5 Maternity Must Haves and What Not to Waste Your Money On

The maternity industry, like many others, is a cash cow (no pun intended). Slap a maternity label on something and you can be sure you’ll get an ad for it during your 9 months of pregnancy. Everything from maternity tees to maternity underwear to maternity shoes – if you use it pre-pregnancy, someone somewhere has made a maternity version. But what items do you actually need and what items can you skip and save money on. I wanted to make this list because as a first time mom, I was completely overwhelmed at all of the options at first. It felt like I had so much to buy to prepare for pregnancy and beyond and it made me anxious seeing all the money I would have to spend to be comfortable. But luckily, this is not the case. There are really only a handful of items, in my experience, that you should absolutely buy for pregnancy. Please note that this is from my own personal experience, and it may be different for everyone depending on your pregnancy. Please also note that I am not compensated for any of my opinions shared here. These are all my own opinions based on my own purchases and experiences.

  1. Belly Bands
Maternity Bellaband Support Belt - Isabel Maternity By Ingrid & Isabelâ„¢ :  Target

One of the first items I suggest buying within the first couple months of pregnancy are a couple belly bands. I bought a black one and a white one which worked perfectly for my wardrobe, but you can also find them in nude and other colors. What is a belly band? It’s basically a stretchy tube of fabric that makes it so that you can wear your pre-pregnancy bottoms during pregnancy. This is awesome because maternity clothes are not cheap, especially when you consider the short amount of time you’ll get to wear them. These belly bands have made it so that I can wear my favorite jeans, shorts and skirts over my bump and have saved me so much money. You simply wear your pre-pregnancy bottoms unbuttoned and slide the band over the top. The band hides the opening of your bottoms while also smoothing the creasing of the opening. The brand that I found to work best and be most cost effective is the Isabel and Ingrid Bellaband. They have a sticky plastic border on one end that helps hold the band in place, and they can be worn up over your belly or folded down. Sometimes I even wear these under dresses for a little extra support. They are super comfortable, and at only $17 a piece at your local Target these are a must have for pregnancy. You can find other colors on the Isabel and Ingrid website here.

2. Bra Extenders

Women Elastic Back Bra Extenders 3 Hook and 2 Hooks Bras Extension Strap  6pcs at Amazon Women's Clothing store

If you’re like me, you’ve experienced a little (or ALOT) of growth in the girls during pregnancy. Sometimes this growth can make it feel like your pre-pregnancy bras are trying to squeeze the life out of you – or at least that’s what happened to me. My bras still mostly fit cup-wise, but the band around was starting to feel like it was strangling me. Again, I didn’t want to go out and buy all new bras for just this occasion so I found these bra extenders on Amazon. These have made it so that I can save my money for nursing bras (because, yep, that’s a thing too) and keep on wearing my favorite pre-pregnancy bras throughout my pregnancy. The pack that I bought came with black, white and nude which is perfect for most bra collections and was only $5 for a pack of six – can’t beat that!

3. Body Pillow

Sleeping in your new body shape can become a bit of a challenge towards the middle and end of pregnancy. But this doesn’t mean you need to go spend hundreds of dollars on a fancy “pregnancy pillow”. I found that a simple body pillow worked just fine for me. It was long enough to hold my belly and also to wedge between my legs to give my hips support. It also is the perfect size to have in bed, where as the pregnancy pillows are so huge I’m surprised anyone can sleep with them and still keep their partner in bed with them at the same time. Want something a little fancier but still don’t want to take over the entire bed? You can find body pillows that are made of memory foam or higher support materials for less money than a crazy pregnancy pillow. Most major retailers that sell home goods will sell a nice body pillow. Another tip is to make sure whatever cover you buy is appropriate for the weather and that elevated body temperature you might experience while pregnant.

