’t believe it’s already been a month since I’ve launched my blog. I thought I’d share what I did before I started my blog, what I’ve learned and things I’m still working on. If you didn’t do the things I did before I started my blog, you can start now!

Before I began my blog:
I researched A LOT! I searched everything I could think of about blogging on YouTube; what equipment to use, what is SEO, and a bloggers life to name a few. I would watch videos in the mornings before work. I listened to two Podcasts: The Influencer Podcast and The Becoming Fearless Podcast after work while cooking and doing dishes. I watched Live Instagram videos after work and during lunch and I watched free webinars on the weekends and took notes. I did all of this because I wanted to know how others were so successful at blogging and how I can be too.
I tried the WordPress website for free-I used the WordPress domain before purchasing my domain. This was so I could get used to using the site before I launched it to the world. Having a lot of things in place before launching benefited me, so that I could then work on other things the day of launching-like my Facebook page. I had my picture taken, a Welcome page, a background picture and two posts written and published beforehand.

I began an Instagram account two months prior to launching my blog (I heard this tip from more than one influencer in the blogging world). This helped determine if I enjoyed posting pictures every day AND if I liked the public to see what I was posting (prior to this I’ve never had any public accounts).

Things I’ve learned:
I love going to cafés just to get posts written for my blog (and buy a smoothie). I’ve found that I can zone into my work and work quickly (the pressure of getting work done before the café closes helps to work fast, even if I’m there for three hours, I treat it like a countdown). I also love working from home so I can cast YouTube music videos on my TV while writing my blog posts.
The only person who will promote yourself the most is you, so if you publish a post on your blog, promote it to your social channels so they can view it.

Things I’m still working on:
Creating an editorial calendar and sticking to it. I’ve tried to plan with a physical calendar and with an excel spreadsheet. Neither of these have stuck with me, yet. I feel like I need something to see visually every day that is inspiring. I’ve seen the idea of a white out board, does this work for anyone else?

Along with the editorial calendar comes with making sure every post is ready for the week-this is important if you have a very busy personal life or if some weeks are busier than others-planning is key! Use the calendar to plan a month’s worth of blog posts before this I would just determine in my mind what I would write about and then write and schedule it on the weekends.

Managing social channels-For now I have Facebook and Instagram and I’ve heard influencers say to work mainly in the channels you’re interested in. But one of the main reasons I picked WordPress as my blogging platform is to engage with the community, so I also have to be following, commenting and liking posts. I also just joined Style Collective so I have to keep up with those girls too. While this sounds like a lot, I really do love engaging with others in the blogging community. It’s finding the time to properly engage with everyone that I need to balance-I do most of this on my free weekends. Anyone have any free tips on this?
Diving into new social channels can be a little intimidating but I know that I want to try Pintrest because of all the beautiful inspiration!

 

I’d love to read in the comments what you did before you started your blog, what you learned and are still working on.

How to Stick to a Weekly Food Budget

Howtosticktoaweeklyfoodbudget3

Grocery shopping is something I have grown to love. It’s something I do each week (possibly more than once a week). I try to focus on buying what I know I’ll want to eat throughout the week and make healthy meals that fit into my budget.
Here are a list of tips I use to stick to my weekly food budget:
• Know exactly how much you can spend each week on food. Try to make a budget that is doable as this will correlate into what you’re spending each month. During the week I sometimes run to the grocery store to grab fresh food instead of cooking I will then subtract the money I spent towards my next grocery run.

• Know your weekly schedule when planning meals. Keep your plans written in a planner to determine nights you’re free vs. busy. On the nights you’re free you’ll have time to cook a meal that will provide left overs for the nights you’re busy. Also, plan when you’re going to eat out so that you don’t have to buy/make any food for dinner that night.

• Know what foods you have in your kitchen. This all comes down to making a list of what you need and what you buy on a regular basis. Before you run out to the grocery store, consult the list of what you normally buy to see if you’re missing anything from your list. When you’re planning a meal you’ll know what ingredients to buy at the store vs. what’s already in your kitchen. Buying 1 or 2 ingredients because you know that’s all you need saves you money over buying what you already have.

 

 

• Shopping around is something I just started doing. Each week I buy from two grocery stores: Wegmans & Trader Joe’s. Each store has different items I buy weekly. Some of the items I buy at Wegmans are water, yogurt, almond milk, eggs, sandwich meat & at Trader Joe’s I buy fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese and frozen meat. In order to stay within my budget I compare costs of items I buy regularly at both stores and buy the items that are inexpensive at that store, this is how I save money and how I keep a low food budget.

