I’m Picky about Cooked Veggies, But I Love them Raw!

Okay, I do like some vegetables cooked. Mainly things like peas and potatoes – of course, I like white potatoes raw as well as cooked. I’m aware that it is said to be, nutrient-wise, better to eat certain vegetables cooked, but I just can’t stomach most of them that way.

I can only eat carrots cooked if they are mashed in with white or sweet potato, or shredded into chili or meatloaf.

So, you see, I really am picky. But…

…I eat a lot of raw veggies. I do different things with them, so I’m not always eating the same things.

  • I make veggie jars.
  • I love salads.
  • I make wraps, veggie and otherwise.
  • I always get or make vegetable platters for parties.
  • I have always loved stuffed celery. My sister makes it for me, stuffed with peanut butter, for get-togethers – because she loves me. I also like them stuffed with almond butter.
  • I like to snack on raw cabbage. Just raw cabbage. Yum.
  • Pickled beats are amazing.
  • I like to add vegetables to smoothies. Not just greens. I’ve also put carrots, broccoli, celery, and cucumber in them. I’ll likely try other veggies in them as well.
  • I like to add extra vegetables to meals as well, such as shredded sweet potato to meat loaf or chili. Or making a shepherd’s pie by layering beef or chicken, peas, white potato, sweet potato, and squash. Sometimes I use fruits and vegetables interchangeably. They’re both so good for you!

I am aware that some of my tactics are a form of manipulation, and I think it is funny that I can do that to myself successfully. What can I say? I am good! LOL

Are you a picky eater? How are you getting your vegetables in?

Shannon

Veggies as the Main Meal Component

Now that the holidays are over and our new year goals have been set, I bet I’m not the only one eating better than I was during the holiday season. One thing I’ve been considering is the amount of meat I eat during a meal. I can easily load half of my plate with meat, but I’m not sure that’s what we should be doing.

Not that meat is bad. I love beef, chicken, pork, and turkey. However, I think we are seriously lacking the nutrients we need from fresh fruits and vegetables. I want to be eating more fresh produce and less meat, so I’m going to be switching things up a bit.

My goal is going to get in more fruits and vegetables each day. To accomplish this, I’m going to make the sides the main part of my meal, and have less meat at each.

Protein is an important part of every meal, and I don’t want to skip on that, but I think I’ll get enough if I use vegetables that have the nutrient alongside a little meat. Broccoli, green peas, asparagus, cauliflower, black beans, and broccoli raab are just a few of the vegetables that contain protein. I figure, if I can pair a protein-rich vegetable with the little bit of meat cooked in a healthy fat, and then add more veggies to the plate, I’ll be doing good. What do you think?

Shannon

 

Busy Cooks Guide to Easy Meal Prep

I know what it’s like, being so busy you don’t have time to prepare healthy meals and snacks at home. Things get crazy-busy sometimes, and there does not seem like enough time to do all that we have to do.

But there are things that will help to make meal prep easy during the busier times life will throw at you, and I want to share with you what tactics I use to create quick, easy meals when life is too hectic.

Spend an afternoon preparing

If you have a few hours, it’s a good idea to prepare some things in advance. Here are a few things I do, depending on the time of year:

  • Make tortilla wraps and place them in the refrigerator between sheets of parchment paper. I find a recipe online for Paleo wraps, and use that.
  • Wash and cut up vegetables. Store in containers in the refrigerator. Use ends and greens when making stock.
  • Place fruit in bowls to grab when you want a snack or are in a hurry.
  • Prepare lunches for work or school so you can easily grab them before leaving.
  • Make a vegetable stock and store it in the refrigerator for use during the week. Any extra can go into the freezer. Use ends and greens, as well as any leftover vegetables that won’t get eaten fresh.
  • Roast a chicken, then cut it up into serving sizes and refrigerate. Freeze what you wont use in the next four days.
  • Make chocolate sauce and store in canning jars in the refrigerator. Use this with fresh fruit if you are wanting a dessert-type item.
  • Make energy balls and store three to a small container.

Buy frozen seafood

I like to check out the frozen seafood section to see what I might be able to use for meals during the week. Scallops and shrimp are easy to prepare, and can be used in many food combinations.

This week I found bags of raw, peeled, deveined, tail-on shrimp for $5.00, so I picked one up. I’ll keep it in the freezer, and take some out whenever I want to make a dish.

What will I use the shrimp for? Any number of things, including:

Make a soup

Soups are a wonderful way to add vegetables to your menu. Just throw the ingredients in a pot on the stove – or in a crock – and cook at the beginning of the week. This could be done on a prep day.

