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Ditch the Box Mac and Cheese with These 10 Recipes – LifeSavvy

A red casserole dish full of mac and cheese.
Elena Shashkina/Shutterstock

Indulging in a warm bowl of creamy, cheesy macaroni noodles is exceptionally comforting, especially on a chilly day. We found 10 of our favorite recipes to share with you.

Whether you’re dealing with a time crunch, or just looking for a new way to serve this heart-warming dish to your family, we’ve got something outstanding for you.

We have something healthy, something spicy, and, yes, even a breakfast version of this delicious meal. So, sit back and get ready to drool, because these recipes are downright delightful!

Best Overall: Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese

A bowl filled with baked macaroni and cheese.
The Chunky Chef

Nothing beats the simplicity of traditional baked macaroni and cheese, which is why the Chunky Chef made it to the top of our list. This recipe is as creamy and cheesy as it gets, and the entire family will devour it.

Make a batch this week to test it out. If you get thumbs up all around, you can make it as a holiday side dish.

Get the Recipe: The Chunky Chef

Healthiest: Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

A spoon sticking in a casserole dish full of mac and cheese.
Chocolate Covered Katie

Is there a healthy version of mac and cheese? When you replace half your macaroni elbows with cauliflower florets, yes, there is! If you substitute carb-filled noodles with a healthy vegetable, you replace those calories with healthy, nutrient-dense calories.

Yes, there’s still cheese and milk, but, seriously, it’s macaroni and cheese. If you have dietary restrictions, and this recipe meets your requirements, try this yummy, nutritious rendition.

Get the Recipe: Chocolate Covered Katie

Best Gourmet: Lobster Mac and Cheese

A bowl of creamy lobster mac and cheese.
Food Network

Subtly sweet and fresh lobster added to a homemade pot of macaroni and cheese makes for an elegant, spectacular meal. If you want to show someone how much you love them, this dish is perfect!

Fresh lobster might not be as prevalent in your neck of the woods, and if that’s the case, add some cooked shrimp instead. All of these ingredients create a delicious gourmet meal.

Get the Recipe: Food Network

Best Microwavable: Five-Minute Mac and Cheese

A coffee mug filled with five-minute mac and cheese.

When you don’t have much time, and you’ve got hungry little ones shrieking for lunch, this is an excellent alternative to boxed mac. Throw your cooked noodles in a microwave-safe bowl, and then add some milk and cheese.

Zap it in the microwave for a few minutes and presto! You’ve got a quick and easy lunch. Add a little salt and pepper for extra flavor.

Get the Recipe: Tasty

Best Combo Mac: Pizza-Style Skillet Mac and Cheese

A cast-iron skillet filled with pizza mac and cheese next to a small bowl of pizza mac and cheese.
Well Floured

Pizza and mac and cheese are two meals most kids love—some won’t eat anything else. So, the author of this recipe combined the two! It’s been a huge hit in many homes, and now it’s time to share the love.

The rich cheese and tomato sauces with some pepperoni create a no-fuss dinner your family will treasure.

Get the Recipe: Well Floured

Best Veggie Option: Creamy Broccoli Mac and Cheese

A skillet full of broccoli mac and cheese.
Damn Delicious

Broccoli and cheese are a popular duo, so why not add some noodles? This creamy broccoli mac and cheese has ingredients like minced shallot, Dijon mustard, and cracked black pepper, which add to the wow factor.

All the ingredients complement each other so well, you’ll love how the flavor dances in your mouth.

Get the Recipe: Damn Delicious

Best for Meat Lovers: Steak and Cheddar Mac and Cheese

A red skillet filled with steak and cheddar mac and cheese, with a wooden spoon diving in.
Pinch of Yum

If you prefer some meat in your meal, we’ve found a great recipe for you! Steak and Cheddar Mac is one of those all-in-one meals you won’t be able to get enough of. This recipe calls for a few bits of seared steak cooked in brown butter and mixed in a creamy garlic and herb sauce.

