Nutrition, Tips & Tricks

Week 1: Eating Clean on a Budget, Successes and Failures

First of all: Yay! We Survived! We did not go hungry, we did not go through horrible withdrawal and find ourselves crazed and panting, gobbling food at a fast food joint.

It wasn’t a perfect no-spending, completely clean week, however. Here is where we slipped up:

Slip-ups

  • I forgot to get my parking validated on Saturday and had to pay $6…ugh
  • On Tuesday, Josh forgot to pack his lunch and had to scrounge around the hospital for some food …but he didn’t spend any money! So…it was kind of a win…a hungry win…
  • However, pregnancy hormones got the best of me later that day and I spent $10 on a pizza for dinner…whoops

Now for the more fun part: WINS!

Wins:

  • We were able to feed a family of 4.5 on $56 ($46 in groceries plus the $10 pizza) for the week AND end up with leftovers in the fridge
  • With the exception of the pizza, we were able to not eat out or any processed foods for a whole week as well as eat a balanced diet (ie: not all carbs)
  • We stayed on budget and did not spend any money for the rest of the week. Our activities were all free: parks, friends, church, library

And now, for next week!

screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-7-24-42-pm
Screenshot of our Weekly Menu spreadsheet that we keep on Google. At the bottom, we also have tabs for links to recipes we like, sorted by categories like “vegetarian”, “beef”, “soup”, etc. Some of the snacks will also be Shakeology, but I didn’t include that here.

The menu is planned, I will prep some food on Saturday and our groceries have been bought.

My original goal was to keep my groceries between $50-75 for the week and this trip cost $70. We weren’t able to buy razor blades for Josh (again) and are running dangerously low on peanut butter, so we shall have to ration that, but I think we can make it work!

Here’s to Week 2 eating clean on a budget!

Nutrition

Confessions of a Sugar Addict

The evidence was crumbled up and partially hidden in plain sight: right there in the side panel pocket of the driver side door of my car.

Part of me hoped that my husband wouldn’t see it and call me out.

Part of me kind of hoped he would so I had an opportunity to explain myself and justify my reasoning out loud.

Part of me knew it was inevitable that my “crimes” would be discovered.

Even though I’m try my best to only feed our family real, whole foods and keep processed foods as an occasional treat; even though I am a health professional and lead clean eating groups and provide advice, encouragement, and counseling to persons seeking to lead healthier lives; and despite the fact that I have firmly asserted that sugar addiction is a real disease to be battled among millions of Americans and that I am one of them…I gave into temptation and utilized part of a gift card to purchase a bag of Twix bites in the Kohl’s check out line.

The weird thing was how I justified it to myself:

“It’s free! You’re using a gift card!”

“You’ve been sooo good for two weeks now”

“No one has to know” (<-yes… I literally thought this)

“It’s cheaper than the ice cream you’ve been dreaming about”

“You won’t eat the whole bag, you can save some to treat yourself later” (go ahead and roll your eyes here…)

“You deserve it. You’re a hard working and pregnant mom!”

Sigh. You’d think at age 30 and after getting an Exercise Science degree, after conquering a battle with being overweight, after seeing family members suffer the consequences of poor eating habits, after getting my Master’s in Public Health, after being married to a health-conscious physician and signing on to be a Beachbody coach I would KNOW better.

I do not.

The thing about sugar addiction is that it is so hard to avoid.

If you’re an alcoholic: avoid places with alcohol. If you’re addicted to certain things online you can get a block for your electronic devices. If it’s drugs: you can relocate and remove terrible influences from your life. I am by no means undermining the struggle of these addictions. Nor am I asserting that one is harder to conquer than the other or that simply removing the object removes temptation.

What I am trying to do is show that when your addiction is sugar you cannot out run it. Not only is it used to celebrate every life event, it is used to reward children for eating their “undesirable” food, it is given as gifts, it is at every single check out counter at every single store (whether they sell other food or not), it is directly advertised to us as something to desire to “treat ourselves” with, that will change our moods, make us happy and that it is common and okay.

checkout

What’s worse is that it DOES change my mood: for a second, maybe a minute. The moment I mindlessly indulge in candy, something lights up in my brain. I can almost feel the sensation of activity and wires exciting right before it turns into an uncontrolled binge. I can’t stop after one bite. I would love to be that person that can treat myself in moderation, but (especially this soon after the indulgences of the holidays) I am not.