My best friend will cook up a huge pot all at once, and I just love my chicken and vegetable soup and my sausage and pineapple one.

I put servings of soup in small canning jars after they’ve cooled some, and place those in the refrigerator. They are easy to warm when you are short on time, and taste great.

Know what fruits can be stored near each other

A few medium size mixing or fruit bowls will hold a lot of fruit. Place citrus vegetables in one, apples and pears in another, and bananas and grapes in the third. One can be used as a centerpiece at the table, and the other two can be placed at either end of the counter.

School and work lunches

I usually put these together during a prep day, because I’m already doing related tasks. All I’m really doing is packing things up a little differently than in spend an afternoon preparing above.

I have a shelf specifically for work meal items, and organize the containers and other items in a way that makes things easy to grab. I work 5 shifts in four days, and will bring everything I put together on the first day.

While cutting up vegetables, I’ll have five containers reserved for work. Into each of those, I’ll put a few servings of vegetables, a few cut up berries or some grapes, and a serving of meat, unless the meat will be in soup form. In that case, the soups are already packaged as individual servings.

If I will be having wraps, I’ll also store the wraps separately.

Much of the time, to make things easy, I’ll have the same foods for all five meals, switching out different fruits or snacks. Having packets of dark chocolate covered blueberries and cherries helps with this, as does having some energy balls on hand.

Easy meal combo’s utilizing raw vegetables include:

  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced strawberries, sugar snap peas in pods, broccoli, carrots, celery, and a small amount of nut butter
  • rice, seasoned ground beef, diced tomato, corn, grapes
  • turkey slices, roasted sweet potato, mashed squash, peas, cranberries
  • veggie wraps, shrimp scampi on the side (to be added to the wrap later), strawberry slices
  • sausage and pineapple soup, carrot sticks, celery with nut butter, cherries

Quick breakfast ideas

While a box of cereal is the ultimate in quickness during our busy mornings, those types of boxed, processed things are not exactly the healthiest of choices. I like to make my own cereal, and it takes less time than making pancakes. Here are a few of may favorites:

Another ideas is to make a batch of Paleo granola to use as cereal during busy mornings. Add half a cup to a bowl, top with fruit and organic, unsweetened coconut, and add nut milk.

Quick snack ideas

Parfaits are an easy snack, and can be refrigerated overnight. Make a couple up during prep day for a quick, easy snack later and the next day. A few options include:

Trail mixes are another great snack option, and can be made up in advance and used throughout the coming week or so. Stored little canning jars, they will be easy to grab.

Quick lunches and dinners

If you have the components from spend and afternoon preparing above, you probably already have the components for a few meals. Buy frozen seafood and make a soup offer other ideas. Here are some more that can be made ahead and warmed later, or made quickly the day you want them:

*****

With practice, meal prep days will go more quickly and you might choose to make more options on that day.

What do you do to keep it healthy during the busiest of times?

Shannon

 

 

 

Dirty Dozen & Clean 15, And Me

I assume since you are here, you’re trying to eat healthy/ier, as I am. Each year I read the Environmental Working Groups Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 list to see where things stand. I always hope for the best, and I’m always dismayed at the amount of pesticides in our food.

Today was no different. I had the opportunity to sit down and read the article, and take a look at the study. I updated my lists in the Memo section of my phone (so I have them when I’m shopping), and was reminding of how much I want to live in a place where I can grow my food. I’m hoping my parents actually get back into this after my step-father retires. It’s been a couple of years since they’ve done their garden, but I’m guessing they’ll be back at it next spring. Or hoping.

What does this mean for me? I have to be careful of:

  • Strawberries
  • Spinach (I eat a lot of this!)
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Cherries
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery

I eat a lot of those foods. The others on the list aren’t eaten often, but I will have to keep them in mind so I am prepared. I’ve listed all 12 on my Yuck! list in my phone, and all the Clean 15 on my Yum! list. I’m so excited to have avocado, pineapple, and cabbage on my Yum! list, as well as honey-dew and cantaloupe. I hate that I have to spend more to get the organic versions of the other items I want. I can’t always afford to, but I try to when possible.

Are you changing the way you eat to accommodate these lists? Let us know how in the comments.

Happy spring!

Shannon

 

 

USDA Thrifty Food Plan, January 2018

Not everyone has a large budget for food. Even those of us needing to eat healthy have to keep costs down. Doing so is not always easy.

A few years back I came across the USDA Thrifty Food Plan, and wanted to share it with you. There are weeks when I’m lucky if I have $10.00 to spend on food. Those weeks find me depleting my pantry stocks. Then there are weeks when I can spend $40.00 plus and extra $10.00 or $20.00 to replenish the pantry somewhat. These are my lucky weeks.

