Skip to Content

Meet a Reader | Jenni, the Minnesotan dietician

Jenni’s food pictures made me feel hungry…for a sandwich in particular! Jenni shares my love for sandwiches, but she eats them in more interesting places than I do:


Sandwiches with a mountain view.

I’m now inspired to up my sandwich-eating locales. 😉

Here’s Jenni:

1. Tell us about yourself.

Hi! I’m Jenni and I am in my late 20s. I work in the mental health field of eating disorder care as a Registered Dietitian, have a small nutritional counseling private practice, and also do some freelance writing for a local newspaper on the side.

I was born and raised in WI, went to undergrad at The University of Wisconsin (go Badgers!), did my master’s at Illinois State, and then moved to Minneapolis/St. Paul for work and have been here for almost 5 years now.

chai latte.

I love a good, cozy chai latte + some couch time + a good library book!

I grew up as the middle child between my brother and my sister, my parents still live in my childhood home, and I am lucky enough to have everyone within about an hour’s drive away.

Family is so, so important to me!

couple on a boat.

A snap of us on our last trip – we drove to the Florida Keys to camp, boat, fish, and visit family.

Currently, I live with my partner and his dog in Minneapolis. We love to hike, camp, travel, ski and just spend time outside anyway we can.

Personally, I love to bake and cook, read, run, be crafty, organize things, and obsess about the weather.

homemade bagels.

A recent bread-baking project: whole wheat cinnamon raisin bagels.

2. How long have you been reading The Frugal Girl?

I am not sure how or exactly when I stumbled upon TFG, but it was sometime around the start of the pandemic, so early 2020 I think. Fairly new reader here!

Like most people who read blogs, I enjoy getting to see peeks into others’ ways of life and always enjoy the topic of frugal living! I love Kristen’s open and real style of writing; it feels like catching up with a friend or neighbor.

3. How did you get interested in saving money?

I don’t ever remember not being interested in it or thinking it wasn’t something I needed to prioritize. As a child I had everything I needed and more, but I think I really picked up on my dad’s frugal and money-saving ways and just carried on with those things and thought patterns as I grew up and moved on to being an independent adult.

I still remember my dad taking me to the credit union to open my first Certificate of Deposit when I was in late elementary school or early middle school.

Both of my parents are wise with money and spending, but my dad is more of a saver and practical-thinker, whereas my mom values saving but also has taught me the importance of spending and treating yourself at times too.

buckets of pears.

We have a pear-tree in the backyard and get a great fall crop – we ate a lot fresh, but I also made pearsauce, pie, and dehydrated some as well.

4. What is the why behind your money-saving efforts?

I think everyone has enough stressors in life and I don’t want money to be one of those if I can avoid it. I want to live within my means in a way that still allows me to enjoy a full life but not have any worries or anxiety about money and finances.

I want to have a family and be able to enjoy all the experiences I had as a child and again, not be stressed by money.

road trip planning.

Planning our next road trip for this summer!

I also want to be prepared for emergencies and be able to give back to people and causes that are important to me.
I also prefer a more minimalistic and simplistic lifestyle and spending less money often means less stuff, so it’s helpful with that too!

dog with a toy.

She does not understand that destroying toys is not frugal!

5. What is your best frugal win?

Both are related to education…

1. Being an RA during undergrad – room and board were provided + a stipend. This was right up my alley and allowed me to graduate with two bachelor’s degrees without any debt. I was so ready to be out of the dorms by year four though.

2. Selecting a graduate school and internship program that provided tuition remission as well as a graduate assistantship for the first year. Like many career paths in health care, you are required to complete so many hours of supervised practice – or basically work full-time – without pay.

This can be a significant barrier as typically you’ve just spent tens of thousands getting through school and are ready to start making money, but first need to gain experience by shadowing and essentially “working for free” while also paying tuition to have access to this shadowing and “free work”. It is pretty frustrating if you ask me.

When applying to grad schools and internship programs, the cost and financial incentives were definitely a top consideration for me.

Did I go to my dream school or location (central Illinois)? No.

But did I enjoy my experience, get a good education, meet awesome people, and enter the workforce without any student loans? Yes!

Another big frugal win for me is cooking at home.

I am a big foodie, but the cost of restaurant foods is astronomical to me, especially when I love to bake and cook at home. If we are traveling or there is a new restaurant in town or something to celebrate, I definitely enjoy eating out and experiencing a new food scene and trying things I wouldn’t necessarily make at home.