4. Maternity Leggings

black

Staying active during pregnancy is a must. Whether it’s full exercises or walking it’s important to have clothing that works for this type of activity. This is where maternity leggings come in. In a pinch I’ve found that I can wear my pre-pregnancy leggings folded under my bump, but there’s something so comfortable about having a nice supportive pair of over the belly leggings that just makes exercising easier on your pregnant body – bonus points if they have a little compression to help with blood flow. Keep in mind though, not all maternity leggings are created equal, and this is the one area where you might want to splurge a little bit to make sure you’re getting the bang for your buck. I made the mistake of buying cheap maternity leggings and actually ended up buying new leggings and changing in the car while running errands – I hated them that much. They kept falling off and provided no support whatsoever to my growing bump – I digress. My favorites during pregnancy have been the Blanqi Everyday Maternity Belly Support leggings, which are super ultra supportive and stay in place all day. These are a bit more compressing feeling so if you don’t like tight then they might not be for you. They have sales regularly and will often sell out so make sure you follow them on social media or check their website regularly for deals. I just ordered another maternity legging from them in another style and got two pairs for under $50 which is a major steal. They make these in a wide range of colors which is also fun and makes it so that you feel like you can still be fashionable. My other favorite leggings are from Ingrid and Isabel and come from Target – the Maternity Crossover Panel Active leggings. These are actually the ones I bought and changed into in the parking lot! I love the lower cut back on these for our hot California weather and the material is super soft and breathable making them super comfortable to wear all day long. Both brands make bike shorts as well that I highly recommend if you are pregnant during warmer weather. Having comfortable active wear is great for staying on track with exercising, but it’s also nice to have clothing that is similar to what I wore pre-pregnancy (2020 basically changed my entire wardrobe into active wear). Leggings and bike shorts are also great for later in pregnancy when everything feels too tight but you also want to look cute. You can pair them with almost anything and not feel like you’re wearing pajamas. (Here’s a $20 credit for Blanqi for anyone who might be interested: http://fbuy.me/q6Mp_)

5. Reusable Water Bottle

YETI Rambler 36 oz Reusable Bottle With Chug Cap

If you don’t already have a reusable water bottle (or two!), pregnancy is a great time to invest in one. Staying hydrated during pregnancy is one of the best ways to avoid aches and pains, curb morning sickness, keep your skin soft and overall improve your health. I have a few different options depending on whether I’m on the go or at home. My home bottle has a stainless steel straw which is super nice for lounging around the house. I also have an on-the-go hydroflask style bottle that seals completely so I can throw it in my bag and it keeps my water nice and cool especially if I add a few ice cubes. Reusable water bottles are also just a great item to have in general and will keep you happy and hydrated throughout pregnancy and beyond. There are so many different options these days available at most retailers. Bonus is that you can customize most of them with fun stickers if you want something a bit more personalized.

I hope this list is helpful for all you first-time mommas out there like me. The world of maternity shopping can feel so overwhelming and it’s tough to know if you need to go out and purchase all brand new items to make life easier. I’d definitely skip certain items like the special underwear, shoes, and heck even the crazy outrageously priced clothes. Stick with what you have for as long as it will work for you, and worst case if you end up needing to spend more money you can always order those items later. Good luck and happy baby growing!

Weekend Camping Menu For Two

This weekend was absolutely perfect! The hubby and I packed up our three dogs and our pop-up camper and headed out of town for a quick Friday night through Sunday afternoon trip. We went to one of our favorite places, called Collins Lake. It’s one of our favorites for a few reasons – one, it’s relatively close being only an hour or so away, two, we’ve been going for several years so we are familiar with the campground layout and where our favorite fishing/swimming spots are, and three, we are always able to get lakefront campsites. Lakefront camping is awesome because you have less neighbors and you’re right next to the water when it’s time to go swimming or fishing. Also, being able to sit with a cup of coffee right outside the camper and see the sun rising over the water in the mornings is divine. These short trips are the perfect getaway that don’t take too much planning or effort while still making it so we can come home refreshed and ready to start the week (well, sort of).

Menus for weekend camping trips can be tricky. A couple years ago I would always make the mistake of bringing way too much food usually meaning much of it went to waste. More recently I’ve figured out a pretty perfect combination of items to bring so that there is plenty to eat without any waste. This camping menu is for two adults, who eat a mostly vegan/vegetarian diet. You could sub out the meat-substitute items for meat items if you prefer, but if haven’t tried vegan hot dogs or burgers yet I highly recommend checking them out. This menu utilizes things like hamburger buns for breakfast, so make sure you don’t skimp on the quality of the bread. We like to buy the artisan rolls and use them for burgers and then use them for toast the next morning with avocado. The only thing we had left at the end of our trip was hot dog buns and hummus, which we ended up not even opening, so all in all I’d say this menu was a success.

