Friday, February 21, 2014

Let's Talk Food

So I promised an update on my diet…Short and sweet, I've lost a grand total of 3 lbs. in 7.5 weeks. Really not what I was hoping for! I was hoping to have actually lost another 4 lbs. at this time in the game, but it just didn't happen that way. I'm going to keep at it! I leave for California in a few days, and I had a specific weight in mind (7 lbs. less than my starting weight), and it's obvious I'm not going to lose 3 or 4 lbs. within these next couple of days. But! That's okay! I'm going to keep going!

In other news, some people have been asking for food menus. I tried to sketch out what I ate for breakfast one week during my "build a better breakfast" challenge. Here is a more in-depth meal plan! I also included prices, because I think that is a very realistic thing to consider when making a meal plan.

Since I've been married (exactly 6 months now, thank you very much), I've changed around our meal plans, how often I go to the grocery store, and we've even moved twice (yes…I know…) so I've had to deal with three different kitchens. After spending twice our budgeted allowance on food in the month of October, I knew I needed to look for some cheaper meals! I revisited my meal plans that I've kept over the past 20 months or so that I've been living on my own and cooking for myself (and I was in grad school…aka no money…). I wanted to see how I lived so cheaply just even 8 or 10 months ago. I found a trend that turned out to be really helpful! The trend is this: plan 4 dinners for 7 days worth of dinners. Meaning, if you plan to eat at home 7 nights a week, plan only 4 different dinners and eat leftovers the rest of the nights. I tried that these past two weeks and have been able to keep our budget under control! (For the two of us we budget $500 a month on food + $50 for going out to eat…it may seem like a lot, and it is, but that's why I've been playing around with out meal plans so much!)

Another trend that kept reappearing in my previous meal plans was only having two shopping days a month. I normally did a big shopping trip, and then a "refresher" trip for things like fresh veggies and milk and things that wouldn't keep a month…eww… I tried that again for the month of February. For my first trip of the month I planned to spent $170-190. I actually spent $159, but had $10 worth of coupons (my first time EVER using coupons at a grocery store…woah…) so ended up paying $149 for my first trip that was supposed to supply two weeks of food. Later in the month I wanted to spend $50 for a refresher trip that would last another week, however for the fourth week of the month I was going to be out of town, and wanted to make meals ahead for my poor husband who will be here alone, so that shopping trip turned out to be $113. For the whole month I was able to get enough food in two trips, and spent $262. That practically cut our grocery budget in half from what it has been in previous months!

A few more tricks that helped me save money:

  • plan 4 dinners for 7 nights worth of meals at home, and eat leftovers 
  • "Lunch" meals don't need to be sandwiches, and "dinner" meals don't always need to be hot meals. Mix and match. Eat some of the leftovers from dinner for lunch. 
  • Replace one "meal" a week with a salad. This past week we subbed a lunch of sandwiches for a homemade Italian salad. It was very tasty, and used veggie ingredients we already had on hand. The one down side? We ate at noon and I was hungry at 4pm. I don't normally snack, and didn't that day either, but we did eat dinner at 5pm! 
  • Instead of processed foods like chips, pretzels, or any other type of snack-y foods you would normally throw in your lunch box, replace it with a side salad. I like salads (my husband loves them!), but I have to change it up. Most of the time my salads consist of lettuce, lettuce mix (baby spinach, arugula, swiss chard, etc.), cucumbers, carrots, sometimes tomatoes if I've splurged (…during the winter…), and dressing. I will occasionally change it up like with the Italian salad, or we had a "luau" salad last week with Asian dressing, pineapple chunks, oranges, almonds, raisins, lettuce, cucumbers, and feta cheese on top. Really good! Eating a side salad at lunch (and for some dinners) really helped us cut back our food bill this month! 
  • Use your freezer! Ours is always 1/2 to 3/4 full, and it's because we freeze some of our leftovers. No one likes eating the same casserole five times in eight days, so freeze some for later. Eat it twice one week, once the next week, skip a week or two, and eat it twice on weeks 4 or 5 or 6. It actually works really well. 
I want to show you what I spent my grocery money on these past three weeks, and provide you with a few simple meal combinations. I didn't post any recipes because, let's be honest, Pinterest and Google are alive and well! These meals are great, and you can probably find a recipe for "crockpot chili" just about anywhere. It's more of an idea for you to see how I spent my money, and what I spent it on, and how I arranged it into some good meals!