When we do travel, we usually eat out about one meal per day (plus usually ice cream or a baked good or something like that) and pack a cooler and snack bin for the other meals.

sandwich by the ocean.

Sandwich with an ocean

I have worked out a pretty good sandwich-making system from the passenger seat and have learned exactly what to bring for it not to feel like a hassle and still be really tasty and enjoyable!

sandwiches in the winter.

Sandwiches with a mountain view

Since the start of the new year we have taken one 20-hour (Salt Lake City/Bozeman) and one 30-hour (Keys) road trip and have eaten our fair share of sandwiches 😉. We always try to eat them with a good view!


Sandwiches with a Lake Superior view

6. What is an embarrassing money mistake you’ve made?

I wouldn’t say I am embarrassed; I just wish I would have opened my Roth IRA sooner. Talking all the nitty gritty details about investments, the stock market, tax strategy, etc. makes me feel anxious and overwhelmed so I can tend to just avoid it, which is not smart, I know!

7. What is one thing you splurge on?

Food, and by that I mean groceries. Since I love to cook and bake, and we eat mostly at home, I feel it is worth it and necessary to spend a little more in this area.

Also, being a dietitian, I really enjoy trying new products, different brands, etc. and I prioritize food quality and variety. I also really love to cook and bake for others and will often drop off baked goods with friends or host others which means spending a little more.

charcuterie board.

Charcuterie/snack boards are one of my favorites for entertaining – and Aldi has great finds for them!

Also, I splurge on outdoor gear like running shoes, tents, and sleeping bags, and some technical clothing like high-quality jackets, shorts, etc.

Since I spend so much time outside it is important to me to be comfortable and well outfitted for doing so! I can stay out there longer then. 😉

riverside campsite.

A snap from our Mississippi River camping trip last summer.

8. What is one thing you aren’t remotely tempted to splurge on?

Make-up, hair-care products – I like to keep it simple and rarely wear make-up and get my hair cut about 1x/year. I also find that the cheaper products work just fine for me.

Also, television subscriptions – I am just not much of a TV watcher.

9. If $1000 was dropped in your pocket, what would you do with it?

I’d drop it in the “savings bucket” for a camper or 4WD vehicle – both things we are in the market for.

10. What is something you wish more people knew?

Something I run into a lot as a dietitian is the belief that eating “healthy” is expensive. That absolutely is not true! When I hear that, my first question is “what is ‘healthy’?” as that might mean something different to everyone. I am an all-foods-fit dietitian, but we won’t get into that here, ha… back on track.

What is true is that you have to put in a little effort – you might have to compare some prices, shop at different stores (or decide if the convenience is worth it to you because that is okay too, just something to think about!), define your definition of healthy, and maybe expand what foods that might include.

meal prep.

I try to do some sort of meal prep each week – usually a protein, a soup, and something sweet!

There are so many new food products out there with flashy packaging and language advertising health and nutrition claims, but these often come with a heftier price tag than maybe some of their less-flashy and novel counterparts who might be just as nutritious!

It is interesting to reflect on your purchasing decisions in the lens of health and nutrition and to think about what you are actually paying for – are you paying for the label or claim or are you paying for the actual nutrition and energy the product will provide you!

Does the product even provide you what it is claiming? There are a lot of terms that go unregulated or terms that seem like they mean something important at first glance, but really don’t!

My favorite example – turkey and chicken that are labeled with the claim “hormone-free”.

Yes, that is true because federal regulation prohibits the use of hormones – that means all turkey and chicken is “hormone-free”, labeled or not!

bowl of soup.

I’ve gotten into the routine of making a big pot of soup on Sundays which comes in handy for quick lunches and sides to meals during the week

I could go on, but I will share that one day when I had way too much time on my hands, I did a price comparison of an entire Aldi haul compared to that same haul at Cub, a popular, local full-service grocery store here.

I went around and price-checked every item I had just purchased at Aldi and discovered that if I had shopped at Cub, my bill would have been 48% more than it was at Aldi.

I was having a moment of frustration that week shopping at Aldi, because as you all know they don’t usually carry everything you need, or can be out of things, and I was thinking ‘maybe I should just go to Cub, they have everything on my list’.

But that frustration was definitely worth the savings of 48%!

11. What is your favorite type of The Frugal Girl post and why?

I love the WIS/WWA posts. I love seeing a peek into what others are eating and I think it normalizes for everyone that no one is a perfect eater or follows a perfect menu plan.

