Product Review:

DISCLOSURE: I was provided with product samples in exchange for this review. I was not compensated in any other way for this review. All opinions are my own. 

A little while back, I had the pleasure of being contacted by the people over at who asked me to try out some of their pre-workout and protein products!

First, a little about the company. specializes in selling supplements, vitamins and sports nutrition products. They take out the leg work of having to go to a nutrition supplement store by making it easy to place your orders and have them shipped to your home in the U.S. or abroad (they ship to over 150 countries!). My shipment of samples arrived within 3 days of being contacted which is pretty standard for most of their products.

Now, I know very little about supplements, protein shakes and all of that.What I do know is that they can be pricey. I’ve walked into a few supplement stores and have walked right out from sticker shock. That was years ago when I had no idea what health and fitness really meant to me but now I understand that a lot of people have some go-to products to help them stay on track. So if you’re going to fall in love with a product that you will use consistently, then chances are you’ll want it at a great price. I live in a big city where nutrition supplement stores can be found anywhere but if you aren’t close to supplement stores, BPN is a great alternative, you’ll pay the same if not less (including shipping costs) for the stuff you know you’ll need a steady supply of.

Now on to the samples I tried! Keep in mind, I really don’t have much experience with things like pre-workouts and shakes. But I am up for anything these days for the sake of science! Err.. weight loss? Giving my readers reasons to laugh at me? Whatever the reason, I am game! Here are the items I received:

Razor8 Pre-Workout (image by
Razor8 Pre-Workout (image by, click for link)
Jack3D Pre-Workout
Jack3D Pre-Workout (image by, click for link)
Hexapro Protein Powder (image by, click for link)
Hexapro Protein Powder (image by, click for link)

I tried the Razor8 first. If you’ve never tried a pre-workout before, heed the warnings on the labels and take it slow. I mixed 1/4 of a serving (the packets I received contained 2 servings each) with 8 oz of water in a shaker bottle 30 minutes before my workout.

Triple Berry Flavor
Triple Berry Flavor

The taste was like a sugarless strawberry starburst, all the tang, no sweetness. I hit the gym at work for 20 minutes of strength circuits followed by 2 miles on the treadmill. By the time I had gotten to the treadmill, I was pumped! I felt like I could run for days, so my energy was most definitely sky-high! I liked the feeling of being able to blast through the workout but there was one side effect: the crash I experienced after work. I literally sat on the couch after dinner and fell asleep! This stuff is kinda like downing a few espresso shots for the immediate effect with a huge energy crash after.

Next, I tried Jack3D. I was not a fan of the Blue Raspberry flavor, it reminded me of the stuff you might drink before an MRI. Also, it wasn’t blue. I’m not really complaining, but it was surprising to say the least. Anyway, you’re not supposed to drink it for the taste so let’s get on to the results! But first:

Un-Blue Raspberry
Un-Blue Raspberry

I used the whole packet this time since it didn’t seem to be as potent as Razor8. When I went to workout, I felt really energized but I may have taken a little too much for my first try because my heart was racing the whole time! Again, I would liken this feeling to one too many cups of coffee. My workout was pretty great and with this product and I did not experience a crash at all. I felt pretty good the rest of the day and I did not, thankfully, fall asleep after dinner.

Both of these products are meant for people who do intense workouts like lifting weights. Since I don’t lift weights, I can say that I wouldn’t need either product for a cardio session but I can definitely see the benefit of getting your energy up for some heavy lifting. I did enjoy feeling a little bit weightless during my workout because I was so energetic. I could see myself using a pre-workout before a big race, that would be helpful!

As for the HexaPro shake, all I can say is YUM! I’ve tried a few shakes here and there and this one was really good. I mean, just look at the satisfaction!


And talk about satisfying! I had this shake for lunch and with 25 g of protein I was almost full until dinner (I snuck in an afternoon popcorn snack). Nothing I’ve ever tried has kept me that full for that long and I really liked the Decadent Chocolate Milkshake flavor! At only 176 calories per serving (prepped with water), this was quite the treat! I could see myself using this as a meal replacement from time to time or just as a post-workout recovery snack that will leave me full and energized for the rest of the day.

Overall, I was impressed by the excellent service and quality of products I received from Check them out if you’re looking for a great place to do your fitness nutrition and supplement shopping!


