BBQ – My Secret for Making Food Fast

One of the awesome things about getting married is that I could register for things that I want, and an awesome friend of ours got us a grill. So, of course I went and got meat. And now, I’ve enjoyed several wonderful meals, and the average cooking time is 20 minutes.The trick is to get everything in your meal on the grill, and maybe one thing in the microwave.

Today we had a marinated pork tri-tip that came from Dee’s Meats, an awesome little meat shop just outside of Galt, CA. I was able to get a box of grilling meats for under $100, and since I paid cash I got 5% off (and I’m always one to shop bargains, especially when the food is such high quality). This tri-tip was marinated in salsa, so it was nice and tender, and it only took 15 minutes to cook since I cut it up into slices instead of letting it cook fully in one large lump of flesh. Smaller pieces cook faster and use less fuel.

In addition to meat, I sliced up a green bell pepper and placed the slices on the warming rack. They cook a little slower up there, but it still only takes a couple minutes to get those beautiful scorch marks on the skin. Then I flipped them over for just a little bit, and they were ready to eat. Easy, and they don’t take any extra time.

Here is where I cheated: I got a three bean salad from a can. It only cost $1.50, and although it had more sugar, all I had to do was open the can before I started cooking and stick it in the fridge. Done. Easy. And, for another veggie, I nuked up a can of beets. Beets are a great source of magnesium, and since I’ve been craving them… Andy got to try them for the first time. But two minutes in the microwave while the peppers are cooking, and I have my whole meal easily timed out. I chose beets, but green beans, corn, or peas work just as well. And, a nice broccoli salad instead of the beans is a nice addition that also has protein.

And, best yet, I didn’t have to have a salad! I get bored of salads, and it can take a while to gather the ingredients to make a really good one. So, I made sure I had a couple other veggies, and at least one was certainly starchy, so I was covered.

Things that make grilling take a while were notoriously absent from my dinner today. Potatoes and corn on the cob are delicious, but they can take extra time. I also didn’t smoke anything – and didn’t need to because of the meat’s marinade. Still, I was able to make a delicious and nutritious dinner with enough time to watch a movie before bed. Not bad, really!

So what are your favorite fast dinners? I’d like to try something new.


Quiet Time

I’d like to take a minute to talk about the importance of taking a minute. Yesterday I came home from a ten day long dog sitting job that had left me exhausted. One of the dogs, a year-old rottweiler puppy, is the reason why I’m particularly tired because, being a product of her breeding, she had tons of energy. Stacking that on top of working my two jobs, exciting things happening in one of those jobs, and we’re coming down to zero-hour on the wedding, it doesn’t surprise me that I got so tired. I was, as they say, burning the candle at both ends.

Partly because of my business, and partly because of the enthusiastic puppy dog, I didn’t get my quiet time before bed. It is so bad that one of my friends who gives massages told me that my deep tissues are messed up after asking me if I get headaches (not in those words, but the same meaning). Being an introvert, having a lot of time to myself helps me to recharge, unwind, and sort myself out so I’m ready to do what I need the next day. I’m a firm believer that a little quiet time is very important.

Now, those of you who are extroverts are probably saying, “But I can’t sit there and do nothing!” Well, neither can I, lol. I read, goof off online, listen to music and pace, exercise, play video games… I’m never lonely when I’m alone. I’m not very good at meditating so I don’t do it, but I know some people who swear by it, including the author of The Meditation Bible. But here’s how I see it: we can’t be on all the time. If we don’t figure out how to manage our stress, we become more prone to flashes of anger and depression, have less and lower quality sleep, and become more prone to panic attacks.

Also, to completely steal an old adage, you can’t give to others without first giving to yourself. So, try making a little time – and you will have to make it if your week is going anything like mine did – to do something fun for yourself. I firmly believe that you are worth it, and the only person who can make things better for yourself is you. After all, the same goes for me, too.

Update, and Me Being Clever

Hey all, long time no see! A lot has happened in the last month or so (not really, I’ve mostly been lazy) and thus I haven’t been writing. Most recently, two things happened. 1) my Fiance moved in, and 2) I took in my parents’ cat for a week while they were away. I’ve been wanting a fur baby for a while, and it was nice to confirm that I am a relatively sane human being who could handle one as docile as Squeakers is.

