Gone, But Not Forgotten

I finally put together a memorial video for my dog, Lizzy. It was very challenging. Figuring out how to create a video was a little difficult, but the challenging part, that took so long, was working on it without getting too emotional. For my first video of her, I wanted to do her justice. So, it took a bit longer to get it just right but I am happy with the final result. I hope this video of her will bring you a little joy, a glimmer of how she filled my heart with her beautiful spirit.

 

Food Budget Challenge Week One: 4 Discoveries

It has only been a few days into my Food Budget Challenges but I wanted to share some of the discoveries that I have made so far.

Discovery #1

One trick to save money on groceries that I have heard often is to meal plan. I think this is a good strategy. However, my strategy for this week was to find the cheapest healthy ingredients and, then, figure out what I was going to make with these ingredients. But, I am a bit excited because it will help me to expand my repertoire of foods and recipes. For example, I have rarely eaten eggplant in restaurants but have never cooked it at home. However, Sprouts Farmers Market was having a sale of $.88 per eggplant. So, I bought it. I ended up making an amazing pasta dish that I will definitely make and eat again. I will definitely post the recipe later on too. It was rather simple and made eight servings so it lasted a while for my two person household.

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Discovery #2

I love discovering new items. This week I found a new favorite at Trader Joe’s: frozen Fettuccine Alfredo. I have an intolerance to garlic and so a lot of Americanized Italian food is not a possibility for me to eat. But, as I discovered when I went to Italy last year, Italians tend to use a lot less and, a lot of the time, they use no garlic at all. So, when I saw that Trader Joe’s imported their Fettuccine Alfredo from Italy, I was excited to look at their ingredient list. No garlic! It has been such a long time since I have had Alfredo that I knew I had to deviate from my list and splurge on this item.

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The Fettuccine Alfredo was $3.99 for about 3 servings. Each serving was 370 calories. This would be a perfect economical dish for a busy single person because it is microwaveable and the package contained 5 little nests of frozen fettuccine with the Alfredo in little chunks so you could easily separate the bag into individual freezer bags of 2 nests each. If you purchased 2 bags, that is 5 meals for $1.60. Add in some frozen veggies to those bags and it would be a more balanced meal and still be under $2.

After grocery shopping, I could not wait to try the Fettuccine Alfredo so I made it for dinner that night. I made it according to the package directions for the stovetop but added in one serving (½ cup) of canned pumpkin ($1.99, 3.5 servings) and ½ package of their frozen organic broccoli ($2.49, 5 servings) at the end and cooked it for a few more minutes on low heat. Since I did it on the stovetop, I cooked the broccoli separately first. It was delicious! The pumpkin made it feel like an indulgent fall treat. After plating, I added a little sprinkle of parmesan cheese. We had gotten so busy with shopping that we had skipped lunch that day so we ate it all that night. Split in 2, it was about 607 calories per person but this could have easily been 4 servings.

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$3.99 for Fettuccine + $1.25 for organic frozen broccoli + about $.55 organic canned pumpkin = approximately $5.80 ($2.90 per person)

 Discovery #3

As I said previously, I tend to overeat when I am going through difficult times. So, I knew I would be tempted to eat all of my snacks. And then, the bulk items would not be saving me money but making me fatter more quickly. A solution I found was to put serving sizes of the snacks (especially the ones that I would be more likely to eat lots of in one sitting) into Ziploc bags. This way I will not be tempted to eat as much and I will maintain my savings.

Discovery #4

I love tradition and rituals, not only the ones that lead to healthy lifestyle like meditating over lemon water (see previous post) but also ones that bring people together. So, I have a ritual with my Mom that we go out for bagels and hot chai and then sit in the park on Sunday mornings. It is a way for us to connect once a week despite how busy we might be the rest of the time. It is also our cheat day so we do not feel bad about eating an unhealthy meal. But, now that we are trying to stick within the Low-Cost Plan, we are more aware of the price tag for our little outing. We wanted to get the same emotional benefit without spending close to $20. Last Sunday, instead of buying hot chai with almond milk, we bought one Venti iced tea from Starbucks and brought a second cup to share. Then, we bought one bagel to split and brought another snack from home. We spent around $5. A savings of nearly $15! Plus, we saved some empty calories as well. We enjoyed our time together at the park just as much. I also kept the Venti cup to help me drink more water throughout the day. I have good intentions in the morning to drink water but my other glasses do not hold as much liquid so I will forget to fill it again. Now, I get three times the water in one glass. We are also limiting our “coffee runs” to once a week.

We also like to have dinner or lunch out once a week. We often spend upwards of $40-45 for one meal. When our weekly budget for the rest of the month will be $102.01, this is simply out of the question. My goal for this week is to discover a place where we can have the fun of going out without the hefty price tag. I would like to see if we can spend $10-15.