Suggestion Box: My Favorite Fitness Apps

I’m sure by now you have noticed that I’m pretty into technology as it relates to health and fitness. I adore discovering new apps that help me learn new exercises, track my foods and log my activity. I use a lot of apps folks, a lot! There’s so much to choose from these days and when it comes to pretty much any form of exercise or nutrition plan, there really is an app for that! This post could get really long if I list all of the apps I use so for the purpose of keeping it somewhat brief, I will focus on Fitness apps today and will soon publish a post on Nutrition and Tracking apps.

My Favorite Fitness Apps

1. Runkeeper (Free)

click for link

I lerve RK. Seriously, it is one of the coolest apps because it does several things all at once: maps your activity, tracks your time, pace and calories burned, provides training programs for various kinds of races including 5K and 10K, allows you to set goals, and provides you with progress reports along the way. It is also one of the most popular apps that sync with other fitness apps such as MyFitnessPal, LoseIt, GymPact, etc. I also like that you can hide your GPS map from your social media accounts if you decide to link it with Facebook and/or Twitter. The MapMyRun/Walk and Runtastic apps usually post your route automatically if you choose to sync with FB or Twitter and I like having some control over that. Not to mention it’s just a more visually appealing tracker too. No ads or clutter, just straight up information about your awesome ass-haulin’ skillz. Check it:


2. GymPact (Free)

click for link

Make money for working out. I repeat: make money for working out. Gympact is an awesome and very motivating tool for staying on top of your weekly workouts! The concept here is that you set a goal for how many workouts you want to complete every week. You then select your stakes which is how much money you pay out for every workout you miss a week from your goal. Here is a picture of what this looks like:


This is an actual screenshot of my weekly pact. If I miss one of these 5 workouts from Sunday-Saturday, I owe $5 per workout I miss. If I make my goal, I will earn money! Where does the money come from? Well, from those who didn’t complete their pact that week. In other words, gympacters fund their own pacts. After my first week of trying this and meeting my pact goal, I earned $1.14. You can cash out your reward money when you have made at least $10. The app tracks your workouts in several ways: sync with RunKeeper, use the workout tracker built into the app itself or check in to your gym once you arrive. Either way, you have to allow the app to use location services or GPS on your phone. This is how the app knows you’re actually moving and not just saying you’re working out. AND, you must clock in at least 30 minutes of exercise or it doesn’t count towards your pact. Basically, it’s your workout babysitter. If I’m going to work my butt off every week anyway, I might as well get paid for it! And I’m not trying to lose money so I will definitely find ways to keep my pact and make the 5 workouts. If you want to check this app out, here is my referral code to earn $5 right away!: 3d2c138dbc

3. Pocket Yoga ($2.99)

click for link

I’m not going to say that I am cheap but I really can’t afford to shell out money for gyms AND boot camps AND yoga classes etc. And yes, I know that if I join the RIGHT gym, I won’t have to pay extra for group classes. But as of right now, I haven’t found one in my price range near my home (no more that $20-30 a month) so in the meantime, yoga at home it is! Pocket yoga is a great app for full-length yoga sessions at home or on the go. At home, I can mirror this app onto my TV using our Apple TV and my iPhone. On the go, I can use my phone or iPad to engage in some yoga-licious moves. There are 3 sequences to choose from plus 2 sun salutation sequences. You can choose your difficulty level, length of time you’d like to workout and even the background image. Each workout includes soothing music and vocal instruction. If you don’t know a move, you can view each individual pose with its explanation and instructions on how to do them. See?


4. Nike Training Club (Free)

click for link

I STILL cannot believe this app is free. The fact that this exists and doesn’t cost anything means there’s really no reason to ever join a gym or buy a fitness dvd. This app has everything: workouts for specific goals (Get Lean, Get Toned, Get Strong, Get Focused), choice of fitness level (Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced), choice of specific exercise combinations, how-to videos for each individual exercise and a tracker for completed workouts.The best part about this app is the huge amount of variety you get! You get at least 3 30 minute and 3 45 minute work out sequences at each level under each goal set! For example, if you choose Get Lean, you then choose your difficulty level and choose 1 of 6 workouts found under that difficulty level! Talk about an endless amount of workouts. Jillian Michaels, have you seen this??


