Thursday, October 24, 2013

Day 24: Off the Rails

Well. Things seem to have gone a little awry around here. I started out with the best of intentions, but being Paleo(ish) on a budget has proven to be more difficult than I anticipated. Mainly the budget part. And also, the part where I have to cook...a lot.

Things have really gone off the rails since my race a few weekends ago. I haven't run once since then; in fact, my schedule has been so busy that I haven't exercised at all. Before that, I worked my entire schedule around my morning workout. It was also easier to be more motivated about eating the right things all the time when I was "in training." 

So, where does that leave me? I'm not sure. My goals as far as eating healthy and being healthy have not changed, but I am finding that I just don't want to be so militant about it all. I don't want to beat myself up every time I put something "illegal" in my mouth. 

One thing I will continue no matter what is trying to stay gluten-free. As I've mentioned, I've struggled with hypothyroidism since my early teens, but I was very recently diagnosed with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis which ups the ante a little since it is an autoimmune disease. Funny thing, though, as soon as I got that diagnosis and I had a real, medically sound reason for avoiding gluten...guess what my brain started craving? 

My busy week of morning appointments is coming to an end, so I am going to commit myself to once again devoting my mornings to exercise starting on Monday. I'm not sure yet if I'm going to keep running or take a break from that and enjoy some nice fall hikes. Hopefully getting back into a routine will help other things fall into place.

I must be doing something right, though, because those pants...they could use a belt these days!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Day 17: Feeling Cranky

I don't have much to say today. I am feeling cranky ~ it's been a rough week and I have not been eating right. I'm feeling stressed and having cravings, which I thought I had sailed right past in the beginning. 

The past few days I have been eating a Lara bar for either breakfast or lunch, which really is no better than grabbing something gluten-y and sugar-y. It doesn't do much for my hunger, and it leaves me craving something sweet. I have been reaching for the Lara bars because I just flat out haven't planned well enough for meals or I just haven't felt motivated to actually make anything.

Frustrating. Leading to cranky. And also, feeling like this...

I just have to remind myself that this is a process, and there is a learning curve. I am switching to a very different way of eating, which includes learning skills I do not possess, and doing it all on a budget. This calls for some "chunking," as my daughter's teacher calls it. I'm all about the small steps, so maybe I need to take a small step backward and set a few specific, achievable goals for myself. This is so me...I get all revved up about something and want to do it all at once, yesterday in fact, and perfectly the first time, OF COURSE. But I do know that setting and reaching small goals leads to an avalanche effect, so if I can concentrate on getting a few little things right, I can build on that.

Well, I do feel a little better having worked that out, and rest assured, there are no cookies in the house to tempt me, so I am safe from my inner Cookie Monster!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Day 16: Paleo Pinspiration

Everywhere I go, I am seeing people who use Pinterest for menu planning. I haven't done this yet because (1) when I go on Pinterest I tend to get sucked down a big rabbit hole of All the Cool Things and forget why I was there to begin with, (2) I kind of suck at organizing my pins, so while I may spend hours pinning All the Cool Things, I rarely go back and look at my boards, and (3) I'm lazy?

My meals are planned for the week, but I was surfing around Pinterest this evening and thought I would scout out some new recipes to try, since I have some things in the freezer I have no idea what to do with!

It was tough to narrow down, but these look tasty and manageable for me...

1. Breakfast Sausage ~ Cupcakes OMG
2. Lemon Sage Chicken ~ Enjoying Healthy Foods
3. Secret Liver Burger ~ Humans Are Not Broken (yes, I'm totally trying this on my kids)
4. Pot Roast ~ Cavegirl Cooks
5. Southwestern Frittata ~ Everyday Paleo
6. Cowboy Pie ~ Eat Live Grow Paleo
7. Garlic Herb Crusted Pork Tenderloin ~ Multiply Delicious
8. Liver & Onions ~ The Paleo Diet (this looks manageable but I will reserve judgement on the "tasty")

I will work a few of these into next week's plan ~ no promises on the liver, I really have to psych myself up for that one! 

Do you use Pinterest for menu planning? What are your tips for organizing?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Day 15: Menu Planning, Week 3

This is exactly what meal planning looks like in my house...NOT!

This week is really about using what I've got, since the budget is extra tight. Unfortunately, it also means I may have to be a little looser with my Paleo rules ~ be ish(ish), if you will! Fortunately, however, I do have produce that I did not get around to using last week (that's sort of the story of my life), so I will definitely have to be more disciplined about getting in the kitchen and actually cooking! 


Monday: rice pasta with sauce & meatballs
Wednesday: goulash over zucchini
Thursday: mustard chicken thighs with roast vegetables
Friday: pork tenderloin with green beans
Saturday: breakfast for dinner


"Stuff" from the back of the pantry


Eggs & bacon

I have a pot of chicken broth on the stove right now, simmering away and making my house smell delicious, so starting tomorrow I will have that to drink (instead of the hot chocolate leftover from camping that I've been indulging in). I've also trained my 10 year old to make coffee in the morning (actually, she begs me to let her), so I have been having a much healthier version than I had been getting from the corner store! 

I think I've got a good plan for the week, I just need to make sure to take things out of the freezer the night before and set a daily alarm to remind me it's time to start dinner!

What's on your menu for the week? Do you happen to have a really good recipe for liver and onions? It's one thing my mom never forced us to eat growing up, so I've never actually tasted it ~ just scared to try it, much less make it myself!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Day 14: Week 2 Review

I didn't mean to miss two days over the weekend, but I was in West Virginia running a trail race! Actually, I spent most of the weekend driving to and from WV, one night camping, and less than an hour running, but it was worth it ~ race recap to come soon! 

