Desert Flour

A 20-Something's Musings on Life, Love and Faith


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The Cost of a Healthy Lifestyle

Two weeks into our clean eating meal plan for “8 Weeks to a Hot Body” we have come to the same realization that many other healthy eaters have surely encountered before – it’s rather expensive!

Now this does require some consideration of perspective. What is “expensive” to me maybe reasonable for others, but I have never been one to spend significant amounts of my monthly earnings at the grocery store.  College loans sure. Movies and other entertainment you bet. Bars and restaurants – all the time.

But I guess I never realized if we stopped supplementing our meals with times we eat out, we obviously would buy more food. And particularly if we spent more time and care in buying healthy food – that cost goes up even more. I might eat out a bit – but I’m looking for those Happy Hour cheap menus or the 2 Dinners for $20 deals.

It’s tricky though, because when you are in the store it all seems necessary at the time!

Our Week 1 Grocery list was designed to just purchase the ingredients that we would need for two people to eat 5 times a day for 7 days. … Ok so 70 meals worth….  (Ok maybe that is a big number? That’s a lot of meals to prepare for?)

While circumnavigating the perimeter of the store we purchased what seemed like a lot of pretty cheap and necessary perishable items: Bananas, Apples, Tomatoes, Oranges, Grape Tomatoes, Avocado, Bell Peppers, Onions, Lettuce, Cucumber, Celery, Zucchini, Mushrooms, Edamame, Sweet Potatoes, Eggs, Laughing Cow Cheese, Almond Milk, Greek Yogurt, Ground Turkey, Deli Turkey, Ground Chicken.

All of this seemed totally reasonable! We also weren’t starting with a bare pantry so we had all of the spices and basics (peanut butter, protein powder, garlic, oatmeal, etc.) already stocked.

This first grocery trip came to $71.68.

Not too bad.

So cue next Sunday when we go grocery shopping for Week 2, with the same idea to get enough produce/protein to cover 2 people eating on this Hot Body meal plan.

We make our circuit picking up tomatoes, bananas, apples, pineapple, bell pepper, onion, carrots, celery, lettuce, sweet potatoes, broccoli, edamame, eggs, Almond Milk, Ground turkey, Salmon, Tuna – and this time we also head down the aisles for Low Carb Tortillas, Brown Rice and Apple Cider Vinegar.  (Gah writing this is making me hungry!!)

Total this trip = $80.29.

It doesn’t seem too bad. But for our previously meager grocery budgets it is starting to feel like a little much.

So far this month we have spent just under $152 on groceries. I anticipate this will remain a pretty consistent pattern so about $300 / month for two people.

Am I completely off base in thinking that seems like a lot to spend on food?? I’m struggling with this number as during our previous grocery runs:

  1. We didn’t have to go once a week – we just got to enjoy the more perishable fruits and veggies when we first bought them and then did without near the end of the cycle and
  2. Our previous grocery bills were only about $150 a month total.

I’m starting to question whether I have just been completely off-base in what proper food and nutrition costs. Or whether this all clean food meal plan is just more expensive? Or whether I really was only buying cheaper processed goods so didn’t notice the actual cost of real food? Or whether I am just shopping at expensive grocery stores and should be heading to more Farmer’s Markets?

I don’t know. But it is taking some budget reorganization.

Healthy food plans also demand quite a bit more of your time than our normal eating habits.

Normal lunch might consist of a PB & J Sandwich, Bag of Chips and an Apple. (No school like the old school?). This might take a max of ~10 minutes to prepare.

Healthy meal plan lunch calls for cooked meatballs, baked sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli. Or ground turkey and mushrooms that have been cooked in chili sauce and garlic. These take time to prepare – maybe ranging from 15-45 minutes. If I am already cooking breakfast in the morning (another 10-20 minutes) I really do not have the time to also cook a complex healthy lunch.

But we are really serious about making this work – so you make the time. And for me – as I am already trying to fit in my workouts in the mornings – I accomplish the week’s worth of Breakfast and Lunch cooking on Sunday nights.

So we make our grocery lists, head out to the store, cart everything home and cook everything that requires advanced preparation for the week all in one big afternoon marathon.

This works really great!

If you have 2-3 hours on your Sunday to devote to getting it done… xD

Healthy food plans are actually quite a bit of work – beyond the working out and dedication to eating the food – getting it and cooking it has been a slightly unforeseen obstacle.

It also has been a very enlightening glimpse to what a privilege a healthy lifestyle can be. I am in the position where I can re-budget some of my entertainment money to go towards my groceries. I only have to give up social engagements or TV time to shop and cook my meals. I can wake myself up early to do Pilates or leave work on time to head to the Hot Yoga Studio without balancing carpools, kids, high maintenance pets, demanding jobs or other family needs.

