Save Money, Eat Healthy Food, Invest in Your Life {part 3/3}

in case you missed them:  part 1 and part 2

I’m thrilled that so many of you have enjoyed this series.  I’ve loved reading your comments, and if there are any other tips you have that weren’t listed, please share in the comments today.  I look forward to posting more “health coaching stuff” type of posts in the future :)

grocery haul - spring

Here are a few more basic tips to wrap up the series:

–> ALWAYS read the ingredients list.

This is more important than the “nutrition facts” section, which you really don’t need to ever look at.  The most healthful food doesn’t have an ingredients list (because it’s just one whole food), but whenever it does, find out; WHAT is in your food and Where did this food come from.  That’s the information that you need to know and that’s what will help you decide what items to choose.

For example, if there is less than .5 grams of trans fat per serving in a packaged food, the company can write “0g trans fat” on the label.  They’re legally allowed to round down.  But if you read the ingredients list and notice that there’s “hydrogenated oil” listed, you know that there’s some trans fat in that food – and any trans fat is dangerous.  See how that can be deceiving?

Some questions you can ask yourself if you’re pondering a purchase that may be helpful:  Is what I’m choosing a whole food?  Did it come from a plant or animal?  Is it one ingredient or ten?  How do I feel after I consume this?

Always read the ingredients list so that you know what it is you’re buying and eating.

–> Do some of your shopping online.

I’ve found that there are several staples I like to have in our pantry that I can purchase for a much better price if I purchase them online.  For our home, some of those items include; chia seeds, hemp seeds, ground flaxseed, nut and seed butters, oats and other whole grains, honey, maple syrup, blue corn tortilla chips, vanilla extract, coconut flour, cocoa powder, canned pumpkin, avocado oil mayo, and dark chocolate bars(!) and baking chips.

There are three main places I shop for these: Swanson Vitamins*, Thrive Market*, and Amazon.

*referral links

–> Make your own versions.

Granola, salads (the veg kind or the fruit kind), muffins, snack bars, dressing, hummus, french fries, smoothies, bread, trail mix, kombucha, desserts – there are endless recipes online with a quick google search to make your own versions of food for a fraction of the price.  You’ll know exactly what the ingredients are, it doesn’t require much of your time, and it can be a lot of fun to experiment!
(this is where ‘cook once, eat twice‘ really comes into play, too!)

–> Grow your own.

Plant a garden, grow herbs on your windowsill, cultivate potted veggies, etc. (I did this last one the last summer we lived in Minnesota and loved it – I grew bell peppers, jalepenos, and tomatoes right in pots on our front patio).

–> Let go of the pressure and stress.

Never buy something because you think you *should* or *shouldn’t*.  Don’t give into pressure, for better or worse – use your brain, trust your instincts, and let go of the stress that can so easily creep in when you’re trying to make “all the right decisions.”  A little trial-and-error, nutrition education, and balance will go a long way.

–> Do your best to choose healthful items and be grateful for all of the beautiful, available food we get to nourish our bodies with.

In an ideal world, “organic” wouldn’t be a label on certain, more expensive foods – it would just be how all of our food is grown (as it used to be years ago).  Unfortunately though, that’s not how things are now.  Do I think it’s best for us all to eat all organic food?  Of course.  But is it true that organic food is accessible and available to us all?  No, not even close.  So I say pick and choose what’s important to you, and choose what feels right.  Conventional produce is always better than no produce!

I also want to shed light on your WHY – it’s key for you to find your motivation for eating well.  Is it so you’ll feel better day to day, with fewer headaches, bloating, or aches and pains?  Is it so you set yourself up to have an active, happy future with your children and family?  Is it so you can honor God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) even in the small decisions you make each day?  Grasp that why and let it guide your choices.

Find a balance that really works for your lifestyle, do the best that you can for yourself and your family, and be proud of that.  That’s enough.  That’s what will bring you health.

–> Remember that every time you shop you get to vote with your dollar!

*****

 Please feel free to leave any other suggestions you may have in the comments below!