View of the finish from the top of the hill

My plan was to write my weekend posts ahead of time, but if you know me, you are probably not surprised that didn't happen. I am not known as "Last Minute Liz" for nothing ~ I was preparing for my trip up until the moment we walked out the door, which of course was over an hour behind schedule! When we got home last night, all I wanted to do was crawl into my comfy, warm bed and get a good night's sleep.

So, here's how last week looked:

Breakfast: 2 egg muffins, coffee
Lunch: baked potato with onions & cottage cheese
Dinner: chicken wings, zucchini
Snacks: Trader Joe's tomato soup, Lara bar, TJ dark chocolate bars (2), sunflower seed butter, apples
Beverages: milk, orange juice

Breakfast: apple, cheese stick, coffee
Lunch: leftover chicken wings, celery w/cream cheese, Trader Joe's tomato soup
Dinner: scrambled eggs with cheese
Snacks: Justin's chocolate macadamia nut butter, TJ dark chocolate bars (2), sunflower seed butter, apple
Beverages: milk, orange juice 

Breakfast: coffee
Lunch: pumpkin soup, bacon
Dinner: garbanzo bean soup
Snacks: pumpkin spice latte

Breakfast: coffee
Lunch: spaghetti squash with sauce, meatballs
Dinner: roast chicken with potatoes, carrots & onions
Snacks: gummy worms and peanut butter cup poached from the kids, apple, sunflower seed butter, olives
Beverages: milk, orange juice

Breakfast: coffee, leftover chicken & vegetables
Lunch: Lara bar, Clif Mojo bar (waiting forever for an oil change at Walmart)
Dinner: leftover roast vegetables, pumpkin soup
Snacks: olives, sunflower seed butter, apple
Beverages: milk

Breakfast: pumpkin spice latte, Lara bar
Lunch: Bojangles sausage patty, french fries
Dinner: spaghetti with meat sauce, veggies (pre-race dinner included with registration)
Snack: hot chocolate 
(weighed myself in the morning ~ no change)

Breakfast: yogurt with granola (served at TMI before race), coffee
Lunch: hamburger, potato salad, baked beans (served at TMI after race), coffee
Dinner: Wendy's chili (it was a long drive home)
Snacks: Lara bars (2) apple, Justin's chocolate macadamia nut butter
Beverages: milk, hot chocolate

Breakfast: fried eggs (2) and bacon, coffee (homemade!)
Lunch: Progresso clam chowder (today is was more about the budget than the Paleo)
Dinner: rice pasta with sauce, meatballs
Snacks: Lara bar, Justin's chocolate macadamia nut butter
Beverages: milk, hot chocolate

It turned out not to be the best week as far as sticking to the meal plan. I am still having trouble getting myself into the kitchen to cook ~ since I don't have the schedule of a 9-5 job any more, time often gets away from me and suddenly it's dinner time and I've got nothin'. I think I need to try taking one day a week to cook a few meals so they are ready to go. 

This week is going to be interesting ~ like I mentioned, the budget may trump the diet for a few days. I still have a freezer full of good meat to plan around, so we'll see what I come up with tomorrow!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Day 11: I Miss My Naps

This is going to be a quick post, because I am packing up for an overnight camping trip and my very first trail race on Sunday. I am soooo excited, but as usual I have a long list of last minute things I have to do (like laundry).

Naps are wonderful things. I never thought it was quite fair that only those too young to appreciate them are the only ones encouraged to take them! That said, it has been over a week now since I have felt the need to take a nap (despite staying up way past my bedtime to get my 31 days posts up)! 

Prior to that, I was napping every day. Sometimes more than once a day. Sometimes all day. And these weren't "catnaps" which found me renewed and refreshed when I woke up ~ sometimes I could barely open my eyes much less drag myself out of bed. I was kind of a hot mess. A hot, tired, cranky mess. 

That exhaustion and the feeling that I could fall asleep standing up at any moment disappeared within days of starting Paleo. I have had days like today (especially with the dreary weather we've been having), that I want a nap. I long to snuggle under the covers and slip off to dreamland for awhile, but I don't need a nap. Even though my energy dips, I am able to push through and stay awake and productive.

To a person who has spent the better part of her adult life (and the latter part of her teens) suffering from sometimes debilitating depression and fatigue, this is pretty amazing. In fact, it is so radically different from my "normal" that I have seriously questioned whether there is something wrong with me. Is that warped or what?

Naps are not a bad thing by any means; in fact, they have many benefits, such as increased brain function, reduced stress, brightened mood and improved memory, among others. Many cultures around the world regularly take "siestas." In China it is common for employees to put their heads down for a post-lunch nap ~ can you imagine if that were the practice here in the states? 

I like the idea that I can still take a little siesta when I feel like it and that it could actually improve my health. But even better, I like the idea that now I can do so on my terms, and not because of a food related crash.

Here is a great article on how naps affect your brain if you'd like to know more!

So speaking of shut-eye, it is time for me to get some...I have a big weekend ahead of me and I don't want to be tripping over any roots or spraining any ankles because I haven't gotten enough!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Day 10: Carb Flu, Cravings & Brain Fog, Oh My

When you are fueling your body primarily with quick-energy carbohydrates (sugar) and then suddenly eliminate them from your diet, it takes awhile for your body to convert to using mainly fat as an energy source. In the meantime, you go through withdrawal just as if you had given up smoking or caffeine. In the Paleo community, this is "affectionately" known as carb flu. It can, indeed, feel like the flu, with symptoms like body aches, headaches, and fatigue, as well as irritability and strong cravings.

When I went gluten free last August, I experienced some of this ~ not to the degree that I felt like I had the flu, luckily. Mostly I was just super tired and drag-ass all day. Like, falling asleep at my desk and I don't care who sees me kind of tired. Also, maybe a little cranky. I'm sure my kids never even noticed. Not.

