Thursday, January 24, 2013

Hate Grocery Shopping? I did too.

Grocery variations
When I was a wee one, I used to enjoy going to the grocery store with my mom. I remember being bummed if I somehow missed out on a trip to Cub Foods.  (Anyone from Minnesota? Holla at yer girl.)  I enjoyed rolling through the store, anticipating the foods we were going to put into our cart next, and looking at all the different colors.  Grocery stores are wonderful for the senses.  They can also be murder for the pocketbook if you're not careful, because there are literally deals and sales at every turn and on every aisle.

As I got older, those sales often threw me for a loop. I was talking with a mom today at Stroller Strides and the infamous buy-one-get-one-free (BOGO) deal came up.  What do you do with two, if you don't have the storage for it, or more importantly, don't even know how to use the ingredient?  Common sense says "skip it" but for some of us more sales-challenged people, it's hard to "pass up a good deal."

It is now much easier to avoid these temptations if I stick to my guns on two very simple reasons.
Want to know how?

How to love grocery shopping in 2 simple ways:

1. Have a meal plan.  
I'm using Plan-to-Eat now on a free trial subscription, and as I'm figuring it out I'm realizing I'm liking it quite a bit!  You plug in a recipe (either from a website or type it in), it mashes up all the ingredients for you and spits it into a shopping list.  It also lays it out on a calendar, which you can sync with iCal for Mac users.  I often grab recipes or menus from what I see on the internet, so using an online service for this just makes it a little bit easier. You can do the same thing with pen & paper, but what I like is that it grabs all the ingredients from your meal plan and organizes it by section of the grocery store. You can also edit your list if you already have those ingredients at home.  This could really cut down on planning and prep time for a busy mom.

2. Know what ingredients you tend to use, and what ingredients you always need to replenish.  
If there's a special stock-up sale on spices, butter, my favorite bread, or cheese (you name it), it's easy for me to justify the purchase. I will use these things.  But if there are special sales for dog food or cat litter, that's an obvious no-no (unless you're buying on behalf of someone else or donating to a special cause).  Or a type of food I've never really tried before, or a cereal I know my family probably wouldn't like ... unless you're feeling brazen, there's no need to feel like you must take advantage of the sale.  That's the store or the manufacturer trying to get YOU to buy THEIR food.  Just push your cart along and move on.  Sometimes, knowing what you need to have in your pantry requires a little research and prep-work.  I like following lists from certain websites or cookbooks that give you suggestions for what to stock in your pantry so you can make a meal almost anytime without having to run to the store.  It might also require almost knowing a few recipes by heart, at least, what ingredients are a part of it.


Photo Credit:
followpics.com
One of my favorite cookbooks, Everyday Paleo, lays out what you should keep on hand in order to cook paleo. If you're not sure what paleo is, in a nutshell, it's a whole foods based diet that avoids grains, dairy, and legumes, but puts lots of emphasis on grass-fed or pastured meats, nuts, fruits, veggies, and good fats.  Here's an example of how to stock your fridge or pantry with this kind of diet:



Not all my recipes are strictly paleo, but I think it's a good starting point for someone trying to clean up their diet or branch out a bit.  It's devoid of processed foods, which to me, is like Public Enemy #1 when it comes to healthy eating. If you can get the processed foods out of the way, you are making great strides in my book!

To branch out beyond that may require shopping at some places other than your typical grocery store (maybe a health foods store, or on Amazon.com - yes they sell groceries!, or through a food co-op). You can get fresh dairy, whole grains, bulk spices, farm fresh eggs, local or organic produce and more all through various co-ops in your area.  If you're local to South Florida contact me and I'll try to get you started, but eatwild.com and localharvest.org are just two places online you can start!

(Note: I have no affiliations to these websites, but I just know they help numerous people get their bearings when making the switch to real foods.)

Learning to enjoy grocery shopping also came along with learning to enjoy cooking and baking real foods. It is so much easier to shop when I know these foods are providing real nutrition for my family and are going towards our overall health.  Beforehand, when it was just a bunch of snacks or packaged foods, it really wasn't as fulfilling.
Now, for the most part, almost all the items I put in my cart serve a purpose, and because many of them are perishable, it encourages me to use them up before they go bad - which means more homemade cooking.

Man, I never thought I'd write a blog about grocery shopping, but here I just did it.