Week 1: Total spent= $149
·      egg casserole + chocolate muffin
·      choc raspberry smoothie + chocolate muffin
·      choc raspberry smoothie+ chocolate muffin
·      oatmeal + pre-made green smoothie juice
·      oatmeal
·      egg burrito+ pre-made green smoothie juice

·      leftover chicken salad wrap in lettuce leaf + leftover homemade Mexican chicken soup
·      leftover fried rice + top ramen
·      PB&J sandwiches
·      leftover tuna casserole + side salad
·      roast beef sandwiches + coleslaw
·      tuna pita sandwiches + coleslaw
·      (moving day) burgers? pizza?

·      leftover Mediterranean veggie stew (recipe on Pinterest []) over egg noodles w/ Italian sausages
·      tuna, egg noodle, and pea casserole (many recipes available on Pinterest)
·      crockpot chili, white rice, Fritos + toppings
·      leftover chili
·      OUT TO EAT The Cheesecake Factory (Valentine’s Day)
·      leftover tuna, egg noodle, and pea casserole
·      chicken parmesan over spaghetti (Cooking Light recipe, available online)

·      2 brownies (served at Bible study)
·      6 homemade M&M Valentine’s Day cookies
·      1 (giant) slice of cheesecake (from Valentine’s Day date) eaten over three sittings

·      water
·      milk (skim)
·      almond milk (for oatmeal/ cereal)
·      Crystal Light iced tea (unsweetened)
·      coffee  
·      (tea available, as always, but I didn't drink any this week since I had a lot of tea last week during my 7 day coffee fast. I drank coffee four times this week…not too bad.)
·      1.5 liter Bolthouse Farms pre-made green smoothie

Week 2: Refresher grocery week…total spent=$113
·      string cheese + grapefruit + raspberry smoothie
·      ½ bagel + oatmeal cookie + V8 Fusion juice
·      PB&J sandwich + V8 Fusion juice
·      cereal w/ almond milk + V8 Fusion juice
·      cereal w/ almond milk + mango + coffee
·      blueberry Greek yogurt + ½ turkey sandwich on croissant (leftover from Jason’s Deli)
·      strawberry oatmeal smoothie + V8 Fusion juice + coffee

·      OUT TO EAT Jason’s Deli—salad bar + turkey sandwich on croissant (saved for breakfast one day)
·      frozen leftover chili + rice
·      OUT TO EAT—work meeting…catered sandwiches
·      OUT TO EAT—work meeting…chicken and rice and salad
·      Italian salad (tomatoes, lunch meat, Swiss cheese, pepperchinis, black olives, lettuce mix, Italian dressing, etc.)
·      lettuce wraps w/ deli chicken and Swiss cheese slices
·      homemade sweet potato chips in mustard + ham pita sandwich

·      leftover chicken parmesan with spaghetti and eggplant (Cooking Light recipe; available online)
·      crockpot beef stroganoff (lots of recipes on Pinterest)  w/ egg noodles + canned peas
·      chicken and sausage gumbo (lots of recipes on Pinterest) w/ wild rice
·      leftover stroganoff + side salad
·      leftover gumbo w/ wild rice
·      OUT TO EAT—work meeting…
·      stir fry using frozen veggie mix + rice noodles + chicken beasts

·      graham crackers with peanut butter and Nutella
·      fondue (x3) (strawberries, marshmallows, graham crackers, cuties oranges, bananas, etc.)
·      oatmeal cookies for Aaron’s ski trip
·      chocolate chip cookies for Aaron’s ski trip

·      water
·      milk (skim)
·      almond milk (for oatmeal/ cereal)
·      Crystal Light iced tea (unsweetened)
·      coffee 
·      (tea available)
·      1.5 liter V8 Fusion Acai and Blueberry juice drink

I want you to know that the $262 also bought enough food for the following dinners that I plan on making and freezing for my husband while I am away. I will be visiting my parents, so I won't need to spend very much money on food while I am away. February was a good month for us, as far as staying way under budget for our food allowance! 