Of course, we can’t leave out everyone’s favorite sharp cheddar to make for a truly velvety meal. All you need is a glass of your favorite red wine, and you should be good to go.

Get the Recipe: Pinch of Yum

Best with a Kick: Baked Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese

A casserole dish filled with Jalapeno and bacon mac and cheese.
The Chunky Chef

For a little extra spice, try this jalapeno and bacon macaroni recipe. It’s the perfect hybrid of two delicious foods many people love. The fresh jalapenos create that pow in your mouth, while the bacon and cheese sauce cool things down.

Cream cheese, mozzarella cheese, American cheese, and heavy cream make this meal as rich and creamy as it gets. Toasted Panko bread crumbs make the perfect crispy topping. Trust us—you’ll want seconds.

Get the Recipe: The Chunky Chef

Best for Brunch: Breakfast Macaroni and Cheese

A blue bowl filled with breakfast mac and cheese with orange juice on the side.
Food Network

We’ve found the ultimate brunch casserole! This morning-inspired macaroni and cheese is a match made in heaven for those who love all things breakfast.

Breakfast sausage, onion, bell pepper, and cream and cheddar cheese all come together to make a hearty baked dish. Don’t forget the crispy hash browns to top this late morning masterpiece.

Grab your fork and dig in!

Get the Recipe: Food Network

Seafood Mac and Cheese

A casserole dish filled with shrimp and crab mac and cheese.
The Blond Cook

If you’re a crab and shrimp lover, you’ll admire this delicious macaroni and cheese recipe. The three-cheese sauce, combined with lump crab and freshly sautéed shrimp, make the perfect blend.

Panko bread crumbs provide the perfect crunchy finish and texture. Enjoy this with a glass of white wine.

Get the Recipe: The Blond Cook

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Put Purchases on a Time Delay to Ice Your Impulse Buys – LifeSavvy

woman looking at an outfit she'd like to buy

Impulse buying might not seem like a big deal, but the money you spend adds up. Cut down on impulse purchases by putting them on a delay.

Separate Your Needs from Your Wants

Needs and wants are two different things but are also easy to confuse. We need food; we want snacks. We need clothes on our backs, but we want the latest fashions. You might want that candy bar or a cute kitchen towel set for the Christmas season, but do you need either one?

Separating wants and needs is also about realizing what you need right now. Yes, you need food, but if your freezer and refrigerator are still somewhat full, do you need to get groceries this week? No, not really. Perhaps you need a couple of items, so make sure you go to the store with a list and stick to that list.

Make a Cooldown List for Your Wants

Once you’ve figured out your wants and needs, you can make a list of the items you want. Just because you don’t need them doesn’t mean you can’t ever get them. The key to saving money–and not facing the buyer’s regret that often follows impulse buys—is to make a cooldown list of the items you want.

What’s a cooldown list? You put things on the list that you really want right this minute (but don’t need), and then you don’t buy them. Later, you look at the list and decide if you still want any item after some time has passed, or if it was just an impulsive desire.

By cultivating a cooldown list habit, you give yourself time to determine how much you need the items you want. Maybe you want a new laptop, but the one you have still works fine. Put that on your list, but get more use out of what you have before dropping a few hundred bucks.

Revisit your list monthly. Move anything that has become a need, like that laptop now that your old one quit working, to your need list. Cross off anything you don’t want anymore. Add new items. Your cooldown list is also a great place to look for gift ideas when someone asks what you want for your birthday, or as a place to find where to spend gift money and tax returns.

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“Finish” Your Dish and Maximize Flavors Like a Pro Chef – LifeSavvy

A hand sprinkling seasoning over a plate of salmon and rice.
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

“Finishing” a dish is the final step to create an incredibly satisfying meal that makes your taste buds sing. Here’s how you can add some extra zing your meal.

What Does Finishing a Dish Mean?

As a kid, your mother probably told you repeatedly that if you wanted dessert, you had to clean your plate, but that’s not what a chef means when she talks about “finishing” a plate. To professionally “finish” a dish, you add a final touch of flavor or texture to make your meal stand out.