5. YouTube (Free)

click for link

I know what you’re thinking: silly Mariana, YouTube isn’t a fitness app! Well actually…it can be! There are hundreds, no, thousands of workout videos on YouTube for free! My favorite channel is the BeFit channel where you can find full length workouts from Denise Austin, Jillian Michaels, Billy Blanks Jr., Sadie Nardini and more (all the folks produced by Lionsgate). There’s also plenty of other channels loaded with videos like the Daily HIIT, PopSugarFitness, CrossFit, etc. If I’m away from home, and my phone crashes and deletes all of my apps, I can still pull up youtube in the web browser and go, go, go! Following a fitness routine has never been so frugal! Not to mention, there’s even less of a reason to avoid a workout now than ever before 😉 Oh look…one of my absolute faves….**cough NOT**

6. SworkIt (Free for Regular, $0.99 for Pro)

click for link

Do you only have 15 minutes to squeeze a workout in but don’t quite know what exercises to run through in so little time? SworkIt is a great app for that. You choose from a group of exercises (either Strength Training or Yoga, Cardio & More), the kind of workout you want (Full body, core, lower body, etc.) and then the amount of time you want to workout. Once you do that, you hit start, and it walks you through a circuit of exercises. The app also includes how-to videos for each move.


So there you have it! Those are my favorite fitness apps! I have to say that without these mobile options, I don’t think I would be as compelled to stay on top of my workouts. The way my brain works is pretty much, if I have it on me, I have the means and very little excuse not to at least try to move my body. Not to mention, apps like RunKeeper and NTC allow me to look back and actually see how much I have actually accomplished. There’s nothing better than seeing how many miles I have run this week and what my latest achievements are. Being able to connect these apps with my social media platforms also helps me stay accountable, invites others to cheer me on and every once in a while, inspires somebody out there to get movin’.

I am always open to trying something new. Please share in the comments if there are any fitness apps you’ve come across that have helped you stay active!

tiny-heart M.

My Take On The Fresh 20 Weekly Meal Plan

Before we get started let me issue a couple of disclaimers…

**I am not in any way affiliated with The Fresh 20 other than I am a subscriber to the meal plan service. I am not being paid nor am I receiving any incentives to endorse this service, I’m simply discussing it out of my own free will.**

**I will not and cannot share any recipes with you because this is a subscription service. The folks at The Fresh 20 work really hard to bring us a great product and their business’ livelihood depends on paying subscribers.**

Ok, glad we got that out of the way! Phew!

Why The Fresh 20?


A little over 3 months ago, my husband and I made the decision to become Fresh 20 subscribers! For years, we sat down every Sunday to try and figure out what we were going to cook for the week and what groceries we would need. This was always a task that involved a lot of decision-making and little coordination between ingredients needed for one meal that weren’t needed for others. We had staples like Mexican (my husband is Mexican) meals featuring tacos, rice and beans and Puerto Rican (I’m Puerto Rican) food which also involved meat, rice and beans. There was a lot of pasta and ground meat and prepacked short-cut foods. All in all, incorporating a lot of produce was not always easy without having to research recipes so it was much easier to buy a salad for lunch or get veggies while eating out and just stock up on fruit as snacks. We just didn’t have the time with us both working full time, me being in school and then eventually having our daughter.

How It Works

We came across The Fresh 20 (F20) in October right as I was preparing to got back to work full time. Taking a look at the website, we learned that the whole concept behind F20 is that you need 20 fresh ingredients every week to make 5 dinner recipes meant to serve a family of four. You can choose from the Classic plan which includes 4 nights of meat or seafood and a 5th vegetarian meal, the Vegetarian plan or the Gluten-Free plan. We are on the classic plan and the biggest perk about this plan is the huge amount of veggies in every meal! That was one of our struggles, incorporating more veggies into our day to day. What was really mind-blowing though, is that everything is coordinated for the whole week of recipes which means that nothing goes to waste.

This week's shopping cart: red peppers, red oinion, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber and baby spinach.
This week’s shopping cart: red peppers, red oinion, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber and baby spinach.