I did learn something interesting between finding places for the Affianced’s stuff and scootching around the litter box in my bathroom – I’m losing weight. Well, the weight loss won’t be confirmed or denied until I step on the scale in the morning, but both my boss and my Significant Other mentioned to me today that it looks like I’ve lost weight. Yay! But… I haven’t been working out.

That’s when I realized that, although I haven’t been making a concentrated effort to work out or to make my Fit Bit step goal, I have been exercising and being more active. Vacuuming the whole house makes me sweaty every time, and the whole place is half the floor space of my parents’. We also did laundry because we finally got a washer and drier (another yay!) which resulted in both the Significant Other and I washing out the disgusting, chewing-tobacco-spit-encrusted clothing/drainage sink next to them. I have also moved my potted plant garden around a couple times, swam and walked enough to burn over 800 calories at parties the weekend before the 4th of July, and played Pokemon Go.

Not to mention I rearranged my entire library and added some of the Significant Other’s books to my own – not a small feat. And hoofing it through Wal-Mart  while looking for a fly swatter was a surprisingly good workout as well. I realized that there are a lot of things to do that are great exercise without having to actually exercise, and most of them seem to involve putting things in order.

So, yeah… I’ve been very active. I haven’t been counting my calories much, either. Since I’ve been trying to eat real food in balanced proportions at almost every meal, and not letting myself feel hunger long enough to let my blood sugar drop, I’ve also been eating healthier. I can still eat half a bag of Flamin’ Cheetos like I did tonight, but overall I’ve been getting most of my vitamins and minerals from food instead of a pill.

It all kind of clicked when I watched a video on Fitness Blender. As I’ve mentioned before, I love Fitness Blender workouts and I really like the ideology that Kelli and Daniel purport. Then Kelli took to digital film the story about her eating disorders and how she has managed to move past them. It’s a pretty emotional story, and one that she didn’t share lightly, but it resonated very strongly with me despite the fact that I don’t have an eating disorder. It made me want to do as well for myself as she has.

So, today I dusted and tomorrow I’m going to vacuum, and tonight I’m pulling out some chicken to cook with bell peppers and onions tomorrow. I think this is something I can do for the rest of my life.

What are some things that have gotten you to make changes for the better in your life? I’d like to have that little extra inspiration in mine.


Staying Hot… Wait, no, Staying Cool!

It’s finally happened: California jumped into summer. Up until about last week we were enjoying distinctly spring-like weather (for us) of temperatures that stayed at or below the 80s, chances of rain, and days upon days of not turning on the AC. Well, we’ve been in the upper 90s for days now, and today we’re all set to reach 100 degrees. Its time to turn on all our air conditioners and fans, and hope that SMUD doesn’t gouge us for it!

Or wait… It doesn’t have to be that bad. There are always things you can do to save without having to melt your way through summer!

First, purchase some fans and some window and door stoppers. Get a bunch of them – about 4 big fans, 2 small fans, and one stopper for every door and window in your home. Once the temperature drops below the level of your air conditioning in the evening, open all your windows wide and put the fans in front of them, directing the air to move through your house in a circle. This will 1) bring in air from the outside as it cools and 2) move that air throughout your house so the temperature inside drops about as fast as the temperature outside. When you go to bed, just lock everything that slides open with one of your door or window stoppers. Lock it so that its open about 4 or 5 inches, and make sure that there’s a screen there to protect you from bugs. You’re golden!

The thing is, you will need to get up rather early to close up the house before it starts to warm up outside. Around here that means getting up around 7am. If you trap the cold in and close the shades/blinds on your windows, you won’t feel the need to turn on your AC until after noon! After all, fans cost a lot less to run than central air.

Secondly, make your microwave your new best friend. It cooks heatlessly, and in only a few minutes. Canned soup with sandwiches is your new favorite meal because it doesn’t have to be warmed.If you do need something cooked, the toaster oven heats up the house far less than the stove or full-sized oven. I love making salads with leftover meat – they’re cold and the seasoned meat adds something nice to a boring salad.

Third, you may want to keep away from the booze. It warms you up, causing you to want to turn on fans. Not worth it.

