1.27.2015

How I get Healthful Groceries on a Budget

Hi All,

I'm sorry I haven't had any new recipes for you lately.  Kevin and I have been busy with a few of our goals for the year, including saving money for a house, reading, and being more active and eating better.  All goals of which I am happy to report that we are making great progress on.  (I'm currently reading through Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World, which is super interesting how industries are built around food systems.)

Because we have been eating more homemade meals (saving money AND being healthier, YEAH!), I have been spending a bit more on groceries.  This balances out to save more money overall, considering that it costs us anywhere from $20 to $40 when we eat out once, compared to $60-$80 for a week of meals on groceries.  Not bad at all I think! :)

In the fall and summer months I had been getting most of my produce from a produce stand on my way home from work, where I would get in-season produce for SUPER cheap!  2 for $1 kale and collard bunches, 69 cent per pound apples, $1 per pound sweet potatoes, etc.  After December 23rd, that produce stand has closed for the winter months and won't open until April 1st.  So, I have a little over 2 more months to live without my regular inexpensive produce source!

My solution: 
  • get produce mostly from Costco, 
  • buy smaller/unique produce items from my local grocery
  • stock up on staples from Winco on a bi-monthly trip, and
  • get hard-to-find items from Vitacost 2-3 times a year

Costco
I love Costco.  I remember going there as a kid after church some Sundays and getting to snack on their samples.  I live in Washington, where Costco's headquarters are in Kirkland, an hour or so north of where I now live, so I like the idea of supporting an in-state business.  Costco has awesome deals on produce items compared to other grocery stores.  Here is my weekly/bi-weekly Costco grocery list as of late:
  • Bi-weekly items:
    • 2 cartons of apples
    • 1 box oranges
    • 1 bag bananas
    • 1 bag of 6 assorted bell peppers
    • 1 carton baby bella mushrooms
    • Occasional items:
      • 1 bag russet potatoes (for Kevin)
      • 1 bag sweet potatoes (my Costco has organic, so I can eat the peels, YAY!)
      • 1 bag yellow onions
      • 1 bag organic frozen white corn
      • 1 bag raw almonds
      • 1 large container chili powder
      • 2-pack natural peanut butter

    • Weekly items:
      • 1 carton blueberries
      • 1 carton blackberries
      • 1 carton raspberries
      • 1 bag Power Greens (contains baby kale, arugula, spinach, and baby red chard)
      • 2 3-packs english cucumbers
      • 1 bag sugar snap peas (my absolute favorite veggie to munch!)
      • 1 bag cookable green vegetable (I rotate through broccoli, stir fry mix with cabbage, green beans, and Brussels sprouts)
    Local Grocery
    The closest grocery to us happens to be a Safeway.  From here I get smaller produce items and a few things for Kevin when we need them.
    • red onions
    • green onions
    • carrots
    • celery
    • garlic cloves
    • fresh herbs - basil, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, thyme, chives
    • Tofu and meat replacement products (very rarely do I get these)
    • Yogurt (for Kevin)
    • Milk (for Kevin)
    • Plant milk (usually I make my own)
    Winco
    I'm not sure how widespread Winco is throughout the U.S., but I really like this store.  It has a Costco feel in pricing, but with grocery store sizes.  The best thing about Winco is that they have an extensive bulk bin section.  This is where I get all of my items like beans/legumes, flours, grains, nuts/seeds, and spices.  I haven't gone to Winco in some time because I have been trying to use up what I have by way of beans and grains, but a trip is due soon because I have run out of smoked paprika and cumin seeds (Gasp! I know!).  Here is a list of a few items I like to have in my pantry and I get at Winco every other month or so when I run out.
    • Dried Beans/Legumes
      • black beans, white beans, pinto beans, small red beans, kidney beans, cannellini beans, garbanzo beans/chickpeas
      • brown lentils, small green french lentils, red lentils, green split peas, yellow split peas, mung beans
    • Whole grains/flours
      • old fashioned rolled oats
      • steel cut oats
      • wheatberries
      • quinoa - red and white
      • rice - long grain brown, short grain brown, jasmine brown, basmati brown, wild black, wild rice mix, Aroborio (risotto rice)
      • flours - white (for Kevin), whole wheat, rye, almond, chickpea
    • Nuts/Seeds/dried fruits
      • sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, raw pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, chia seeds
      • raw cashews, walnuts, pecans, unsalted peanuts, hazelnuts
      • dried cranberries, raisins, dates, currants
    • Spices
      • dried parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil, Italian seasoning
      • ground cumin, corriander, smoked paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper, tumeric
      • onion powder, garlic powder, dried mustard, dried powdered ginger
    • Other grocery items
      • tahini
      • almond butter
      • jarred ginger
      • jarred minced garlic
      • frozen mixed vegetables
    Vitacost
    Have you heard of Vitacost?  It is a food, beauty, and supplement ordering website that has tons hard to find health/natural products at discounted prices.  I like that they have search filters that help you find products that are vegan, organic, non-GMO, etc.  If you use THIS LINK, you will get $10 off your first purchase of $30 or more.  Here are a few of the items I like to get from Vitacost a few times a year:
    • Cartons of diced tomatoes and tomato sauce (no BPA-lined cans for me!)
    • Arrowhead Mills millet and amaranth grains (I can't seem to find these anywhere!)
    • Boxes of tea
    • Organic ground flaxseeds and chia seeds
    • Natural beauty and cleaning products
    Making Lists
    In the end, almost nobody I know likes grocery shopping, and grocery shopping on a budget can prove to be a big challenge.  With a bit of planning and being creative, you can keep your grocery receipts trim, while the healthful groceries will help you do the same!  By shopping at different stores during different intervals of time, I'm able to get the things I need at the best price.  One of the apps that helps me keep track of 3-4 grocery lists is called Buy Me a Pie.  I've had this app for a while and have come to depend on it to stay organized at each store buying my groceries (and to avoid impulse buying).

