From the category archives:

living on less

Tips for Entertaining Guests Outdoors on a Budget

by Tara Kuczykowski on June 17, 2015 · 2 comments

If you follow my other blog, you already know that I'm over-the-moon excited at the prospect of having a new deck and patio added to our backyard very soon! I was really hoping that the project would be complete before our annual 4th of July gathering, but alas, the rainy, wet weather has put a damper on those wishes. So in the meantime, I've been shopping for some lovely and durable dinnerware and serving pieces to use when entertaining guests.

Because custom additions to the plans, like an attached bar, shady pergola and stone seat walls bumped us right up against the limits of our budget for the project, I've tried very hard to keep my other spending in check. Especially since we still need to find the perfect top for our bar, since it wasn't included in the estimate. (Anyone know of a good resource for granite in the Columbus, Ohio area?)

So when I spied these colorful melamine serving pieces and coordinating plastic plates at Meijer marked at 25% off their already low prices, I knew I had to snag them now! The round serving tray is easily my favorite piece and was a total steal at just $12.99. Not just for serving, I love to use serving trays to corral like items together, creating an eye-catching snack area.

And when the unexpected rain shower passes through, they make it easy to dash inside with several items at a time. How do I know? Because I totally had to do this while shooting the images for this post, lol!

The wet, muggy weather has also brought out a plethora of icky insects. I already bought all of the supplies to make some of these gorgeous wine bottle tiki torches -- I just need to finish off a few more bottles of wine! (Woe is me, right?)

But these Tiki citronella wax candles should do the trick nicely for the moment, so I can enjoy a glass of bug-free wine. Added bonus -- the color coordinates perfectly with the serving pieces.

Outdoor entertaining on a budget doesn't mean you have to resort to chips and pretzels to feed your guests. I quickly pulled together this slightly more elegant and upscale spread from produce and pantry staple items that I always keep on hand -- pistachios, roasted almonds, snacking tomatoes and kalamata olives.

If you have a little more time to spare, I highly recommend toasting a batch of these smoky spiced almonds. Guests always rave about them!

A platter of cheese and crackers rounds everything out nicely. If you haven't taken the time to peruse Meijer's cheese offerings lately, you're missing out! They have an amazing selection of cheeses, one of my favorites being this yummy Brie with herbs. A little goes a long way, making this $5.99 well spent.

These peach Moscato wine slushies pair with everything nicely -- and they're perfect for last minute entertaining. Make up the frozen wine slush mix ahead of time, and store it in the freezer for easy adult beverages any time. Simply blend with a little more Moscato, garnish and serve when guests arrive!

By the way, would you believe that the wine glasses in the photo above are acrylic?! My husband totally thought they were glass until he picked one up. Another score at Meijer, I picked up a 4-pack of these babies for just $7.99. You can bet I'm heading back ASAP to grab a couple more sets!

What are your favorite tips for entertaining guests outdoors on a budget?

I'm thrilled to be collaborating with Meijer on an ongoing monthly feature to help you save more! Follow them on Twitter and Instagram to see more of what you can expect to find in stores.


Curly Hair Don’t Care | My Fave Schwarzkopf Product

by Tara Kuczykowski on June 1, 2015 · 0 comments

As you know, I've been test driving a number of the new Schwarzkopf hair care products that are available exclusively at Walmart over the past month or so. You can read more about my in depth thoughts on each product via the links at the bottom of this post, but I thought I'd summarize my overall thoughts now that I've tried everything I was sent (and then some).

My absolute favorite product of the bunch has to be the Schwarzkopf Essence Ultime Satin Frizz Control & Protect Nutri-Nectar Beauty Oil! Not only does it do an amazing job of taming my frizzy split ends, but it works equally well on my girls' ultra long hair. For my wavy/curly hair, it helps with curl definition and adds shine, while it makes my girls' hair soft, shiny, and easy to comb out.

Seriously, if you try one product from the Schwarzkopf line, make it this one. I'd love to hear what you think!

Following in a close second is the Schwarzkopf Styliste Ultime Biotin+ Volume & Texture Luxe Fresh Dry Shampoo. At just $6.97 per bottle, it's hands down the best drugstore brand dry shampoo I've tried yet. If Schwarzkopf adds a tinted formula to the line, I'll pretty much never try another brand again!

A few of you emailed to share that you couldn't quite visualize what I was trying to convey in my original post about parting the hair and working the product in at the roots, so I filmed a quick video demonstration with my daughter to show what I mean. Hope this helps!

I'd also like to give an honorable mention to the Schwarzkopf Essence Ultime Satin Frizz Control & Protect Shampoo and Conditioner. While it wasn't necessarily the right product for my hair texture, I discovered that it's perfect for my girls' hair. I'll definitely continue to purchase both of these for them to use.

Have you tried any of the products from this new Schwarzkopf line, yet?

Read more about the various Schwarzkopf products I've tested:

Walmart Moms Disclosure


Curly Hair Don’t Care | Easy Summer Hair Updo

by Tara Kuczykowski on May 29, 2015 · 0 comments

The days are heating up and the humidity is on the rise -- a deadly combination for wavy/curly hair that's already prone to frizzing. For this reason, I often wear my hair up in the summertime, especially on that 2nd day between washes when I already have less curl definition.

My go-to style is sort of a cross between a messy bun and a topknot, and it's really easy to replicate. As you know, I have long wavy/curly hair, but this should work with just about any hair texture that's shoulder length or longer.

A really good hair spray is a summer staple for updos. I've been using Schwarzkopf Styliste Ultime Biotin+ Volume & Texture H20-Free Hair Spray, and I have to say I'm lovin' this stuff! It's the perfect strong hold fine mist aerosol spray that keeps my hair in place without making it sticky or weighing it down.

