Toronto: A Love Story

Have you ever just fallen in love with a city? The people, the places, the memories… That’s how I’m feeling about Toronto right now.

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Nature Box: An Unbiased Review

Note: I was not compensated in any way by Nature Box. I paid for my first box with my own hard-earned cash, and this is my unbiased, honest opinion of what I received. 

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Hello, my name is Maria and I’m a snacker.

I love snack food. On any given day, the bottom drawer of my desk looks something like this:

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I’m always looking for new snacks to try, but the selection at my grocery store wasn’t changing very rapidly. Not only that, there were certain things I was afraid to commit to (sometimes you want to try a handful of Siracha popcorn before committing to the whole bag, know what I’m sayin’?). I kept hearing about this straight-to-your-door snack food company, and thought it sounded right up my alley. Last week, I finally broke down and signed up for Nature Box.

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I happened upon a 50% off coupon for my first box, and, since I was already spending at least $10 every other week in the snack aisles of Target, I decided to try it out. I hoped it would give me an alternative to the Peanut Butter and Jelly trail mix I love so much (but is so not good for me) and it would be delivered right to my office, where I do the most of my snacking.

To get started with Nature Box, you can browse through their offerings, and add as many different snacks as you’d like to your “pantry.” From there you can customize your box, add additional bags, surprise snacks, etc (I chose each snack in my box, so there were no surprises when it arrived). There’s a countdown at the top that tells you how many days you have left to customize your box before your monthly subscription ships — if you’re very impatient, you can choose “ship now” and get it even sooner.

As I mentioned, I paid half of what the box is advertised for ($10 instead of $20), so each pouch was approximately $1.60. Even at $3 a pouch, this is a pretty middle-of-the-road price for snack food, a fairly good price for “healthy” snack food.

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A week after my box shipped, it arrived at my office. I was happily surprised by its weight — these snacks should last me at least a month, if not more. I opened the box and was again happy with the size of the bags of snacks. So far so good.

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Below is a detailed description of the six snacks I recieved in my first box, with links to the Nature Box description and product details. It’s very easy to see which snacks are soy-/wheat-/nut-/etc-free, which I imagine would be great for anyone with allergies, or kids who have allergies.

Here’s how the snacks rated on the official Stieve Says taste test:

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Cherry Ganache Granola – nice, crunchy texture, but not too hard that it damages the roof of your mouth (am I the only one that has this issue with granola?). The oats were not overly sweet, but had a nice baked flavor to them. The cherries were nice and big, tart and tasty. Solid first offering, Nature Box.

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Cheddar and Onion Sunflower Kernels – the flavoring on these tastes exactly like the cheddar and onion Ruffles potato chips, but once that goes away, the aftertaste of the seeds is a little bitter. Still, after one handful, I was already craving a second. The flavor powder is a little messy, so this one is not great for snacking while working/typing.

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Country Ranch Peas – I can’t say that I’ve ever had dried peas before, but the taste is pretty much exactly what you would imagine. Again, a nice initial tangy flavor from the coating, but the taste of the peas isn’t awesome — kind of exactly what you would imagine dried-up peas to taste like. Flavor coating stayed on these guys a lot better, though, and I didn’t have to wipe my hands after consuming. This was a miss for me — I like peas in general, but dried ones are apparently not a favorite flavor profile.

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Bruschetta Pretzel Pops – These guys smelled amazing when I opened the bag, but unfortunately didn’t taste as good as the smell. The rosemary is very overpowering, so much so that it left a burning sensation in my throat. I needed some water to get the taste out of my mouth — the flavoring is way too overpowering on this snack. I wished I had gotten the salted caramel version instead.

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Guacamole Bites – This was my favorite of the savory snacks. Initially they taste just like store-bought guac — very flavorful but not overpowering on the onion or cilantro. The aftertaste is when you get more of a corn chip flavor. I wished it were more like a tortilla chip than a Frito, but still, these were by far my favorite snack.

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Carrot Strawberry Fruit Chews – First reaction: wait, aren’t these the same fruit snacks I buy at Target? Well, the taste is not quite the same (the Nature Box kind were slightly less sweet), but even the ingredients and the nutritional information is almost exactly the same — like a fruit snack made with real fruit juice, which is what both products advertise themselves as being. You get 5 individual pouches with Nature Box, which makes each pouch about $0.80 each (when paying the full $20-per-box price); Target’s boxes come with 6 pouches which even out to $0.42 each.

The idea of Nature Box is great — healthy snack food delivered to your door. For the price, even at a full $20 per box, it’s not an exorbitant amount, in my opinion (and don’t forget this is including delivery), if you are already purchasing pre-packaged snack food. For those of us that are used to bringing fresh fruits or veggies to the office as snacks, Nature Box can’t really compete (health- or dollar-wise). And for some items, like the fruit chews, the Big Box stores are still able to outdo Nature Box when it comes to price-per-serving.