Weekend Camping Menu for Two (meals below)

1 package of Beyond Meat burgers (includes 2 patties)

1 package of Lightlife Jumbo Smart Dogs (includes 5 links)

1 package of artesan hamburger buns (includes 6 buns)

1 package of hot dog buns (includes 8 buns)

1 package of brown rice cakes

Peanut butter

Jelly

2 ears of corn

1 summer squash

1 can of vegetarian baked beans

3 avocados

1 tomato

1 melon or melon platter

Condiments

Vegan butter

Salt and Pepper

Meals

Dinner 1 (Friday night):

  • Smart Dogs + condiments
  • Squash skewers
  • Baked beans (store leftovers for Saturday’s dinner)

Breakfast for both days:

  • Toast hamburger buns, top with avocado and salt and pepper
  • Melon

Lunches for both days:

  • Rice cakes topped with peanut butter and jelly

Dinner 2 (Saturday night):

  • Beyond burgers with avocado + condiments
  • Corn on the cob with vegan butter
  • Baked beans

Best Meal Kits for a Vegetarian

Within the last few years, it seems like new meal kit subscriptions have been popping up all over the place. Each one offering full sets of ingredients delivered to your door with planned out recipes – making it easier than ever to cook your meals at home. They boast convenience and ease, eliminating the need for grocery store trips, menu planning and overall inspiration. All in all, they are a great concept. I personally enjoy trying them when I feel less inspired to cook or when I feel I’ve hit a wall with new recipes to try. I mean, let’s be real, you can only pin so many pins on Pinterest before you start to just feel like it’s hopeless. As a vegetarian (or in my case occasionally pescatarian), it can be difficult to figure out which meal kit might be best for you. This post walks you through my experience with several of the different meal kit subscriptions as a vegetarian. We’ll discuss the menu options, pricing, portion sizing and more. So if you’re vegetarian and have been thinking about trying out one of these subscriptions for yourself, then keep on reading.

Blue Apron

Blue Apron was one of the first subscription boxes I tried. I believe when I set up my account the whole meal kit thing was still a relatively new idea, and so there weren’t many other companies out there doing it. Blue Apron worked for my house because they offered vegetarian meals as well as meals with a meat focus. Recently, I received an email from them stating that they were even now offering Beyond Meat products as substitutes for certain menus. This makes Blue Apron a great choice for anyone looking to try out vegetarian options or someone already eating this way. Unfortunately, my biggest issue with Blue Apron ended up being that the meals all started to taste the same. This is likely due to the fact that many of the same spices and ingredients were used in their vegetarian options (ie. repetitive pasta dishes with oregano and red chili pepper). This isn’t to say that the meals weren’t tasty, just that the flavors began to feel a bit monotonous as time went on. This may have been fine if this wasn’t exactly why I was trying out meal kits in the first place. Pricing for Blue Apron was extremely reasonable as a new subscriber with coupon codes. My first two orders (which were 3 meals of 2 servings each) were only $35.00 per box. Later on however, the price almost doubled and the boxes were right around $60 each. This still might be a great deal to someone not wanting to go to the grocery store or menu plan, but for me it didn’t seem justifiable with the meals and ingredients I was being given (ie. all vegetarian, no fish or meat of any kind). If you’re looking to try out meal kits, I’d definitely give them a try using the introductory offer if only for the costs savings.

Every Plate

Every Plate was sort of an accidental try-out for me. A friend had sent me a referral link for basically a free box for my first order – which is awesome! However, I didn’t realize that when I signed up to view their menu that I was automatically subscribing to their meal kits. I was unable to view their menu before signing up which put me in a bit of a pickle since I soon realized that they did not offer vegetarian options. Once I realized a box had shipped out to me, I contacted customer service through their chat function on their website. Every Plate’s customer service was amazing. They refunded the $1 I paid when I signed up and still let me have the box for free. Now granted, I could not eat much of what was inside the meal kit, or use the recipes that went with it, but all of the ingredients were basically sent to me for free. If you’re a meat-eater, I would definitely check them out as their prices are reasonable and you can’t beat great service. They do have a sister-site that is vegetarian called GreenChef.com. I have not tried that service yet, but may have to at some point in the future.

Hello Fresh

Hello Fresh was the second meal kit I tried (after the Every Plate snafu) and I was actually pretty impressed with their options. Although they don’t regularly offer vegan options, I was able to make their options work in our vegetarian/pescaratian household. The ingredients arrived super fresh which is always a bonus. My favorite part about Hello Fresh was, again, the introductory pricing. I paid only $21 for my first box which included 3 meals with 2 servings each. The portions were super generous as well which is always nice since I like to be able to pack leftovers as lunches when possible. The leftovers didn’t happen with every meal, but there were a couple that were incredibly filling and worked out that way. The second box was just over $30 which is still a great deal for the amount of food and the quality of ingredients. I also appreciated the variety in their menu. I was able to try a few things that I had never even heard of before such as grilling cheese and even eating raw dressed squash on top of a delicious farro salad. The flavors of each recipe varied greatly too which I love because, again, I’m usually using these meal kits to try and get out of a cooking slump. All in all, I would definitely recommend Hello Fresh, and may even use them again in the future to get more kitchen inspiration.