This time around I haven't experienced any of that. In fact, I skipped right to feeling All the Energy. All the Time. Maybe it's because I am including more "safe starches" like white potatoes? I'm thrilled to have skipped right over that phase of the transition, because really...

One thing that many people stop experiencing with the elimination of gluten are mental health issues such as brain fog, anxiety and depression. These things have virtually disappeared for me in the last 10 days. To be honest, I attributed it to the change in my thyroid medication (I switched from synthetic, generic levothyroxine to natural Armour brand desiccated thyroid), but then last night I came across something I had written in my journal last year about two weeks after I made the switch to Paleo right after my injury (funny how I can't remember the day I quit smoking three years ago, but the day I nearly broke my ankle six miles into a 12 mile hike with four complete strangers from a meetup group will be forever etched in my brain).
"I've got so much going on in my head right now. It's awesome! I don't think I've felt this buzzing in awhile like I have since I quit eating grains. FASCINATING."
Holy shit! What's fascinating to me now is that I completely forgot about that revelation ~ I guess it was swallowed up in the brain fog that enveloped me once I went back to eating all the carbs not too long after I wrote that (my personal life took some hard knocks in January and I turned to my old friend comfort food to help get me through it). I did connect eating badly with feeling badly physically, but I guess brain fog is like real fog ~ sometimes you can see it better from a distance than when you are in the middle of it.

I also noted at that time that although I wasn't losing weight, and I couldn't exercise at all because of my ankle, I did go down a pant size, so I'm kind of waiting for that to happen again, too!

The most important thing to remember if you are going through carb withdrawal is that it is temporary and you will come out on the other side feeling better than ever. Here are some tips to help get you through:

  • make sure you are getting enough protein for breakfast ~ this will keep you satiated much longer and help reduce cravings
  • if you need to, ease up on your workouts until you are feeling better (in other words, do as I say and not as I do, and cut yourself a break)
  • add some additional starches to your diet ~ sweet potatoes are Paleo-friendly or, if you are "ish" like me, white rice and white potatoes are also considered "safe starches"
  • drink bone broth ~ Mom wasn't kidding when she said chicken soup helped you feel better, just make sure it is good, healthy, preferably homemade stock and not the crap that comes in a red can (or off the grocery store shelf, period)
  • find a community, whether it's reading other blogs, participating in forums, or listening to podcasts ~ it helps to know others are going through it or have survived, as well as helping you stay motivated!
Wow ~ I can't believe we are 10 days into this challenge (and closer to the holidays). I am really enjoying blogging every day, even though I have definitely been staying up way past my bedtime to get a daily post up! I really hope that something I've shared has helped someone out there in some small way!

Oh, and PS...

Yes, I got 'er done. And yes, I realize that it looks like the poor chicken face planted into a dish of vegetables and that I cooked it upside down. I told you I am no Julia Childs ~ just slicing up some vegetables is an accomplishment for me. Don't be like me ~ here are some great instructions for roasting a chicken, just be sure to read past "preheat oven to 450" or at least look at the pictures! Either way, it was tasty, I have leftovers for lunch (barely), and I am going to make some chicken stock tomorrow. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Day 9: Today Was Kind of a Fail


I learned a lesson today. I learned it's a good bet that if I don't have something pre-made that I can pop in the microwave for breakfast, breakfast (1) might not happen, or (2) might be ugly.

This morning it didn't happen.

I had a teacher conference at 8:15 and amazingly made it on time, but did not have time for breakfast, since my egg and sausage muffins are all gone. On the plus side, I refused repeated offers to share E's pop-tart. 

I did manage to make time to stop for my "coffee" on the way to the conference, and here is where I admit the horror that has been my morning drink nearly every day for the last 4 years. I get my coffee at the gas station on the corner, where they serve Green Mountain coffee, which I love. I fill my mug 3/4 of the way with that, and then totally corrupt it by topping it off with cappuccino from the machine. I'm working on it...or rather, it's on my list of things to work on!

Right after the meeting I went running, then grabbed a quick shower, then went racing back out of the house to play taxi driver to my kids.

When I got back I made myself a bowl of pumpkin soup and some bacon and got engrossed in some work.

Then a meeting at 2:00, by which time I was feeling hungry but no time to make anything. So, after the meeting, J talked me into stopping at the coffee shop in town, where I indulged in a pumpkin latte. I am glad those things only come around once a year!

Back home I got engrossed in work again, and suddenly it was 7:30 and my chicken had never made its way into the oven. What to do? Why, head to the grocery store pick up the fixins for a quick and definitely less than paleo meal (garbanzo bean soup, btw) of course, and oh, while we're at it, lets go over-budget a little more.

I actually learned a few lessons today: 
  • breakfast needs to be super fast and easy
  • I need to be better prepared for days like today ~ days that just get away from me
  • I need to teach my kids to roast a chicken

I won't call the day a total fail, though, because while I didn't make the best choices, I also did not make horrible choices or take the easy way out, like reaching for a PB&J (or as I like to call it, fruit and peanutty goodness spread onto soft fluffy pillows of deliciousness) or worse, running to the FFJ (fast food joint) on the corner.

So, yeah, not a fail at all...just an opportunity to develop some mad coping skillz so I can do even better next time. Don't you like how I turned that around?

Still, I think the chicken is going into the crockpot tomorrow morning!

And the Universe Responds...

I guess the universe thought I needed a kick in the ass after yesterday's post...

This morning I went on my first run after a five day "I let life get in the way" hiatus - just what you want to do right before your first race in a year, and a trail race no less. Let's just call it a taper, shall we?

I was at about mile 2.5 when a guy on a bike passed me going the opposite way. I had actually already passed him and said good morning (does anyone else have trouble on the backside of an out and back remembering if you've already passed someone and feeling awkward about saying hello again, or is that just me being my weird and awkward self?), so I gave him a smile, and as he passed he said...

"Looking good!"