I also couldn’t have agreed more with Kristen’s post about the difference between frugal vs. cheap. And think of that post often to check in with myself to make sure I am not being cheap and also to make sure I am not living a sad life just to save money.

12. Do you have any tips for frugal trips or vacations?

We often pick our destination based on visiting friends/family members along the way or at our final stop.

This helps to save on lodging if we can stay with them (we usually can, or at least pitch our tent in their yard) and lets us honor our value of staying connected to and visiting friends and family.

Also if you can travel in your lodging (i.e. camper or van) that can make things super affordable and convenient.

dog in RV.

Last summer we borrowed this RV from family for a Lake Superior Circle Tour trip

Work remote if you can! And use holidays to your advantage.

I like to be home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but we try to take advantage of days off like New Year’s, MLK Day, etc. and plan trips that span over these already given days off to save on PTO.

Pack a cooler and grocery shop along your trip. We always bring a stocked cooler and snacks as we set off, but we also make sure to visit grocery stores along the way to replenish the things we use up so that we can continue to eat meals and snacks “in” rather than always going out or buying gas station snacks.

fruit in Florida.

snacks from a local roadside fruit stand on our last trip to florida

13. What is the easiest part about being frugal?

I think it is just ingrained in me to consider cost (money, time, resources, etc.) that it doesn’t take too much extra effort and isn’t something that feels like a burden.

The hardest part about being frugal?

If I am being honest, I guess I would say understanding other people’s decisions. Sometimes it is hard to be supportive of how others are spending their money or also hard not to want what they might have/be doing/ etc. even though it doesn’t fit without financial goals or align with our values.

Also, sometimes it is hard when other core values outweigh financial values and to make sure to listen and recognize that. Example: yes, maybe that trip was expensive and not planned but it allowed you to connect with friends and celebrate a new marriage which is more important than saving money.

14. Is there anything unique about frugal living in your area?

Nothing too out of the box – your typical active “Buy Nothing Groups”, public libraries, state parks and rec areas, lots of water access (land of 10,000 lakes and the mighty Mississippi) and free-to-low cost outside activities.

This is also not specific to our area, but we live in a duplex that my partner owns, and he also has some other rental properties. We talk a lot about minimizing the cost of housing and have been able to do that by living in one of his buildings which is providing us a home, but also generating some income too.

We are toying with the idea of renting out our unit and taking a few months to a year to travel, that way we wouldn’t have a housing payment/cost at that time. We shall see what the future brings!


Jenni, first off, your pictures are so beautiful! I loved them all; I think you should start a blog. Or an Instagram. Or something!

I love the way you guys travel; I love sandwiches so so much, and I would be happy to eat them anywhere. Any on-the-go sandwich-making tips for us?

Your bagels look so delicious. What recipe did you use?

Readers, the floor is yours. 🙂

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Wednesday 3rd of May 2023

Jenni I just wanted to thank you for what you do. As a mother of now grown adult daughter with an eating disorder I appreciate you. There is not enough not doctors, nurses and therapist that help treat ED especially at the younger ages. My daughter was 10 just turned 11 when we figured out she was withholding. Thank you


Tuesday 2nd of May 2023

Good bread makes a big difference in how satisfying a sandwich can be. When I make egg salad sandwiches, there needs to be chips. It reminds me of road trips with my mother. When we would go to NJ, she had a specific place she liked to stop for our lunch, which was peaceful and relaxing.

April Encourages

Monday 1st of May 2023

Dear Jenni,

I think you’r you’d love SpiritandGuts on IG. She and her husband have a camper van and travel with their two kids under 4. They moved from San Fran to New Zealand.

Rixa Freeze on Facebook and Blogspot has 4 kids and lives in France half the year with her 4 kids (started when their oldest was about 8). They’ve renovated 4 apartments in Old Nice.

Kids don’t ruin your traveling adventures.

I had my 1st at 27 and she traveled all over Europe with us for the 1st two years of her life.

Another friend traveled the world for 9 months with an 18 month old. They stayed a month most places.



Monday 1st of May 2023

Jenni, what gorgeous food! I love the panorama o'sandwiches.

Sandy Beach

Monday 1st of May 2023

Hi Jenni, you're about the same age as my oldest and I'm really impressed with you and enjoyed reading your answers. Is that fruit stand "Robert is Here"? We stop there whenever we go down that way. The sandwiches and soup look delicious.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.