Save Money, Eat Healthy Food, Invest in Your Life {part 2/3}

in case you missed it:  part 1

There’s a popular stigma about eating healthy, and it’s that “healthy eating” means eating very little.  And friends, that’s simply just not true.  Overeating aside, of course, there are so many real foods out there to enjoy, there’s no need to shortchange yourself!

Today’s suggestions focus in on the shopping aspect.

bulk bins at the grocery store

Here are a few more ways to save money while eating well (and plenty)!

–> Buy staples in bulk.

-Nuts and seeds
-oats, rice, any whole grains
-bags of produce (like a bag of potatoes or apples instead of just a few)
-beans and lentils (cooking your own is super inexpensive and easy – utilize your crockpot here!)
-eggs
-yogurt (the larger tubs instead of the single serve containers)
-cheese (blocks instead of already shredded)
-meat (especially if buying from a local farmer)

Remember though that it’s only a good value to buy more at a time if you will eat them.  Otherwise, it’s just more wasted food and, therefore, wasted money.

–> Shop sales.

You can get aggressive with this and watch weekly ads, or you can wing it a bit when you’re at the store (like swapping turkey for chicken if you get there and see the turkey is on sale).

I love when frozen fruits and veggies are sale – it’s a great time to buy a few extras in advance since they’ll be perfectly fine in the freezer for a bit.  You can also buy more meat and beans when they’re on sale and freeze them for future use.

Same rule applies here though as above – don’t just buy something because it’s on sale – only get it if you’re going to use it.

–> Purchase in-season produce.

I’ve done a blog post for every month of the year about what produce is in season (you can use the search box on the right side bar if you’re curious) – this ensures you a better price and fresher food.

Pro Tip: utilize frozen produce during the wintertime, especially if you live in a very cold place this time of year.  Fruits and veggies are frozen at their peak of ripeness and as long as you don’t nuke them in the microwave every time, their nutrients are perfectly in tact!

–> Buy locally whenever possible.

-Visit your local farmers’ market

-Purchase products in bulk from nearby farms (especially meat since that goes right into your freezer and will be a fraction of the cost of a store).

-Join a CSA.  (click here to find one near you)

–> Pass on drinks.

Soda pop, high sugar juices, alcohol, etc. – they aren’t beneficial for your body (particularly when consume frequently) and they can quickly chip away at your budget.

–> Explore and compare different stores.

No need to buy everything at the same store every week.  Shop around a bit and see what stores hold the best value for foods you love and purchase often.  You might find that certain stores have more choices for you as well.

For me, I do the majority of our shopping at Trader Joe’s (I wish everyone had access to one!), but I also get bits and pieces at places like Target, Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Safeway (in CA, HyVee when we were in MN).

*****

Be on the lookout for the final post in this series, coming Friday!

Save Money, Eat Healthy Food, Invest in Your Life {part 1/3}

There’s extra attention on eating healthfully this time of year, which overall, is a fantastic thing.  Along with that interest in eating better, the thought/comment that “I can’t afford to eat healthy” often makes it way into conversations, too.  Long story short, I completely disagree that it’s “too expensive” to eat well, and more often than not, that comment comes from a person who has little to no education on whole food nutrition.

As someone who budgets and can’t stand to waste money or food, I thought it would make a fun series on the blog to share what I share with my health coaching clients – ways to save money on healthful food and ensure you also have a healthy mindset about what you purchase and consume.  These are just the basics, but they’re things I remind myself of from time to time just to refresh and refocus, so hopefully this will be beneficial for you as well.

grocery cart 12.2.12

To kickoff a 3 part series, I’m going to share with you some of my advice for eating healthfully within a extremely reasonable food budget, all while investing in your health, for today and for your future.

So without further ado, here are my two cents ;)  . . .

–> First and foremost, decide on your priorities.

Truth #1: Americans spend less on food than people in any other developed country.
Truth #2: In many rankings (onset of diseases, early preventable death rates, mental illness, stress vs. happiness levels, etc.), Americans fall to the bottom in comparison with nearly all other developed countries.

I don’t believe those two are coincidental.

While the truth is that we’re all going to die at some point and we certainly can’t prevent everything, it feels fair to say that we can either invest in our health now (by lifestyle choices) or pay for our health later (pharmaceutical drugs, surgeries, etc.).  It’s simple yet profound to understand the direct impact the food we consume has on our bodies and minds.