As a whole, I would give this box a 7 out of 10. The flavor of several snacks was a bit overwhelming (I doubt I will ever finish those pretzel pops), but there are still a few different items in my pantry that I have yet to try, and I will most likely order another box in the future. I also think that the box every month is a little bit much — this box (along with several fresher snack choices) will satisfy my snacking needs for at least 6 weeks, if not longer.

Nature Box might not be the cheapest option for your snack-time needs, but it is definitely the most convenient. If you are like me and keep several bags/boxes of food in your desk, try adding up what you spend in a month on snacks — if it’s more than $20, give Nature Box a try. In fact, if you follow this link you’ll get $10 off your order, making your first box just $10. You can cancel at any time, but there are so many options (and new stuff being added every month), there’s bound to be some misses, which is why you’ll probably see me roaming the halls of my office in a few weeks with another orange and green box.

Have you tried Nature Box yet? Tell me what your favorite snacks are in the comments!

Holiday Recap

I must be getting older. The holidays really took a lot out of me this year. Even with a week off of work and plenty of time to catch up on sleep, I am still dragging while I attempt to get back into the swing of things.

Also, obviously, dragging on updating the blog.

Cue photo montage!

First, Christmas…

Christmas with my nieces is never boring

Camera shy, obviously

Brady gets in on the action

Food included buffalo chicken dip, Greek seven layer dip, Mexican avocado and black bean dip, and garlic chicken puffs

The Pinterest cheese tree was a huge hit!

All of my favorite Christmas treats

 

New Year’s Eve was celebrated with our great friends and neighbors…

Boyfriend playing bartender

Cheers, with berries!

It was also our anniversary!

Eating Outside the Box

Last night, Boyfriend and I were at our favorite Thai restaurant for the second night in a row (I swear they put crack in this food, the cravings rival my impulse to clean hysterically after watching an episode of Hoarders). While waiting for our dining companions, we estimated the annual cost of eating at this particular establishment if we continued to visit twice a week. The astonishing total was approximately 10% of my salary, almost 3 months worth of mortgage payments.

Thai food is becoming an expensive alternative to an actual drug habit.

The infamous #15

 

As I have mentioned in previous posts, one of my weaknesses is eating exceptionally good food. Since my cooking skills are subpar (although I do try, and I intend to post some of my adventures in the kitchen at some point), eating out is an expense that I don’t intend to ever attempt to reduce. I will put off buying new clothes, shoes, purses (and by “put off” I obviously mean “charge to my AMEX”) in order to eat regularly at restaurants. Since embarking on my I’m-a-big-girl-now life, I have had to adapt my spending in this realm by finding deals and making my dollar go as far as possible when it comes to eating out.

Restaurant.com is a fantastic website. It offers users the chance to buy gift certificates at a fraction of the cost (think a $25 certificate for $10) at thousands of restaurants all over the country. This is a service that restaurants opt into, so not all your favorite places will be on this site, but it is worth the time to peruse what is offered. Most restaurants even have their menus available right on the site, so you can pick out and pay for the food before you even walk in the door! A word to the wise: read the fine print. Most places have restrictions on dates and times, require a minimum purchase, and gratuity is often included. With these details in mind, however, this is still a great way to get a discount on places you might already be planning on visiting.

As a rule, I am not going to spend any sort of money, discounted or not, to dine out if I am not certain I will enjoy myself and my meal. Thus I rely heavily on restaurant review websites such as yelp.com, urbanspoon.com, and tripadvisor.com (the Thai restaurant mentioned above currently has a 5/5 rating on Yelp, to give you an indication of how absolutely craveable this food is, and they even have a sticker on the door that says, “They love us on Yelp!”). Not only will you find out which dishes are the best, oftentimes you can get insider information on daily, weekly, or happy hour specials that may not be heavily advertised by the restaurant itself.

I love the neighborhood where I currently live, however the restaurant scene consists primarily of chain and fast food restaurants. Boyfriend doesn’t eat fast food, and neither of us cares for chain restaurants (where’s the creativity and individualism in a place that has hundreds of others just like it?). As leery as you may be, get out there and try those hole-in-the-wall places that hide in the shadows of the Applebee’s and TGIFriday’s (more often than not, these places get the best reviews on Yelp). Recently Neighbor Friend told us about this little Middle Eastern place in the back of a strip mall. Holy garlic, was this place amazing. The chicken wrap was to die for and an entire meal (plus lunch for the next day) for myself was under $10. It was quite a find, and when I looked it up on Yelp later on, it had 4.5/5 rating (I’m telling you, these people know what they are doing). While they may seem a little sketch, these privately-owned little places are going to have the best, usually most authentic, and oftentimes cheapest food in the area. Don’t be afraid to get out there and explore.

Now that I have gotten myself sufficiently hungry, I’m off to scrounge up some crackers I think are hiding in my desk somewhere…