For example, if you’re on the classic plan, you might have to roast a chicken on Monday. That chicken will then go into 2 recipes that week. List calls for 2 lbs of chicken and an 8 pack of pita? That’s because on Monday you cook up some pita for fatoush, then on Tuesday you bake all of the chicken, half for dinner that night, the other half for chicken gyros later (which is where you also use the rest of the pita!). All required ingredients are typically a cart full of veggies, lean meats and fish (there is one seafood dish every week on the classic plan) and whole grains. F20 recommends that you buy organic, low to no sodium canned goods (usually just tomatoes and beans) and whole wheat flour and pastas, brown rice and an occasional new grain like quinoa, couscous or the new-to-us farro. There’s also a list of pantry staples such as seasonings, broths, vinegars and healthy oils. And that’s it! It’s almost completely clean eating (with the exception of the occasional canned ingredients) and since these recipes are for a family of four, my husband and I get lunch out of each meal too! So really, we get 10 meals out of this until we have enough little monsters around to actually gobble up the rest of the dinner servings each night.

Pictures of Deliciousity

Here are a few pictures of meals we have made thus far:

Vegetarian Stuffed Cabbage with Tomato Sauce
Vegetarian Stuffed Cabbage with Tomato SauceOn the left: Farro Minestrone On the Right: Chicken Milanese (whole wheat bread and flour crust) and Farro tossed with lightly Steamed Broccoli and Golden RaisinsOn the left: Farro Minestrone On the Right: Chicken Milanese (whole wheat bread and flour crust) and Farro tossed with lightly Steamed Broccoli and Golden Raisins
Citrus Glazed Seabass with Black Beans and Brown Rice and Roasted Carrots
Citrus Glazed Seabass with Black Beans and Brown Rice and Roasted Carrots
Dijon Dill Salmon with Fatoush Salad (whole wheat stovetop toasted pita not pictured)
Dijon Dill Salmon with Fatoush Salad (whole wheat stovetop toasted pita not pictured)

How Much Are We Talking Here?

After the first month we were hooked and fortunately, we also came across a Groupon for a year long subscription for only $26 dollars (normally $49)! A year-long subscription also provides access to all of the archives so you can use weekly plans from year’s past! If you’re not ready for a year-long commitment, you can do a monthly subscription at $5/month, billed 3 months at a time. Weekly plans are based on seasonal ingredients therefore, it’s rare that you’ll be shelling out for expensive, out of season items. A typical week of Fresh 20 groceries runs us $60-$80 in Chicago which fits right into our weekly budget on groceries! The biggest financial perk for us, however, has been our dramatically decreased spending on eating out! Monday-Friday, you will rarely find us having dinner out or ordering in and unless we have lunch meetings planned, we rarely buy lunch out either. That’s easily $60-$80 back in our pockets every week!

Is It Weight Watchers/Diet Friendly?

Finally, the best part about this meal plan is the fact that almost every recipe has been pretty points plus friendly. I do say almost because there are some heavier meals here and there  or the portion size is actually more than I can actually eat which means that the points might be higher than what I actually consume. The recipes use very little fat, usually just olive or grapeseed oil and the occasional cheeses. The flavor comes from really great combinations of seasonings, using chicken or vegetable broths instead of butter and if dairy is needed, low fat sour cream or non-fat greek yogurt is recommended. Every meal has at least 3-5 different veggies in the recipe so you get most of your servings just from your dinner! One of the best WW-friendly features is the fact that you get all of the nutritional information every Friday so you can literally plan your dinner and lunch points out for the next week! This is what I do on Mondays and then plan other meals and snacks accordingly.

All in all, we are hooked! We get to cook and try new things all of the time, we are never bored, we are getting nutritious meals and check this out: my 21 month old is eating salmon and quinoa! What?

photo (26)

If you’re considering checking out this meal plan, let me know if you have any questions! Also, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for a possible groupon deal in the future, $26 for a year is not bad!

Will You Please Give Us A Recipe?

Nope! Not a Fresh 20 recipe! BUT I will give you a recipe we came across for making your very own homemade vegetable stock! We recently tried this recipe so that we didn’t have to keep buying stock for our weekly F20 recipes. For the price of about 4 carrots, 6 celery stalks, an onion, radishes, peppercorns, salt and olive oil, you can get WEEKS WORTH OF STOCK! That’s like 10-12 cups of stock (in a stock pot) for roughly $3. Also, per the instructions, if you leave the skins on the onions, radishes and carrots (just give them all a really good scrub) you get an even more nutritious veggie stock. The olive oil is the kicker, this adds that chicken-like flavor back into the stock without having to use any meat! This website has some other really great ways to make recipe-ready foods for cheap!