I'm telling you, it was the equivalent of a clap of thunder and lightening striking at my feet. I GOT THE MESSAGE!!! 

How do you think the rest of my run went? Yeah, you know I picked up the pace and held my head a little higher, and finished with a sprint and a smile.

So thank you, old dude in your bright yellow rain jacket, and thank you universe, for sending me exactly what I needed when I needed it!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Day 8: Shopping, Week 2

You know you are embracing The Blogging Thing when you start to panic because you can't find the shopping list you scribbled and marked up so you can share it with the interwebs.

Moving on.

As I created my menu plan on Sunday, I also created a shopping list. What I have been doing the last two weeks is shopping at Target on Sunday, so the kids have their junk food for the week, and then going to Trader Joe's on Monday, when I am kid free and have more time to wander around and make wish lists in my head.

I would love to eventually wean my kids off all the crap they eat, but it's like that cliche airplane analogy ~ put your own mask on before helping others. I think I need to get my own good habits in place and lead by example for awhile, and switch them over to the Healthy Way slowly. Of course, they are stubborn, so they might move out before I accomplish that (at least the older two, anyway).

So for now, it is what it is!


canned pineapple
Archer Farms pineapple BBQ sauce
yogurt (Noosa ~ yes, it has sugar, but it's nice to have one on hand when I need some quick & tasty protein)
cream cheese
cheese sticks
Braggs organic apple cider vinegar
Dinosaur oatmeal
spaghettios (C could literally live on these and her nasty tea drinks)
apples (for J ~ she likes red, I do not)
Luna bars (snack for J ~ she hides them in her room, so I'm not tempted)

*for the kids

This seemed like a completely manageable list. My spending goal was $50. However, we added a few paper products and then I don't even know what, and I walked out spending $80. This is what happens when you shop with a credit card (well, Red Card). And kids. When you're tired. And also, hungry. 

Budget Tip: One thing to think about if you have older kids...I got this idea from Debt Proof Your Kids by Mary Hunt. Kick them off your budget and give them one of their own. I calculated a weekly amount based on what I was willing to spend on various things over the course of a year (haircuts, toiletries, clothes, etc) as well as weekly snacks and entertainment, and I gave them cash at the start of each week. I did this for awhile but it stopped when the paychecks did. I am thinking I need to find a way to start it up again. They are a lot stingier with their money than they are with mine! 

I also need to start shopping with cash...I get kind of hung up on the 5% I save when using the Red Card, but I guess it's better to pay full price and stay within my budget, than to save a little but way overspend.

Trader Joe's

bacon (uncured)
diced tomatoes
garlic powder
orange juice
brussels sprouts 
sweet potatoes
Lara bar (1)

I actually eliminated a few items after I blew my budget at Target, and I didn't have a specific amount in mind to spend. I was just hoping to keep it as low as I could. 

I went to Trader Joe's for the first time a few years ago, and was shocked at how small it was when I walked in. It took me awhile to get used to shopping there, but now I love it! I love how everything is organized, and their handwritten signs, and best of all, the employees that are around every turn waiting to answer your questions (like, when, when, when are you going to get fresh brussels sprout stalks???). 

All the kinds of apples! Honeycrisp are my favorites!

I did actually go with J, because it's convenient to go right after I pick her up from school. Also, because she is a picky pescatarian, who can never decide ahead of time what she wants to eat, it's easier to take her than listen to her complain all week. I do think I will start giving her her own money each week, however, so she can start learning to budget. She will thank me later ~ I wish my parents had taught me!

As a result of having J with me, we did end up with several many things not on my list. She got some hummus and chips, Morningstar burgers, beans, and salsa.

Which is not to say that I was not tempted, either...

It was like fall in a cup!

Those samples get me every time! (I did not have to buy the coconut milk, of course...I have that case from Christmas, remember?). 

I also ended up with some shaved cheese, a bag of apples, and a bottle of totally non-Paleo, gluten-filled Pumpkin Ale (I love that you can buy single bottles). Usually I am good and buy the hard cider, but I've never had a pumpkin beer and I had a hankering to try it. It will probably sit in my fridge for a few months until I remember it's there - I rarely drink alcohol. Oh, and of course we each got a box of the 100 calorie dark chocolate bars at checkout!

I ended up spending $84 ~ again, more than I was hoping for, but I think we can all agree that "hoping" is not a viable strategy for shopping on a budget. 

Goals for Next Week:
  • shop with cash
  • shop alone
  • check out the Farmers Market for produce

I Won't Let This Ruin My Day...

What I love: fall. The weather, the colors, the smell of burning leaves, running without feeling like I've gone for a swim in a pool of sweat, dragging the sweaters and boots out of the back of the closet. I love everything about fall.

What I don't love: putting on my fat pants and having them be...snug. And by fat pants, I mean the jeans I wore when I was at my heaviest. The jeans I only kept after losing weight the first time so I could take an awesome "after" picture - you know the one I mean, where you could fit a small child in your pants with you because they are way. too. big. Yeah. Those pants are snug.


I will NOT let this ruin my day. My weight is not what defines me. It is not what makes me me. I am more than just my pant size, and if anyone were to judge me solely based on that, I would have some not very nice words for them, so I think it's about time I stopped judging myself like that.

The past few months I have found myself slipping back into that anti-social, just want to hide in my house and not face the world, insecure, fearful person that I was years ago, because sometimes it's just hard to face the world as a fat person. I do believe a lot of it had to do with my depression, which I also believe was (yet another) symptom of my hypothyroidism, and with my recent medication change I feel 100% better. 

Still, I have to make a conscious effort every day ~ when I put on a pair of pants that are depressingly snug, or I look in the mirror and see a puffy face looking back, or I go to the store in my frumpy "comfy" clothes convinced that everyone is judging me, or go running convinced that the "real runners" are laughing at me ~ to ignore the mean girls that live in my head and concentrate on moving forward, step by step, toward my goals, and to love myself just the way I am.

