Friday, May 30, 2008

Choices, Choices

Well, it has been a challenging week for eating healthy, but I think overall I've done a great job. Let me give you a recap of yesterday as an example - along with some of the ways I made my choices as good as possible:

Breakfast - grande skinny vanilla latte at Starbucks, reduced fat blueberry pound cake (not my best choice, but Starbucks is limited in healthy food items)

Lunch - one slice of frozen cheese pizza (not my choice, but since that was what the family was having I limited myself to one piece), leftover broccoli from dinner the night before (instead of the chips everyone else was eating), water

Snack - diet coke, fruit bowl (I was at ABC and really wanted shortbread but I ordered the fruit bowl instead - and it was wonderful!)

Dinner - hamburger on the grill, salad with fresh tomatoes (I skipped the cheesy potatoes and potato salad), water

All in all, not bad - it's been hard since I haven't been in charge of meals, but I did buy a box of Kashi and have had that most mornings for breakfast. I've also loaded up my plate with whatever veggies were being served and avoided the "fattier" or "fast food" type stuff.

Next week although my focus will be on exercise I'm still going to try to be concious of what I'm eating - we'll be eating out a lot, but since we will have a kitchen I can keep some healthy foods on hand!

I'll post next week on my final analysis of May as well as my plans and goals for improving my physical fitness in June!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Works for Me Wednesday - Daily Devotional

One of the things I've been struggling with at this time in my life is how to stay consistent with my relationship with God. I want to set aside time each day for reading my Bible and making time for prayer. Recently I've found a Bible I really enjoy:

There is a daily reading (with one for the weekend versus two), a short "lesson" and some additional related verses. I've found that if I spend a few minutes as soon as I get up with this reading I can start my day off on the right tone. It's been really helping to keep me consistent and each day I've been able to glean some "nugget" of information that I can think about and keep in mind all day.

For example, today's lesson discussed how our children will become what we tell them they will become. I've always tried very hard not to "label" my children - (ex: DD is my reader, DS is creative, etc.) as I don't want to box them into a role. However, just thinking about this further showed me that even though I am conscious of it, I still need to be careful - just yesterday I was stating within earshot of my children that DS isn't a good sleeper - now do I really want to encourage that thinking? Heck no!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Working from the road

This week we are visiting family and while the kids are with Grandma, I'm off working. Since I'm not in my home office, I've had a challenge of finding places with free wireless where I don't feel like I have to spend a fortune. It's been interesting and I'd appreciate any tips!

So far, I've hit Starbucks - my home DSL is AT&T so I can log in there for free. I worked there for several hours this morning while I had a Mocha - so for about $4 I was set for half the day. I did have a gift card so that wasn't bad.

This afternoon I'm at a DQ off the highway that offers free wireless (it's connected to a hotel). It's not the cleanest place and it's very cold in here, but I bought a small diet coke and small blizzard (which I only ate half of) and spent $4.15. I should have skipped the blizzard and stuck with my healthy eating, but I felt bad only ordering a small coke and planning on staying here for several hours.

Tomorrow I think I'll try an Atlantic Bread Company and then who knows where I'll go!

As I stated earlier, I'd love some tips! I'm trying to work, save money and eat healthy all while on the road - I'm sure there are some road warriors out there that have a ton of great ideas! Please share!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Healthy Eating update

I thought I'd take a few minutes and update everyone on my month of Healthy Eating.

So far, it's going well - I have definitely decreased my snacking, my breakfast choices have dramatically improved and I've been having some fun with new, healthy recipes. I've also been using a lot more fresh herbs and organic ingredients as well as different grains. The other great improvement I've made is when grocery shopping I have almost eliminated buying junk food - I didn't take the extreme measure of throwing out what was already in the pantry, but I haven't added to the stash of junk food or prepared foods. I think this will make it easier on the kids and DH - slowly increasing healthy snacks and decreasing the junkier choices.

These are definitely changes I will continue in the future. I will also continue to try new things but it's been nice to just focus on this topic this month. My file folder system has worked well - whenever I see something that I'd like to try or that interests me I just make a note of it, print it or clip the article and drop it in the folder - no stress, no feeling of being overwhelmed!

Next week will be a great challenge for the healthy eating as we'll be traveling - it will be a great chance to see how well I can stick to my goals while not at home able to prepare my own food! I think alternative grains/ true whole wheat products will be the most difficult thing to find while out and about.

The first part of June will be a great challenge for the exercising for the same reason - I'm going to try hard to stick to my goals and find ways to work out while on vacation!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Preparing for Vacation!

