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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Buying Healthy Food On A Tight Budget - 12 Tips

My husband and I are trying to find ways to slash our budgets and grocery bill is one of those areas that we are constantly struggling to reduce. I have friends who are amazing coupon queens. I keep trying and trying to use coupons to save money, but find that I am spending a lot of time cutting coupons, watching for deals and running to different stores just to save a dollar or two! I commend all of the mother’s and father’s out there that can do this and stay sane!!

One of the reasons that I am so discouraged is because I find myself more inclined to buy products that I wouldn’t normally buy and coupons are generally only offered for pre-packaged foods! Pre-packaged foods should not be on our healthy shopping list (minus a few items). Also, many of the items that I use on a consistent basis are available in a cheaper generic brand that is just as good. Here are some tips that I have found over the years.

1. Buy from your local farmer’s market. Don’t go crazy. Think about what you will actually use and prepare based on the season.

2. Buy from the outer perimeter of the store. Try not to go down the aisles. Grocery stores are very good at putting things at a level that will entice you to buy them. The healthiest food is on the outer perimeter. However, whole grains are generally down the aisles so put blinders on if you have to.

3. Learn to like oatmeal and cream of wheat or rice. If you like those pre-packaged packets of hot oatmeal for breakfast, learn to make your own from regular oats and the boxes of simple cream of wheat or rice. This is much healthier and you get less sugar and other junk. I know what I am putting into my own oatmeal and it DOES NOT take more time than the packaged stuff. There are about 30 servings in a 42 oz box of oats. This means your morning oatmeal costs approximately .10 per serving. The packets of oatmeal cost more like .40-.50 cents per serving and you get less food! The big box can last a few weeks!

4. Make your own bread. I know this sounds tedious. It did to me too, but I just whipped up some French bread that is now in the process of rising as I write this. It really only took a few minutes and I had all of the ingredients on hand. There weren’t that many. I also didn’t get high fructose corn syrup or any of those ingredients that I can’t even read! Plus, the ingredients I have on hand (flour, butter, milk, eggs, water, yeast, salt, etc) will make a lot of other types of bread also.

5. Make your list of meals and snacks for the entire week. My family and I eat different things for our meals, but if you think ahead you can have everything ready ahead of time.

6. Eat the same things every day for breakfast and lunch. I know this sounds terribly boring, but it really isn’t if you like what you eat. This helps me maintain my blood sugar and energy levels because it’s the same each day. Plus, I can make sure I am using up all of my fruits and vegetables for the week.

7. Prepare your food ahead of time. I know this sounds hard, but it’s not. For example, bring your chicken breasts home and throw them all in a crock pot to cook. Take them out and shred them and place in containers for different meals. We freeze some and put some in the fridge for a meal coming up. You can make casseroles, chicken fajitas, quesadillas, chicken spaghetti, chicken and rice, chicken salad or just eat the shredded chicken in a tortilla or on some bread. It is really juicy this way and easy to grab and go! Do the same with other types of meat. When I do this, I find us eating much healthier and my cooking time is cut in half.

8. Cut your veggies right when you get home from the store. Cut them however you are likely to eat them. I like to have carrot and celery sticks ready to eat for the week.

9. Buy the amount that you need for the week or that you know you can cook and freeze. If you buy too many items in the produce aisle, you will find them rotting in your fridge. Just buy the exact number you will eat. For example, I like to eat an apple a day when I can get them cheaply. I buy one per day for me and usually one per day for my daughter. If I run out sooner, that’s okay.

10. Stop buying pop. This is directed mostly at myself. I really like to have a diet soda every day, but I also really like iced tea. Diet soda costs me a lot more than making my own pitcher of tea. I know entirely too many people who spend a ton on soda. Cut it out and watch your bill drop.

11. Back to pre-packaged, but this must be said - Stop buying instant potatoes! They have no nutritional value and are not cheaper. I know that is why some people buy them, but a bag of potatoes can be turned into numerous things. You can also make your potatoes healthier. Make French fried potatoes in the oven using olive oil. Make rosemary potatoes with garlic. Make your own mashed potatoes. Take baked potatoes to work and top with salsa or cottage cheese. Use leftover potatoes for other things. Leftover baked potatoes make incredible (but not as healthy) potato skins. Yum.

12. Stop buying fat free and low fat items. This does not pertain to dairy products. Low fat and skim milk are still better than whole and low fat yogurt and cottage cheese are okay too. Otherwise, low fat and fat free is really not necessary if you are eating whole foods and using portion control and they are always more expensive. Portion control is a must for saving money and watching your waistline. Some fat is healthy and necessary. Stop depending on pre-packaged fat free foods.

Friday, May 15, 2009

10 Things I Am Thankful For?

1. I am thankful for my husband. He is a wonderful man and we have worked hard developing our relationship over the past few years. I am thankful that he and I have made it through some very tough times and become even better because of it.

2. I am thankful for my beautiful child. I am blessed with a smart, funny, outgoing, dramatic little girl who brings me great joy.

