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.

fwproblems qinoa

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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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 🙂