Doesn't it seem like you are busier than usual before going on vacation? I feel like I spend the week before rushing all around getting everything done. Add to that the fact that I like to leave with a clean house and . . . whew, I need that vacation more than ever!

I'm trying to keep it easy on myself this week by scheduling a few things everyday to accomplish and having it all finished by Thursday. That will leave Friday for packing the last minute things, a final pick up of the house, vaccum and take off! So far so good! I also tried not to schedule much for us to do this week - that has really helped out. Today is my last appointment - that leaves tomorrow wide open for finishing up work and cleaning. I'm working on this vacation as we'll be gone for so long, so I also don't have that stress of finishing up work before I leave.

Some things I'm doing different this time:

Only packing a week's worth of outfits for each of us - I know we'll be gone three weeks and there is no point in trying to pack for that long. One week and we'll do laundry two or three times. I also packed my and the kids clothes last weekend - my DH is in charge of himself. I've been wearing jeans all week (since all my shorts are packed), but that's fine. Disgustingly I haven't even noticed the weeks worth of clothes the kids are missing - apparently they have too many clothes!

Not taking food along - we are staying with family the first week, so I'm going to do one grocery shopping trip the second week when we move to the condo. I'm taking my coupons and I'll make a list on the drive down. Definitely less packing, but it will probably cost more (still less than eating out every meal though!)

Packing the car tonight. We have a short deadline from Friday to when we have to arrive Saturday morning, so instead of staying up late tomorrow night packing and being tired for the all night drive, we are going to get it done tonight, leave the car in the garage tomorrow and go to bed early so we'll be well rested.

No appointments on Thursday or Friday. Usually I have booked myself up until an hour before we leave!

We'll see if these changes help! Any tips from anyone else on how to make the week before vacation easier?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Food Additives

Hmmm, well this definition from Wikipedia doesn't bode well for food additives:

"Food additives are substances which are added in small amounts to processed foods for a specific purpose. Food additives have been used for centuries. Salt, sugar and vinegar were among the first and used to preserve foods. In the past 30 years, however, with the advent of processed foods, there has been a massive explosion in the chemical adulteration of foods with additives. Considerable controversy has been associated with the potential threats and possible benefits of food additives.In several cases, artificial food additives have been linked with cancer, digestive problems, and neurological conditions such as ADD. They can be also linked with diseases like heart disease, obesity, rapid heartbeat and more. Though some people feel organic additives are preferable to artificial ones, others point out that "natural" additives themselves may be harmful in large quantities (such as salt) or may contain natural toxins, such as chemicals made by plants to defend themselves[1]. The U.S. Food Labelling Regulations (1984) describe an additive as:
'any substance not commonly regarded or used as a food, which is added or used in or on food at any stage to affect its keeping qualities, texture, consistency, appearance, taste, odour, alkalinity or acidity or to serve any other technological function in relation to food.' "

So, which additives in particular should we be avoiding? I am by no means a doctor, so this is simply a list of what I'm going to start with - anyone reading this should do their own research and make their own decisions.

Acesulfame K - artificial sweetener often used with Sucralose in sweets, soft drinks, etc. Two rat studies suggest the additive might cause cancer - it has also been linked with thyroid problems in rats, rabbits and dogs when used in large quantities.

Artificial coloring - studies show potential for causing cancer, regardless artificial colorings are typically only used in foods with minimal nutritional value

BUTYLATED HYDROXYANISOLE (BHA) - BHA retards rancidity in fats, oils, and oil-containing foods. While some studies indicate it is safe, other studies demonstrate that it causes cancer in rats, mice, and hamsters. Those cancers are controversial because they occur in the forestomach, an organ that humans do not have. However, a chemical that causes cancer in at least one organ in three different species indicates that it might be carcinogenic in humans.

Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil - Vegetable oil, usually a liquid, can be made into a semi-solid shortening by reacting it with hydrogen. Partial hydrogenation reduces the levels of polyunsaturated oils - and also creates trans fats, which promote heart disease. A committee of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded in 2004 that on a gram-for-gram basis, trans fat is even more harmful than saturated fat.

MSG - this is in a suprising number of foods out there! I saw it on a bag of chips just yesterday! So for all the hype that it isn't used, it's still in a lot of food items!

Sodium Nitrite - Adding nitrite to food can lead to the formation of small amounts of potent cancer-causing chemicals (nitrosamines), particularly in fried bacon. Nitrite, which also occurs in saliva and forms from nitrate in several vegetables, can undergo the same chemical reaction in the stomach. Companies now add ascorbic acid or erythorbic acid to bacon to inhibit nitrosamine formation, a measure that has greatly reduced the problem. While nitrite and nitrate cause only a small risk, they are still worth avoiding.