    I'd love to hear some of your grocery shopping budget-managing tips.... :)

    Health and Happiness,

    Amy


    1.22.2015

    My Scale

    ... I broke it.  I broke my scale.

    No, it is not what you are thinking.  Although in the years since I started (sometimes loosely) following a Nutritarian diet, my weight has fluctuated from stress, too much socializing (oh, beer!), and occasional binge eating from food addictions that I continually need to work on, my weight hasn't gone up nearly enough to result in breaking a scale from my weight.  My husband weighs more than me and uses it often, for Heavens sake!

    I also did not maliciously break it for telling me anything I did not want to hear.  Nor did I break it to symbolically prove a point that a number on a scale does not reflect my value as a person.  I broke it completely by accident.

    The other day I stepped on the scale and got a normal reading.  Since we have had a digital scale, the number blinked and stayed on the screen for a minute or so when it had the final reading.  And every time it did this, I would step off and briefly put a toe on the scale to get it to reset and make my number disappear from the screen.

    I don't exactly know why I do this.  Maybe if I see it for too long it will become something of permanency that I have a less chance of escaping.  My husband is the only other one in the house and knows my weight anyways, so it can't be that I'm embarrassed to have him see it.  Maybe some ghost is in the bathroom and I don't want them to know either (If I were a ghost I don't think I would hang out in a small bathroom, but hey, to each ghost his own!).

    This particular time when I stepped onto the scale to reset it, I accidentally stepped on the very edge, causing the scale to lift up on the other side, then come crashing down with a loud BANG when I lifted my foot off.  Kevin from the other room: "Oh gosh, what did you break?"

    The screen was blank.  In a moment of panic, I stepped back on the scale and heard a scratchy crunchy sound, like sand being rubbed between two surfaces.  Digital reading went crazy, never settling on a number.  Kevin stepped on it and it eventually settled on a reading: 55.8 lbs.  "Look!  I'm good.  I don't need to exercise."  The sad little broken scale went into the garbage. And Kevin and I talked about spending money on a new scale, because we needed one... right?

    I generally weigh myself just about every morning.  Sometimes the reading makes me do a little happy dance, sometimes it makes me shrug for being about the same, and sometimes it makes me reconsider what I had consumed the days before (or convince myself that I just need a good trip to the bathroom).  Either which way, it often sets the tone for the day to come, whether that be negative, positive, or indifferent.

    But in thinking about this, it struck me.  I let a little square thing that sits on my bathroom floor to have some input into how I go about my day.  The weather?  A bit.  My calendar?  Yes.  But a scale?  How dare I let a scale effect my happiness and how I live my life.

