Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Streeechhin' It Out: A (Frugal) Weightloss Post

So it's Fall here in the beautiful Ozarks. And it has been pretty nice. We've had rain (with a tornado here and there for some excitement). We've had perfectly gorgeous sunny crisp days. We've had a few cloudy miserable ones that encouraged plenty of hot cider drinking. And then we have today. I think it's around 80. That being said, all this variety in our weather pattern makes Beke a regular Snot Bag. I feel like I have it running out my ears.

Yesterday, Josiah and I went to a local produce market and picked up a few pumpkins. We got a nice sized pie pumpkin and a few little cute ones for an activity with the cousins we are hosting at the end of the week. I'm pretty cheap. That pie pumpkin is going to be our carving/science/eating pumpkin of the week. And speaking of cheap....

Ever have those weeks when the grocery budget is tighter than my last pair of spanx? (and I guarantee you that they're pretty stinkin' tight) Our grocery budget this week was  slim. I am pretty good at making creative meals out of next to nothing, but making really healthy creative meals out of next to nothing is pretty tough. I've always promised myself that even if our grocery budget was of the Ramen Noodle/Hot Dog variety my family would never know it. So. Here is a few tips I have for you. We can't be the only family who struggles with this. And I want to help those of you who are trying to be as healthy as you can to succeed.

1. Use What You Have. Within reason, of course. If you have a pound of bacon in the freezer you don't need to waste it, but it doesn't need to be the center piece of every meal. My mamma blessed us with a HUGE pork roast this week. It isn't as diet friendly as a piece of salmon or organic chicken breasts, but pork can actually be quite lean. And I'm stretching it out as much as I can. Yesterday I roasted the whole thing with some apples I needed to use pretty quickly (they were almost past the point of no return), whole cranberries I found in my freezer (don't ask how old they were) and an onion. It was delish. I took of a portion of the meat. Chunked it up and made a lite sauce with the now cooked apples, cranberries and onions and served it over brown rice. Today I took another chunk of the pork and made a lite Hawaiian pizza with a whole wheat crust. I used a can of pineapple I found in my pantry and made my own sauce. Pizza is not something we eat all the time at the moment so my guys are going to enjoy it. Tomorrow I am going to shredded some of the pork for Green Chili & Pork Tacos. My guys will never complain. Josiah thought last night's pork was chicken anyway.  And I might even have enough for a Posole (a brothy Latin soup). Try stretching a whole chicken. Or make a big pot of Pintos and you've got quite a few meals.

2. Reimagine Your Favorite Dishes. It's called substitution. This week I found some lite turkey breakfast sauce for 1.39. I can use this turkey sausage in any recipe that uses ground meat. It might give it a slightly different twist, but all I have to do is make the appropriate adjustments. For example, this week we have the cousins coming to spend the night on Friday. I plan on making my famous turkey meatballs with sauce. How easy will it be to make those meatballs out of the turkey sausage? I will make slightly smaller meatballs and not add as much spice to my sauce itself. The flavor the turkey sausage will do the trick. To add to the nutrition value of the dish (as well as make heartier) I will add a zucchini that I found extremely marked down at the produced store. My recipe doesn't necessarily call for zucchini, but I know that I can add almost any veggie for a great dish.

3. Learn to Cook. Ouch. So I know that for some of you this is painful. But you don't have to become a professional chef. Just learn a few basic techniques. Go on Youtube. Haunt the Food Network site. Buying prepared meals or meals is not only expensive, but often isn't as healthy for you either. Sparkpeople.com (the site I keep track of my calories) has a professional chef that posts videos of all kinds of recipes. Learning to cook with larger cuts of meat, fresh veggies and whole grains can really make a difference in your health and your wallet. One of my favorite site for light cooking is skinnytaste.com.  Try and educate yourself concerning what you are putting in your mouth.

4. Plan your meals, but be flexible. This kind of goes hand in hand with reimagining your favorite dishes. This happens to me a lot. Say I want to fix Teryaki Chicken Breasts (one of our favorites). I usually serve it with brown rice and Roasted broccoli or maybe a light Asian slaw. But I find chicken legs on sale instead for .99 a pound. Dark chicken meat has kind of gotten a bad wrap. It has so many good things going for it. Simply remove the skin and now you can make Teryaki Chicken Legs. It might take a little more time, but you have probably saved $4 dollars or more.