I'm working really hard on creating the life I've always dreamed of. I left my job of nearly seven years (and its regular paycheck) to build my own business and do things that are meaningful to me. As a single mom, that was a huge leap of faith (also, maybe sort of batshit crazy?)! How sad would it be if I accomplished all the things on my "ideal life list" and still ended up miserable because the number on the scale or on the inside of my jeans was too big. 

No, I won't let my tight pants ruin this day, or any day. I'll just keep on kicking ass and taking names, thank you very much!

Day 7: Menu Planning, Week 2

Am I the only one that thinks cute printables make planning and organizing
more fun? Pick up this one over at Thirty Handmade Days

From my sporadic efforts over the years to actually create and follow through with a menu plan, I have actually learned a few things that work for me. Everyone is different, so what works for me may not work for you, but these are a few things that help me to be successful:

  • Flexibility ~ I have a hard time creating a schedule and routine for myself (ADD much?), so I never quite know how the day is going to go or what might come up; therefore, while I do like to plan specific dinners for each night based on what I do know is going on, it's important for me to have some options available if I need them and to not beat myself up for using them if necessary (perfectionist much?)
  • Simplicity ~ Cooking is something I would like to learn to be better at, but at this point in my life if I want dinner on the table before bedtime, it had better be fast and easy! Thank God for crockpots! I do like to include one or two "adventurous" meals, either a new dish or a new skill, or at least that's my goal anyway.
  • Consistency ~ Like I said, I have a hard time creating routines for myself, but I do thrive on them, so I tend to be much more successful when I know that Sunday is meal-planning and shopping-list-making day, and Monday is shopping day.
  • One day (week) at a time ~ I have read the OAMC (Once-a-Month-Cooking) books and blogs and in theory, it sounds great. I have even tried to plan on a monthly basis, but that doesn't work for me. Maybe because of my short attention span? Follow-through issues? Hell, I can't even seem to successfully plan for leftovers! Whatever the reason, it is certainly something I'd revisit in the future once I have a little more experience under my belt, a Food Saver, and maybe a bigger freezer!


Monday: garlic chicken wings, zucchini
Tuesday: breakfast for dinner
Wednesday: roast chicken with root vegetables
Thursday: meatloaf with mashed potatoes & glazed carrots
Friday: goulash with roast vegetables
Saturday: pre-race dinner at the campground (we are running a trail race in WV on Sunday and camping overnight!)
Sunday: Crock Pot Hawaiian BBQ Chicken


Baked potato with cottage cheese
Salad with tuna & olives


Eggs & bacon

Pumpkin pancakes (from Practical Paleo)

Some of the meals planned this week were on last week's menu but didn't get made, but that's ok! See the first bullet above...

Need some menu planning inspiration? I'm following along with Robyn over at One Neurotic Egghead to get some new tips and tricks on menu planning. Check her out!

Tomorrow I'll share my shopping adventures...did I stay on budget? Did I follow my list? And I did take a few pictures while I was at it! Those Trader Joe's folks didn't even bat an eye!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Day 6: Week 1 Review

It hasn't quite been a whole week, but going forward I'll do my reviews on Saturdays, because that feels like the end of the week to me. Then I'll do my menu plan and shopping list on Sunday, and my goal is to shop on Monday KID FREE.

Budget Tip: Do your shopping alone, it will save you a ton!

So how did my first, short week go? Overall I think it went pretty well! With my freezer well stocked, I was able to plan meals around what I have and keep my shopping list to a minimum. I actually did my shopping last Monday, but did have to make one stop later in the week to pick up a few extras. 

Budget Tip: Try and get all your shopping done in one trip. If you run out, do without. If you need one or two items, go in with just enough cash, otherwise you end up with the "$50 gallon of milk."

I actually stuck to my meal plan for the most part, and cooked almost every night! This is very unusual for me, but because I kept things simple, it didn't seem like a chore (don't ask me about the clean-up, though ~ that did seem like a chore and is a whole 'nuther 31-day challenge). I did have a few "cheats," but overall I stayed on track and I didn't have any insane cravings or difficult moments. I didn't miss breads or pastas at all, although there was that one moment that J opened a bag of chips in front of me and I wanted to kick her out of the car. 

Here's how the week looked:

All the bad foods and way too much of them

Wednesday (this was the day I had my sugar hangover and was having some major cravings)
Breakfast: coffee, bagel with cream cheese, yogurt
Lunch: Trader Joe's Japanese Rice with meatballs
Dinner: Pork chops, green beans
Snacks: American cheese, Trader Joe's milk chocolate bar, sunflower seed butter

I also made a dozen egg & sausage muffins for breakfasts throughout the week, and sampled one to see how they turned out...yum! That was seriously the most time I had spent in the kitchen for weeks.

Breakfast: coffee, 2 egg & sausage muffins
Lunch: leftover pork chop
Dinner: spaghetti squash w/Ragu & the rest of the pork sausage, zucchini
Snacks: sunflower seed butter
Beverages: milk, orange juice

I felt very satisfied all day, never hungry. I felt "snacky" sometimes, but I think that was more just habit and boredom. It's hard to work at home and not wander into the kitchen on a regular basis!!

Breakfast: coffee
Lunch: egg muffin, pork chop
Dinner: taco beans with sour cream
Snacks: cottage cheese, sunflower seed butter
Beverages: milk, orange juice

I had a meeting at 9:30 am and didn't have a chance to eat before-hand, just grab some coffee on the way (one day I will admit the horror that I call coffee, after I've changed my ways...). I got home around 11:45 and was hungry but not famished. I had two events for my business and didn't get home until around 7:30, and again, was hungry but not famished, but then felt "snacky" later that evening as I was writing my blog post and doing some chores. Also, I was on the go all day long and had plenty of energy - win!