It can be a lot of work – but it really is a privilege to be able to do what we are doing.

And I am trying to keep that in mind as we continue towards our fitness goals – that our struggles are really nothing compared to the trials standing in the way of other people. This kind of self-humbling perspective may not motivate you, but nothing shuts up my whiny complaints about having to skip buying a movie premier ticket to instead purchase more quinoa like a healthy dose of guilt at my first world problems.

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Let’s not be this person while we work on getting healthy k?

We are still doing well on Day 10 of this plan, but I’m trying to remain humbled and still think of creative ways to make this more sustainable for us in the long run.

Do you have any advice on where to get more cost effective groceries?
How much do you typically spend a month on food? Are your numbers like ours?


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Self-sabotage: Hot Yoga and the Sniffles

Isn’t it always funny when you finally commit to something mentally and you are charged up, ready to achieve your goals, won’t let your laziness or other distractions get in your way – and then your body decides to give you the big nagging finger — nah, ah ah!

Fitness journeys are always complicated and bumpy.

But it’s just so frustrating that the day after we decide to start our 8 Week Hot Body Meal plan and to work out 3-5x a week – I come down with a nasty head cold.

It’s that self-handicapping behavior that drives me nuts!

It happens in other areas of life, but for me, my workouts and eating habits seem too often sabotaged by my own behaviors, health or moods. I’ll have had a really rough day at work and feel lousy so come home and eat chips and salsa and drink a beer instead of heading out for a run. I’ll sign up for an intense Pilates Caliente class the day I know I’ll feel bloated and have terrible cramps. (Ladies you feel me?)

So this time I refused to let myself get in my own way.

I woke up early and put on the MOVEmber Blogilates playlist for the day and started the first Youtube video — and couldn’t breathe and suffered miserably through the 10 minutes of cardio. Womp. Womp. (There is a reason most people don’t wake up sick and then break out in star jumps). I didn’t even play the remaining videos I just sat on my living room floor, guzzled water and looked at other people getting fit on Instagram.

But! I wasn’t about to call it a day after that embarrassment. This week, for me, is all about committing to my health again and that means motivating myself to get my butt moving in some physical exercise – no excuses!

So during work I bought 10 classes at Blissful Spirits Studio and made the commitment that I was going to take my sniffling, leaky head to the Hot Yoga class I registered for that night and get those Sun Salutations done!

While you have to admire that tenacity – probably not the best choice of workout.

Most of you know that when you are having a constantly runny nose (excuse me while I pause to go blow it again >.<) you need to drink a lot more fluids to avoid getting dehydrated. You are losing a lot of water. You may also be aware that Hot Yoga classes run at a pretty toasty temperature and cause you to sweat a lot. It can be a really refreshing detox as you flush out your body’s toxins – but you are also losing a lot of water.

Add Flushing Sinuses + Flushing Sweat Glands + Standard water intake = Light headed, dizzy and sweaty Caitlin stumbling out of the Yoga Studio.

Oops.

However. Despite how I felt pretty weak afterwards and that it really wasn’t my best practice – I felt super accomplished! I am still so glad I went!

We are only on Day 3 now of the 8 Weeks, my head cold is still rocking me full force, but I feel so charged about successfully committing to the health food plan and getting the workouts in one way or another.

While I may not suggest everyone try and kill their workout when they are sick – I do think you should examine how you are getting in your own way with regards to your fitness and try and find some way to remedy whatever obstacles you are putting in your path.

And I’ll be trying to remedy this cold before the next sweatfest.

Cheers!


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Cooking Trials: Pumpkin Gut Stew

(Pumpkin and Black Beans)

Halloween has ended, but Fall is still ripe with pumpkins and the perfect time to warm your belly with soups and stews! This recipe is super easy and came out of a pantry raid for what we had available for a last minute potluck dish.

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The Set Up.

This was a bit of a hodge podge from a couple different recipes and some kitchen improve, so let me break it down for you.

Ingredients:
3 cans of Chicken Broth
2 cans of Black Beans
2 cans of Pumpkin Puree
1 White Onion
10-15 Cherry Tomatoes
½ Bag of Baby Carrots
1.5 Ground Turkey (not pictured)

Spices (Season to your taste – I just put a healthy dash of the following):
Cayenne Pepper
Herbs de Provence
Rosemary
Basil
Garlic

There are really only 3 main steps to this dish:

1) If you want to add some protein – cook your Ground Turkey on the stove first.

2) Chop up your veggies into small diced, bite-size pieces.

3) Open your cans and put everything in a crockpot on High for 4-6 hours.