What has helped you become better at grocery shopping? How do you shop sales or the weekly ads? Do you only stick to your meal plan or do you veer off dependent on sales? Share below!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Photo book for Gabe's 1st Year


Click here to view this photo book larger
Build your own high-quality photo books at Shutterfly.com.

I finally put together this long-overdue photo book commemorating Gabe's first year. I did one for Mia for 2009, and one for her 3rd year (ages 2-3).  I enjoy doing these but it can take  a bit of time and a lot of thought trying to narrow down exactly which pictures to use! But I know I'll be thankful to have this years from now to remember the times from when Gabe was a wee one.  He just had his first haircut today and I'm not sure he's so little anymore!

Anyway, the above link is for curious long-distance grandmothers who can't yet view the photobook in real life.  Although trust me, I'm sure the real life viewing will be a lot more satisfying than a digital viewing!



PS: If you ever have any "free photo book" Shutterfly coupon codes and will not be using, throw it my way. I know a little gal who has a birthday coming up in about 3 months and I'd love to use it for her too!

Friday, January 11, 2013

3 really easy real food habits you can start NOW

Photo Credit: Faux Runner @ Blogspot
You have heard the infamous quote, "The hardest part of any journey is taking that first step."  I have often written about things we have changed here and there in our diet to improve our health and nutrition, and I know the task of revamping your family's diet, budget, and food philosophy can be nothing short of overwhelming and intimidating.  We feel the challenge and sometimes we recoil at it -- but, why?

Sometimes it's good to analyze what it is about it that's bothering us or holding us back.  And sometimes, enough analysis or pause is enough and it is just simply time to move on and make change! 

If you have been afraid to make a change for any reason, let me provide you with 3 simple things you can do to help you make the transition from eating nutrient-depleted food to real, nourishing food!

1. Source the best whole chickens you can find on your budget (maybe that means the organic chickens at the supermarket, pastured chickens at Whole Foods, or finding a local farmer who can sell you pastured chickens), and roast your chickens for dinner, for lunch meat, for soups, enchilada fillings, chicken pot pie, etc.  SAVE THE BONES to make chicken broth, and use that broth in your soup recipes, in place of water for boiling rice, beans, and the like, or for when someone in your family starts to feel a little ill.  The healing properties of "chicken soup for the soul" are not just literary!  It's the real deal.  (If you're in my local area and need help finding a chicken farmer, check out The Makers Farm.  They're awesome!)

Photo Credit: HenryWatson.com
2. Use butter in place of margarine. No exceptions!  Have you ever looked at the ingredients in margarine? I was no chemist in 3rd grade, but we always had both margarine and butter at our Sunday dinner table growing up to put on our rolls (family likes options - what can I say), and I just had this intuitive feeling butter was better.  I always wanted the butter instead of the margarine, regardless of naysayers talking about its fat content.  Yes, I stepped away from the butter for a while as an adult for easy spreadable butter substitutes, but now that I have a butter box, I can safely keep my butter on the counter where it's soft and spreads easily at any time!


SAY NO to imitation buttery spreads!  Photo Credit: HealthTalkLive.com

Worried about which butter to get?  Like chickens, there's a good, better, and best option here.  
good option which I often rely on for budgetary reasons is pasteurized butter from the store - organic or not is up to you. A better option is Kerrygold Irish butter which is grassfed but not raw (minimally pasteurized).  The best kind of butter is fresh, raw grass-fed butter.  You can learn how to make your own butter from cream here!

But what about the saturated fat?? Hey guess what?  The poor guy has been victimized: It's not bad for you after all. 

Photo Credit: Dave Sommers, via Food Renegade on Facebook
3. Cut out the sodas and gradually step away from the processed foods.  Okay, maybe I lied, and this one isn't as easy as it sounds.  Sodas are addicting, and so are processed foods, and just simply removing them from your diet isn't as easy as turning a switch, but I guarantee it will GREATLY improve your health.  Looking at the ingredient list on most processed foods you will easily find ingredients you cannot pronounce nor do you know from what they are derived.  Doesn't exactly sound like the best fuel for our systems, does it?  If you don't know how to pronounce it, chances are your body doesn't really know how to DIGEST it.  