And just to be clear, this does not mean that you need to eat all organic food, because while that would be awesome, it’s not practical for everyone or everything – it’s not at all the only way to make healthy choices.  I’ll address this more later.

–> Plan meals (and snacks).  Make a shopping list and stick to it.

Wasted Food = Wasted Money.

–> Never. Shop. when you’re Hungry.

Ever.  Just avoid it.  Pack a snack in your purse/bag so that if you’re ever running errands and get hungry, you can avoid getting groceries on an empty stomach.

–> Cook Once, Eat Twice.  (or three times or four)

Homecooking saves tons of money and is exponentially better for your health.  I’m a big fan of this saying because leftovers make my time spent cooking even more worthwhile – it allows for extras to be reheated for lunches or dinners on busy nights.

If you have an especially busy schedule and cooking dinner most nights just isn’t an option for you, I highly recommend picking a day each week, preferably the day your grocery shop, to spend one hour or less prepping food to grab throughout the week.  If you’re looking for inspiration, check out Lindsay and all of her awesome prepping ideas.

–> Do the preparation yourself.

This might add just a few seconds (literally) to your cooking, but it’ll save you a lot of money in the long run because you’ll get more for your money.  Shred your own lettuce, cut your own carrots, slice your own fruit, make a whole pan of healthy snack bars, dice your own chicken, mix up your own seasonings, etc.  This is a simple way to increase the value of your purchases, and it’s also a fun way to get kids involved in the kitchen after a shopping trip.

*****

stay tuned for parts 2 and 3!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookies {recipe}

Nursing has gone very well for us thus far, for which I’m incredibly grateful.

These cookies can’t take all of the credit, of course, but I believe in the power of food right down to my core.  I trust the research on certain ingredients, specifically oats, flaxseed, and brewer’s yeast, and how they can help a nursing mother’s body keep up its milk supply.

Whether you’re pregnant and due in the near future, or you’re a nursing mama already, I highly recommend these cookies.  The best part is they freeze perfectly so all you have to do is make one batch, place them in a sealed container in your freezer (after eating a couple fresh from the oven first, naturally), and then pop one or two out of the freezer just a few minutes before you’d like to eat them.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookies

ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup almond meal/flour
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 cup brewer’s yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (or almond butter)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips/chunks

instructions:

  1.  Preheat the oven to 350*F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper (or grease it with coconut oil or butter).
  2. Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir until combined.
  3. “Drop” the cookies onto the baking sheet (they hardly spread out when baking so you can place them close to one another).
  4. Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies begin to brown slightly.
  5. Enjoy!

Favorite Fall Dinners

I love Fall.  It’s right up there with summer for me.  I love how cozy it feels, but the season also hasn’t taken away every last ounce of sunshine and heat yet.  Obviously this was more true for me when I lived in MN, but even where we’re at in CA it’s starting to feel like Fall.

Whenever the weather cools down I really crave time in the kitchen, cooking hot dinners and baking new recipes.

To relish the new season, I thought I’d share some of my favorite Fall dinners with you today.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili

If you’re looking for a good recipe, this one is the base I typically follow.  And if you’re interested in a slightly different version, try out this one for bean and butternut squash chili.

homemade chili and cornbread - dinner

Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce

love spaghetti squash – it’s super easy to make, too (just be cautious when slicing the beast, I’m a little amazed I haven’t lost a finger in the process yet).  While it’s roasting in the oven, I combine some cooked beef or brown lentils, sauteed onions and garlic (or whatever veggies I have on hand), and marinara sauce.  Combine the sauce with the squash and it’s a delicious, healthy meal.

spaghetti squash with veggie-filled sauce topping dinner

Butternut Squash Mexi-Bake

I love this recipe!

butternut squash mexi-bake dinner recipe

Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, or Squash Quesadillas

such a simple meal: two good tortillas filled with either mashed pumpkin, sweet potato, or squash, plus some leafy greens, corn (or whatever other veg), plus cheese.  once cooked, top it with some salsa, avocado, and maybe a little sour cream or fresh cilantro and you’re good to go.

pumpkin quesadillas

{source}

Creamy Pumpkin Pasta with Peas and Toasted Walnuts

This dish has a unique blend of flavors and is the perfect comfort food for anyone who loves pumpkin.

pumpkin pasta with peas and walnuts

{source}

Enjoy!