Food Budget Challenge

I have been neglecting my blog and other social media for a few weeks now. When I started my blog, I had good intentions. I have many ideas and sources to share but the process of writing it all out has been challenging because I have been going through a difficult time in my life. My dog, Lizzy, who had been my constant companion for the last 16½ years passed away last week. She had been plugging along like she always had and then her health declined rapidly. I will be posting a little tribute video that I made from photos I had taken of her on my phone. There are many more over many more years but those physical photographs that are currently in storage.

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She’s Inspiring…

For Lizzy’s whole life she was a trooper. When she was just a puppy, she was diagnosed with several skeletal issues. Our vet told us to be prepared to not see her live passed age five. She easily surpassed this milestone and, then, when she was fifteen, she was diagnosed with several organ issues. This time, our vet told us to be prepared for her to not live more than six months. She ended up living to 16½ so I was grateful for every extra day that I got with her but it still does not make the sting of losing her any less. However, she taught me to be grateful for every moment and to not let pain or any other obstacle overwhelm your life (she never once, until the end, let her pain show). However, these past few months, I have been focused on helping her so I neglected my self-care. Now, to honor her memory, I have decided to refocus my energies on being healthy. So, I decided to take on a personal challenge:

Food Budget Challenge! 

Often times when I am having difficult times in my life, I overeat and I do not eat the healthiest of foods. So, as a way to not overeat, I wanted to go on a diet, a wallet diet. I want to save money while in no way willing to sacrifice quality or nutrition. For a long time, I have been under the assumption that living in California meant that eating well and eating cheaply could not go together but I have been inspired by many bloggers and experts in the area to give it a shot. A further challenge is that we have difficulty buying in bulk or extreme couponing because we have a relatively small kitchen and a small refrigerator with no extra storage space.

In Comparison 

I know my blog is about living healthy on a budget but, when it comes to food, I am still a work in progress. So, I wanted a guideline as to what a reasonable food budget might look like for my family. I live with one female adult. So, I took my estimations from “USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food Report for August 2014.” According to them, a family of 2 (male and female) between 19-50 years on the Thrifty Plan was $390.00 for the month and $497.30 for the Low-Cost Plan. By the end of the first month, I want my total food costs to be below the Low-Cost Plan. Then, next month and into the future, I want my target to be below the Thrifty Plan. Furthermore, my plan during this time is to share recipes as well as any tips and tricks that I pick up along the way.

 Starting Off…Week One Shopping 

I started this last week by combing through the ads that were sent in the mail. Based on the items I found in the ads and cross-referencing these with ads online from Oliver’s Market (a local chain grocery store), I created a list for the week. I wrote down all of the items plus their sale price. I also included any other items that I knew we would need for the week. Then, we went shopping at Costco and Trader Joe’s. I wanted to go to Costco and Trader Joe’s first because I wanted to see if the items on sale at the other stores were more or less than these two stores since I was unable to find prices at these two stores online. Some items were less expensive per ounce at Costco and others were more expensive. It was good to have my list to compare. The main items that were cheaper at Costco were POM Pomegranate Juice, Organic Strawberry Jam, organic pasta, and organic cereal. The items that were cheaper at Trader Joe’s were frozen vegetables, sunflower nut butter, and bread. Then, I went to Oliver’s and Sprouts Farmers Market. It was a lot of stores to visit and more expensive the first week but that was because we had not gone regular grocery shopping in months. We were either eating out or going to the grocery store to buy a few items every day. So, our cabinets and fridge were pretty sparse. But, we felt pretty accomplished for the space we have, the time it took, and the quality as well as quantity of items we purchased.

Grand Total 

For week one, we spent a grand total of $191.27 this is including prices for other food items that we had bought previous weeks but had not eaten a substantial amount of yet. This means that we have $306.03 left to spend for this month on groceries. This will average to about $102.01 per week. I am fairly confident that we will make within this budget because of how many staple items we bought this week that will last for the month.

Tips and Tricks! 

One of the tricks that I have discovered so far is definitely creating the list based on the ads. This worked very well but it was time consuming. I have the time right now but this may not be possible in the future. So, I discovered some free apps that are supposed to make this easier. I am going to be trying them out this month to see how they go. I will report back on how successful I was using them and if I will continue to use them in the future. These apps are: Grocery IQ, Shopkick, Favado, Ibotta, SavingStar, Checkout 51, and SnipSnap. I also started following some bloggers who do couponing that seemed promising. I believe that saving money
is important but also that time is money. So, in order to make the savings worth the time, it has to be easy and quick.

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I will be posting throughout the month both my successes and the lessons learned from any failures. I definitely think it is possible to make healthy choices while also being aware of budget.

Do you have any tips and tricks? I would love to hear them.