Breakfast: 2 egg muffins, coffee
Late Lunch: Whole Foods bar (chicken, Greek salad, brown rice), chocolate milk
Dinner: leftover spaghetti squash with Ragu & meatballs
Snacks: Justin's peanut butter cup
Beverages: milk, orange juice

Our "late lunch" was almost a dinner - again, we had an event for my business from 2-4pm, and I hadn't had time for lunch before hand. It was around 3:00 when I noticed I was feeling hungry. We stopped at Whole Foods for hot bar carry-out, and by that point I must have been pretty hungry and having a craving, because I did get a chocolate milk and the peanut butter cup. I ate dinner after yet another event, probably around 8:30 or even close to 9:00. Again, a very busy day with consistently good energy levels - loving it!

Breakfast: 3 egg muffins
Late Lunch: Coconut Chocolate Chip Clif Bar (at Target while shopping), coffee
Dinner: baked potato with onions & cottage cheese
Snack: Justin's chocolate macadamia nut butter
Beverages: milk, orange juice

Today was a lazy day for me. I didn't have anything I had to do, so I didn't really do anything! I slept in, caught up on some tv shows, read some other 31-day blogs. By the time we went to Target around 2:30 to do part of the shopping (the rest I will do tomorrow at Trader Joe's), I was hungry and grabbed a Clif Bar. I would have preferred a Luna Bar (peanut butter chocolate chip is my favorite), but they don't sell those individually and buying a whole box would have been dangerous!

I didn't follow my meal plan exactly...Saturday I had planned to put a whole chicken in the crockpot so I would have it ready after my evening event, but I didn't have enough time between E's early soccer game and my events to make that happen. Today was supposed to be wings, but I was just too lazy! I do love, though, that I had leftovers and things to make it work without resorting to anything unhealthy, and that Whole Foods was so conveniently convenient with their expensive but delicious ready made food (um, NOT the way to do Paleo on a budget!)

Goals for next week:
  • better snacks ~ I love sunflower seed butter, but it goes down very easy and it's easy to overdo!
  • drink more water ~ I tried to drink water with most meals, but I love milk and it washes down sunflower seed butter very nicely!
  • cut the orange juice ~ maybe get some oranges instead for the flavor and add lemon to my water
  • I guess I will try and take some pictures of my food for y'all, but I am no food blogger or photographer, so keep that in mind
Tomorrow, week 2 menu plan and shopping list!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Day 5: The Paleo Spectrum

I first became aware of Paleo when I started seeing Whole30 badges on some of my favorite health and fitness blogs last year. It seemed like the next logical step to me after my gluten-free experiment and research, so I filled my Kindle and Google reader (remember when they had that?) with books and blogs and read all I could. 

Ultimately, I decided to forgo my own Whole30 because I was deep into training for my first marathon and I was afraid it would affect my workouts, which were hard enough already! But it was something I had every intention of trying after the big race. With the holidays coming up, I thought it would be wise to wait until after all the temptations of multiple family gatherings and many, many pies were behind me before jumping into something as restrictive as a Whole30. 

Then, when I got injured a month after my race (ugly, ugly high ankle sprain) and couldn't exercise at all, I thought taking baby steps toward a Paleo diet would help me not gain double digits spending the holidays eating and not moving much.

Well, I never got around to my Whole30, and now that I've done more research on Paleo and other alternatives, I'm not sure if I ever will. Of course I want my diet to be as healthy as possible. I want to have the energy to play with my kids and do the things I love. I want to lose the weight once and for all. I want to fuel my body for all the activities I enjoy. I want to be happy. 

But I also love food! I want to be able to eat a treat without beating myself up. I want to be able to have pizza once in awhile without a guilt spiral into a binge weekend. I want to be able to live my life without thinking about what I should or shouldn't eat every. single. minute of every. single day. 

So I say I'm working toward a Paleo(ish) diet, but what will that look like? In truth, it will probably look different week to week and month to month, sliding back and forth along the "Paleo spectrum" depending on what's going on in my life at the time and what my goals are. 

Based on the research I've done over the last year and in the simplest terms I can manage, this is how I define the spectrum:

Paleo gets its name from the fact that it is based on the diet and lifestyle of our paleolithic ancestors and includes modern foods that emulate the things they ate: meat, fish, fowl, vegetables, fruits, roots, tubers, nuts and seeds. Foods to avoid include dairy, cereal grains and grain-like seeds, legumes, and sugar.

That said, there are differing opinions even within the Paleo community as to how restrictive the diet should be when it comes to sweeteners, starchy vegetables, fats and oils, and lean meats versus high quality grass-fed or wild-caught meat and fish.

Two of the most popular Paleo authors are Loren Cordain (The Paleo Diet) and Rob Wolff (The Paleo Solution). The first book I read was It Starts with Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, creators of the Whole30. There are other excellent books, cookbooks and blogs out there. 

Will grow up to give you tasty beverages
Primal is basically Paleo with dairy (raw, fermented or high-fat, not pasteurized, low-fat commercial dairy products). 

Mark Sisson from Mark's Daily Apple wrote The Primal Blueprint, and this is another book I read early on. (I actually purchased The Paleo Diet and exchanged it for this once I learned this one allowed dairy. I just love me a glass of cold milk with...anything! And butter. Definitely butter.)

Potatoes...feel the love

Paul & Shou-Ching Shih Jaminet are a husband and wife team with serious smarticles (seriously, he's an astrophysicist and she's a molecular biologist) who published Perfect Health Diet after tweaking the Paleo diet to overcome Paul's chronic illness. The PHD recommends "safe starches" like white potatoes and rice over forcing our bodies to to derive energy mainly from fats and proteins through a low-carb diet.