    Then I noticed how successful I had been in sticking to the nutritarian guidelines around when my scale broke.  I have been eating more fresh and cooked vegetables as well as more fresh fruit.  I have been paying better attention to satiety and eating only what I need of the right foods.  Now, I'm not going to attribute this positive progress only to not having a scale.  I have also been strict to prep my meals ahead of time and to have plenty of fresh produce available in my fridge.  But I'm guessing my attitude towards food and satiety has been altered a bit while not seeing that blinking number between my toes every morning.

    Does this mean we will never own a scale again?  No.  I'm probably going to go buy one today.  But I might just not open it yet.  And when I do open it, I'll probably tuck it away under my sink and only use it weekly, or bi-weekly, or monthly.  I haven't decided.

    My point is: I'm grateful that I happened to clumsily break my scale.  Although Kevin isn't super happy to be spending money on a new one (which probably won't be used as much), I'm happy to have been able to go through this impromptu experiment to see how I felt without knowing exactly how gravity was effecting my mass every particular day.  And you know what?  It felt pretty damn great!


    Health and Happiness,

    Amy

    1.20.2015

    Goals for 2015...

    Hi All!  I thought I would drop in and give you guys an update with me.  At the start of the new year, Kevin and I set some goals with each other.  Some of them are individual, while some are going to be a team effort.  Here are some of our goals...

    1.) Reading - Kevin wants to read 50 books in 2015, while I would like to read 30.  Yes, he is a bit of an overachiever, but this difference in goals between us has to do with the types of books each of us reads.  Kevin enjoys novels and fiction like Stephen King and the James Bond series, while I like non-fiction dealing with nutrition and environmental issues.  Both entertaining in their own ways, but my books tend to take longer to read... not to mention, he gets extra reading time while I am in the kitchen cooking.  What a lucky guy right?

    So far this year I have read "The Botany of Desire" by Michael Pollan, "Love Your Body" by Talia Fuhrman, and I am currently reading "Dr. Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes" by Neal Barnard (I don't have diabetes, but am a nutrition nerd that likes to learn! :)).  Next on my list is "Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World" by Dan Koeppel.

    2.)  Saving for a house - This goal has a couple of other mini-goals imbedded in it, including goals of only eating out at restaurants or take-out twice a month, finishing paying off our second car, minimizing credit card bills, and saving money by homemaking meals rather than buying convenience foods.  I find the last portion of that goal to be fun and challenging.  So far, we have been enjoying a lot of homemade meals with rice, beans, and veggies.

    To reach this goal we also have given each other $75 budgets for fun personal things each month.  The goal is not to spend it just because its there, but to plan out fun things we want to do around this budget.  For example, we are both putting in $10 each this month to go to the Seattle Mariner's Fanfest this Saturday.  I'm also planning on taking a $10 knitting tutorial class on how to begin knitting a sweater.  This budget would also count if either of us wanted to go out to lunch on our own, or out with friends.

    3.)  Earn healthy bodies - This portion encompasses more than just weight loss, but Kevin's goal is to lose about 10-15 pounds, while I would like to lose 30.  So far, I have been improving our diets one meal at a time.  Kevin and I have both been eating big, beautiful bowls of fresh fruit for breakfast.  For lunch, I have been having soup and salad, or just one large salad, while Kevin has some chopped veggies and a helping of the night before's leftovers.  For dinner, Kevin and I sometimes do our own thing, but I have been making sure to include more veggies for the both of us.  We hope to incorporate more exercise into our weekly routines as well.

    Here is a quick overview of a typical day for me:

    Breakfast: 1/2 apple, 1 orange, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries with earl grey tea

    Lunch: Large salad with 1/2 iceburg lettuce mix and 1/2 power greens mix, yellow peppers, radishes, carrots, french green lentils, raw pumpkin seeds, and my 1-2 dressing

    Dinner: Panini with Dave's Killer Bread, buffalo wing hummus, power greens, onion, lentil burger patty, spicy mustard.  Steamed broccoli with tahini "cheese" sauce.  Apple for dessert.


    4.)  Go on an Alaskan cruise - Since Kevin has been sold on cruising after our (late) honeymoon last May AND the fact that we moved less than an hour away from the Seattle port, we have been wanting to take an Alaskan cruise.  We have planned for Kevin's parents as well as mine (all separate rooms of course!) to join us, and we are currently looking at dates in August and early September.  To help strive to this goal we are being conscious of spending money on unnecessary things, as well as keeping an eye out for cruise prices we like.

    How are your 2015 goals coming along?

    Health and Happiness,

    Amy