Habit Forming: Meditation

For many years now, one of my hobbies has been to research ways to improve health and wellness not only for myself but also to share with others. I spend several hours a week reading advice and studies from prominent wellness experts. Although I always have more to learn, I have gained a lot of knowledge over the years. However, my problem, as I suspect may be an issue for many people, is finding the time and energy to put knowledge into practice. Then, once I begin, I usually find it difficult to continue those practices until they are habits. Does this sound familiar?

One of the habits that I am currently trying to form is meditating daily. Meditation does wonders for stress release as well as allows one to get grounded and re-focused. My eventual goal is 30 minutes of meditation a day but I have started with 5 minutes. I believe it is less important the duration of the meditation and more important that it is consistent. I thought that finding 5 minutes would be so easy but, once I got into a busy day, the day flew by without doing it. So, I have made a goal to wake up every morning and to take those 5 minutes first thing. Furthermore, meditation does not have to be done in a certain manner or position. As long as you are able to be alone and quiet, you will find the best time and the best way to set aside those minutes every day. For my personal meditation ritual, I like to multitask. So, now I do my 5 minutes while I am doing my other morning ritual of drinking hot lemon water.

Drinking hot purified water with lemon is a fantastic way to start your day. I usually heat 8-10oz of purified water and add 2 squeezes of lemon juice. I buy lemon juice in the bottle because it is inexpensive and much more convenient than cutting up fresh lemons every morning. But, fresh lemons work just as great. Personally, I drink lemon water because I am rarely hungry when I first wake up but the hot lemon water helps me to wake up feeling refreshed and gets my digestive system working enough that I can eat something. There are other wonderful benefits to drinking lemon water including, as some experts claim, having a detoxifying effect. You can discover more of the benefits of lemon water in this article: 5 Amazing Benefits of Drinking Lemon Water by Linnea Jensen

Just like needing to set aside time to exercise, even when you feel you might be too overwhelmed or busy, you will be grateful that you did this little ritual for yourself.

If you have always wanted to meditate, I hope my suggestions start you on the right path. If you meditate, let me know how you formed the habit and in what manner does meditation work best for you.

Getting The Ball Rolling

Thank you for checking out my first blog post where I am “getting the ball rolling” to share some wonderful tips and tricks to living a wholly healthy lifestyle while on a budget. One of the reasons I started this blog is because I sympathize with all of you who are busy with many obligations, commitments, and responsibilities and how easy it is to let taking care of ourselves slip off our priorities list especially when you do not have a lot of money to spend. But, at some point, when we have neglected ourselves to focus on the other items on our priorities list, we eventually burn out and are unable to give our priorities the type of focus and energy that we initially had when we began to neglect ourselves in the first place. I have experienced this burn out to the point where I had to focus on regaining my health and begin to live wholly. When I did, I was able to give my other priorities the type of attention I thought they deserved in the first place. For most of us, the image of a healthy lifestyle mostly centers on nutrition and exercise. In the wellness world, a phrase is often said: “a healthy lifestyle is 80% nutrition, and 20% exercise.” While I believe this is mostly true and I will focus on these two elements, there are other key elements that comprise a wholly lifestyle like meditation and self-care that are equally as important. This post will focus on a simple, easy, and inexpensive self-care routine that can be done every day.

At the end of a long day or after exercising, many people including myself find themselves complaining about muscles that are sore, overworked, and/or stressed. Getting a massage at a spa is a great way to ease tension and inflammation but it is very expensive and, on a budget, it is simply out of the question. So, if a massage is not an option, is there anything similar?

YES!!! The answer: a child’s hard rubber bounce ball.

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I used to play with this toy all the time when I was a child but who knew that a simple and inexpensive child’s toy that has a one-time cost of about $5 could deliver the similar benefits as a $100 plus per hour massage? It does and you will not regret trying it out. You can find these balls at any toy store but online (like Amazon) is a good source too.

 

Since they tend to be the sorest areas for me, I mainly use it on my feet and my back. Although, you may find that other areas could benefit.

To use on your feet:
1) Stand
2) Place ball under one foot
3) While placing pressure on the ball, move the ball around under your foot

To use on your back:
1) Find a wall and stand with your back towards the wall
2) Place the ball between yourself and the wall
3) While placing pressure on the ball, move the ball around your back from your shoulders to your hips

If your muscles are tight, sore, and/or overworked, it will likely be somewhat painful on first attempt. However, you will feel wonderful afterwards. Optimally, to continue reaping the benefits, I recommend “getting the ball rolling” for at least 5 minutes every day. At minimum, do it after you exercise and you will not feel as sore the next day.

Another perk is that it is tremendously portable. It can go anywhere. You may find yourself wanting to invest in one for your work place, home, and gym bag. Even with two or more, it is a lot less than getting a massage!

Final note, if you do not want to clean it every time I place it on the floor, I recommend buying one for your feet and one for your back.