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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Eating Healthy Menu Planning Ideas on a Budget

When we say that we are eating or trying to eat better people say that must cost so much more money or they're not sure where to start or it doesn't matter- food is food.

Well, we believe all food was designed by the creator to be the same, man just got in the way and didn't make things much better. Where to start-- again, begin making small changes-- a few things here and there. Go from vegetable oil to coconut oil, white flour to whole wheat flor, and store bought to homemade.

Saving money-- okay-- I am going to tell you how and why this can be so easy and affordable. Our recent trip was some of our healthiest choices to date, I shopped for two weeks, and all for 170.74. AND thats for a family of five. Which, for each week, thats 85 dollars and 37 ish cents (its late-- forgive my math right now). Pretty dang good. I will probably go out for more fruit-- so lets say five more bucks a week and 90 dollars a week for five people-- still awesome! And I did this at Giant-- so very doable!

Here are what some of our meals look like--

Breakfast-- homemade wheat and berry muffins (http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2010/05/12/recipe-fruit-nut-or-berry-or-whatever-you-want-them-to-be-whole-wheat-muffins/), half a hard boiled egg, and some blackberries on the side. The kids also had some choc. almond milk too.

Lunch-- we either have some sort of sandwhich on homemade bread (I bought two bags of really good whole wheat flour and so far onebag has yielded 4 huge loaves of bread, 12 muffins, and some other small things-- a very well spent 4 dollars)-- the kids like PB&J-- we have found some really good no sugar added brands.

I like hummus, some tomato, spinach leaves, and some fresh mozzerella on mine. We also will probably have some egg salad as the bread goes a little stale next week :) Leftovers are also a lunch choice as are WW crackers and PB&J. On the side of our sandwhich we have some strawberry and kiwi fruit salad and some all natural chips (I told you-- these are my weakness!). Everything is portioned out and we have such a colorful display and it is very fulfilling.

For dinner-- here is what we had tonight. http://life-as-a-lofthouse.blogspot.com/2010/09/baked-sweet-and-sour-chicken-with-fried.html. I am not going to lie-- I love fried rice and if we had gone to wegmans where I happen to find theirs to have too many onions, it would have cost us around 40 dollars for the whole family-- this was 8 dollars for the whole kit and caboodle! score. I made the sweet and sour chicken too with two large chicken breasts and there were leftovers (read-- for lunch tomorrow). I also used a much healthier rice grain, honey instead of sugar for the sweet and sour and some other better choices then what you'd find out to eat.

Last night we had rice (hey-- rice is a great starch that can be done many ways and is healthy when you pick the right grain and a great way to strecth your budget), shrimp skewers (fresh shrimp that I had to peel) and some leftover tortillas from when we made them last week with cheese and spinach and cilantro.

So, if you want to save money and eat better here are some tips--

1. Make your own breads, tortillas, muffins, etc. The quality will be better and the quanity greater so you can stretch your dime and fill up on some yummier and healthier items. We are making homemade granola next week and for how much I paid for enough oats for many meals is less than what I'd pay for a puny bag in the health aisle.

2. When you get home from the store-- cut your fruit up, boil your eggs, make some muffins for the next day, etc.

3. Make a menu plan that fits your family and a budget and stick to it. Know what you are eating each meal.

4. use whats left in your pantry and freezer and incorporate these items into your meal plan if at all possible.

5. Make large batches when possible and freeze some extras. We defrosted some homemade naan bread for the day when I did grocery shopping and it was yummy and homemade and using what was already there.

6. Things like spinach are so healthy and can pop up all over in many meals.

7. Grow your own veggies and borrow from others. My parents had a huge basil crop-- I went down and picked as much as I could and have some nice homemade basil in my fridge and freezer :)

We're still navigating, but hoep this helps other people who dont know where to begin or think it will cost an arm and a leg. It won't- trust me!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

We Also Don't Own A Scale

I have previously explained why we got rid of our microwave, now I would like to explain why we got rid of our scale.

I firmly believe if you are pursuing a healthy lfe style or excercise routine to loose weight then you are missing the point and will not have any joy or nearly the same amount when you push that idea out of your mind. For good.

"For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." 1 Tim. 4:8. Excercise is good-- but pursuing that alone or living for that is not. Dob;t get me wrong, we love hiking and walking together-- but we do it because it brings us so much joy to be together and to be out in God's creation. Its fun and refreshing.
If I were to make excercise the most important thing in my life, then it would be an idol. If I were to loose sight of why I excercise and become focused on how I look in this aspect, then I have fallen into one of the world's traps.