Photo Credit: GT's Synergy Drinks
If this step intimidating for you, try swapping out sodas for tea (sweetened or not is up to you), 100% fresh fruit juices, or the like, and/or adding mint or herbal infusions to your water. Just take baby steps to reduce your sugar consumption. If you are missing the fizziness of a soda, you might really like kombucha or water kefir soda!  You can find kombucha at places like Whole Foods or your local healthfood store, and you can even brew it at home (super inexpensively, I might add)!  The benefit to kombucha or water kefir sodas are that they are honestly really good for you and provide a probiotic kick.  I personally find flavored kombuchas extremely tasty - just go easy on them as drinking too much can cause detoxification headaches if your body isn't used to all the probiotics.  


So, not as scary or crazy as it sounds, huh?  The thing is - you can do it, and chances are you have access to so many things already to start making or sourcing healthy food - just ask around!  Generally speaking, people who love eating real food also love talking about it because it just makes them feel so good so pull up a chair, grab a kombucha and fire away! ;)

Friday, January 4, 2013

2013: A new year, a new focus

Happy New Year! And just like that, we blinked our eyes and 2012 was over!  It always takes me about 4 months to get used to writing 2013 on anything that is dated ... in that regard, I foresee this year being hardly any different.

I'm not always one for New Year's Resolutions, to be honest.  I feel like it puts a lot of pressure on perfection and I know we'll never be perfect, so I ditch the unnecessary guilt-trip and just try to work with a new, clean slate.

This year, I plan to focus on some areas that could use a little upkeep.  I was inspired by this article from Harvard Business Review to choose Areas of Focus instead of specific goals (I totally don't read HBR, but G-Unit came across the article and sent it to me. Thanks for flattering me for a second thinking I was an avid reader of the HBR).  They aren't specific goals per se, but relate to areas of my life in general, so any little step in a positive direction will keep me on track.

Areas of Focus for 2013:

Physical:

  • Improve fitness and overall strength.

It's ever so easy for this to happen with moms, so unless you carve out the time to do it, it won't happen, but the track and cross-country runner I was .... 11 years ago, is me no longer.  By a longshot!  I'm ready to feel strong again, especially in order to keep up with two munchkins who for whatever reason, do not stop growing!  I'll throw my back out if Gabe keeps eating at least 2 eggs everyday for breakfast.
How: My temporary voucher for Stroller Strides seems to be helping. It's not Crossfit (but hey, there's a Crossfit instructor 1x/week!), but it's in my neighborhood, super convenient to do with kids, involves aerobic and anaerobic activity, gets us outside, our blood pumping, and gives all of us some natural Vitamin D.  It's also social, which I personally find to be crucial at maintaining fitness routines.

Mental:

  • Read.

That was super general, and I love reading, but I usually read articles and blogs on the internet or how-to (get your baby to sleep through the night) kind of books.  I miss getting my hands on a good magazine or fiction book and escaping reality for a minute. Time to change that.

Social/Interpersonal:

  • Invest more one-on-one time in my grown-up relationships.

We're buddies.
The first year of Gabe's life kind of took over many of my social relationships.  I cherished my time with a little baby, and am glad I got to know him so well, but now that he's becoming more and more independent, it's okay for me to step away now and then for some gal-pal time, or for some date nights with Greg!  That's a goal for both me & Greg - more date nights.  This might mean reallocating some dollars for....babysitters.


Financial:

  • Make a budget and stick to it.

In our financial relationship, Greg is definitely the nerd and I'm the free spirit. Hey, that might even translate to real life (just sayin'), but we're talking about dolla bills here and not personality assessments.  Regardless, sometimes free spirits need a little direction and firm boundaries and I might be talking about myself here.  It doesn't seem like grocery prices are going down anytime soon, so for me personally, making a budget also means making a meal plan.  Time to rev up my temporary Plan-to-Eat subscription!

Spiritual:

  • More Bible Study.

Again, first year of a new baby's life, sometimes you feel kind of swamped. I'm starting off this year by getting back into Sunday School teaching with the 5 year olds.  We're not diving in deep into the poetry of the Old Testament, but we will be studying & teaching Exodus - Judges.  Nothing like another chance to learn about our God!

Home:

  • It could be anything.  So just pick something and go on and do it!

You ask me that question and it feels like a can of worms opens up.  There are so many things to focus on at home it feels like a never-ending list!  In general, we want to improve our home: how it looks, feels, is organized, how it's run.  This could mean reorganizing the pantry or this could mean repainting a room.  We have a secret list of goals / ideals and we'll see where we get!  I'm excited to dive back in and give some places a fresh face.



What are your areas of focus or goals for 2013? How are they going so far?  If you haven't thought much about it, does my list trigger any thoughts?  Share below!