Often, people confuse “garnish” for “finish.” When you plate a meal, the two components have separate goals. The primary purpose of a finish is to add more flavor, while a garnish is used to embellish or decorate your dish.

Finishing Ingredients

Chances are, you already have most of these finishing ingredients in your kitchen, but if not, you can find them at any local grocery store. These three types of finishes provide either an abundance of flavor or a palate-friendly texture that will make everyone go back for seconds.

 Citrus Fruit Zest

A hand zesting a lemon on a microplane.
Emilee Unterkoefler

When you lightly run a lemon or other citrus fruit across a microplane grater, you’re zesting. Make sure you only zest the colored part of the fruit, though—the white part of the peel is bitter.

If you make an orange cranberry bread for Thanksgiving dinner, zest an orange on top right before you serve it. This adds a refreshing, vivid experience to each bite.

Lemon zest is great on lemon blueberry bread, and always add lime zest to your key lime pie.

Oils and Butter

A savory butter or a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) can make a world of difference on certain foods.

Having a few friends over for a glass of wine? Make a light bruschetta topped on a fresh French baguette. Right before you serve it, drizzle some EVOO on top to add a pleasing complexity to your appetizer.

You can also add a small amount of Italian balsamic vinegar, but drizzle with caution—you don’t want the intensity of the vinegar to overpower the delicate flavors of the dish.

Three scallops and two pieces of asparagus finished with brown butter on a plate.
Emilee Unterkoefler

Brown butter is another simple way to give your meal a heavenly taste. To make brown butter, you just slowly heat a few tablespoons of butter in a pan until it turns brown. The rich, nutty butter drizzled on top of seared scallops, or even a pasta dish, will make your taste buds say, “Wow!”

Freshly Cracked Salt and Pepper

Salt and pepper are two simple toppings most people shake on their meal without the slightest bit of hesitation. You see shakers on every restaurant table, but the right peppercorns and salt can give your dish an entirely new feel.

When you use freshly cracked peppercorns, they provide a pungent taste and crunchy texture, which is just what those poached eggs need on a Sunday morning.

Switch out your table salt for something a bit bolder, like Himalayan salt, which contains 84 natural minerals. It’s pretty, healthy, and tastes yummy!

Maximize the Flavor of Steak and Chicken

A bowl of garlic and herb butter next to a cutting board, with parsley and a knife on top.
Emilee Unterkoefler

You can add a finish to all sorts of dishes, but meats especially benefit from it. When you finish your steak or chicken meal with garlic-herb butter, it not only makes it look amazing, but the creamy taste also makes it a meal to remember.

To make a garlic and herb butter, follow the recipe below:


  • 1 stick of butter (room temperature)
  • 1 tbsp. of minced roasted garlic
  • 2 tbsps. freshly chopped parsley

Mix all the ingredients, and then refrigerate for about 30 minutes. When your steak or chicken comes off the grill, add a cold dollop of garlic-herb butter.

Enhance Fish and Seafood

Most Fish entrees taste great with a fresh squeeze of lemon. The citrus fruit helps break down the intensity of the fish taste and leaves your palate with a tart, refreshing taste.

One squeeze of lemon not only takes care of the fishy odor, but the bright fruit-flavor counters the brininess and nicely complements fish and seafood dishes.

Make Desserts More Delectable

Most desserts—especially in the U.S.—are sugary and sweet, but sometimes a drizzle of fresh coulis is all you need to make your sweet tooth sing. Coulis is a thin fruit puree used as a sauce.

You can make fruit coulis by following this recipe:


  • 1 cup of fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • Freshly-squeezed lemon juice from 1/2 a small lemon

In a medium saucepan, combine your ingredients and bring them to a boil on medium-to-high heat. When it begins to boil, transfer to a blender. Puree your ingredients and strain your sauce to keep the strawberry seeds out.

Coulis is excellent on cheesecake, or even a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with fresh strawberries—enjoy!