More often than not, I spend around $35.00.

This is what the USDA says the food plan costs were for January 2018 for 1 female my age:

Weekly                                                                Monthly

$38.00           Thrifty Plan                                 $164.70

$48.10            Low-Cost Plan                            $208.50

$59.10            Moderate-Cost Plan                  $256.00

$75.70            Liberal Plan                                 $328.00

I dream of having enough money for the liberal plan every week/month, lol. I am definitely closer to the Thrifty Plan. You can see where your family would be here. (It goes by age.) Where are you?

I try to get a fruit for each day, plus plenty of vegetables and enough protein for each day, with my money. Some weeks are easier than others to pull this off. Generally, I get the most affordable meats and produce I can find. Unfortunately, I’m not always able to get organic foods, but I think I’m doing good when I come out of the store with no (or close to no) processed foods. It varies from week-to-week what I can pull off for meals.

Shannon

I Bought Me Presents!

Over the holidays and for a little after, I worked a lot of overtime. It was tiring, but worth it because regular pay + holiday pay + overtime = a lot of money! Yay!

So I bought me a few nice things for my kitchen! This does not happen every day, month, or even year. Before I show you what I got, though, I want to mention that I’m not in any way affiliated with the companies that make these products, and they are not paying me to mention them here on the blog or on social media. I really do like these products.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright January 2018.

I just love Pioneer Woman products, and these dipping bowls are simply adorable! Besides using them for dipping sauces, these will be used to attractively hold small amounts of ingredients while I’m experimenting with recipes – for photography purposes. They will look so cute holding salts, herbs, and other things. Dual purpose! I paid less than $2.00 for each.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright January 2018.

These ramekins are amazing. I have plans to try some Paleo dessert recipes out this winter, and I wanted something cute to photograph them in. These will work perfectly, and the set was only $11.52. They can also be used to serve ice cream or small bowls of cereal in, and may even help me with portion-control of other foods.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright January 2018.

And check out this set of four pie plates. I want to learn to make Paleo pot pies, and I needed some mini pie plates to make them in – because I’ll want to freeze three for later. These pie plates will be perfect! And yes, I will likely make Paleo dessert pies as well. Who wouldn’t!

This set of four, put out by the Pioneer Woman if you hadn’t already guessed, cost me $15.88.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright January 2018.

I really needed cutting boards but didn’t want to spend too much on ones that would just take up too much space in my room, so I bought these instead. They will serve the purpose for now and, when I get into a bigger place and can store the ones I want, I will pass these on to my daughter. This set of mats was $4.64. Not a bad price at all.

And the teas were a gift. You can never have enough tea.

Photograph copyright January 2017 by Shannon L. Buck.In case you missed my earlier blog post, I also purchased meal prep containers in different sizes at very reasonable cost. I do meal prep for work.

There you have them, my gifts for me! It’s so much fun to buy yourself something once in a while.

Shannon

 

 

Invest in Containers for Meal Prep

And don’t worry about spending all outdoors on them. I found the containers I mention in this article at Walmart at reasonable cost. They are BPA free, and will be perfect for my work meals. These containers can go into the freezer, on the top shelf of the dishwasher, and even into the microwave if you have one, and are reusable. There is a place on the covers where you can write the date by which the meal or food items should be used; nifty for freezing. And these containers even have stay-cool handles.

Photograph copyright January 2017 by Shannon L. Buck.

These little containers come six to a package, and are each 4 fluid ounces. They’ll hold dips and sauces, as well as small bits of leftovers. You could also use them for pudding cups or trail mixes. The cost for these was $2.47.

Photograph copyright January 2017 by Shannon L. Buck.

I bought a variety pack as well, which includes two snack size (9.5 fl oz) containers, five entrée (25 fl oz) containers, and five soup and salad (24 fl oz) containers.  The cost for these was $4.47.

Photograph copyright January 2017 by Shannon L. Buck.

I also bought these round containers. They are bigger than the 4 fluid ounce ones, but I cannot seem to find the information for the exact size. They came in a four-pack, and cost $2.17.

I paid just under $10.00 for all of these, and they are going to be perfect for bringing my meals to work with me. I work 40 hours in 4 days every week, and I like to prepare my meals the day before my first shift. When I get everything to work I can put a couple of meals in the freezer to be moved to the refrigerator Saturday morning, put the snacks in the office, and put the other containers straight into the refrigerator. Easy-peasy!