And lastly, and as more of a preventative measure if you can afford it and own your own house, make modifications to your house so that it uses less energy and keeps the weather out. Having windows that close tightly, are double-paned, and are made of materials that don’t transfer heat, you keep a lot of the heat from getting into your house. Whole house fans keep air moving and help air things out quickly when it cools off. Also, because so much power is drained (especially in the afternoons) because people are turning on their air conditioners full blast, having appliances that save money not only helps you save money over the long haul, it can also help prevent rolling blackouts.

Now… your car. Keeping it cool can help you save on gas and repair. Keep it in a garage if you can, or under shade if you can’t. Crack your windows open so that heat isn’t trapped inside. Also, keep a small spray bottle of water in your glove compartment so that you can spray your seat belt buckle and the steering wheel – the evaporating water will cool them instantly.

But ultimately, the trick to staying cool is never letting it get too hot. What are some tricks you’ve discovered for keeping cool in the heat?

The Classic Argument – Organic Vs. Non-Organic

It’s one of those things that everyone has an opinion on – organic or not organic? And no matter who you are speaking to, you’re bound to get into an argument about it. For instance, about half of the people reading this are going to be “organic is awesome and everyone should do it!” and the other half are going to be “um… why?”

My opinion is that some things you buy should be organic, but I’m poor so that doesn’t matter so much. Pesticides have been linked to some cancers, and growth hormones are the reason the world’s population has become bigger. However, organic food costs more because you are paying for 1/3 of every crop to be eaten by bugs or animals, at least, and they are at the mercy of blight and drought even more than crops that have been genetically modified.

There are some things that don’t need to be organic, such as lemons, oranges, and pineapple. Basically, the items that have a rind because rinds protect the fruit from pests that would ordinarily eat them. If you do buy them “organic,” you’re basically wasting your money.

And one more note, since I’ve been doing some research on the subject. Fair Trade is different than Certified Organic. Many things that are certified organic are also Fair Trade, but the two aren’t always the same. Speaking of which, to be certified organic an item has to be “minimally processed” and contain no added chemicals. Technically, this does not disqualify genetically modified organics (GMOs), of which flour is an unequivocal member. There is not a type of wheat grown today that is not genetically modified, and it makes a difference in our diets, according to the book Wheat Belly.

Fair Trade means that the item was sustain-ably grown and responsibly sourced. That means that when you buy Fair Trade Coffee, for example (like Java City, where I used to work) the beans are purchased from farms that grow beans in a manner that doesn’t harm the environment, the workers, or the local social structure. The farms that produce the beans are also usually treated well. Fair Trade beans tend to be of a higher quality, though that isn’t something that Fair Trade actually means.

But, do you want to know the best way to make sure that the food you eat is organic and ethically grown? Grow it yourself! I’m doing that with my herb garden, and it’s been awesome! I just harvested a bunch of basil – enough that I can make a very small batch of pesto!

What are your thoughts on organics?


Growing Food

So… I like cooking with fresh food, as I told you in a previous post about grocery shopping. For those who don’t want to read the whole thing (though, I do recommend it) I basically say that purchasing fresh food costs less that pre-packaged stuff, and it’s healthier to boot. But… I don’t want to always have to buy my food – sometimes I want it for free.

There’s this group on Facebook called Grow Food Not Lawns, and some members of my family re-post things from them a lot. They have a lot of good ideas and interesting facts about plants and bugs and stuff. But, what I’m interested in, mostly, is eating what I grow.

My parents both like to garden, and they’re pretty good at it. My best friend and her mom love to garden, and they are just amazing at it! Me… well, I’m discovering that I’m not the brown thumb that I thought I was, but my parsley isn’t doing as well as I’d hoped. I have one picture of my beautiful pot of parsley, but I refuse to photograph the other three plants because they are mostly brown now – I think I drowned them.


So, you may have realized it already, but this is the post where I’m showing off what I’ve managed to do. I’ve planted sage, eggplant…


…the eggplant is the tiny one, and it still only has a few leaves. Turns out that eggplant needs long, hot days and Northern California really isn’t the right climate. But my sage has taken off! And, in addition to sage and eggplant, I have planted a tomato plant, a pear tree, cilantro, parsley, chives, sweet peppers, and basil.