5. Give a good portion of your budget to the Fruits and Veggies. Now if you feel you always wind up wasting said fruit and veggies because they don't get used by all means go a different direction. Start in the frozen veggie section. You have to make this healthy lifestyle a priority. Don't buy fancy yogurts and cheeses. Don't get sucked into all the hype of whatever we are all trying not to eat right now. If you focus on whole foods you can't go wrong. I have certain things I know I can use regardless. I love zucchini. I always cook with onions and garlic. Carrots have a long refrigerator life.I try and keep frozen broccoli is my freezer.  Also, I use a lot of cabbage. Especially when the budget is tight and I can't afford my spinach or romaine. Maybe not as good for me, but it sure is filling. Right now I am blessed with a little Swiss chard in the freezer. And my family loves apples. If canned veggies are all you can manage this week don't feel guilty. Just simply rinse them and press on. Do "not" do something just because you feel you can't do it the way everyone tell you it has to be done.

6. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Portion control, my friends! I have a pretty big eater in my house. The Studly Muffin has a metabolism like a speeding bullet (though upon reflection I'm not so sure what kind of metabolism a speeding bullet would have). And I have a nephew who comes over once a week who could literally eat me out of house and home. So I have a stash. A basket of goodies that are fair game. Some granola bars, a few bags of popcorn...you get the idea. I try and use a little less of my more pricier ingredients. Not as much meat in the chili. More beans. A little more cabbage slaw for the pork carnitas. Not as much cheese. You get the picture. Also, I believe in repurposing. Recycling those leftovers for another day. Within reason. But I sure can get a lot of mileage out of a pan of oven baked brown rice. Add it to taco filling. Stir-Fry with veggies, an egg or two for a tasty meal.

7. KISS. Keep It Simple Sweetheart. I've talked about this before. And this is personally my hardest task. I am the Queen of the Overkill. If I plan a Taco Night suddenly I am making my own tortillas and  refried beans from scratch. Now that is pretty frugal, but I seldom have time for all that. I pick one or two things in my meal to really give special attention to. My family feels they are getting a treat and it still keeps that creative, crazy side of me satisfied. Our breakfasts this week are basically oatmeal, scrambled eggs & toast. I eat oatmeal almost everyday. But I make it special by adding a few walnuts (I have a bag in the freezer I take a few out of every day) and my own special apple butter (homegrown, no sugar added, cooked by me). I made a loaf of rye bread over the weekend made with applesauce (made with the same homegrown apples). That bread slathered with some of the same applebutter with scrambled eggs has been a pretty hearty breakfast for The Studly Muffin and Josiah. I didn't have to reinvent the wheel or buy  all sorts of pricey cereals. As I mentioned before we are having company at the end of the week. I budgeted out enough to make these yummy Pumpkin Cupcakes with Pumpkin Spiced Frosting to have for our dessert. Other than that we plan on making popcorn via stovetop with our WhirlyPop and I will set out my pretty teacups along with hot chocolate mix. Simple and memorable. I knew an older lady one time who talked about a particularly "tight" time in her married life. The best she could do for a few nights was some homemade tomato soup. She served that tomato soup in her prettiest bowls. She set the table with candles and cloth napkins. I doubt her family ever questioned the sparsity of her meal. Make it simple...but make is special.  

I encourage you this week to go forth and eat healthy! Be creative! Learn! Have fun!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Hen Pecked

So it's fall here at the old homestead. Better known as the our Apartment On The Second Floor. I promise some pics this week on some of my fall projects. After I get my house cleaned. If I let you see the condition of our humble abode now I would probably have to go into hiding for a least a year. And a half. The shame alone would drive me into seclusion. Which now that I think about it might not be a bad idea. I need some alone time.

In the meantime I thought I would share a few thoughts and pictures from our wise old resident sage. Not The Studly Muffin. I mean the other wise old resident sage. Mr. Josiah...who will be turning 11 in just over a month. What??? How did that sweet baby grow so fast? And how can I be the mother of an 11-year-old? Okay. So some of my High Schools peers are parents to young adults and some are even have grandchildren, but in my head I'm still like 16.

This isn't the best quality. But it does give some indication of the quirky personality of my guy. Who takes a picture of the bottom of their own foot? It's just plain weird. Anytime I tell Josiah he's being weird he asks me, "But aren't you weird, Mom?" Point taken.

I assure you I haven't let Josiah loose on the world with sharp objects. Unless he's within arm's reach. He loves to help me in the kitchen. At least to cook. He tells me he's "not big on washing dishes." Sigh. Who is, my son, Who is. Here he is helping prepare a casserole to go in my handy dandy Bean Pot (of which I would love to sell you one). He also is dressed for the occasion. Every chef needs a cool Hawaiian shirt and a Fedora.

I want to also assure you that this sight is a rarity in my home. Something sugary and gooey on my kitchen cabinet. It just ain't happenin' nowadays. But Josiah wanted to take a treat to his Royal Ranger group (they were working on their cooking badge) and this was it. He made them himself (with my verbal coaching, of course). I did partake. That is my confession. I had one. But considering I've lost (drum roll please) 55 pounds as of this week it didn't hurt me too much.