*****

What are your favorite dinners to make this season?

Almond Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies {recipe}

I’ve made a batch of these cookies at least five times now (and I plan to again tonight) and they didn’t survive past a few days in our kitchen.  Trust me, they’re delicious.  Enjoy!

Almond Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

(and for anyone with food specificities, these cookies are gluten-free, soy-free, and dairy-free, as long as your chosen chocolate is free of those ingredients)

Almond Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup almond meal/flour
  • 3/4 cup almond butter
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or molasses (or both if you’d like)
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (or a dark chocolate bar cut into chunks, as I did)

instructions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350*F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper (or grease it with coconut oil or butter).

2.  Except for the chocolate, combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Stir until combined.

3.  Fold in the chocolate chunks.

4.  “Drop” the batter onto the baking sheet by the spoonful, though don’t place them too close to each other because they’ll spread out a bit as they bake.

5.  Bake for 10-18 minutes, or until the cookies look ‘set’ and are done to your liking.

6.  Allow to cool for a few minutes on the pan, then…

7.  Enjoy!

Twins games, Church, Baby Watch Update

This month can just about slow down as far as I’m concerned.  I can’t believe it’s July 20th already?!  We’re on round 2 of having company this month and I’m certain that’s making the time fly all that much faster.  Trying to soak in these days before our lives change completely.

Jesse’s youngest brother Scott is here!  He arrived on Thursday night and will be here for the first half of this week.

Before he arrived on Thursday, I did some baby laundry for the first time.  I nearly broke into tears as I was sitting on the floor of his room folding all of these tiny adorable outfits, socks, hats, washcloths, towels, burpcloths, and blankets.  I have all of his newborn clothes washed (see below) and plan to wash all of the 0-3 months sized clothing once our dresser arrives and is assembled, which should be before the end of this week.

laundry - washing newborn clothes

Jesse was able to take Friday off from work so we spent the day hanging out with Scott, mostly poolside, and then went to the Coliseum for the Oakland A’s vs. Minnesota Twins game.  We won!

twins vs. oakland a's baseball game

Saturday was a pretty similar day, ending with another baseball game, the Twins just didn’t quite pull off a win that night.  (and let’s not even talk about how their game went on Sunday.)

pizza

scott, jesse, danica - twins game in oakland

(my energy level was awfully low by Saturday night – it was all a lot of fun though and completely worth it)

We attended church on Sunday morning (after two weeks of visiting, I think we may have found a keeper…answered prayer!) and then went out for crepes for lunch.

what is means to be a Christian - salvation explained in a diagram

This is such a simple yet powerful way to explain salvation and Christianity, isn’t it?  Sunday’s sermon was all about what it means to be a Christian, how to become a Christian, and how to explain to others what being a Christian means.  Amazingly enough, I’ve never heard a sermon on this exact topic before, and I loved it.

savory crepes - lunch

We had our final meeting with our doula in the afternoon, and by that point I knew I just needed to rest for a bit.  Jesse and Scott headed to San Francisco to do some fun touristy stuff, but I called it a day and stayed home.  Quality brother time for them :)

37 weeks 5 days pregnant

Baby Watch Update:

I’ll be 38 weeks tomorrow…I’m having light menstrual-like cramps off and on throughout the day and some strong low pressure occasionally, but I don’t think any of this is labor, just my body preparing for labor.  Those moments of cramps and/or pressure are really uncomfortable, but when I don’t have them I feel really good.  My body just requires a lot of rest right now it seems, even though I (mentally) want to be going going going.  So thankful for baby boy’s kicks and squirms.  I’m still predicting he makes his arrival around the 41-week mark, so that means just a few weeks to go!

*****

Do you have a prediction of when the baby will arrive?!

I’m honestly tempted to make a post solely dedicated to this for-fun prediction, offering a prize for whomever gets closest…would that be fun?

Crepes – sweet or savory?