They’re all in pots because I haven’t had the tim *cough* money *cough* to make a raised planter for them. This garden has cost me a little over $60 so far, which may seem like a big outlay, but I feel it’s completely worth it for the following reasons:

  1. I can eat them! I like food, and I like loading up my boring potatoes with exciting things like chives! I’m Italian, so parsley and basil are required, and the pear was a splurge. I also have an aloe plant I didn’t mention before because it’s inside, but I want to eat the inner leaves to help my stomach maintain its lining (and for the occasional sunburn that my affianced is prone to). I can buy all this stuff, and it isn’t very hard to find some of it for very inexpensive at the right grocery store, but now I get the full flavors of fresh whenever I want!
  2. The activity of making this garden, caring for it, and harvesting from it has managed to keep me active. I’ve been on my feet more while tending the garden on my days off than when I didn’t have it because instead I would sit and watch Netflix. My fitbit has tracked an average of 800 more steps during regular maintenance, and over 1,000 when I’ve got something major I need to do, like planting.
  3. This next one sounds like an oxymoron, but the activity of keeping my garden keeps me busy enough that i don’t think about eating all the time. I am a bit addicted to food, I guess, and anything that will keep my mind off my stomach seriously helps me curb my urge to munch.
  4. Most importantly, though, I can help increase the bee, bug, and bird populations. By birds, I mean humming birds.
    1. Lots of people don’t like bees because they can be stung, and while people with allergies are certainly validated, but the rest of us are just being stupid because bees don’t go out of their way to sting people. In fact, it is a last recourse because they die immediately after. They are also really important to the health and prosperity of gardens because they help with cross pollination, which is what makes plants bear fruit and reproduce. Pollen
    2. There is an important ecosystem that happens in your garden with all of the bugs, spiders, and birds. I’m not an ecology person, but I remember the video I had to watch in science class that described it. In essence, spiders are actually good because they and the lady bugs eat the critters that will harm your plants. They also can help keep the bad pests away from your house, though they may try to get in themselves.
    3. Most importantly, though, bees and humming birds are becoming more and more rare, and we rely on them for pollination to grow our food. A lot of flowers that we buy from Home Depot and Lowes have been genetically modified enough that they no longer have the key things that bees and humming birds need in order to survive.

So, growing food plants is very important for you and for them. It supplies both of you with sustenance while still being beautiful! You can further create a healthy atmosphere by laying out water for them. Bees and other good bugs aren’t as good as birds at landing on the edge of a bird bath to dip in for a drink, so taking a shallow bowl, filling it with rocks, and filling it until the water barely touches near the top of the rocks goes a long way in helping them get to a reliable water source. Regular bird baths and bird feeders will draw birds (and squirrels and cats), and your back yard will become a very lively place indeed!

No. Seriously. A blue-jay’s family moved into the tree in my back yard, and they get into a screaming match every morning at about 4am. I’ve lived here for about 6 weeks now, I don’t have a bird bath, but the little I’ve done has already helped.

I even saw a humming bird the other day!

So, what do you like to plant? Also, what can I do with sage? That bush has taken off, and I don’t know what I’m going to do with so many sage leaves!

Exercise – How to Do It and Survive It

I think my biggest problem with keeping on an exercise regimen is my ability to hold myself accountable. As things get busier (remember, I have two jobs) I start coming home tired more often and my motivations plummets.Then, if I do get into a workable regimen, something happens like I start pet sitting or my schedule changes, and I have to start over from scratch.

That’s why I have apps – to pretend I have someone there to hold me accountable. I have a FitBit (thanks to my friend who got a new one and decided to give me her old one!!! Super happy she is so generous!) and I love getting badges in the app for reaching my daily goal of 10,000 steps. I also log everything on MyFitness Pal. I also try to go on a walk once a week with my Affianced to talk and enjoy a nice day, and I track it with MapMyWalk. All of these apps link together, so if I track something with one app, it gets logged in the other two. But, ultimately, it really doesn’t matter what I do, I just feel better when I’m more active.

And, because I’m too poor to go to the gym (and I kind of hate going to the gym anyway), I have fallen in love with workout videos. I do have a few that I have purchased (I used to work at B&N, so it was super convenient to go into the Music & DVD department to pick one up) but now that things have changed I am more dependent on free, online videos.

If you’re into Yoga and don’t want to pay $5+ for each lesson, I like Rodney Yee. He gets the meditative feeling of a Yoga workout, and he describes his movements very well if you’re a beginner. If you aren’t a beginner, he has some super-hard videos to choose from, and they’re all available on YouTube for you to search through. Don’t forget that Yoga is good for more that just strength and flexibility, because the mind and spirit need active rest, too.