"See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him." 1 John 3:1

We like eating what God has naturally prepared for us, but we are doing it to be good stewards of our body not because we want to be a certain size. That just doesn't matter to the Lord-- I do think it is an area of struggle for every woman going back to Eve-- she knew she was naked and felt ashamed. All of the sudden she no longer saw herself how God saw her. Even in Song of Solomon, the bride asks the ladies to forgive her or to overlook her dark skin which in that area was looked down on. Woman and self image is just such an easy area for Satan to get a foothold. When our thoughts are more consumed with our weight then our love for God, we have lost sight of our first love.

"Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious." 1 Peter 3:4.

I do think moderate and times of fellowship with excercise are both enjoyable and a very nice time to connect with others. Nice quiet walks alone with the Lord are also wonderful times to pray and refresh. Eating well is wonderful too especially when you are doing it to nourish both body and soul.

Living without the scale is freeing and refreshing-- God doesn't ever say we must be a certain size or weight. " But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:37-39.

Are you ready to see yourself how god sees you? To recognize we have flawed bodies and that He loves us anyway? To enjoy excercise and healthy living not for what weight or size they can take us, but as a way to glorify Him and draw closer to Him? I admit, it isn't always easy for me and I am constantly learning, but not having that scale around has been a HUGE blessing!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Still No Microwave

I recently posted how we had stopped using our microwave. It is still sitting in our basement and now awaits being posted on Craigslist. I absolutely love not having it. We have been making way more things from scratch from tortillas to pizza dough and then some. We are more deliberate in how we prepare our food the first time around since we know there is no quick heating process should we choose it.

We are still going with no artificial bleached sugars or dyes. Someone asked me why don't we just use nutra sweet recently and the answer is it's an artificial sweetner that tricks your body into thinking its not sweet, lowers your metabolism, and some other pretty bad stuff. We try and by as much raw sugar as possible so it looks brownish and is more crystal cut. We use it limiting... Honestly it's a small little bag, but other then making tea from scratch or adding some to dough, it rarely gets used. That's very good.

We have also been eating more better quality ins still like grass fed cows. This is so much better too because less hormones, more natural, and your body can work with that much more. It will look different than your typical ground beef... Less grayish pink and more of a bright red. That alone should tip you off about the other stuff. Again, it is costly, but we don't eat meat every day and it allows us to not gourde ourselves on meatballs or meatloaf. I think when you are buying better ingredients and eating more real whole foods the way the lord intended you are less likely to pig out or want more snacks. They are incredibly satisfying.

Now, this next part is going to be more difficult, but we are looking to stop eating out. So many restraunts use microwaves and overly processed foods, and really instead of spending extra money here, it's so much nicer to eat at home and know exactly what goes into our food. We are generally using better ingredients, non bleached pastas and grains, and more vegetables. We have found Bahamas breeze to still be okay.... They serve hummus with vegetables and a freshly made vine ripened salsa. Their menu changes with what's in season. Is it perfect, no.... But is one of the better choices we have found.

Another change we have begun to make us soaking our beans. You can get so many servings from one bag of beans and they taste so much better. You have to plan ahead, but sometimes the convenience of cooking something doesn't always make it a healthy choice. But, right there is an example on a way that eating better can actually cost you less.

This week our goal is to visit a local dairy farm that sells its cow's milk right there along with some cheese. The cows eat grass and that's it. Really, isn't that the way God designed it. I think a good rule of thumb when buying something is to stop and think, is this in any way altered beyond the natural way God designed it? God make everything so tastey and nutritious. Yes it takes more time and maybe more effort, but it is a good responsibility to assume.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Healthier Pasta Sauce

I think I was 17 before I realized everyone didn't go home from church on Sunday morning and have a huge pasta dinner right afterwards. My dad is 100% Italian and having pasta less then twice a week was nothing short of criminal! My mom made red sauce, pasta or raviolis, and always had some extra sauce on the side.

I must admit, I love sauce so much, I don't put the extra bowl out, I just add it all in.... Extra shouldn't be an option because when it comes to pasta, it's a necessity.

So, how can you make your tomatoe sauce even better for you? Tomatoes are great, olive oil is okay, garlic and basil all good. But let's go further. I would immediately suggest adding a big handful of fresh spinach finely chopped so it might even look like a huge amount of basil. Now you have some leafy greens. Now, let's make your sauce blush.... Add a few spoonfuls of Greek or any organic yogurt that's plain. Not too much, just enough your sauce looses a little redness. Good, now we have added a whole extra veggie and some extra dairy. Now, why not grate some veggies ini there? It's easy, fast, and adds just a nice touch without overwhelming your palette. I normally grate some carrot and zest some green pepper. Why not? You want to go even further... Let's add a few crumbles of goat cheese.... So good for your digestive system!