Thus began the spiral.

On Friday, I ate half that “family” size bag of Twix bites in the car on the way home.

This led to a lessoning of my will power and I snacked on biscuits and cake at a birthday party on Saturday

Josh then found them and called me out, but my shame made me (ironically) desire their comfort more and the next day I finished the bag.

Now, I felt I was completely off the wagon and I indulged in pizza and cake at another party later that evening and donuts in church on Sunday.

How do I feel about that?

Well, thankfully I do not feel ashamed any more.

I do feel sick and swollen, though. The uneasy/queasy feeling has returned to my body and I feel really tired and less energized than I have been recently. I am sore and a little grumpy.

And worst of all: my cravings are back full force. It just took one little “treat” to kick me off and now I am constantly fighting a battle again. It’s freaking hard. It’s not a joke.

I want to believe that I NEED chocolate. That if I just had one taste it would take away the feeling and I would feel better again. Just one.

snickers

It’s amazing the lies we can tell ourselves, isn’t it?

I’m thankful that I have learned that indulging in a “treat” only sets me up for failure. That I have an addictive personality. That treats are not treats when they make you physically feel awful afterward and they are definitely not treats when they happen every few days/ every day/ multiple times a day: THAT is a habit.

So what do I do?

I keep posting to my clean eating challenge groups. I keep being honest with myself and others. I keep trying. Because my health, my children’s health, is worth it. What is a real treat? Exercise: you truly feel better afterward and are filled with pride, endorphins, and strength. Eating well: you’re given energy and positive mood and your body just functions better in ways that you can’t understand until you’ve treated it right.

So here is me, confessing:

My name is Amanda, and I am a sugar addict.

img_5085

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nutrition, Tips & Tricks

Challenge accepted!

When I first began to wrap my mind around the budget crunch that was set before us, I think I panicked for maybe 10 seconds, but almost immediately the wheels in my stubborn brain began to turn.

“No. We will be fine! I’m just going to have to tweak a few things, that’s all!” my brain immediately turned the obstacle into a project to be tackled.

In my previous post I outlined what my new goals were: no extraneous spending (eating out, snacks and drinks on the run, activities that cost money) and to cut our weekly grocery bill in half.

Therefore, this week’s menu is going to look a LITTLE different. I’m still eating clean (and obviously not going out to eat), but I had to mostly work with whatever we already had in our pantry. I was also pretty motivated to use more of what we already had on hand after spending (another…ugh) week without a garbage disposal it was painfully evident to me just how much food was wasted in our  house. So it was time to get to work!

First step was to inventory everything we already had on hand. Like many American families, this was an exercise in discovering just how blessed we really are. With pen and paper in hand, I wrote down in separate columns the types of produce, dairy/eggs, canned/pantry and frozen foods we had and discovered we actually had a lot to work with.

Next, Josh and I sat down with our various resources (I’ll list some sites and books we frequent at the end), our list of things we had on hand, and my trusty dry-erase board and created a menu that included breakfasts, snacks, lunches and dinners for the four of us for the next week.

There are a few blank spaces in order to allow for using leftovers and working in snacks, but here is what we came up with:

img_4992-1

The last step was actually shopping for the few things we needed for the week: eggs, milk, some produce, canned tomatoes, some spices, oatmeal and a few other basics. My budget was $50: surely it could be done, right?

After making my list, the first thing I did was go onto Kroger.com and looked through their ecoupons. I filtered the list to only the categories that were already on our list so I wouldn’t be tempted by a “good deal”on something we didn’t need. I went through and selected coupons that applied to our needs and loaded them onto our card. (The cool thing is if you also had paper coupons, paper coupons can be used on top of whatever is on your card.)

img_4997-1

Kroger also has this really cool “Freebie Friday” deal that I was just made aware of. Every Friday they give away an item. Last week it was tortilla chips, this week it was a can of refried beans. Even though we didn’t NEED them: why not? It’s free. And maybe I could work it in later.

img_4996-1

While shopping here is how I stayed on track:

  • Strictly stuck to my list
  • Kept a running total of how much I was spending (keeping taxes in mind, so always rounding up) in my head
  • Looking for store brands
  • Keeping my coupons in mind (sometimes a store brand item -even organic!- was cheaper than the name brand with a coupon, so watch out for that!)
  • Looking at the per unit price of items (for example, we go through a lot of milk and buying a gallon of organic milk was cheaper than two half gallons, even though at first glance the half gallons appear to be the better deal….and buying a block of cheese -on sale this week!- was cheaper than buying a bag of preshredded or sticks)
  • Reminding myself that we have things at home that can be used (so when it came to maybe getting some facewash that would’ve pushed us $2 over budget, I reminded myself we have some that needed used anyway and we are soooo blessed)
  • Kept the kids happy by giving them a banana from the basket provided by the store and allowed Noah his $1 box of mac n cheese 😛

The three of us were in and out in about 30 minutes and our grand total came to *insert drum roll please*

$46.00 for the week!! 😀

*insert fireworks*

Wahoo!! We did it!

Now…to stay on track over the weekend….

We do have a few “suprise” (I’ve known for a few weeks) expenses: a birthday party and a baby shower.  Here’s my solutions: utilize a Kohl’s gift card for the birthday gift and utilize necessities I have saved up on hand as the baby shower gift.

Goals Accomplished This Week:

  • Eating clean (no processed food, no going out…except Noah’s mac n cheese)
  • No extraneous spending
  • Groceries under $50

Resources/Recipes:

Bread: used a recipe from the book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

Cheesy Rice and Veggies Recipe: http://thegoodmama.org/cheesy-vegetable-rice-recipe/     (zucchini is not in season, so we left that out and will just doubled yellow squash)

Sweet potato chips: recipe from the book Fixate

Blueberry muffins for the kiddo’s snacks: http://www.wellplated.com/healthy-blueberry-muffins/

Egyptian Edamame Stew: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/249376/egyptian-edamame-stew/

**The rest of the meals are things from our freezer or the lentil and egg dish with peppers and onions is one of Josh’s specialties and super easy (you could easily Google it, though)

Hope this post has helped someone else! Let me know if you have any questions about our menu/recipes (because it’s really written in my own shorthand) or budgeting!

 

 

Nutrition

Why Bother?

I was hesitant to begin a blog. I mean, isn’t that a pretty cliche’ “stay at home mom” thing to do? However (obviously) after much pestering from my husband that “You should start a blog”, I decided that the joy I find in writing down my thoughts and sharing my experiences with others trumps any aversions I have to becoming cliche’. (Perhaps it has something to do with having one of the most popular names of my generation, but I feel a compulsion to not be “one of the crowd” that borders on a character flaw.)

So why bother? What finally pushed me into the blogosphere?

Lately, I’ve been really enjoying sharing what little knowledge I have gained about health, meal planning, being frugal and environmentally friendly and some parenting tricks.

I especially enjoy meal planning and trying to think of better ways to eat cleaner (read: healthier/real), more local, and less wastefully. I have created a few Facebook groups and recently ventured into planning out all my family’s meals and snacks for a week and sharing the grocery list and recipes with a group. I surprisingly enjoyed the task and found it very fulfilling to help others. The thanks I recieved from busy people trying to eat better really confirmed my desire to keep going.

Then we hit a financial “snafoo.” A lot of little expenses piled up in our lives to become a pretty rough month financially and now we are looking ahead at a big purchase we need to make in the next four months and feeling like it’s an impossible task.

Here’s where my stubborn nature comes in handy. When someone says “This is not possible” my response is “challenge accepted.”

So in addition to sharing my menus and thoughts on how to live a more mindful life when it comes to eating, parenting, health and spending, this blog will also hopefully act as a source of accountability for me.

My goal is to completely cut out extraneous spending for the rest of this month. I calcualuted that we were probably spending somewhere between $50-100 a week on fast food, drinks, spontaneous snacks and purchases, and activities for the kids, my husband and I going out, babysitters and so on, but no more!  We need to save every little bit we can and figure out other ways of entertaining the kids and ourselves that do not cost anything.

The next part of my “save money” challenge will be to cut our grocery bill in half for the rest of the month. For a family of four, we were typically spending between $90-130 a week on groceries and other items at the store. My new goal is for at least the next month to rely on stores we already have in place and cut our spending down to $45-70 a week (while still eating clean and healthy of course!). That’s going to be a real challenge, but I think we can do with some creative and mindful eating and using food we already have stocked.

Friday is menu planning/grocery list making day! So we shall see how we do! Wish us luck!