Dinners to freeze: 
  • beef enchiladas + chips and salsa + black beans 
  • leftover chicken parmesan with spaghetti noodles 
  • leftover gumbo with wild rice 
  • lentil soup with beef and red pepper (made in crockpot) 
  • OUT TO EAT with coupons that come in the mail
  • breakfast for dinner (eggs, bacon, waffles) 
  • stir fry with frozen veggies + rice 
  • beef enchiladas + chips and salsa + black beans 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Update on my 10 lbs in 12 Weeks Diet

You may or may not know that I've challenged myself to lose 10 lbs in 12 weeks. I'm in the middle of week 6, and so far I've lost (and kept off) 3 lbs. I had lost a little more, but yo-yo'ed back up. After 5, almost 6 weeks, losing 3 lbs is pretty discouraging. However, I have a goal, and I'm going to keep going! I want to work towards it!

My sister is getting married in June, and while I've already ordered my bridesmaids' dress, I still need to get it altered. I think I will wait until closer to the wedding to actually get it altered because I'm hopeful to lose this last bit of weight. If I can be 10 lbs lighter at her wedding than I was at mine in August, I will be very happy :)

A few things I've accomplished in these past 5.5 weeks:

1.  Mentally, I've taken it easier on myself.
2. I've really thought about why I want to lose the weight. Ten pounds is ten pounds, so will it really make that much of a difference? I feel like I've been watching my weight and constantly trying to lose weight since I made up my mind to do so, 4.5 years ago. My senior year of high school I did Weight Watchers for about 6 months, and lost (and kept off) 12 lbs. It was slow going, but it actually was a radical transformation for my eating habits, whether or not the scale reflected it. My freshman year of college I went to a Christian university that had excellent cafeteria food! I might have gained and lost a few pounds there and there, but for the most part was able to keep off the 12 lbs I lost the year before. My sophomore year of college I moved back home and went to community college. My mom is an excellent cook, but she is also on the quest to lose 10 lbs (always has been…probably always will be). My sisters wanted to get fitter, and I was in the culture of being healthy. I ran my first 5k race that year, plus signed up for a semester-long exercise class that totaled 3 hours a week spent in the gym. I probably lost another 5 lbs (total weight loss of 17 lbs). My junior year of college I moved to TN, had a fresh start, and ate in a cafeteria that served mostly Southern food. I had never had Southern food before, and really didn't like it. I also knew it probably wasn't very good for me (…burgers! mac and cheese! collard greens cooked with bacon!). I did love their homemade soups, and fresh salad/ sandwich bar! I decided to find people who lived healthy lifestyles and go eat lunch and dinner with them in the cafeteria. My junior year I dropped a good 20 lbs. My senior year of college I lost 10 more. The summer between my senior year and my master's year I dropped another 5-8 lbs. Once I got to my master's year (started 1.5 years ago) I've pretty much stayed the same.

While I am INCREDIBLY proud and happy that I've been able to lose 50 lbs and keep off 44 lbs of it, I want to reach my last tiny bit of weight loss!

Right before my wedding I was able to keep a stable weight (almost exactly to the pound) for about 3 months. Like two weeks before my wedding my weight went up a tiny bit, but everything as ok. Once the wedding was over, the honeymoon began, and I gained a little bit more weight on just a 5 day honeymoon! I decided I was taking steps backwards, and all I wanted to do was more forwards. Do you ever get sick of feeling so full after you eat a meal? Yeah, me too. Once we returned from they honeymoon I decided to try to zap these last 10-15 lbs. We returned from the honeymoon in September, and I took the month to just settle in and decide how to run a new household. In October and November I decided to dig up my old Weight Watchers resources and do WW full fledge for about 7 weeks. That was tough. I lost 6 lbs. Then Thanksgiving and Christmas came, and we moved (again), and by the end of December I had gained back those 6 lbs. So! At the start of January I vowed to do a 10 lbs in 12 week challenge. I'm almost halfway done, and have made very little progress on the scale, but I feel like I have made some mental progress, and some lifestyle changes.

The first week of January I decided we were eating too much processed foods. Basically anything that came in a crinkly bag, cardboard box, or package had to go. My husband really likes those snacks (especially chips and candy bars…) so I let him eat it up :)

Weekly result? Lost 1 lb.

Week two's challenge was to do 20 minutes of intentional exercise at least 3 times a week. Additionally I was only going to have one dessert a week (extremely, extremely hard!), and tried to cut back on carbs by way of eliminating the chips/crackers/snack-y food.

Weekly result? Lost 1.4 lb.