For this recipe we used our large crockpot, which is really the best tool you can have for easy Fall cooking. It is so wonderful to just put everything into a big pot and come home to a house smelling super delicious. And dinner is all ready and waiting! Hurray for minimal effort!

This particular soup is also a huge hit at Company Potlucks

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Ta da! Even ready with it’s own serving bowl!

Hope you enjoy!
Would you add anything else to the soup? I really wanted to add some corn to it, but I forgot it in the freezer 😦
What are some of your favorite Fall dishes?


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My Delicious and Terrible October

It happens every time the weather gets colder – the candy, the baked goods, and the delicious party drinks are suddenly accessible and completely everywhere.

It doesn’t help that there are so many people with Birthdays in October (Oh yeah. We know what your parents were doing for Valentine’s day. Giggity! …Awkward…) And with Birthdays comes more parties and drinks and cake.

And come on – Pumpkin Spice Lattes! Not only are they delicious. But there is something so tantalizing about the seasonal, limited-time-only, get-one-now-or-you’ll-miss-your-chance-for-another-year advertisement that makes any plans to continue to eat healthily or to save that coffee $$ for more worthwhile causes just fly out the window. Because you need it! Just for the season!

For me personally there were two other factors to this October that completely weakened my resolve: Graduate School Applications and our Honeymoon.

Part one. The Honeymoon.
We went to Hawai’i for two weeks in the middle of September, which meant lots of flirty skirts, bikinis and apparently miles of hiking.  This following our July wedding by a bit of a gap meant that we have been eating clean, hitting the gym and getting into great shape really since April.

That was 7 whole months of killing it.

All for the goals of looking fabulous on our wedding day (Check!) and the grand goal of sitting on those beaches in skimpy clothes and thinking “Damn! We Look good!” (Haha maybe check?)

But all of that resolve and dedication really meant that when we returned from the islands and it suddenly became sweater season and we didn’t really have a large fitness goal to strive for anymore we took a little extra vacation from our good habits.

Part two. Grad School Applications
Currently I am in the process of trying to apply for Clinical Psychology PhD programs for admittance in the Fall 2015 semester.

For those unfamiliar with this long process, that means applications are due December, Fall 2014.

I knew I was going to be out for the honeymoon in September, so I had been working on preparing my Resume/CV, Personal Statement, Ordering GRE scores etc. in later August and early September. This was when a few people made these fatalistic comments about how far ahead I was in preparing – and didn’t I have a long time to worry about any of my applications?

Now when you are sitting in the August summer sun – December does feel eons away!

I thought – Hey! They’re right! What am I doing??

So I went on my honeymoon, but then returned completely derailed for the entire month of October. It just felt like – well we are taking a break from all of our wedding/honeymoon planning duties, workout regimen, food prep – might as well take a break from working on graduate school applications too!

I just let that stressful process sit in a binder on my desk for a few weeks.

The realization: Halloween Weekend

Now this past weekend marked the end of five weeks of living the slattern life.

I think a good example of how far we let things go was how we bought Halloween Candy a week early on Saturday the 25th to put outside our door on Friday while we were out at an event.  I do not believe we have had any candy in our apartment since last Christmas. We finished off the entire bag before Wednesday.

And then decided to just not put any candy out, turn our porch light off and not return until really late that evening. (Sorry neighbor kiddos!!!)

But I think the real realization that we weren’t doing good things to our minds and bodies came on Saturday when we were getting dressed for a Halloween Party with some friends.

We had spent the whole day lazing about our living room watching scary movies and eating pumpkin treats and then when it started to get dark outside the Hubs and I started to prepare for our Lilo and Stitch costumes.

You will recall from the eponymous Disney Movie – the Hawaiian theme of our costumes. Remind yourself too of the more revealing nature of Lilo’s hula dancing outfit I had chosen to wear that evening. Now add in the five weeks of poor dining choices and low levels of physical activity. It made for some great depressing jokes between the Hubs and I on how I was definitely going for costume accuracy – including the cute round belly…. :/

Lilo tummy

Now don’t get me wrong.

We still rocked those costumes. And I’d like to add a huge disclaimer here that I’m not trying to make any comment on Lilo’s weight. I am just trying to express that trying on my costume made me realize I wasn’t where I want to be with my body and my lifestyle right now.  I went from having a relatively defined 4-pack to being cute and round.

Now I know you can’t really destroy 7 months of progress and good habits with 1 month of bad choices. (Right? Right??)

But I don’t feel healthy. I miss the energy and soreness that come from a good hard workout. I want to check back into Grad School and really commit to having strong polished applications.