• Know what you’re in the mood to eat. If you feel like eating fried rice and orange chicken this week then make sure that’s what you buy, otherwise you won’t feel satisfied eating food you didn’t really want because you kept thinking about eating food you don’t have. Also, if you buy frozen food, like a batch of chicken that you’ll need to cook during the week, make sure you’ll want to cook it. A helpful tip is to cook during a night you’re free and you’ve recognized it will take a certain amount of time to cook. While cooking chicken you can also cook a grain and vegetable with it, and do some dishes while everything cooks!

Do you stick to a weekly food budget? What are some tips you have that help you stay on track of your food budget? Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram or Facebook @stylestomakeyousmile

Motivational Monday: Happiness Vs. Passion

DSCN1487

One New Year’s Eve I made “being happy” my New Year’s Resolution. I failed miserably. I thought if I told myself “I’m going to be happy this year” that I would be. The problem was I didn’t do anything to consistently make myself happy that year because I continued to go about life the way I had always known.

Looking back I realize happiness is an important part of life but you have to do things you enjoy to get yourself there. This is where I’ve realized that you can make yourself happy by doing things you are passionate about; whether it’s working out, cooking, a hobby, and the list goes on and on. I’ve found my passion through blogging because I’ve always loved to write and now that I’m actually blogging I’ve found happiness. The reason I turned to blogging is because I was tired of not doing anything other than my daily routine of get ready, go to work, make dinner, watch TV and go to sleep. I felt I needed something more and especially something creative that I wouldn’t tire of quickly.

Now that I’ve found something I’m passionate about I can turn my regular routine into scheduling what I want to do next for my blog. Sure I may not be able to blog every day as life gets busy, but it’s something I can always be thinking about to come up with new content. I can even turn a bad day into a better one by focusing on writing a post for my blog. This is all a mind-set of turning the negative into a positive and once that sets in it creates happiness. I encourage you to take something small you like doing and turn it into a passion.
What is something that makes you happy or something that you are passionate about? Let me know in the comments!

Motivational Monday-Acceptance

I began writing this post last week but didn’t feel like I was at a good place in life to talk about accepting life for where I am now, so I didn’t write it. I then talked to someone who gave me advice about acceptance. She made me realize that my life is going to consistently change (think of an up and down hill that I’ll forever be climbing) and that acceptance is something I am working toward. As my mother says, “It’s always something.” Meaning, if it’s not one thing going on in your life right now, it’s another; your health is fine and then suddenly you get really sick or you just bought your car and you need new breaks on it.
I believe that by accepting life for where you are without comparison to others or judgement from yourself is key to moving forward. When I was in my early 20’s I imagined what my life “should” look like at 31. Eleven years later it doesn’t look like what I thought it should and that is okay. I think it’s important to go through life learning who you are and a part of that is accepting everything you’ve gone through in life. No one has been through the things I have, thinks the way I do or owns my life. Once you’ve thought about these things on a grand scale, it shows that you can’t compare yourself to others and why your life is much different than someone else’s. It also means you can’t compare your life to how you thought it would work out because of life’s changes.

Acceptance means you’re facing reality. Don’t tell yourself sayings like: Get Over It (this saying sounds harsh and is not a nice way to treat yourself). You can accept things by fully living within the present. To stop thinking about the past, breathe and focus on the present moment. Accept your life as a whole, every challenge and success you’ve faced has led you to the present moment. While I know there will always be setbacks in life, acceptance is something that I am working toward.
How do you accept your life for where you are?

A DIY Treat for Valentine’s Day

I was in the grocery store this weekend and saw a ton of chocolate covered strawberries on sale for Valentine’s Day. When I got home, I’d realized I had all the ingredients to make them myself for a whole lot less than the prices the stores were selling them for-a pack of 3 was $4. I had bought a frozen bag of strawberries from Trader Joes a few weeks back for under $2 and a chocolate bar for .99 cents. On Sunday I thawed the strawberries from the freezer (I had less than half a bag left), Monday melted the chocolate bar in the microwave for 1.5 minutes and then dipped the strawberries in the chocolate, put them in a plastic container (the chocolate dried quickly) and left in the fridge overnight. This process took less than ten minutes. To serve I took a nice wine glass, filled with Greek yogurt and topped with chocolate strawberries and added some white, pink and red sprinkles for fun.


I know that this isn’t a ground breaking discovery of making chocolate covered strawberries, but I do feel that society as a whole feels like they have to spend a ton of money on chocolate, dinner, flowers, etc. when it comes to Valentine’s Day. This simple way of spending only a few dollars, making the dessert yourself is so much more fun and enjoyable than just spending money. Plus, if I’d had the entire bag of frozen strawberries I could have made them all into chocolate covered strawberries for less than what the retail stores charge.

Tip: If you happen to have a fondue set, this would be another fun way to make chocolate covered strawberries.