I got this information from an interesting website:

I plan on checking out the food in our pantry for this manageable number of additives to avoid. Perhaps I'll add more down the road, but I feel this is a good start!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Well, this is an odd week of dinners as we are leaving for a graduation/ vacation on Friday and will be gone for three weeks! I still have to work, so I'll be lugging my laptop along, but there will be plenty of time for fun too! So, this week we are going to eat up what we have in the fridge but still try to do it healthfully!

Monday - Mediterranean grilled pork kabobs, fresh asparagus (courtesy of mom!), corn on the cob, brown rice
Tuesday - Chicken fried rice w/leftover rice from Monday
Wednesday - Mystery shop
Thursday - Leftovers - probably some fried rice, salads, fruit
Friday - on the road - maybe Taco Bell with our free drinks? (bean burritos are yummy and good)
Saturday - Graduation party
Sunday - cookout with family

Breakfast will be eggs until they are gone, then oatmeal, cereal and pancakes
Lunches will be homemade mac & cheese, grilled cheese, pb&j, salads and soups

I'm going to be busy this week preparing for our trip, but when I have free time I plan on doing some research on preservatives and food additives - this is something that concerns me because I just feel like we shouldn't add unnatural things to our foods, but I don't really know why - it just "seems" wrong to me. So, I thought I'd like to understand some real or scientific reasoning behind it!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Frugal Weekend Plans

Well, thank goodness it is Friday - I am in need of a weekend! We have some fun plans for this weekend too! Tonight the elementary school within walking distance is having a little festival, so we'll head over there for games, food and fun. Tomorrow is the motherload of garage sales in our town - it seems like every neighborhood is having a sale, so I suspect we'll hit some of them. Then tomorrow night is girls night out, so after the kids go to bed we are going to hit a local restaurant for a drink and comedian. Will be fun and under $20. Sunday will be church and my DS's 18 month pictures. Then we plan on going to the park if the weather is nice.

This morning I tried the cinnamon scone recipe from Keeper of the Home - it was yummy and so easy to start last night and them bake this morning. I used oat flour because that's what I had on hand, and honey as the sweetener. So, my second attempt at soaking grains has been successful. The Steel Cut Oats for breakfast are quickly becoming a mainstay! I think I'll attempt pizza dough next.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Well, my DD requested pancakes for breakfast - which I do make on a regular basis for her. Today I experimented a bit more with my recipe. I usually put oatmeal in my pancakes, and I often add blueberries or mini chocolate chips. Today, I used half regular flour and half oat bran flour. Then I added a few good sized scoops of flax seed, some oatmeal and lots of frozen blueberries. YUM!!!! These were great and the kids gobbled them up. Next time I may try whole wheat flour in place of the regular.

I used to use boxed mixes and jazz them up a bit, but I've found it's so easy to mix up a fresh batch I don't even bother with the mixes anymore - saves money and eliminates all the food additives I can't pronounce!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Well, I've been trying hard to combine errands into one errand day and today was a great example of that! It took me two hours to complete everything, but I crossed off all the errands for the week on my to do list. That is a great feeling! And with gas at $3.95/gallon I need to drive as little as possible.

The tilapia last night was wonderful and easy - I just sprinkled it with some olive oil, salt, freshly ground pepper and cumin and baked it at 425 until flaky. The cucumber salsa was diced cucumbers, red peppers, onion, a little olive oil and a little white wine vinegar. I had some left over, so I put it on my salad for lunch today and it made a great dressing. We ate outside on the screened- in porch which I love to do if the weather is nice. For sides we had fresh corn on the cob, a salad and fresh asparagus from my mother's garden.

Tonight is a date night - we are doing a mystery shop, but with gas the price it is, I'm starting to wonder if I should consider cutting down on the number of shops we do - instead we might have to start walking over to Starbucks for a coffee for our date night - which actually doesn't sound bad at all!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Monday - Tilapia with Zucchini relish/ salad/ corn on the cob/ asparagus
Tuesday - Mystery Shop
Wednesday - Asian Beef & Veggie Medley (served over napa cabbage instead of rice)
Thursday - Pork Tenderloin Kabobs/ salad/ brown rice/ corn on the cob
Friday - Asparagus & barley risotto/ salad
Saturday - Seafood Cioppino/ whole grain pasta/ salad
Sunday - Szechwan beef/ brown rice

Breakfasts will include high fiber cereal, steel cut oats (soaked overnight), omelets with veggies (spinach, peppers, onions, etc.), or whole wheat toast with natural peanut butter.