But, the website I love to go to is Daniel and Kelli were fitness trainers in a gym for several years, and one day they decided that they wanted fitness to be affordable to everyone (it wasn’t so sudden as that, but close enough for Jazz). So, they started the website that I already mentioned and started filming videos and posting them so that anyone, regardless of fitness level, can work out for free. These days they do have fitness regimens that cost $11.00 at most, but they are two months worth of workouts added to your calendar on their website, and you can do them over and over again for no additional charge. Otherwise, you can choose from hundreds of workout videos. You can even do a search on their website for videos of a certain type, length, and difficulty. They do the workouts with you, and you see them getting tired just as tired as you. They also have their own app, which is a social media app so someone else can keep you accountable, and they promote clean eating as well.

Here is the first of my favorite series of workouts from Fitness Blender – Day 1 of the their Five Day Fitness Challenge to Burn Fat and Build Lean Muscle. Its totally free, and you can find links to the other four workouts at the bottom of the notes.

I guess you may have noticed that i don’t like the gym. I never felt good about going, even though I have had two different low-cost memberships. If that works for you, then go for it! But my gym buddy ditched me, I never felt confident about the machines, and I hardly noticed any difference when I wasn’t paying extra to attend classes. These days, though, I have everything I need for a workout at home – totally worth the investment for these dumbbells!

Hey, I know what you’re not thinking about right now – soreness. You are thinking that you don’t have enough energy at the end of your day to work out because exercising tires you out (and makes you sore). Exercise does tire you out in the short-term, but over time you’re body will become better at producing energy and recovering from energy loss, so if you keep it up (like I’m trying to do) you’ll feel better after you exercise.

Soreness, though, is a sign of a good workout that’s hitting muscles you don’t normally use. Any time you add variety to you’re workouts, you can expect to feel some soreness a day or two after. It’s a good thing! In order to become stronger, some exercises such as weight lifting actually damage your muscles a little bit, causing soreness. Over the next couple of days, this soreness will fade as your body heals the damage and even creates more muscle tissue, in effect making you stronger. Lean muscle tissue helps you to burn more calories, so having more muscle is a good thing when trying to burn fat. The best workouts don’t leave you sore until the second day after – don’t ask me why.

But how do you deal with the pain? First, take a warm bath (preferably) or shower (workable) after you’ve stopped sweating. The heat soaking into your muscles will increase blood flow, allowing the removal of lactic acids that make you tire and to speed up the healing process. Next, get a good night’s sleep to accommodate your healing and energy needs. Don’t take pain medication unless you absolutely must, though. I personally feel that we tend to reach for medicines too soon, so our bodies become resistant to their effects so they don’t work as well over time. If you’re so sore that you can barely move, then go ahead and take some Ibuprofen – NOT aspirin – because it will help reduce swelling and allow better blood flow to heal your injury faster. However, pain is your brain’s signal to send your immune system over and repair damage, so if you can still move then you’re body will work it out on its own.

And, last but not least, exercise when you’re sore. This does not mean that you have free reign to exercise when you’re injured. In fact, this is not good advice for when you are injured and if you are hurt, then you need to talk to you’re doctor about physical therapy and the timing/types of exercises you can do. But, if you are only sore, moving your muscles actually works some of the pain out and limbers you up. If you continue working out despite some soreness and stiffness, your body will learn to heal itself without throwing a fit. Be careful, but keep going.

So, given everything I’ve told you so far, how is it I manage to work out for an hour five days every week? I don’t. I’m currently very bad and between regimens at the moment. Things went downhill when I quit my ballet classes about 9 years ago. I used to dance for 4 hours each week at the Galt Dance Center, but since I am no longer available during class times, I haven’t been back in the last couple of years. I think what I’m going to have to do is schedule my workouts on my calendars just like I do everything else. My Dalrling future husband can see it and give me crap about it if I don’t do it, so that creates some accountability. It’s definitely something worth making time for. Please let me know how you are able to keep yourself moving through the week, so maybe I can do something similar!

How to Buy for the Woman Who Can Get Herself Anything

The same thing happens to me every year:

I ask my mom what she wants for Mother’s day, and she tells me, “I don’t want anything.” So, I get her a nice card. Then, about a day or two before Mother’s day, I get a call from my dad.