Another self portrait. He's at my mom and dad's farm. These are my mom's reading glasses.

He also tried them on the cat. I shared this pic some weeks back. It still cracks me up. She's such a good cat. And she loves Josiah with all she can muster. Which is quite a bit.

Speak of love. This week one of our read aloud's was Washington Irving's short story, Rip Van Winkle.  I need to first encourage any readers with kids to expose them to the classics. Don't be afraid of what might be perceived as archaic language or complicated verbage. Bring out the dictionary. Talk about it. I made several copies of the story (which I found in nice e-form with illustrations) and we gathered around with highlighters in hand. My nephew, Christopher, was over for school that day and we had a lot of fun reading it. When I was little and read so much (many books that were considered beyond my years) my mom set me up with a little notebook to write down words I didn't understand. We would look them up together. We did the same this week with Rip Van Winkle only we took advantage of our brightly colored highlighters. The boys loved it.

Rip Van Winkle is about an easy-going guy with an aversion to "profitable labor." He is also described as a "hen-pecked husband." I explained this little piece of the story as Rip Van Winkle's wife being hard to live with sometimes. Josiah perked up and said, "Mom! That's just like you!"


Then again he later complimented me and told me that my hair looked just like Anakin Skywalker's hair in Star Wars Episode 3. I'll take it where I can get it.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Losing Myself: A Weight Loss Post

Do you ever have those weeks/months/days/years when everything in your life seems to whirl about nilly willy...with nary a thought to where it all might land?

This is my week/month/day/year. Not that anything is bad. On the contrary. Every day is a blessing. A gift from God. But, true to form (mine), I have filled my days with all kinds of busy. And busy isn't all good all the time. There are times I seem to lose myself. My level head. My sense of creativity. My sanity. My sense of self.

Whenever I feel stressed or overwhelmed it is tempting to resort to my "go-tos" for instant relief. A quick run by the thrift store. A potato chip. A book. And while all of those things are not bad things...they all can be harmful in one way or another if not practiced in moderation. Thrift stores are great. They are, in fact, Thrifty. But if one spends more money than they have or brings home trinkets to fill up an already crowded home..what then? A potato chip by itself if perfectly fine. But a whole bag full eaten for breakfast is a problem. And how about the book. I have a confession. Maybe I have confessed this before, but it's worth repeating. I have always been a veracious reader. Books have been and always will be some of my favorite friends and toys. Books and purses. And shoes. But I digress. With books I could be someone else or escape to another land or even another planet. Yep. Pure Geek. And I would devour books like Josiah devours a stack of pancakes. Which basically means I could read morning, noon and night. At one time my parents even limited my reading. What? What kind of parent would limit a child's reading? Well. The kind of parents who would like their child to pay attention to other things in life as well. Schoolwork, chores, conversation.

Even now I sometimes have to fight not to get lost again. Be it a good fried potato chip or a book (or 3). Because when I get lost in those things I seem to forget to pay attention to other things in my life. As I approach a 60 pound weight loss here is the question I have been asking myself over and over again. "How did I let myself gain all this weight to begin with? And how could I have just lived with this for so long?" Okay. That's technically 2 questions.

And before you reassure me that I had no control over some of this (as The Studly Muffin did when I posed this question to him) let me remind you that I am well aware of the uphill struggle I have found myself in these many years.There have been things that I have faced that have been scary and overwhelming and just plain Poo. I know. Not the most sophisticated terminology, but it fits. I have drowned it all in things that have allowed me to lose myself.

Sometimes I am frantic with impatience. I know myself. I am afraid that when things get tougher or when I need to escape the pain of my body or a stressful or overwhelming experience I will get lost again. There is a part of me that still feels trapped in my Fat Suit. I still remember what it was like to be petite. When I didn't have to hide behind my big dangly earrings and a ready smile. Or just stay home because the idea of meeting new people in my larger, more awkward body was humiliating. Who will I be when I am finally free? Will I have learned to take better care of myself? Will I still be the same slightly fruity, phlegmatic personality that has carried me through so much pain? I was in my early 20's the last time I weighed what I should. What will this body and this face look like at 40? It's exciting to think about...yet a bit scary.

Some days I have to give myself a little pep talk. I have to remind myself that in truth I am finding myself again. I am discovering who God intended me to be. I have to tell myself to hang in there. To not get discouraged with the lack of results or the slowness of a particular week in my weight loss journey. To understand that all of this is part of a bigger plan...And losing myself to find myself again might be what needed to happen all along.
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