So I am making a commitment for the remainder of this year to get back on track with making some healthy life choices. I have already made some positive steps in this direction by:

  1. Ordering the 8 Week Hot Body meal plan and fitness journal from Blogilates
  2. Purchasing 10 classes at Blissful Spirits Hot Yoga Studio
  3. Moving that scary Application binder a little closer to the center of my desk (small steps here people.)

These are all things that will help motivate me, to get back to the better version of myself. But I know it’s not going to be as simple as just hitting the fitness switch to get back into my groove.This process is going to take some retraining and a little conditioning. It won’t be a seamless transition. I will falter and stumble on the way. But I’m starting with things that motivate me and have proven to give me some enjoyment in the past.

The only way I’m going to improve and see any change is to just get started — So! Here we go!


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Quinoa and Edamame – Food Prep

For this week’s meal prep we went with another spin on a Blogilate’s meal plan staple – the Quinoa Edamame Salad (follow the link for the full recipe).

I didn’t make enough for a full week of lunches, as we have a Halloween Potluck at Work and a Catered lunch this week, but here’s all the ingredients needed for 3-4 servings of this meal.

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Some differences to note:
1) I added spinach for some extra flavor (and because we had a lot in our fridge)
2) I also am not the biggest fan of mustard – so I use a couple different seasonings – Garlic (obviously), Sea Salt, Lemon Juice, Lemon Pepper and Cayenne Pepper

Cooking wise it is pretty simple:

Start off your quinoa first as this takes about 15-20 minutes. We like to put it in our Rice cooker. Just follow the proportions on the package for your desired number of servings.

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bubbles, bubbles, bubbles

The microwave does make an appearance in this recipe – only because those Steam’ables Bags are so convenient! Just pop it in the microwave for 5 minutes for delicious steamed Edamame.

IMG_3309As you are cooking the quinoa and edamame, start your large frying pan with a little olive oil, onions and garlic. Then add your spinach.  Once your spinach has shrunken down and your onions start to brown add in your steamed edamame and tomatoes. Your quinoa should be almost done at this point and it just gets added into the mix.

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Then just season it to your taste preference!

I like my food spicy and with healthy amounts of garlic – so I can be a little heavy handed on my cayenne pepper and chopped garlic.

But enjoy exploring what suits your pallet. Some other options we’ve experimented with include mustard and agave and Italian dressing. So go wild!

And Enjoy!

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nom nom nom


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Cooking Trials: Blogilate’s Clean Meatballs

On Sunday afternoons, if we are trying to be healthy and productive, I will do mass food prep for the hubs and my lunches for that week. We both pack in a lunch every day M-F in order to 1) Save $$ by purchasing grocery items for multiple meals vs. daily purchases of single meals 2) Try and eat a little cleaner for our mid-day meal.

Our typical lunch boxes include the following:

  • Mid-Morning Snack of Fruit or Veggie and a protein. (My favorite is a cut up Gala apple and peanut butter)
  • Main Lunch with protein, veggies and minimal carbs if possible
  • Afternoon Snack of a Granola Bar or Protein powder to be made into a shake

An extremely useful resource I use when making lunches is the popular Blogilates site run by the entertaining and infectiously enthusiastic Cassey Ho. She has a number of tasty recipes and meal plan options (all for free!) for those looking for some advice on how to construct a healthy diet.

This Sunday I returned to one of our favorites from her website — Delicious Clean Meatballs!  (Follow the link for the full recipe.)

I didn’t really have all of the ingredients required for the recipe so I modified with the following:

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I don’t really like Green Bell Peppers (so I don’t buy them..) so I used an Orange Bell Pepper! I find they are a little sweeter and don’t dominate the other ingredients quite as much.
I only had 1 Bell Pepper, so I added in 4 stalks of celery.
I only had a yellow onion so that took the place of the purple one called for.
I also don’t like wasting egg yolks (and we don’t buy egg white cartons) so I just used 1 full egg to replace the 3 egg whites.
I also like the 3lb Ground Turkey you can buy at Smiths vs Ground Chicken by the single pound at some other stores. (I only used 2/3 of that big log).
Spice wise, I love garlic. (Hence the huge Costco container.) So I added in two health spoonful’s.
I also added in some other random spices we had laying around the kitchen to give it a bit more flavor.

Once you have completed taking your aggression out on cutting up all your veggies – you just put everything in a large bowl and mix it up.

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I am a hands on cook. I like to mash it all together with my hands. But if this distresses you I am sure a spoon would work as well…(shown for posterity’s sake).

Then you put big balls of your mixture into a greased muffin tin. (Easy to do when you’re already elbow deep in your bowl). And bake at 375 for 35 min.

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We eat 2 meatballs for 1 serving – so this will make 3 lunches for the week. Yay!

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Nom nom nom

Let me know if you’ve tried this recipe! Or have any other resources for our healthy lunches 🙂