“Theresa, what did you get you’re mom for Mother’s day?”

“Um… I got her a card.”

“Just a card?”

“…Yeah, Dad. Just a…”

There isn’t a physical explosion, but my Dad doesn’t hesitate to show his disapproval at my lack of gift.

The sad thing is, the whole thing reverses on Father’s day. A few years ago, I told my parents that will be getting them gifts on Mother’s and Father’s days whether they want anything or not. The thing is, I am poor and cannot always afford a good gift, so the guilt trip continues and now includes birthdays and Christmas.

But, this past Christmas I figured out how to get away with a small budget and big expectations.

First, I don’t buy presents anymore – I’m too poor for that most of the time. However, I can make things for her. And no, she doesn’t need another scarf, but one year I made her some potholders for the kitchen table. I also beaded the word MOM onto a magnet. She still has both gifts.

But, that store of gift-giving ran out of appeal, too. Now I’m giving my mom experiences. One time we went to one of those pottery-painting places (which didn’t pan out) and sometimes I take her out to lunch or make her breakfast. Since I’m almost thirty, me making her breakfast isn’t the horror story it was when I was little.

But, when I’m in a bind, I go to a dollar store. When I was in high school the band did a Secret Santa exchange, and I drew the name of the girl who sat next to me. She liked Nascar and a specific racer, but I figured she probably already had all the paraphernalia for those that she could want. So, I went to the dollar store for ideas (and because we had a maximum $10 limit). I knew from her little idea card that she liked red, so I got her a little red stocking and stuffed it with a little red Hot Wheels, a red candy bar, and a couple other red knicknacks. All in all, not a bad gift.

Lottery scratchers are also a good gift. You can get ten of them for $10, and they can keep buying more from their winnings until they run out of money (as my parents do) or they can play and spend their winnings. As long as nobody belongs in a Gambler’s Anonymous meeting, everything should be fine.

So, what did I get my mom for Mother’s day this year? Can’t tell you, since she’s likely to read this before she gets her gift. But what are some of your ideas for affordable gift-giving?

My Super-Secret Guide to Buying Food

My mom is a brilliant woman. She told me when I was in middle school – well before social media was a thing and it was easy to read articles in blogs like this – she told me to shop the outer edge of a grocery store. Of course, I had no idea what that meant at the time since we were doing monthly shopping trips to Food-4-Less and the layout of the store forced us to go around the outside of the store.

But, as it turns out, Mom was right. A Raley’s came into town when i was in high school (Raley’s is a West Coast middle-high end grocery chain). These days I go to the grocery store, and I hit the produce department, the bulk foods section, the dairy section and eggs, the meat, the bakery and the deli. By the time I hit the coffee shop, I’ve got nothing but fresh food I have to check out or else all my perishables will warm up.

“But fresh food is so expensive!” you may say.

“Um… no,” I will respond.

Just going to warn you: I’m living in California. These prices aren’t accurate anywhere else, and they’re going to change as the summer comes and certain foods come into season and others go out of season.

A pound of apples is $1.09. That’s about 4 apples, rough guess. A bunch of spinach – not a package – requires a little washing and costs $0.99. Roma tomatoes – the least expensive ones which are good for stewing and eating – are $0.99 per pound. That’s enough to make salsa, guacamole, and chop up some tomato for tacos. Milk, also, has a price ceiling, so it will never rise above the government-determined price. If you buy smaller ammounts more frequently, and you’ll never run out of fresh things!

My sweetie-pie loves the bulk section. You can get just about any kind of nut or grain for about 2/3 the price of a package. I like keeping walnuts, almonds, oatmeal, and coffee beans in stock. Part of it is because nuts go awesome on salads (spinach, strawberry slices, walnuts, and feta with a home-made strawberry vinnegarette… Now I’m hungry!) and in smoothies (a banana, raspberries, peach slices, a leaf of kale to make it a pukey color, almonds, and orange juice, honey, and unsweetened almond milk… not nearly as gross as it sounds), but the joyous man I’m going to marry likes to pour old French Press coffee from the morning into uncooked oatmeal with maybe a drizzle of honey, if I can talk him into it, when he gets home from work.