Sun Basket

Sun Basket is one of the first subscriptions I tried that boasted having vegetarian and vegan options. However, I had expected to see many more options than what was offered. Basically if you’re doing 3 meals a week you were stuck with the three vegetarian option in that weeks menu, and vegan options were even less available. This isn’t to say that the food wasn’t good, because it was, but I feel that if a company is going to boast a specific offering it should be more in focus than it was. The pricing for Sun Basket was reasonable at first (again, as a first time customer with an introductory offer), but once the coupon was used up the price skyrocketed. To sign up for a “vegetarian” plan for 3 meals, 2 servings, it’s $72. I believe the main reason for this is that you pay $7 for shipping when many of the other meal kits will offer free shipping if you’re doing a large enough plan. My only other complaint with them would also be the serving size. Typically with vegetarian and vegan food I find myself needing a little larger portion size than usual. I found Sun Baskets servings to be somewhat small, and even had to make disproportionate servings for my husband and I so that he would feel satisfied after dinner. The menu items were tasty though, I just wish there would have been a little bit more food especially for the price.

Home Chef

Home Chef has been my most recent subscription and possibly my favorite so far. The first thing I love about Home Chef is their range of menu options. Granted, they don’t offer vegan so if you’re looking for that it won’t work, but they do offer at least 3 vegetarian options per week as well as plenty of seafood options. I also love the additional smoothies that you can purchase. They make a great and convenient breakfast or snack and have healthy ingredients such as coconut milk or greek yogurt and, of course, fruit. They offer a wide range of flavors as well. My most recent menu included a sun dried tomato pasta, a sweet-chili shrimp bowl, as well as a panko crusted salmon. I also added their peanut butter banana smoothie, which was amazing! I think that Home Chef was the best for me because of the inspirational menus. It really got my wheels turning about cooking and mixing ingredients in new ways, and gave me several great recipes that I will definitely make on my own in the future. These boxes were a little bit pricier – the first two were right around $50 – however, I feel that if I’m receiving a box with seafood items that $50 really isn’t that much (at least compared to $50 with all vegetables and grains). This is their introductory offer and I believe the boxes are right around $70 after the first three. This includes 3 meals, 2 servings each (with decently sized portions, sometimes with leftovers) and one smoothie recipe of 2 servings. So overall, yes, a little pricey, but decent if you eat seafood.

Overall, meal subscription kits are a fun way to get out of a cooking cycle of using the same recipes over and over and over. They are also a convenient way to avoid eating out and maybe even learn some new techniques along the way. Unfortunately, I think they are a bit pricey for someone looking for a strictly vegetarian menu. When you aren’t adding meat or seafood to a meal it shouldn’t cost the same as if you were. There are a couple other meal kits I haven’t tried yet that claim to be more veg-life focused, such as Green Chef and Purple Carrot. I may try those on my next round of inspiration searching, but until then I’m happy to take the recipes I’ve gotten so far and try some new things (here’s looking at you shrimp tostadas!). Let me know in the comments below if you’ve ever tried a meal kit subscription or if you would. If you have, let me know what your favorites are and if there are any not mentioned above that I should try.

Until next time,

MelissaRose

Top 5 Reasons to Thrift

Thrifting has been a huge part of my life since I was a little kid. When I was younger, I’d go with my mom (still do!) and search for hidden gems that we couldn’t find anywhere else. This instilled a great love of thrift shopping. There are so many benefits too that go beyond nostalgia, and that’s what I want to share with you today. I hope this inspires you to check out your local thrift stores (or online). I just know that you will be impressed with what you’re able to find. Let’s get into my Top 5 Reasons to Thrift.