Do you make anything yourself for V-day? Let me know in the comments!

How to Gain Weekly Food Inspiration

If you follow me on Instagram @stylestomakeyousmile, you’ll know I post a LOT of food pictures. I LOVE food, so I thought I’d share where I get my inspiration to create new recipes each week.
1. Grocery Store
2. Food Network
3. Social Media

1. Grocery Store-On my fridge, I keep a list of foods to buy each week at the grocery store. This helps me remember everything I eat on a regular basis. Before going to the grocery store, I can reference my list to make sure I don’t forget to buy something. Some of the regular items I buy weekly are: chicken, mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes. When I get to the grocery store, I’ll think of something new to make with my regular ingredients. This past week instead of buying pasta or quinoa I decided to try zucchini noodles. I bought a big container of them which lasted the week, just like pasta would. I know you can buy a spiralizer and make your own zucchini noodles however I liked having the precut version to save cooking time (since I had veggies and chicken to cook). I got the idea to buy the noodles just by walking around the store-mainly spending a lot of time in the produce department. If you’re walking around the grocery store and there’s an item you’ve always wanted to try cooking, then I encourage you to buy it! If it’s an item you aren’t sure how to cook then look it up online and read about it or watch a video on how to cook it properly.

Howtogainweeklyfoodinspo6-zoodles
Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Sauce, veggies & olive bread

2. Food Network-Food Network has been a big inspiration throughout my life, mainly because I grew up watching it with my parents. I found the avocado cream sauce recipe (featured on my Instagram) on Food Network’s website. I simply went to the site, typed in chicken quinoa and the recipe Quinoa Bowl with Chicken and Avocado Cream appeared. Since avocados are on my regular grocery list and none of the other ingredients were very expensive, I decided to make it. I really love this sauce because of its versatility-I use it on quinoa, sandwiches, eggs and zucchini noodles.

*For the record I only used the avocado cream recipe from the link below.

Quinoa Bowl with Chicken and Avocado Cream


3. Social media- This is a wonderful resource for food inspiration. Similar to how I found the avocado sauce recipe, you can search for new recipes on YouTube, Pintrest, Facebook, Instagram and blogs. I’ve learned how to make breaded chicken tenders (pictured below) and boil eggs from YouTube. The best part about learning to cook from a video is that you can pause and restart it when needed. I’ll watch the entire video first (to make sure the recipe is doable and the person cooking is easy to follow along with), pause it while the chicken cooks then continue to finish the cooking process. With the other social media platforms you have the ability to save the recipe and refer back to them while cooking.

Parmesan and Panko Baked Chicken | BuonaPappa

Tip: When making a new meal, if you don’t have every ingredient listed you can sub ingredients already in your home, even if it’s only the seasoning.

All of these ideas will keep your weekly meal planning exciting. How do you meal plan each week? Where does your inspiration come from to make new recipes?

Motivational Monday

One of the things I’ve always enjoyed doing is listening to other people’s stories. I grew up watching Oprah and Ellen, who both have incredible stories as individuals and have had amazing people share their stories through their platforms. This year I’ve watched a lot of YouTube channels that are based around learning what someone else’s life is like (I used to only listen to YouTube for music). I’ve learned everything from people’s routines (morning and night), financial advice, how to cook meals (like how to bake panko chicken tenders), how to stay healthy, blogging advice, to even watching family channels. P.S. Almost everything I’ve learned about blogging, I learned from YouTubers and the rest I learned from Bloggers. I watch these videos almost every morning (unless I’m in the mood to listen to music) while getting ready. I’ve even started getting into podcasts where I’ll listen to podcasters interview women business owners/bloggers share their challenges and struggles in business. I listen to these while cooking dinner and doing the dishes. It helps to pass the time, learn something and make daily routines not daunting.

My point in sharing all this with you, is that we can all learn something from people’s lives. There is someone you can relate to online who is going through the same things as you. They can teach you something new about life whether it’s how to cook chicken, learn a new skill or how to face a struggle. We can all find the time to listen and learn from other people, especially if it’s someone we can relate to.

 

Here are some of my favorite YouTubers & Podcasters below J

 

YouTube channels: The Financial Diet, HealthNut Nutrition, Haley Paige (lifestyle, blogging & family), Allison Lindstrom (blogging), BuonaPappa (food-chicken tender recipe on their channel), Tweaked Style, OWN, The Ellen Show

My Three favorite Podcasts: The Influencer Podcast with Julie Solomon, The Becoming Fearless Podcast with Annie Spano-both speak to entrepreneurs of their success and challenges with business. And just for fun I love listening to Good Mourning Nancy-with Gracie & Abby who talk about horror movies.