In addition to a good strong hold hair spray, you'll need a slip-resistant hair elastic and a couple of bobby pins. For 2nd day hair, you may want to have some dry shampoo on hand, as well.

Easy Summer Updo Hair How To

  1. Start by pulling your hair up into a somewhat loose high ponytail. Optional: If your roots are looking a little greasy, a misting of dry shampoo should help take care of them.
  2. Wrap the hair elastic around the base of your ponytail twice, and then on the third wrap around, only pull your hair about halfway through, leaving the ends loose on the underside.
  3. Divide the ends into two pieces, and pull one side around the front, covering the hair elastic. Secure on the underside with a bobby pin. Repeat the same process on the other side, wrapping it around the opposite side.
  4. I usually play around with the loopy part until I'm satisfied with how it looks, and then I mist my hair all over with hair spray.

The whole process takes less than 2 minutes, and I love how covering the hair elastic with the extra hair gives it a little more polished look. Voila -- easy-peasy summer hair in minutes!

What's your favorite simple summer hairstyle for sticky, humid days?

Quick purchase link:

Over the next several weeks, I'm thrilled to be teaming up with Schwarzkopf to share my best styling tips for wavy-curly hair using their new line of professional quality hair care products available exclusively at Walmart! Developed with Claudia Schiffer (one of my all-time fave supermodels), Schwarzkopf has created the ultimate product range for hair care, color and styling -- including some very innovative products.

Read more about the various Schwarzkopf products I've tested:

Walmart Moms Disclosure


My husband has suffered from severe seasonal allergies for as long as I've known him, and this spring season is no exception. In fact, I'd venture to say it's been one of the more troublesome seasons we've had for awhile.

I know the sneezing, coughing, and itchy, watery eyes have really been wearing on him, so when Walmart asked if anyone in my household would be interested in trying out Flonase for his or her seasonal allergies, I figured it was worth a shot!

Maybe you're already familiar with Flonase, but in case you're not, it's a non-drowsy (uber important!!!) prescription strength allergy relief nasal spray, which blocks the Histamine, Cytokines, Prostaglandins, Tryptases, Chemokines, and Leukotrienes that trigger an allergic response. Available OTC for $13.96 at Walmart, it provides 24 hours of relief from nasal decongestion, runny noses, sneezing, itchy noses and watery eyes.

How NOT To Use Flonase

So my husband will be the first to admit that's he's slightly impatient and headstrong... After using Flonase for a few days, he complained that it worked well at first, but it seemed to wear off later in the evening, usually at the most inconvenient time, like when he was trying to run a baseball practice.

Knowing him all too well, I asked if he was taking the proper dosage, to which he replied, "I just assumed it was one spray on each side per day, so I went with that." Sigh...

The Proper Way To Use Flonase (For Adults)

Since he'd already tossed the instructions (totally typical), I looked them up online. You know, sometimes I really don't know what I'd do without the Internet!

Anyhow, according to the instructions, adults should start by using two sprays in each nostril once daily during the first week. After the first week, you can reduce to one spray in each nostril. If symptoms worsen, you can go back to using two sprays again.

After starting over with a week's worth of two sprays of Flonase on each side per day, I'm happy to report that my husband's allergies are pretty well controlled with this product! And hopefully he'll do a better job of reading the instructions first from now on. Hey, a girl can dream, can't she?!?

Quick purchase link:

$4.00 off Flonase Allergy Relief 120 spray bottle

P.S. Right now you can save $4 off a Flonase Allergy Relief 120-spray bottle with this printable coupon! This size runs about $22.96 per bottle at Walmart.

Walmart Moms Disclosure

{ 1 comment }

A little over a year ago, I shared a new personalized vitamin recommendation tool available on called VitaSelect. I'm excited to announce two new additions to this highly useful tool: 1) VitaSelect is now mobile optimized so you can access it while shopping at your local store and 2) more brands have been added to the recommendations, giving you a greater range of choices.

A Little Recap on VitaSelect

The VitaSelect tool leads you through a short series of questions about your health, lifestyle, risk factors, and stress levels. After you complete the survey, it will recommend a personalized list of vitamin recommendations, prioritizing what your body needs most and also offering a few additional optional recommendations for optimal health.

Once you receive your recommendations you can choose to print the list or email the list to yourself. Walmart doesn't store your personalized information, so you'll definitely want to do one of the two!

Out of curiosity, I decided to fill out my profile again, and I was surprised to find that my priority recommendations have actually changed since last year -- so I guess that goes to show that you should revisit your supplement choices occasionally to ensure that you're taking the correct supplements.

Instead of recommending a multivitamin and probiotic, VitaSelect recommended that I take a multivitamin and a super B-complex supplement. I haven't been very diligent about taking my vitamins the past couple of months, so I'll definitely be renewing this daily habit.

Are the VitaSelect Recommendations Trustworthy?

If you're a little on the fence about using an online tool to select vitamins and supplements, I'll tell you why I'm totally comfortable using VitaSelect...

After you receive your recommendations, you can click on the little plus sign to "Learn More" about the recommended vitamins and supplements. Once you've clicked on it, you'll also be given the option to click on "References," which will provide you with a very long list of resources detailing trials, studies, and research on the particular supplement you're viewing, allowing you to make an educated decision on your own.

Of course, if you're still unsure, it's always wise to consult your doctor or a pharmacist.

Use the VitaSelect tool to get your personalized vitamin recommendations now! What supplements did it recommend for you? Were you surprised by the results?

Walmart Moms Disclosure