The best part about cooking or baking is you can create something that looks beautiful and tastes fantastic.

Some foods go well together, and some don’t. But if you experiment with different ingredients, you might just find the chef within!

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How to Stay Motivated in the Cold Weather – LifeSavvy

woman starting her day with a cup of tea, looking out at the snowy weather
Look Studio/Shutterstock

If you find yourself plenty motivated in the warmth of summer but more than a bit lethargic once the cold weather comes, you’re certainly not alone. Here’s how to stay motivated through the cold.

That moment when you look outside your window and you can just feel the cold air wrapping itself all over your body, the wind swooshing around, and the sprinkling rain making everything wet and sticky. Yeah, all you want to do is cancel the day and go back to bed—we know, we’ve been there.

Unfortunately, there’s no winter-long holiday for us to hibernate straight through, so here’s how to stay motivated in the cold weather!

Love Your Mornings

Seriously. Create the best possible morning routine that will have you jump out of bed because you’re happy to savor every second of it. It might sound silly, but once you start doing it, you’ll get what we’re trying to say here. Put on your favorite song, brew yourself a cup of delicious coffee or tea, make your favorite breakfast, dance around the house, take your time to get ready—you won’t even notice the weather outside, let alone let it affect you.

Mornings set the tone for your day. Make it a period of mindfulness and enjoyment to prepare for the day.

Winter is coming, and with it, cold and damp weather. Unless you live in a place where winter doesn’t visit often, there’s nothing you can do to change it. Instead of waking up feeling miserable, change the narrative and make your morning routine something to look forward to every night when you go to sleep.

Write Motivational Post-It Notes. . .

screen capture from the show Being Mary Jane showing her and her Post It Note habit

. . . and leave them all around the house. If you’ve ever watched the show Being Mary Jane, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The main character leaves Post-It notes near her bed, on her bathroom mirror, in her closet, on her fridge, the kitchen counter, near her entrance door—everywhere she’ll pass by during her morning routine. The notes serve as little reminders or mantras you can read every day or simply scan with your brain, knowing that deep inside, the information is stored.

The messages can be anything from motivational and inspirational quotes to trivia and interesting facts to funny memes and jokes that’ll make you laugh. You can also switch them up as often as you want, or simply add to the existing collection whenever you stumble upon something you believe is worth noting down. We should be thankful to the social media gods who make it so easy to find good quotes whenever we scroll on any platform.

Many journals and planners have quotes and facts scattered throughout their pages as their creators believe they will inspire, motivate, evoke certain feelings, and make people stop and think when they read them. If your planner doesn’t have that detail, add it in yourself and start your day by reading what you wrote. It has a really powerful impact and more times than not hits the right spot, no matter how difficult, busy, or tiring your day is.

Listen to Podcasts and Audiobooks

No matter how much we’d love to curl up and read a book, whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, or something that’s meant for self-development or to improve our career, many of us don’t (or feel we don’t) have the time to read. Or the energy. Or both. All of our lives are so fast-paced and filled with way too many to-do lists, events, meetings, and messages, many of us barely have the time to breathe.

Listening to podcasts and audiobooks is an amazing way to learn something new, hear experiences from other people, and feel like you did something meaningful. Rather than trying to finish that book you started months ago (and you simply cannot keep your eyes open when you grab it before bedtime), listen to an audiobook. Don’t feel guilty about it either: Audiobooks are just as good as regular books where it counts.

You can tune in while you drink your morning coffee or while driving your car to make your commute more bearable. However you choose, listening to someone talk about a topic you find interesting will keep you motivated even during the coldest of days.

Warm Up with Exercise

This one might be obvious, but exercising definitely makes our body temperature go up, and it’s therefore less likely we’ll find the cold, outside air as terrible as we thought. Exercise will also clear our head and bring a surge of fresh energy into our whole body, making it easier to tackle the day before us.

Go for a run, hit the gym, or get in a good hot yoga session. Whatever you do, enjoy it and push yourself to your limits. That’ll make for an amazing motivational boost!