Now, because I am a vegetarian, here's what I suggest on the side to mix in on top of your pasta and sauce...some nicely breaded eggplant and or zucchini baked in the oven. I bread my with pinko bread crumbs and lightly bake them and they taste so, so, so good on your pasta.

I love pasta. I could live on pasta,but I want to make sure it's giving my body tons of nourishment and these simple easy tricks will boost your sauces nutritional value too!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Free Giveaway over on Raising Olives

I absolutely love the raising Olives blog-- she has a pretty cool giveaway going on right now!


You can check out Generations with Vision and their website as well as other studies here : http://generationswithvision.com/products/

We have yet to use their study, but have been looking into the proverbs one for our family.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Goodbye Microwave

We have recently being making steps towards eating more naturally and whole. Def. much less processed foods and making gradual changes. Its frankly too expensive to change everything overnight and it is a huge learning process. We started with dropping sugar and dyes out of our diet. Even some things that claim to be natural or organic, will still contain these two ingredients. You must really read labels-- but the best thing is to buy things hat don't even have labels. We try to eat as much produce as possible, natural grains, and grass fed meat. We get our yogurt and now heavy whipping cream at a local dairy and have been trying to make baked goods ourselves at home.

Now, confession, my husband still likes his ice cream-- haven't started making that ourselves and I still like chips. We are just buying better choices in our areas of weakness, not living like saints.

I have been reading what I can and have come across some things that suggested doing without a microwave. My favorite thing to microwave-- popcorn. But pop-corn has such little nutritional value, that its not necessary. Also, the other obvious use was re-heating food and sometimes steaming veggies in there. I talked it over with my husband, and said lets just try it for a month and see how we do. So we moved the microwave to the basement....... and I haven't really missed it.

Not only is it healthier, it's saving us electric, and it's freeing up much needed space in my tiny kitchen.

Here is our old microwave cart and now it is our extra space and kitchen aid cart. Yay!

So, how do we heat leftovers? Great question-- today I had some leftover pasta and I got out a little skillet, added some water, and dumped my pasta in. It heated fairly quickly and much more evenly and tasted lots better, almost like it had been made fresh-- again! Wasn't sticky or unevenly heated like the microwave used to cook it.

Here is our raw honey being heated this morning for breakfast-- I simply filled a measuring cup with hot tap water and placed the honey inside-- perfectly liquified honey in just minutes.

So, be encouraged, take some small steps towards better living and eating-- it might be easier then you think!

Re-doing an old hutch for the bathroom

I searched high and low for good, roomy storage for the bathroom. Originally, we were just going to buy cabinets from Lowe's but for the price, we still weren't getting that much more storage and they looked a little cookie cutter.

Then I tried the internet and thought I had found a few, but none really encompassed what I wanted-- something unique, with glass doors somewhere, and not too mass produced. I finally decided to go in the local Christian thrift store and happy day-- it was half off all their furniture. So, I was determined to look and find something. After a few aisles, I found this 50 or 60's or even really bad 80's hutch with hideous handles and an ugly burnt orangey finish. Barf! But-- the potential was there and I talked my husband into the vision!

We had to lug this bad boy in two trips with the van and then get it up on the porch. Once it was on the porch, it stayed there for a bit as it needed some work, and um, it stunk!

My sweet husband did a lot of the sanding with a great electric sander I scored on craiglist for 15 bucks! Yes-- still way under budget and the vision was coming closer to being finished!

I am happy to say that is now completely sanded, primed, painted, and with new hardware sitting in our bathroom storing our thousands of towels. But, I want to do something more with the back of the top to brighten the interior up-- stay tuned!!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Make Your Own Pita Bar

I love feta cheese and all the yummy goodness that goes with it. I also have 3 children who all like completely different things on their pitas, so I decided we'd do it taco night style and let everyone make their own pita-- hello yumminess and thank you Lord for this great idea!

I put out some whole wheat pitas, lettuce, spinach, feta, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, green peppers, kalamata olives, hummus, and greek yogurt.

Everyone picked their own-- and really, with such healthy wholesome, and raw veggie choices, you couldn't go wrong! I like mine with everything, in case you were wondering :)And seconds!

It's so easy even my baby-er, almost 3 year old can enjoy them and whatever falls on our glamorous plastic fish plates (seriously, I'd love to blame the plastic plates on the kiddos, but I break things like nobodys buisness, so sorry about the less then glam food shots) can easily be mopped up with the little end bits of your pita or stuffed into your second or third one! Happy Pita Partying this week!