Life, Optimized!

Several weeks ago I was inspired by genuine curious, coming-from-a-good-place white woman, Gwyneth Paltrow to optimize my life. She was speaking about this through the lens of wellness on Goop Lab, but I took it to the most basic pain points of living.

Last week, on the blog, I broke down how I optimized my Amazon Subscribe and Save tool. It was the lowest hanging fruit to streamline and simplify. In doing so, I freed up not only the time it takes to pick these items up at the grocery store or order piecemeal via Amazon but also unlocked maximum savings via the Subscribe and Save program.

Next up…

how to optimize packing for your [short term] stay abroad

I could have minimized my need for Amazon by maximizing our consumables shipment. Had I better strategized, I would have saved myself so much heartburn and gray hair. When moving abroad, our family was allotted a specific weight for a consumable shipment, unaccompanied baggage shipment, and largest shipment. (We received the shipments in that order.)

weight limitations

First you need to identify the weight limitations for the consumables and get it in writing. Then locate your bathroom scale, preferably one that you would be okay with either leaving behind or going into storage.

Six months prior to the move, start an Excel file of all household necessary items that can be counted towards the consumable shipment. This can be both food and toiletries, though nothing flammable. Start tracking household usage of these items. (At the end of this post, I am including everything I would have tracked and procured ahead of time.) Calculate the average monthly usage for each item. Multiply it out for the amount of months of the short stay. Only bring what you know your household will use.

Sidebar: Having all of your consumables stocked for the entire stay serves as a low key countdown, should one not be thrilled about living abroad or on the other hand, as a reminder of how much time you have to make the most of your stay in a new land. Again, the goal is to burn through all of the consumables and only have travel toiletries left by the end of the stay.

After your first shopping trip, weigh each item. This may mean either setting the smaller items on the scale and recording the weight or stepping on the scale with oversize or heavy items in tow and subtracting your weight and multiplying out the delta per the quantity getting packed. On that note, if the weight limitations influence what items to purchase, focus on the low effort (weight), high reward (yield) items. These include toilet paper, paper towels, tampons, pads, diapers, loofahs, cotton balls, teas, and incense.

When it comes to weight-restricted consumable shipments, the movers should be notified ahead of time to bring a large scale of their own to weight the total shipment. Learn from our mistake and call the movers and reiterate that a scale needs to be provided at the time and place of packing. This will allow them to verify that the consumable shipment limited is not exceeded and it will grant peace of mind to those traveling. The movers did not bring a scale and our lack of strategy meant that in order to not have to return to the warehouse and pick out the least necessary items, we severely underpacked. We used less than half of our capacity.

smart shopping

Purchasing via Costco is a great way to go but as my husband and I are not members of the behemoth, we went with CVS and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Sign up for CVS Rewards and Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons stat. CVS Rewards yield huge savings in terms of coupons. Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons never expire and the store associates are awesome at making sure that guests get to take advantage of maximum coupons.



When shopping at CVS, split the trips to save maximum money. CVS will print copious coupons with each receipt after check out and as such, the guest likely stands to save more money for the consequent trip. Chances are, with the amount of products needed, more than one trip will be necessary.

Are you stocking up to bring back to the village?

CVS customer service associate on my purchase of 18 boxes of tampons and 10 boxes of pads

I would purchase any big ticket items that are not on sale or defrayed by coupons at Bed, Bath & Beyond with the store wide 20 percent off coupon. For example, I purchased three years worth of Frederic Fekkai hair care at the Chinatown BB&B which was having a closing sale. On top of that, the team helped me max out my coupons. The bottom line was less than $75. It was a total steal.

Lastly, I highly recommend making a shipment to your destination ahead of time. When we moved to Kazakhstan, we arrived early morning and were under a two week quarantine order, therefore were not able to stop at a grocer. We placed an Amazon order for toilet paper, dry goods, and baby essentials two months out from our wheels down date. It was so comforting to hear that the items were dropped off at our temporary home.



consumables list

  • Rice (Basmati, Arborio)
  • Quinoa
  • Spices
  • Sugar
  • Flour
  • Vinegars (white, balsamic, apple cider)
  • Oils (olive, sunflower, sesame, cooking)
  • Honey
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Buffalo sauce
  • Mayonnaise
  • Tabasco sauce
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard (yellow, Dijon, spicy)
  • Salad dressings
  • Jarred curry (red and green)
  • Beans (black, kidney, white, garbanzo)
  • Pearl couscous
  • Bone broth
  • Tea
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Canned artichokes
  • Canned water chestnuts
  • Canned green chilis
  • Canned olives
  • Canned coconut milk
  • Jarred capers
  • Sundried tomatoes
  • Boxed macaroni and cheese
  • Noodles (spaghetti, linguine, farfalle, cavatappi, rice, vermacelli)
  • Kraft Parmesan cheese
  • Peanut butter
  • Almond butter
  • Granola
  • Cake mixes
  • Frosting
  • Chocolate chips
  • Soups
  • Bitters
  • Diapers
  • Formula
  • Trash bag
  • Hand soap
  • Dish soap
  • Dishwasher detergent
  • Washing machine detergent
  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Vitamins
  • Face wash
  • Soap
  • Lotion
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Loofahs
  • Toothbrushes
  • Toothpaste
  • Mouthwash
  • Tampons
  • Pads
  • Deodorant
  • Sunblock
  • Makeup
  • Skincare routine
  • Razors
  • Cotton balls
  • Candles
  • Incense

what not to pack in consumables

  • nail polish
  • nail polish remover
  • hairspray
  • combustibles
  • ammunition

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