NOTE: For items that may stain plastic container, such as my chili, I use glass canning jars or glass bowls with covers. Glass items are easier to keep clean under these circumstances.

What do you use for meal prepping?

Shannon

Be Prepared for All of that Candy

When the girls were young, to prevent them from overindulging in all that sugar they’d received each Halloween/Samhain, I had a plan in place to be ready for the bombardment of all that candy.

I realize that there are readers who believe children should have free reign over these treats; I simply do not agree. Sugar highs are not good for children, or those caring for them. Too much sugar in one day is not good for their health. And allowing them to binge eat like that can cause serious problems later on.

* I assure you, they had their treats. They enjoyed them. They simply had them in moderation. And they got tons of candy.

(Update 2017) Even though I am trying to eat healthier myself, and this blog is about frugal, healthy eating (for the most part), I completely understand the fun that comes along with this time of year. And I can’t wait to take Little Man out trick-or-treating some day.

Have these supplies ready:

cookie jar or other container

2 large bowls

freezer bags or containers labeled Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentines Day

trash can

  • Go through all the treats that each of your children received. Throw out any that does not look right.

While going through the candy, separate it all into the containers as such:

  • Popcorn balls, pretzels, fruit snacks, and other snack type items will go into one of the large bowls, along with any actual fruit.
  • Place chocolate candies in the other large bowl.
  • Put other types of candy into the cookie jar.
  • Candies with red or pink wrappers should be placed in the Valentine’s Day container.
  • Candies with blue, green and silver wrappers should be placed in the Christmas container.
  • Candies with brown, yellow or gold wrappers should be placed into the Thanksgiving container.
  • The three holiday containers are then placed into the freezer, and the rest are placed in a location that is not easily accessible to the children.

A week before each holiday, take the candy from the freezer and place it around the home in decorative plates. You do not have to buy candy for these holidays now.

  • These holiday candies are obviously not to be used as gifts. They were given to your children.

Have a Happy Samhain/Halloween!

Shannon

 

 

Farmers’ Market Shopping by Shannon L. Buck

Shopping Locally is the Way to Go

Shopping at a farmers’ market is a lot of fun. They offer many items and a lot of the fresh produce sold at these events is very reasonably priced, if you know when to shop. I shop in Orono, Maine, because it is close to my home. This makes it easy to purchase fresh produce and other needs from a local source.

Granted, these farmers do not generally live right down the street from us. The markets allow various farmers to come together in one place for us to visit once or twice per week. This saves fuel in two ways: 1) Products are not being shipped in from other states and/or countries, and 2) all farmers’ market customers do not have to travel here-and-there-and-everywhere to purchase state grown products.

I’ve noticed that when I visit the market an hour or so before they close, I can usually get even better deals on the fresh produce. Why can you get better deals at the end of the day? Because the farmers don’t want to have to take the fresh produce and baked goods, or even the frozen items, back home with them if they can help it. They grew and/or made these items to be purchased, not to be brought back home. The products may not last until the next farmers’ market, so the seller may be more apt to bargain toward the end of the day.

Our local farmers’ market has more than just fresh produce. I’ve seedlings, soaps, homemade jams, jellies, butters, pies, breads, and more. Even frozen seafood and dried herbs. Last year, someone was selling homemade, organic dog treats. These wonderful products are just what I’m looking for.

I find that almost all of the products offered at a farmers’ market are organic. If an item is not organic, I can choose not to purchase it. I want to purchase as many natural, organic products as possible, so this is a very attractive reason for me to shop at the farmers’ market rather than the grocery store. I also like the fact that the products are made and/or grown in my home state.

To shop a farmers market, you need a few things

1. Reusable shopping bags, which you will want an abundance of.

2. The knowledge of what you need, and how much you’ll be able to use before your next visit.

3. The knowledge of how to preserve and/or store anything you are able to get a good price on.

Stock up when you find good deals at a farmer’s market

You don’t want to stock up on anything that wont last until you can eat or use it up, but you’ll want to take advantage of good deals on the items that will last. This will save you money in the long run.

I’m now going to offer you up an assignment. I’d like for each reader to visit a nearby farmers’ market. Spend some time there. Ask about the products that are of interest to you. Find out if they are organic, if the sellers are willing to bargain at the end of the day, and how often the sellers attend that particular farmers’ market. When you return home, comment here to let us know how things went and what you learned.

 

Trying New Foods, Harmless Harvest, and Earth Day

During my journey into eating healthier, I’ve been trying new foods. It’s important to do this, to make sure we’re getting all the nutrients we need. One of the ultimate goals to healthy eating is to get almost all of your nutrients through food, minimizing the supplements we need to take. Another ultimate goal is to learn how to prepare these foods in healthy ways, to stay on track with our nutrition goals. Many people also want to eat in a more sustainable way.