3. I am thankful for my parents and my siblings. My parents help me with my daughter every single day. I do not thank them nearly as much as I should, but I am extremely grateful for everything they have done for me. My brother has always been one of my closest friends since we are so close in age. My sister is 10 years younger than I am and she and I have truly developed a wonderful relationship over the years. I count on her for a lot and love her very much.

4. I am thankful for my triplet nieces. I am extremely thankful that they are all healthy and happy after a rough start in this world. They are all gorgeous little people that have blessed my brother and his wife.

5. I am thankful for my job. I am thankful that I have a job right now when so many others do not. This include my brother of the babies. So many people would give anything to trade me spots right now.

6. I am thankful for my husband’s job. He lost his job last year and we looked at it in a very positive way. He was very unhappy where he was before. He found the job he has now making a lot less money with a lot less stress. He is truly blessed and it has just motivated us even further to live a simpler life.

7. I am thankful for my health. I am able to run each day if I want. My body can still do amazing things and I am extremely grateful.

8. I am grateful for my friends. I have some of the most wonderful friends in the world. They have been there with me through thick and thin. We are there for each other even when we haven’t spoken in months. If we need each other, we know we can pick up the phone and call. They are all special people and I am extremely blessed.

9. I am grateful for my co-workers. These people have become my second family and I love them dearly.

10. I am thankful for my home. I have a lovely roof over my head. It’s a bit more than I need, but it provides shelter and a place for my family to grow.

I could go on and on with this list. This is just a sample of the many things that I am grateful for. I hope this list helps you get started on your own list. What are you thankful for?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

No TV Makes For A Lot Of Free Time

Since we decided this week to start limiting our tv time, I am realizing how little I must have been using my brain. Now that I have oodles of free time in which to actually think about stuff, I have found that I am actually pretty resourceful and creative. I keep thinking of all kinds of new inventions (none of which I will share with you for fear you will steal my idea and become filthy rich).

Anyway, I am beginning to really see just how awful the boob tube really is and why people call it that. It totally rots your brain! Another bonus is that my child has stopped trying to get me to buy the Perfect Pushup, Debbie Meyers Green Bags and the AquaGlobe nor do I have to listen the Sham Wow guy or any more Oxy Clean commericals! Hallelujiah! This is more of a blessing than I could have imagined.

If we all turned off our televisions, imagine what we could do. We could cure world hunger and find ways to bring peace to the entire world or maybe all this free time is going to my head.

10 Tips To Living Well

Many of my friends and co-workers have always told me that I am way too positive and happy. I am not sure what that means exactly. How can you be way too positive or happy? I don't think that I have anything that they don't. I just know how to appreciate them. I am also constantly working on it. Oh, and I do have my "bad" days!

Here are some of the tips that I have learned over the years and a few I am still working on.

1. Decide what you love or value. I have been reading up on this subject a lot lately. I wrote about it in a previous blog. I want to spend more time doing the things that I love and value and less doing the things that I don't. Check out for more information on this subject. This site has some great tips on simplifying.

2. Cut out the things that didn't make your list of things you love or value. Doesn't this sound so simple and easy? Well, it's not always that simple. First, you have to do step number 1. Second, you have to make a conscious effort to get rid of everything else.

3. Realize that other people cannot MAKE you feel a certain way. When I was doing my master's in counseling, our professor told us this and I cannot believe how much it impacted me. I should have known this, but I guess I didn't. Others can try to make you feel a certain way, but only YOU have the power to change your mood. There really are people who like to bring us down. Find ways to effectively deal with these people.

4. Think positively!! Here's the deal...if you think negative thoughts, negative things are GOING TO HAPPEN!!!! It's true! Think positive thoughts and your energy will be focused on positive things. Yes, I have read the Secret. I have mentioned this before, but believe me this is no real secret.

5. Don't share the bad stuff with your family. If you have had a bad day, try not to share it right when you walk in your front door. If the first thing you do is start complaining about your day to your spouse, you are just bringing them down with you. Even if you have to fake a good mood, do it. Come in, give everyone a happy hello and hugs. After talking about their days, then you can mention the things that didn't go well but try to put a positive spin on it. You will probably find that you will feel much better about the events of the day and your significant other can find a way to deal with it in a positive way.

6. Do what you love. I can't say that I always love my job, but I do love working in higher education. This makes all the difference in the world. I don't make the most money right now and that's okay. I feel like I can make a difference and that feels good.

7. Practice forgiveness. When you are angry with someone, try to stop and think about how they must be feeling. One day I was upset with someone and was talking to my husband about what I wanted to say to them. My daughter overheard me and came up to me with a pitiful look and said, "You need to forgive. Jesus would not like this at all." Boy, talk about the wisdom of a child. I felt about two inches high. Then I suddenly found myself thinking about how the other person must be feeling and I felt even more terrible. I realized the person I was upset with was under a lot of stress and was probably reacting to that stress. I also realized that by my saying something to that person, I was only trying to make myself feel better. It would only have hurt our relationship further and I really did not want that. This brings me to number 8.