Have you tried Fresh 20? Let me know what you think! Happy Cooking Unfluffers!

❤ M.

Homemade Vegetable Broth

by the Hillbilly Housewife

I’ve fallen victim to a rather lazy trap and I guess it’s time to confess – I love having cans of chicken broth in my pantry. Lots and lots of cans of chicken broth. I discovered this addiction while I was cleaning out my pantry recently. There they were – six big cans of chicken broth. Adding up the money is what got me thinking about this wasteful habit. Of course, approximately 9 out of 10 recipes call for chicken broth, so why not stock up? The answer is simple. The cost of canned chicken broth is outrageous. Typically, I would now be offering up my recipe for making your own chicken broth. But wait. Before you go out and buy a bunch of whole chickens to make your own chicken broth, I had another epiphany. Why chicken broth? The last time I made a chicken casserole that called for chicken broth to be added, it should have struck me then. You already have the chicken in the casserole, why do you need more chicken in the added broth. What would you miss if you used something else, like vegetable broth? Of course, I checked the price of vegetable broth in the grocery store before I took my next step and found that even the vegetable broth was outrageously expensive. And, along with the expensive, I checked the ingredients.  Why all the added sugar? The next logical step, of course, was to make my own vegetable broth and use that as the basis for my casseroles, soups, and stews. So, that is exactly what I did.  Here is the process I used to make my very own tasty, frugal, and nutritious vegetable broth. carrotsI scrubbed and washed some carrots. These were the real carrots, full sized, not baby carrots.  The flavor of fully grown carrots is much heartier.  For the big soup pot I was using, I used a whole bunch of carrots, but I would cut that in half.  The broth was a little too sweet for my taste. I didn’t bother to peel them; just took my vegetable scrubber and got them clean. A coarse chop was next, just throwing away the very top part. celeryI washed and cut up celery, including the tops. A coarse chop with the celery is just fine as well because everything gets strained out anyway. Nothing in a vegetable broth has to be bite-sized because once the vegetables are boiled and simmered for hours, there’s no flavor left in them (it’s all in the broth) so the vegetables get strained out and composted. radishesThe surprise ingredient is the radishes.  I have never found a broth recipe that calls for radishes, but I had some on hand so I scrubbed those, cut them in half, and threw them in. And why not? I like the peppery flavor and they would probably will add a little color to the vegetable broth as well. As it turned out, they made a nice addition to the broth. onionsThis next step I think is crucial to a good vegetable broth. I scrubbed up some yellow onions, cut them in half, and threw them in the pot. I am of the Jamie Oliver school of cooking when it comes to this sort of rough cooking. Wash the onions and put them in skin and all. Not only does it add nutritional value but the yellow skins add rich color to the broth. Scrub the roots well, but if you’re squeamish about the roots, just cut them off. vegetable brothThen a handful of salt and about 10 whole peppercorns, garlic if you like, and cover with fresh, cold water, and voila!  You have the beginning of a beautiful broth! But, before you get your pot boiling, there’s one last Secret Ingredient that makes all the difference between a pot of watery vegetables and a real rich vegetable stock that actually looks and tastes rich like chicken stock. Olive oil. Olive oilYes, drizzle about a tablespoon or so of olive oil in your vegetable broth and you won’t miss the chicken! Now, bring your pot to a boil with the cover off, not too quickly, over medium high heat, then turn it down to a slow simmer, put the lid on, tipped to keep the pot from boiling too hard. Your simmer should be a gentle bubble and not produce any foam.  If you get foam, you’re boiling too fast. Cook this as long as possible to get the most flavor; at least a couple hours.  Then, adjust your seasonings, cool and store as you wish. NOTE: The next time I make my vegetable broth I would cut the amount of carrots in half. Too many carrots make for a sweet broth and I prefer my broth a bit less sweet. I also would stick with yellow onions and not try the sweet onions for the same reason – just not enough onion flavor, which I prefer. You can also add other spices and seasonings, but I like having the basic broth ready for recipes which I’ll be adding the seasonings to anyway. vegetable broth completedI ladled out a bit of the broth before I poured it into my freezer containers so you could see the results. It did turn out pretty colorful and rich. For the cost of a couple carrots, a bunch of celery, a half dozen or so yellow onions, some water and spices, I have a nice supply of flavorful broth stored in my freezer. What other broth do I really need? This is one frugal tip worth trying today!