What’s your favorite baseball team?  Have you been to a game this season?

Fun 4th of July Recipes!

Independence Day is nearly here!

Since we’re moving tomorrow, I won’t be around the blog much between tonight and Monday, and who knows when we’ll get internet set up at our new place.
(I may or may not have just thought about this whole internet setup thing while typing this paragraph…whoops.)

Growing up, my sister, mom, and I always made a red, white, and blue dessert to bring to our big family picnic.  With a few days to prepare, I thought I’d share some fun 4th of July-themed recipes I’ve seen floating around the internet.

Easy & Healthy Fruit Dessert Pizza

from Happy Healthy Mama

(can someone please make this one for me?)

healthy 4th of july fruit pizza

Red White & Blue Sangria

from Punchbowl

Red, white and blue lemonade

Patriotic Taco Salad Recipe

from Taste of Home

patriotic taco salad recipe

Blueberry, Strawberry, & Jicama Salsa

from Two Peas & Their Pod

blueberry-strawberry-jicima-salsa

Patriotic Watermelon & Feta Flag

from Wenderly

(so easy and fun)

watermelon and feta flag

Lattice-Topped Blackberry Cobbler

from My Recipes

1007p113-blackberry-cobbler-m

or maybe a

Classic Sour Cherry Pie with Lattice Crust

from Epicurious

242514

and last but not least…

Red, White, & Blue Blondies

from Pink Cake Plate

red-white-and-blue-blondies-4-550x422

Let me know what foods you’re making for/eating this weekend!

Wishing you a wonderful weekend and a happy Independence Day!

July: Seasonal Produce

Happy July 1st!

This means we’re halfway through 2015 already.  How crazy is that?!

A new month means I have a new list of now-in-season produce for you.  This is quite possibly the best time of year for fresh produce.  Let’s take a look at what’s available in July…

When you eat fruits and veggies that are currently in season, you consume produce that contains an even higher nutritional value.  The produce is also more flavorful, fresh, and cost-effective!

farmers' market strawberries

Be on the lookout for the following fruits and vegetables at your local farmer’s market and area farms, food co-ops, and grocery stores this month!

Fruits:

  • Apricots
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Melons
  • Peaches
  • Plums & Pluots
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries

Veggies:

  • Arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Basil
  • Beets
  • Bell Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Chard
  • Cilantro
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Green Beans
  • Green Onions
  • Greens (various varieties)
  • Kale
  • Lettuce (various varieties)
  • Mushrooms (various varieties)
  • Okra
  • Parsley
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Scallions
  • Spinach
  • Summer Squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini

**if you’re searching for a farmers’ market in your area, check HERE – this is also a great site for learning about local-to-you produce since the above lists can’t be completely accurate for every geographical region**

Enjoy!

June: Seasonal Produce

“I can’t believe it’s (insert new month name) already!”  <–what I say at the beginning of every month.  Time flies, people!

For many reasons, I’m excited the summer is here, or nearly here at least.  The weather in northern California certainly doesn’t feel like it, however – it’s been cool and cloudy for weeks now – but I know the warmer weather will come around.

Strolling through the farmers’ market on Saturday mornings has become a weekend must for us, and I love seeing what’s new and fresh each week – the tables full of produce are always beautiful!

When you eat fruits and veggies that are currently in season, you consume produce that contains an even higher nutritional value.  The produce is also more flavorful, fresh, and cost-effective!

farmers' market strawberries

Be on the lookout for the following fruits and vegetables at your local farmer’s market, food co-op, and grocery store this month:

fruits:

  • apricots
  • avocados
  • berries…
    strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blackberries, boysenberries
  • cherries
  • figs
  • grapes
  • limes
  • melons…
    honeydew, cantaloupe, watermelon
  • nectarines
  • peaches
  • pineapple

vegetables:

  • asparagus
  • beets
  • cabbage
  • carrots
  • corn
  • cucumber
  • green beans
  • leafy greens (several varieties, including kale)
  • lettuce (several varieties)
  • onions
  • peas
  • potatoes
  • tomatoes
  • zucchini

*****

The fresh produce that’s currently available certainly varies by region…what’s catching your eye at the farmers’/grocery market lately?