They originally self-published their book and it was so popular, it was recently republished. I heard about this as they were making the rounds on many of the podcasts I listen to and purchased it the day it was available. It is very heavy on "science-speak" but also incredibly thorough. Right now, this is the model I am following.

Before I read about the "evils of gluten" I read several books on the Real or Whole Food movement, including Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck, which I stumbled upon by chance at the library. This was the book that really started me thinking about what I was putting in my mouth and encouraged me to start avoiding processed foods and move toward local, organic, natural foods, including whole grains. 

The Weston A. Price Foundation is also a great resource. Price was a dentist who traveled to isolated places around the world in the early 20th century to study native diets uninfluenced by Western civilization. His goal was to research good dental health, but his discoveries were much more far-reaching.

If you've done any amount of reading about health, diet & exercise, you know that everyone has their own opinion and those opinions tend to get fiercely defended. When that happens, sometimes the most important thing gets lost, and that is that the best lifestyle for YOU is what works for YOU...what makes YOU feel your best and healthiest. If something isn't working, change it. Tweak it. See how you feel. Tweak it again. When it comes down to it, you are the foremost expert on you ~ you just need to learn to listen to what your body is telling you!

I hope this was helpful to those of you that may not be familiar with Paleo and its cousins. My biggest piece of advice is do some research, make small and consistent changes, and discover what works best for you.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Day 4: A Challenge

I had originally planned to blog today about Paleo and some of the other related "diets" (I really hate that word), but here it is 10:00pm and I am just sitting down to write. I had a busy (and awesome) day today and have an early run tomorrow morning, so instead of trying to do justice to such a huge topic in such a short time I'm going to offer you a challenge.

If you are at all familiar with the Paleo diet, you probably know that it is based on the premise that our pre-agricultural ancestors were largely free of the myriad diseases affecting modern Westernized cultures today, and that one of the biggest culprits is grain. The theory is that humans have not evolved to the point where we can effectively and efficiently digest and utilize proteins found in grains, especially gluten.

I myself first discovered Paleo last year after reading (well, listening to) Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis. I am kind of a science nerd at heart, so what he said fascinated me and I immediately embarked upon my "gluten-free August" experiment as well as a hunt for more information.

What I learned in that short long month was that I did indeed feel better when I was not eating gluten. I felt less bloated and had more energy. The biggest take-away for me was that once my experiment was over and I went back to being a gluten glutton, I could feel the effects of it. I could directly attribute feeling like crap to what I had just eaten.

I mentioned that the day before I started this 31 day challenge, I threw a little junk food party for myself. A carb and sugar fest, if you will. And that shit knocked me on my ass. Literally. I fell asleep and had to be dragged out of bed to tend to my kids, with a raging headache no less (mind you, two of them are teens and could have tended to themselves quite adequately, so don't judge me too harshly!).

I felt the effects of my gluttony into the next day. But now, a mere four days after cutting gluten out of my diet again, I feel like a different person. I have bounced out of bed bright and early after a good night's sleep. I haven't needed a mid-afternoon nap (or a late-afternoon nap, or an early evening nap). I have been kick-ass productive. Four days. Technically three and a half, because in my Oreo hangover, I did actually have a bagel for breakfast the first morning.

So my challenge to you is...give it up! Go gluten-free. Try it for three days and see if you feel better. Then, eat a healthy big  ol' serving of sweet gluten-y goodness and see how you feel. Then share your results with me in the comments!

I ask you, who would you rather be?

Just do it!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Day 3: Stocking Up, Paleo-Style

The key to success when making a pretty drastic lifestyle change, like switching to the Paleo diet, is to take some advice from the Boy Scouts: be prepared. 

If you are anything like me, you have "blown your diet" at one time or another (and another, and another) because in a moment of stress, or fatigue, or OMG could I just get a little help around here (#teens), you open the fridge or the pantry and there is nothing healthy to eat so nom, nom, nom JUNK!

The idea of stocking up on staples is certainly not new to me. I've read many articles and even downloaded "stock up lists" with the best of intentions, but have never quite gotten around to actually doing the shopping (that old follow-through problem again!). Frankly, it's always seemed a little overwhelming to me. Nothing a little 31 day challenge and accountability can't fix, though, right?

Check out Our Paleo Life for a full-size printable of this awesome graphic

Tip: If it seems overwhelming to you, too, or a tight budget is an issue, think of your Paleo pantry as a goal to work toward - you don't have to stock up on everything at once! Working from the list of things you need, add a manageable number of items to your shopping list each week, starting with the things you are most likely to use or know you need for your weekly menu.

Everybody's list is going to look a little different based on their personal goals and preferences. I am all about easy with a side of adventure, so my goal is to have a balance of ingredients I can use to make quick, healthy meals on busy days, and also some more "exotic" Paleo ingredients I am not yet familiar with so I can experiment with new recipes as well.

Since I am working toward a Paleo(ish) diet, you will see some items on my list that are not strict Paleo. Those items will be in bold. I also included some items that are recommended by other Paleo advocates but I don't consider necessary or don't suit my tastes (yet?). These items will be in italics.