The breakfasts are a far change from my old days of a muffin or scone and coffee, and I've found by eating the better foods, I don't snack and I feel like I start the day off better!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Eliminating High Fructose Corn Syrup

One of the things I've been looking at this week is sweeteners. I keep hearing about how awful the additives are and I have to admit I feel strongly that anything in it's natural state has to be better than something artificial, but man this corn syrup is in EVERYTHING!

I was getting ready to pour myself a bowl of what I thought was healthy shredded wheat and low and behold - what was in it? High Fructose corn syrup. So, I made a pot of steel cut oats - a new experience for me this month. I sweetened them with honey and wow was it a terrific breakfast. I think we are going to eat up all the cereal we have and then I'm going to go on a mission to find a few that are fairly natural - I've had the Kashi Go Lean a number of times and really like it, so that will be one I'll check out. Any other suggestions would be welcome!

I'll probably be MIA the next few days, but we'll catch up over the weekend!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Well, this is my first full week of healthy eating for May, so I thought I'd post my menu plans - it's actually going to be an odd week since I'm getting my wisdom teeth out Wednesday, so Wed/Thurs/Fri will probably all be smoothies! Thanks to Organizing Junkie for putting together the MPM!

Monday - Herbed pork tenderloin, braised spinach, fresh fruit
Tuesday - mystery shop with DH (date night!)
Wed/Thurs/Fri - who knows
Sat - Tilapia w/ cucumber sauce, salad, fresh fruit
Sun - Balsamic chicken on the grill, roasted veggies, fruit

The dishes actually look like a pretty typical dinner week for our family. The real difference in how I'm eating is in the lunches, breakfasts and snacks. I'll share an example of that down the road.

Friday, May 2, 2008

My Frugal Friday Family Night

We decided to start the weekend off right with a family night. So, after dinner at home, we took off on our adventures. First stop was CVS (for me!). I picked up four packages of diapers, two Colgate 360 toothbrushes, 1 of the CVS allergy packs, a Glade car scented oil holder and one of the Tum's instant dissolve for 75 cents after coupons and ECB's. It was fun! I had a raincheck for the diapers from the last time they were B1G1 and I've just been waiting for a $2 off $10 coupon to buy them - today when I scanned my card a $3 off $10 showed up -score!

Next we headed over to Meijer for gas - a sickening $63 later (we were REALLY empty), we ran to a store for me to do a quick mystery shop ($8). Then we went to Maggie Moo's for ice cream - we had a B1G1 coupon, so we got two regulars for $5 and some change - expensive but a fun treat. My little guy was so excited once he figured out where we were and what we were getting - he was bouncing all over the place (he's 18 months). After our tummies were full, we went to the bookstore to play with the train set and read books - I read a good dozen to the kids before we left. Last stop was Walmart to pick up milk and Kashi cereal - thanks to Money Saving Mom for the tip on the $2 coupons!

Total spent (aside from gas): $9.25
Total earned: $8.00
New ECB: don't have the receipts on me but around $15

Now the kids are snoozing and I just finished inputting my shop and am doing a bit of surfing with a warm cup of tea. Good start to the weekend!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Stocking up!

I go back and forth on stockpiling - I like the concept, but sometimes I find myself with way too much of something we don't need (Hamburger Helper comes to mind!). I end up donating a lot of stuff like that.

However, I do try to keep a nice supply of meat in the freezer. Every week I watch the sale prices and at least twice a month do a stock up of whatever meat is on sale. For example, last week Kroger had boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale for $1.67/lb. I know that we eat chicken two or three times a week. I also know that chicken tends to go on sale at one of our three main groceries at least every other month. So, I purchased 8 packages. I then took the chicken out of the packages, pounded it flat (for easier even cooking) and rebagged it in freezer bags. It took me about fifteen minutes and now I have enough chicken for at least the next month, possibly two. Total cost: $17.53 for 8 dinners (and enough for lunch the next day).

Yes, it upped my grocery bill for this week, but I've found if I do this twice a month, I can work it into the budget because my off weeks are much less expensive with no meat being purchased.

Hopefully even with my more expensive grocery shopping for the healthy food, this will be one of those ways to continue to keep us eating well for less. And, hopefully by this time next month, all the junk food will be gone - and if it's not, might be time for another big donation to the food pantry!