Meat is a little bit expensive, I’ll give you that. This week, though, I received ads in the weekly circular that featured tri-tip, ribs, and roasts for under $3.00 per pound! Sales are remarkable things, and keeping an eye out for sales, coupons, and price reductions is how a cost-conscious person such as yourself can get better quality at a happy price! However, purchasing chicken thighs instead of breasts, the cheapest possible cuts of meat for roasts, and catching shrimp when its on sale for under $10.00 per pound go a long way in helping you get the protein you need in a day. Just remember that a serving of meat is only about 4 ounces – that is 1/4 pound and about the size of a deck of cards. It doesn’t take much meat to get what you need.

After my first solo shopping trip, I realized that fresh food really isn’t enough. Sure, I can stew my own tomatoes for true Italian-style spaghetti sauce (I am well on my way to becoming a big fat Italian woman and proud of it!) but with two jobs and my own business, I really don’t have the time to do that. Cans of stewed or fire-roasted tomatoes make awesome sauces and cut the time considerably, even if it does increase your sodium intake to ridiculous levels. I’m not going to cook, cool, and shuck a piece of tuna so that I can make a tuna melt when I can buy a can of it for a dollar. The trick is to only go down the isles you need and not the ones that tempt you. Go down the baking isle, for it has the spices that make cooking delicious, and go down the canned food isles for the canned chicken noodle soup is good in a pinch. Even go down the ethnic food isle, for Sriracha is delicious! Just stay away from the snack and soda isles. It may seem like it’s only $3.50, but that’s only about three snacks worth before it’s gone.

Just remember when you’re in the “danger zone” that most things that say they are health foods really aren’t. Sugar Free isn’t really free of sugar because our bodies get confused by the sweet taste and cause us to crave more sweets. Lean Cuisines are tiny, salt-laden pieces of cardboard dotted with steamed broccoli that masquerades as food. Sure, you can eat a whole meal for 250 calories, but if you have to eat two of them to feel satisfied, you may as well have made that gross-looking smoothie I mentioned above and fried up two eggs to the hardness you prefer. It would have still been about 500 calories, but it would have tasted better, had more protein, less salt, and lots of micro-nutrients (an don’t forget the mother load of vitamin C!). You probably wouldn’t even be hungry again until lunch!

But, where can you get all this fine food for such amazing prices? Well, that really depends on where you live. Meijer is a store that just started popping up over here, but it’s been a big deal in the Midwest for most of my memory. Raley’s and Safeway are awesome stores around here with wonderful deals through their free club cards. They tend to be expensive, but the quality of their produce is unbeatable! Sprouts is a neat place because it’s like a store bought out a farmer’s market. You really can’t get lower prices on good quality produce like you can at Sprouts unless you go to a farmer’s market. For a store that’s got a little lower quality of produce, but a bit more of a bulk-type warehouse setting without being a full on Costco, there are FoodMaxx, Smart & Final, Food Source. Target has a surprisingly good baking isle, even if it’s lacking in variety. Many dollar stores also carry food, but that’s more of a “Let the Buyer Beware” situation.

And Coupons! Coupons, coupons, coupons! I don’t get the stigma behind coupon clipping, because coupons can help you save money on items you’re already going to buy. You can find coupons online at specific store and brand websites, at, and through those annoying ads that come in the mail. It’s a little extra effort, but not as much effort as stewing your own tomatoes to make true Italian spaghetti sauce!

But the real trick is to buy what you need and only what you need. Go in after you’ve eaten a meal with a list and stick to the list. Then, pick your store. It isn’t a bad idea to go to different stores to find what you need, but ideally you’ll only go to one place to save gas and time. Also, pick the place that has the right level of bulk for your family needs. Right now I purchase food for myself and sometimes my Fiance, so Costco isn’t a good idea for me because 1) we won’t eat it, and 2) I don’t have a place to store it. My best friend, though, goes to Costco because her family tends to split bulk items and share them. Different strokes for different folks, but sometimes more is just more.

So, that’s it – my Super Secret Guide to Buying Food. Post some of the cheapest prices you’ve seen for food you love in the comments so that I can find it if I ever get stranded there, and Happy Hunting!



What the Hell Am I Doing Here? I’ll Tell You!