 Week three's challenge was to add more dairy into my diet. I figured if I was going to cut carbs and sugars I needed to add something else into my diet. It was actually pretty successful. My senior and master's years of college I ate Greek yogurt 4-5 times a week; I love those individually fruit flavored ones! I had stopped buying them because I felt they were a little expensive, and a little bit of a treat: I could find cheaper foods to eat for breakfast that didn't cost me a dollar a pop. However, with week three's challenge of add more dairy I decided to go back to my routine of getting a few yogurts a week. My husband doesn't like the Greek yogurts, but he does love regular, strawberry banana yogurts. We also drank milk at lunch or dinner at least twice during this week. Again, as a money saver I had stopped drinking milk at meal times, and mostly used milk for cooking/baking. We've continued to drink more milk and eat yogurts and string cheese more regularly.

Result? Lost 1.4 lb.

Week four's challenge was to "build a better breakfast". As a housewife who does not have any other job I was sleeping in until 10am nearly everyday. When you don't have much to do, and live in a new city, it's hard to get up at the crack of dawn to sit in the house and do…well…not much of anything. At the start of week three I decided to adjust my sleep schedule a little bit better. We got a new mattress around Christmas time and ever since then I've been sleeping like a rock! Love that thing. So, I decided to get up earlier, which meant I needed to eat breakfast. Before week four I would normally get up at 10, eat something at 10:30, and then eat lunch with my husband when he came home for a quick break at 11:30 or sometimes 12:30. My breakfast habits were pretty bad…and I used to be so good about what I ate, when I ate, and how much I ate for breakfast. I did really well with week three's challenge; by far the easiest of the three weeks so far. For breakfast I had 3 smoothies, 2 days of scrambled eggs, 1 day of cereal (granola), and 1 day of a homemade cranberry scone. It got miserably cold during week four, so my enthusiasm to exercise was nil. I'm not sure I got any exercise this week, but that's alright. 

Weekly result? Gained 1.6 lbs. 

For week five I wanted to "leave one bite" of food on my plate at every meal. I did a terrible job, and probably only remembered at 4 meals…and all but one time it was my husband's prompting, and not my own remembering. However, by the time I got to week 5 I was eating a substantial amount of vegetables, not so many sugars, not so many carbs, and absolutely no snack-y foods. In order to compensate for my sweets craving I did drink a lot more coffee than normal (more on that later). During week 5 I watched two documentaries on food: one was called "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead" and I can't remember the name of the other documentary, but it was pretty similar to FSAND. These documentaries helped me see that I really needed to continue my quest to eat more vegetables! More "good for you" foods ("super foods", as the food market is now calling them). Thankfully over the course of these past couple years I have done a really good job of eating healthfully. I cook/prepare every meal we eat. Yes, it's a lot of work. No, I don't love doing it every single day, but I do really enjoy it most days. I think it's extremely important to fuel yourself with good foods! 

Weekly result? Gained .6 lbs

Week six's challenge was the same as week five's: "leave one bite". I did such a poor job of doing it during week four that I decided I needed to still work on it in week five. I had a couple of other challenges for myself as well: 1) eat a Mediterranean based diet (seeing that they include lots of veggies, healthy oils, and it's pretty cheap too) 2) get back to working out for 20 minutes at least 3x a week 3) no coffee for the whole week (7 day fast). I'm rounding out week six as I type, and I've really enjoyed some of the Mediterranean recipes I've tried, only done one intentional exercise session (for 45 minutes…), and I haven't had any coffee at all. My mom sent me a box of See's candies chocolate truffles so I'm failing miserably at the "one dessert/ sweet a week" challenge, but it's almost Valentine's Day, it was a gift, and hey, you've got to enjoy the little things in life every once in a while! 

As for leaving one bite, I've been able to do it everyday at breakfast (except for today because I woke up late and didn't eat breakfast…), however at every single lunch (including today) I've forgotten, and I've probably remembered at 2/4 dinners so far. It is SO challenging! The point of this challenge is twofold: 1) use self-control 2) be more aware during mealtimes. We'll see how I round out the week for this particular challenge. 

Weekly result? TBD

As you can see, I've learned a lot by doing this food challenge for myself. I've enjoyed "being on a diet" that doesn't include counting calories, writing down every single thing you ate and counting points, or other methods. I like living healthfully. I like challenging myself to live a better life. I like being me :)

More updates on Weeks 7-12 will be appearing periodically on the blog, so stay tuned.