Woman doing a backbend in the park during autumn
Karla Tafra

Show Up for Yourself

At the end of the day, ain’t nobody gonna motivate you but you. You need to make yourself a promise you’ll be willing to keep, and keep on pushing no matter how hard it gets. Willpower is all it takes. Challenge yourself, set small, attainable goals, and reward yourself every time you crush them.

Certain evidence suggests we’re not wired to keep our eyes on a long-term prize. “We respond a lot more readily to immediate rewards,” says Anne Wilson, a social psychology professor who studies motivation at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. This brings a feeling of accomplishment and success with every goal you complete, which can sustain your motivation in the long run.

For example, next time you procrastinate about going to your Soulcycle class, start with a 15-20 minute workout in your home gym. Slowly progress to 30 minutes in your local gym. Then finally take a full 45-minute Soulcycle class. Baby steps.

Enjoy the Winter Festivities

Certain things happen only during the cold season, so try to make the best of it and enjoy the magic moments. From Halloween and pumpkin patches to Christmas and all the fun snow activities, actively participating in everything the cold weather brings along makes it fun, exciting, and memorable.

Instead of dreading getting out in the morning, think about the gorgeous Christmas lights you’ll see on your way to work, or the golden leaves you’ll tread all over when you walk your dog or shop at the Farmer’s Market. ’Tis the season to be jolly after all!

Motivation is a funny word. Motivation comes and goes with the wind, and it might be a little tough to stimulate when the last signs of summer fade away. Nevertheless, the seasons must change, and if we’re always grumpy and unmotivated when it happens, so do we.

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How Much of Your Favorite Halloween Candy Would It Take to Kill You? – LifeSavvy

woman with a witch hat on looking into a jack o' lantern pumpkin bowl
Ronald Summers/Shutterstock

As a kid at some point, you or one of your friends probably wondered how much candy you’d have to eat to, well you know, die. Curiosity got the better of us, so we decided to do a little digging to crack that morbid little mystery.

How do you even start answering a question like that? Well, the first stop on the journey is a visit to the ol’ LD50 tables. For the unfamiliar, LD50 stands for “Lethal Dose required to kill 50% of the test population” and is usually expressed in a dose per unit of weight form. Most of the LD50 measurements we have are extrapolated from rat models to humans (as it would be, understandably, profoundly unethical to run the tests on humans). We assure you: Nobody was force-fed candy, Hansel and Gretel style, during the research phase of this article.

The LD50 of sugar, in the form of simple glucose, is 30 grams of sugar (administered orally) per 1 kg of body weight. A kilogram is ~2.205 pounds. The average weight of a woman in the United States is 170.6 pounds and the average weight of a male is 197.9 pounds. Let’s round up and down, respectively, to say our average person, in general, is 180 pounds.

At 180 pounds, you’d have to consume 2,449 grams of pure sugar in a sitting to reach the LD50 for your body weight. If you want to calculate an exact amount based on your weight and candy of choice, use this formula:

((Weight in lbs. / 2.205) * 30) / (grams of sugar per serving of preferred candy) = LD50 serving count

Back to our Joe Average though. What does the LD50 of sugar look like when translated into common Halloween candies? To hit the projected Lethal Dose, you’d need to eat:

  • Candy Corn: 1,670 pieces
  • M&M’s Candies: 2,552 pieces
  • Snickers (Mini Size): 545 pieces
  • Milky Way (Mini Size):  299 pieces
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (Regular Size): 234 individual cups
  • Pixy Stix (Standard Size): 1,143 straws

I felt compelled to end with Pixy Stix because some decades ago my friend Jake and I pondered, after eating bags of the things, exactly how many Pixy Stix it would take to kill us. We didn’t die, but we certainly felt awful. Very, very awful.

Which brings us to the real moral of our death-by-candy tale: Good luck figuring out a way to eat 1,670 pieces of candy corn or 1,143 straws’ worth of flavored sugar fast enough to not decide, along the way, that living to see another day (and a more sensible diet) isn’t the better option.

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