Hi, I’m the pretty girl in the photo above. But… don’t let the pretty face fool you (and it really is… was my face) I’m not skinny. I am by no means fat, but I’m not a twig. My mom is a big (shorter than me, really) fat Italian woman with an Immune System of Steel, and my dad is a tall skinny European Mutt who has been borderline diabetic for a good portion of my life and recently suffers from erratic blood pressure. Heart attacks and strokes run on both sides of my family, and although right now my form and health seem to be leaning towards my mom’s side, there is a very real possibility that I can develop diabetes or high blood pressure later in life.

I also happen to be dirt poor.

I have no excuse for being dirt poor, except that right now I’m working two jobs and have only been at my new place for about 3 1/2 weeks. One of my paychecks hasn’t caught up with me at my new place yet (though I expect it to arrive her, at my parents’ or back at my boss’s office any day now) and my other paychecks have been awkwardly timed. I’m also getting married in a little over five months. Stress has suddenly become a factor in my life.

FYI, I’m also turning 30 in November. It isn’t an important detail, but kind of a milestone, y’know?

But why do I tell you all of this crap that you really didn’t want to know??? Because I want you to know that you aren’t alone. I may not have kids (yet) and I don’t have a ton of pets or anything, but I am trying really hard to make it out on my own for good this time and to make healthy life-long decisions that will help me for the rest of my life.

I’ve gotten myself on a bit of a health plan, but it isn’t one of those pieces of complete shite where you have to buy into it. Over the next series of posts I’ll probably sound like a bit of a goody two-shoes as I tell you some of the things that I’ve learned. Some of it was from living with a savvy, first-generation, Italian Mom whose parents grew up during the Great Depression, and a little bit was from my first two successful attempts at being dirt poor (this time will fail at staying poor! I promise!!!)

There are, however, some things that my plan requires:

  1. Grocery Shopping – I know that going to Taco Bell is easier, and if you order off the dollar menu you can eat a meal for under $3.oo. However, fast food is rarely healthy. The joyous Chili Cheese Burrito is a small thing with beans, rice, and nacho cheese wrapped in a soft flour tortilla. Two of them together are 740 calories. If I fried up some home-marinated chicken thighs and veggies, add a spoonful of home-made guacamole, home-made salsa, sour cream, and dribble of sharp cheddar cheese all on a flour tortilla, and you have 3 huge burritos to spread out over lunch and dinner for 820 calories, with better nutrition to boot! And the whole thing costs you about $3.oo per meal. I’ll tell you how to grocery shop for maximum effect in my next post.
  2. Exercise – Its the sucky thing in life, but it has to be done. There is an article I ready recently from the MyFitnessPal Blog that said that physical weight isn’t an indicator of true health – my parents are evidence of that! But, that doesn’t mean that exercise isn’t good for you on levels besides weight. it helps your cardiovascular strength, the ability for your body to heal itself and even helps your level of pain tolerance and endurance. I had a teacher way back when I was an undergrad who would run 5 miles every day at 5 am, and she wasn’t skinny. Turns out, she just wasn’t skinny. She is healthy as a horse, though, and can outrun me in a minute! It’s important to schedule in time to exercise every week, and whether you schedule one 30-minute session every week or five 90 minute sessions, it has to be something that you can actually do. I’ll also be talking about exercise in a future blog, so stay tuned for more details 😉
  3. Have Help – I have a Fit Bit that I got from a friend (I love having rich friends!) and I have the My Fitness Pal app and the Map My Walk app so that I can record everything I eat and all the calories I burn through exercise and walking (though sometimes you have to get creative since HIIT isn’t an option under Cardiovascular exercise in My Fitness Pal). All of these apps are linked together through My Fitness Pal, so that nothing I do gets missed and I get a more accurate activity and consumption log. I also have an account with Fitness Blender – an awesome couple who used to be trainers at a gym and decided to make workout videos that people can watch for free. I’ll tell you more about them later (and, no, nobody pays me anything for my blog. I make no money off of this… sadly, this is why I’m still poor).

I hope that this blog helps you. I hope that this blog helps me! It’s going to be part diary,part advice column, but mostly it’s going to be another way for me to relieve some stress through writing (I did mention that I have two jobs, I just moved, and I have a wedding coming up, right?). But, mostly, I want to get healthy and stay healthy. If I can lose a few pounds while doing that, all the better. Moderation and Balance are my key words, and I hope to acquire a lifestyle that follows this mantra to the letter! Who’s with me?!