Try new foods!

By trying new foods, we can meet at least the first two goals. I’m not saying we’re going to like everything we test out, but it is important to at least try. There will be hits and misses, and that’s fine. When something is a miss, rather than ruling it out completely, we might try it another way.

When I started this journey, sweet potato was something I knew I wanted to try. I didn’t really like it, so I decided to try it again, differently. The second time, I had only half a serving with a half serving of white potato. I mashed the two together, and it tasted just fine. Over the course of my experiment, I slowly added a bit more sweet potato and took away a bit more white potato each time. Eventually, I came to like sweet potato without the white. Later, I used the same process with squash and am able to eat that without potato now.

Unfortunately, this experiment did not work with carrots. I need to be able to mash them up with white or sweet potato, or even squash, or I can’t eat them cooked. However, I do love them raw!

I’ve tried mango a few times and can’t stand it, unless it is in smoothie form with other tropical fruits. Yum!

Other things I’ve been able to add without mixing, such as raw spinach and kale (who knew they would be so good!). I can’t eat them cooked, yet. I love almond and cashew milks, even though I’ve never been able to stand almonds and cashews. I’ve even gotten to the point where I can add sliced almonds to some things. Now that is progress!

Considering I’d only ever had sweetened coconut flakes, I was surprised to find I love the organic, unsweetened flakes, as well as all other coconut products I’ve tried. I almost solely use coconut oil, I like coconut cream with cocoa powder or pure extracts, and coconut milk is delicious. I even use coconut water in my smoothies sometimes.

I don’t always have the extra money to try some of the new organic, non-gmo, Paleo-friendly, items that I want to try but, during months when I have a few extra dollars, this is exactly what I choose to use the extra money for. If I like something, I try to budget for it every so often.

And once in a while, a company will contact me to try and review a product. I don’t review it unless I like it and know I’ll use it again at some point. You may have read my piece on Leap Organic Smoothie Bowl Powders. I’m trying protein powders in my smoothies as well. These were free for me to try, and they help me to decide if something is worth buying.

What new foods will I be trying next? I have a list, and am trying them as I can. The list includes items such as cashews, papaya, raw Brussels sprouts (don’t like them steamed!), sunflower butter, and coconut probiotics.

Harmless Harvest

Harmless Harvest has a coconut probiotic I’ll be trying soon, and I’ll be sure to let you know what I think of it. It’s made with pure coconut water (yum!), and I like what I’ve read about the company so far. They are an ecosystem based business that considers sustainability of the utmost importance. This Earth Day, Saturday the 22nd, the Harmless Harvest staff will be volunteering to show their support. They are a fair-for-life company, and their coconut waters are environmentally conscious. Their goal is for a zero-waste ingredient model, and they are working toward that goal by not only using the water from the coconut in their coconut probiotic, but also the meat.

Why are probiotics important?

Probiotics are important because they stimulate the growth of beneficial microorganisms. These microorganisms are important for proper gut health, which is important to the overall health of the body.

I’ve been a bit worried about gut health since taking on a mainly Paleo diet. I’m not eating milk-based yogurt any more, so I’m wondering what I can replace that with that will be Paleo-friendly. I’m looking into coconut yogurt, and Harmless Harvest Coconut Probiotic was recently brought to my attention. Can’t wait to try it!

Celebrating Earth Day Year Round

I don’t celebrate Earth Day once a year. To me, it a year-round thing. There are so many things we can all do to lessen our negative impact on the Earth, that we can incorporate things throughout the year. Here are some things I do/use:

  • Reusable lunch sack for work meals.
  • Reusable containers for work meals.
  • Reusable water bottle while at work and when walking.
  • Leftover water from cooking to water plants.
  • Use canning jars to store food in the refrigerator. Since I don’t process foods in the jars, I can reuse the lids as well.
  • Use wool dryer balls.
  • Use fabric (not paper) towels.
  • Try to buy products in glass jars that I can reuse for other purposes. I don’t buy items in jars often.
  • Pick up trash from the ground when I’m out and about.
  • Eat less meat than I used to.
  • Buy organic/non-gmo/sustainable when possible.
  • Use less paper and plastic products.

Am I perfect? Nope. But, then, who is? But every single thing I’m doing makes an impact and makes a statement.

How are you celebrating Earth Day? How are you eating healthier these days? What products do you adore to help you meet these things?

Shannon