Price

Absolutely the number one reason for thrifting is price. This may be obvious to those of you that have gone before, but I think it’s worth reiterating. Thrift stores sell things for cheaper prices than a chain or retail store. This makes sense because often the items are used. Other times, you can even find brand new things for much less than what you’d pay in the store. For example, I had been eyeing these boots at DSW since Fall of 2018. I saw them when they came out and thought they were some of the coolest boots I’d seen in a while. They were right around $100. This for me, is a bit crazy. $100 down the drain in an instant for a pair of boots which, let’s face it, probably won’t be worn as often as my trusty Birkenstocks or Doc Martens. They’d become a fun novelty item worn once in a while for fun. I knew I couldn’t spend that kind of moolah so I left them in my online shopping cart. Fast forward to April 2019. I’m at Goodwill and lo’ and behold what do I see staring back at me from the shoe racks? The boots! Even more miraculous, they are in my size! I thank the thrifting gods and look at the soles for the price tag. They look brand spankin’ new, and get this, they are only $18. What, what? Of course I bought them, and I’m wearing them as we speak. This is just one amazing example of the money you can save thrifting. There are so many more that I could probably fill a blog post, but I digress. Let this be a tiny little sample, and get out and see what you can find!

Sustainability

Sustainability has been a thrift focus for me this year due to my New Year’s Resolution of buying nothing new. Need a new can opener? Found a Kitchenaid one at the thrift store. Need gym clothes? I found three separate outfits in one day. Been looking for a cool lamp for that corner in the living room? Found it secondhand for $15. The meaning of this to me is, instead of buying mass produced items brand new, I’m re-purposing items that will more than likely end up in a landfill. (The above examples are all true, by the way). Not only do I feel great about saving money, but I feel like I am saving perfectly good items from the garbage. Our culture of consumerism is hurting our planet. Not only are our dumps and landfills piling up, but the demand for new products is increasing pollutant emissions, exploiting human workers and encouraging companies to build new factories, make more plastic and in the end create more waste. Buying secondhand items eliminates the need for new products. I get that sometimes things need to be purchased new. Overall, though, most household, clothing and other items can be purchased secondhand. There are also several documentaries out there now that show the human exploitation being carried out by many of the popular fast fashion companies. These companies are creating clothing waste at alarming rates by taking advantage of people, and children, to make a quick buck. Do a quick Google search on Fast Fashion to learn more.

Personal Style

90% of the decor and fashion in my home and closet is thrifted. This means alot to me because that means that many of the items are personal and unique to me. I’m able to cultivate my own personal style by purchasing things that I like rather than what a magazine or website tells me is trendy. Chasing trends is expensive and never-ending. Buying things second hand is a great way to build your own personal style with unique pieces that can be changed out frequently if desired for far less money. You can find era specific pieces if you’re into a particular decade. Or search the shelves for trendier pieces too. You’d be surprised what people will toss out. A good tip for building personal style is to build a Thrift Board on Pinterest. Use the board to collect images of things you like or things that inspire your personal style. You can then use this board to search for things at the thrift store that match your look. Obviously things won’t always be spot on, but I find it to be a useful tool in helping me to focus on items that will mesh well with the other items I’ve already put together in my wardrobe or in my home.

Thrill of the Hunt

This reason is not true for all people, but is one of the huge reasons I love thrifting – the Thrill of the Hunt. I love digging through the shelves and racks to find that one little nugget of gold. The excitement of a good deal can be addicting, and luckily at the thrift store it’s easier to afford. You can find name brands, brand new items, luxury items, vintage and antique pieces. The thrill of finding that one thing you’ve been searching for is pretty great too (like the boot story!). Again, not everyone may share this enthusiasm. For some people, digging through piles of old stuff is overwhelming and frustrating. If you’re one of these people, be sure to check out the online options for secondhand such as shopgoodwill.com, Poshmark or Thredup. These online secondhand retailers offer an easier way to score a deal without having to mine through all the junk.

Support a Charity (or other people like you!)

I’m putting this reason last because, unfortunately, not all thrift stores are charities (ahem, Goodwill). However, there are several other thrift stores out there like ASPCA, Weave, and church thrift stores that donate their money to their causes. Goodwill does offer employment assistance and training, however their CEO does make millions per year so it’s not exactly non-profit. Another great way to support is to check out Poshmark or Thredup. These items are often being sold by people just like you and me. (I actually have a Poshmark closet – you can check it out here.) These people might be saving up for something special, using the extra money to subsidize their incomes, and some people even sell full time. Buying items from them helps real people to achieve goals and sometimes just live life, which is totally something I can get behind. Use my username @melizamcg on the Poshmark app to get $5 off your first purchase.

These are my Top 5 Reasons to Thrift. I hope they inspire you to check out secondhand shopping as well. It’s a great way to have some fun, save some money and overall change your life! Let me know what your favorite reasons for thrifting are in the comments below!

Until next time,

MelissaRose