8. Put yourself in someone else's shoes. When you are upset with someone, try to stop and think about what they might be feeling or going through. Maybe there has been a misunderstanding. If someone snaps at you one day, don't take it personally. Maybe they had a fight with their spouse that morning, maybe they are facing a financial crisis, death or illness in the family, or just can't think of anything positive. You have no idea what that person's homelife might be like, so try to understand that they may not be upset with you at all and don't ever take it personally.

9. Be thankful for what you have and say it out loud. This is one of my favorite tips. Every night at dinner my family and I say what we are thankful for and talk about the good parts of our day. This makes it much easier to focus less on the not-so-great stuff and to focus more on the good stuff.

10. Focus on the good stuff. Stop focusing on the bad stuff that happened to you today, yesterday and ten years ago. This does you absolutely NO GOOD! Start focusing on all of the wonderfully good things that make up your life right now. I started doing this by journaling what I was thanful for every day. It started out as a small list of saying I was thankful for my family, but it has grown to all sorts of things now that I can be thankful for. I do admit that on occasion I will focus too much on stupid things, but not very often and I am getting better and better at it every day.

Try even one of these tips and I bet you will start to see a difference. Check my next list of what I am thankful for and have a wonderful day!

Television - The First To Go?!

I have to confess, I do have a problem with the old television set. I know that it zaps your brain of all creativity and sucks you into it, but I find myself staring at it for hours sometimes. I truly hate it when I get sucked in on a beautiful sunny spring day! Ridiculous.

My husband and I have decided to get rid of cable! Yes, I said it. We are getting rid of it.

When we returned from Hocking Hills this week, we realized just how much time we spent in front of the tube and we purchased an antenna. So far, this little antenna is not working very well and we will be returning it for something else.

The interesting thing is, I am not missing tv at all right now. I really thought I would be jonesing for some Oprah at this point. I'm not. Although I haven't really cared yet, I know that I can watch just about anything I want on the internet.

Shockingly, I haven't found anything I am that desperate to watch.

My poor kid has to watch sock puppets being made in the morning on some religious channel, but she doesn't seem to be suffering any. Last night after dinner, she and I sat at the dinner table and worked on her reading. What a novel concept!

I don't mean to sound like I watched television all the time. I didn't, but I watched it enough for it to suck up some of my precious family time that is so high on my list. Not to mention the fact that cable can run you approximately $80 per month. Is it really worth all that? I don't think it is, but my daughter is.

Find The Things You Love

I have mentioned in previous posts that I am trying to simplify my life. I know this sounds like it should be easy, but it really isn't. I have many obligations beyond work like volunteering in the community, homework and family stuff, etc. I had a very hard time saying no for a couple of years and became overwhelmed.

Now I realize how important NO is. Don't ever feel bad using this word.

One tip that I learned from is to write a list of the things you love to do and start making room in your life to spend more time doing only those things.

Here's my list: Spending time with my family, hiking, art (creating it and looking at it), writing, reading, traveling, spending time with friends., thriftstores/auctions/yardsales, all types of exercise.

You could say that most of the things on this list would include spending time with my family. I also realized that I don't get to spend near as much time as I would like doing these things because of this list: Work, homework, cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping, watching tv, surfing the internet, and cleaning some more.

I can't stop going to work just yet. I also need to feed my family. However, there are a few things that I CAN work on. I can limit myself to watching only a little tv and internet time. I can limit my grocery trips to once a week. I can start clearing out clutter so that I don't have to spend so much time cleaning! I can also finish this darn paper so I can be done with graduate school.

Over the next few weeks I am going to work on cleaning up my lists and spend more time doing the things I truly want to do. I will keep you posted as I go. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rest for the Weary

This Mother's Day my husband took me on a lovely little retreat. We went to the Inn at Cedar Falls in Hocking Hills. Hocking Hills is one of my all time favorite places to go hiking. It is absolutely beautiful there. So often when we go on vacation we are so busy finding things to do that it doesn't really feel like a vacation. This time we spent one night away from home and it was exactly the respite from the world that I needed.

At the Inn, our room was one of nine built in a barn. It was adorable. We went for a hike through Old Man's Cave before dinner. Dinner was superb and elegant served in an old cabin. We were only a few seconds away from Cedar Falls where my husband and I went back out for a run after dinner. This last part should shock anyone that knows my husband. He normally wouldn't run unless he was being chased by a serial killer. When we were done with our run, we were able to come back to no tv, no cell phones and no computer. We had nothing to do but read our books and drift off to sleep. The next morning we went for another hike/run throught Cedar Falls, had breakfast and went for yet another hike. It was literally my PERFECT VACATION!!!!!!

If you have never been to Hocking Hills, I encourage you to go. It is the most wonderful place that Ohio has to offer. I love it there. I have always found peace in those woods. There is nothing quite like it. Check out the Inn at You will love it.

It's also nice just to get away even if only for one day. I had no idea how much better I would feel. I plan on finding more ways to slow down and enjoy the things that truly make me happy. We all should.