  • Eggs (eggs are a Paleo breakfast staple, as well as a good snack when hard-boiled and a quick and easy option for dinner on "one of those" nights)
  • Bacon (everything's better with bacon - 'nuff said; aim for pasture-raised or at the very least, nitrate-free ~ oh, and bacon comes from pigs, not turkeys!)
  • Chicken (do yourself a favor and learn to roast whole chickens ~ pound for pound, whole chickens are cheaper than parts, so for the same price I can get free-range organic from a local farmer; also, learn to make bone broth from the carcass ~ it is healthy and delicious)
  • Ground Beef (I can get grass-fed from Trader Joe's at a good price, but if you can't get grass-fed, go with the leanest you can find and drain fat after cooking)
  • Pork Chops (if you can't get pasture-raised, get the leanest chops you can and trim all visible fat)
  • Ground Pork Breakfast Sausage (I use this in my Egg Muffins for a quick and yummy breakfast)
  • Canned Tuna in EVOO or Water
  • Shrimp (my "vegetarian" daughter will eat shrimp, tuna & some fish, technically making her a "pescatarian," which makes me happy, so this needs to land in my freezer more often)
  • Salmon (wild Alaskan salmon is the best ~ avoid farm-raised which is basically like feed-lot fish; so healthy and high in Omega-3 oils, I need to learn to cook this!)
  • Wild-caught Salmon in Cans or Pouches (I haven't been able to bring myself to try this yet!)
  • Jerky (good for snacks, but not on my list for now ~ be sure the only ingredients are meat and spices)
Fats & Oils
  • Coconut Oil: organic, extra-virgin, cold-pressed (very stable and great for high-heat cooking, reported to have lots of health benefits ~ I am still getting used to the flavor)
  • Lard/Bacon Fat (if you are cooking pasture-raised bacon, by all means save the fat; I have several pork fatbacks in my freezer I intend to render ~ remember, everything's better with bacon!)
  • Butter/Ghee (strict Paleo is dairy free, but IMHO whatever isn't better with bacon is better with butter! Clarifying butter removes the milk proteins and lactose. Always go with grass-fed ~ Kerrygold is a widely available brand)
  • Duck Fat (good for cooking ~ I've never tried this but hear it's yummy and worth the price)
  • Extra-virgin Olive Oil (good for low-medium heat cooking as well as for dressings)
  • Palm Oil/Palm Shortening (I have never tried this, but it is suitable for high temperature cooking)
  • Avocado Oil, cold-pressed (very unstable, not suitable for cooking)
  • Sesame Oil, cold-pressed (very unstable, not suitable for cooking)
  • Walnut Oil, cold-pressed (very unstable, not suitable for cooking)
  • Olives (fun fact: I have loved black olives all my life, so much so that Santa always left a can in my stocking!)
  • Coconut Milk: organic, full-fat (I'm covered on this one ~ my mom got me a case for Christmas because yes, it was on my wishlist!)
Sauces, Broths & Flavorings
  • Vinegars (apple cider, balsamic, red wine)
  • Marinara Sauce (preferably with no added sugars or preservatives, or make your own ~ I am still working on giving up my Ragu addiction)
  • Tomato Sauce (preferably with no added sugars or preservatives ~ check labels! I was shocked at how hard it was to find plain ol' tomato sauce)
  • Tomato Paste (same as above)
  • Diced Tomatoes (same as above)
  • Chicken Stock (or, as I like to call it, liquid gold ~ make your own, anything from the store doesn't compare and is usually filled with crap)
  • Beef Broth (best to make your own)
  • Salsa (preferably with no added sugars or preservatives, good for so many things ~ except, eating with chips!)
  • Mustard (make sure it is gluten-free and sugar-free)
  • Hot Sauce (again, make sure it is gluten-free and sugar-free ~ they put that shit in everything!)
  • Herbs & Spices (whatever suits your taste...I can count on one hand the number of spices I use ~ this is on my list of things to experiment with!)
  • Sea Salt
  • Coconut aminos (soy and gluten free replacement for soy sauce - I've seen it at Whole Paycheck Foods, but haven't tried it yet ~ we don't use soy sauce very often)
  • Fish Sauce (Red Boat is the recommended brand, but I...just...can't)
Nuts, Butters & Seeds
  • Almonds, raw (it can be easy to overdo on nuts, especially when first transitioning to Paleo, so I like to buy them in individual serving bags from Trader Joes)
  • Coconut Butter (I buy shredded organic coconut and make my mom whip me up some butter in her Vitamix, which for some reason she refuses to share custody of with me)
  • Coconut, organic, unsweetened, shredded or flakes
  • Almond Butter (can also be made in Mom's Vitamix using blanched, slivered almonds)
  • Almonds, blanched, slivered
  • Justin's Chocolate Macadamia Nut Butter (yes, this has sugar in it, but it is one of my guilty pleasures ~ again, I have no self-control, so I buy it in the individual serving packets)
  • Nuts, raw: hazelnuts, macadamia, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios
  • Seeds: pumpkin, sesame, sunflower (be sure they are not roasted in some evil oil like canola or soy)
  • Sunflower Seed Butter (a great replacement for peanut butter, which is a Paleo no-no)
Fruits & Vegetables
  • Sweet Potatoes or Yams
  • White Potatoes
  • White Rice
  • Lemons & limes
  • Avocado
  • Garlic (I buy it in the jar because I'm generally too lazy to dice it myself)
  • Spinach
  • Frozen Green Beans (I happen to love Trader Joe's frozen green beans, and they are available all year round, and I don't have to worry about them rotting in my crisper ~ not that that ever happens to me)
  • Beans (not Paleo, but a family favorite and one of the only things my kids will actually cook, so they stay!)
  • Zucchini
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Dried Cranberries (I am not big on dried fruit, but I add dried cranberries to my green beans, along with slivered almonds)
  • Whatever you like and want to have on hand!
Sweeteners & Treats
  • Honey, raw
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Cocoa powder
  • Dark chocolate (the darker the better)
  • Larabars (date-based bars in yummy flavors ~ I can really only buy one or two at a time because...self-control issues)
  • Applesauce, unsweetened
Whew! That was a chore, but making this list has actually made me feel a lot better and more prepared to face the changes I am making. I hope it's been helpful to you, in Blogworld, so if my list doesn't work for you, you are sure to find one that does!

Tomorrow I plan to delve more into what I call the Paleo Spectrum and share a little more detail as to what my specific goals are and where I'd like to fall on that spectrum. I will also share some of the fantastic resources I have gathered over the past year of research into the "Caveman Diet."