6 ways to save money on your grocery bill by making healthier choices



I used to think it was soooo expensive to eat healthy! Just 3 years ago I was spending $200 or more a week on groceries for my husband and I. Now I spend $100 a week for our family of 4. Yes, one of those 4 happens to be a baby, but I have to eat like a horse to breastfeed her so she counts! How do I manage to get enough food to feed my 6'2" husband, my food wasting toddler, and my ravenous breastfeeding self? Well it doesn't include clipping coupons, I'm simply too lazy for that.

1. Shop the sales.

Every grocery store has in store ads for that week. Unless I am planning a specific meal or having a craving for something, the majority of my cart consists of sales. The best part about shopping the sales is finding an item I wouldn't normally cook with for a killer price. I am forced to get out of my comfort zone and cook with something new and fun!

2. Know the prices in your area and set limits.

For example, I will not buy grapes or asparagus if they are over $2 a pound. I know that the majority of the time asparagus is $3.99 a pound but that it does drop to $2 or less a handful of times during the year, at those times I have asparagus weekly until the price goes back up.

3. Don't over buy

Every week as I am checking out I look in my cart and think, "this isn't enough food" ... well it always is! Don't fill your cart fuller just because you are afraid it looks too empty. The extra food will either go to waste, or it will be unnecessary calories you consume while snacking.

4. Stay away from the aisles

I have a few staple items that I get within the aisles of the store. I know what those items are and I go directly for them, purposefully avoiding everything else. Believe it or not, those boxed and bagged items found within the aisles are far more expensive than the fresh items found around the perimeter of the store. Some of the items I have on my list regularly are organic whole wheat pasta, organic blue corn tortilla chips, salsa, canned tuna fish or chicken, almond butter, raw nuts, organic shredded coconut, and whole wheat bread. I make a beeline for those items and try to stay clear of everything else. Not only are boxed, canned, and bagged items more expensive, they are also heavily processed and full of ingredients that provide no benefit for the body.

5. Buy local

In the summers we have fruit stands, farmers markets, and local farms that sell numerous fresh whole foods! I buy a lot of my produce items at the fruit stands, raw milk from a local farmer, fresh pastured eggs from a nice lady with a hobby farm, and grass fed beef from a another local farm. All three of those farm foods are much cheaper than their in store equivalents. Buying local can definitely save money!

6. When the end of the week approaches, get creative!

You know that day before grocery shopping day? Your fridge and pantry seem empty. Well, in my experience they are never completely empty. Get creative and make a dish using those few items that have been shoved into the corners for too long, simply because they were forgotten about or maybe you didn't know what to do with them. Pinterest is your best friend for random recipes! Don't go to the store earlier and earlier every week just because you think you have to. There is food in the house, you just have to prepare it!


Well there you have it, my simple steps to keeping my grocery bill under $100 for my family of 4. I hope some of these can help you make healthier choices while saving your hard earned money!






My Birth Story


When I was pregnant with my son, Waylon, I wanted a natural birth so badly. Natural for me meant a vaginal birth that would be medication, induction, and augmentation free. Whether you want to call it "natural" or "medication free" or "birth of choice"... that's what I wanted. Being a first time mom I didn't know much about birth (you really never can until you experience it first hand) I figured all I needed to do was research a little and have some determination. Well, due to lack of true preparation after 12 hours of labor (early and active) I begged for an epidural. I had done nothing but fight my contractions the entire time, because of that I was physically and mentally depleted. I don't regret getting my epidural because I could not have gone on without it at the time. Some people find epidurals to be heaven, I am not one of those people. I hated not being able to move, having to lay on my side, the heart rate drop it caused in the baby and blood pressure drop it caused in me, the slowing down of my labor, the IV and the oxygen. I hated feeling "hospitalized". Then when it came time to push, many hours later, I felt helpless. I pushed for 2 hours but never could feel any of the progress being made. In the end... despite a couple minor complications I had a healthy baby boy and he was worth every second of that experience. But, I knew I never, ever wanted to go through that again. At the time I thought that meant he would be an only child. What it really meant was that I would prepare and make decisions for a better birth next time.

It took a lot less time than I though to make the decision to get pregnant again. Not even one year after Waylon was born I was pregnant with Miss Lillian Rae. I stayed very active during the pregnancy until about 30 weeks, when it became to painful for me to exercise. I knew exercise could help strengthen my pelvic floor as well as maintain my stamina for birth. I also did my best to eat healthy, nourishing and hydrating my body and my baby. It wasn't the easiest pregnancy. I was in a lot of pain from low back problems as well as developing SPD that caused a lot of pelvic and hip pain. There were times where I couldn't walk or lift my son for days at a time. Despite the pain and many visits to a chiropractor I had a healthy and low risk pregnancy. We only want two kids so I knew this was my last chance to achieve the birth I wanted.

At the beginning of my pregnancy I hired a Doula. A doula is a someone trained and certified to provide physical, emotional, and informational support to a mother before, during and after birth. I highly recommend anyone who is going to give birth to hire a doula. Luckily I had a friend who is a doula so I didn't have to interview people. We discussed my birth plan and she gave me some reading materials. I read, researched, meditated, practiced affirmations, exercised, ate healthy foods, took supplements, etc...

A couple days shy of 40 weeks I started have contractions that would stick around for a few hours and then stop all together. These were not practice contractions, they were real signs of early labor. Each time I had them I would get excited thinking it was time, only to be let down when they stopped. I had chosen not to be checked at any of my appointments so I had no idea if I was dilated or effaced at all.  At 40 weeks and 1 day I woke up around 1:30 in the morning with still, more contractions. I tried not to get too excited but around 3:30 they started increasing in frequency and intensity. I told my husband he better not go to work, that labor was actually progressing. At 4:00 I called my dad to let him know since he would be the one to watch our son. He said he would head off to work and to call when we needed him to come by. I decided to call my doula around 4:15 because it was getting hard to handle the pain. At this point the contractions are strong, and around 4 minutes apart. Despite that we figured we had plenty of time since I was in labor with my son for a full day with contractions 2-3 minutes apart the entire time. My plan was to stay home as long as possible. I knew the less time I had to spend at the hospital the more likely I was to have the birth I wanted.

I had left some things for me to do while in labor to keep my mind off of it, one of those things being to pack my hospital bag. After a few failed attempts it was clear the bag was not going to get packed. The pain was starting to consume me and I had a hard time thinking clearly. I didn't even know what to tell my husband to pack. It took our doula 20 minutes to get to my house, and in that time the contractions went from 4 minutes apart to 2 minutes apart. I felt like they were continuous, leaving me no time to rest inbetween. When Jessica got to our house she started to time them and they were infact 2 minutes apart and about 1 minute long.

From about 3:30 on I had spend a lot of time in the bathroom, my body was clearing itself out. That is very common in labor and it had happened with my son, that was how I knew it was the real deal this time. I needed to use the restroom again. As I was in the bathroom I started to go into transition, I had multiple back to back contractions and couldn't stand to get off the toilet. Finally I got a small break and was able to move back into the hallway where Jessica caught me with both arms and helped me walk into a bedroom. I had previously planned ideas of how I was going to try to handle each contraction, but didn't realize how vocal of a person I am. My way of coping with pain of that magnitude is to scream, loudly. So that is was I did, I screamed at the top of my lungs begging for Jessica to help me. Her response to my screams couldn't have been more perfect. She kept calm and in the most soothing voice told me how amazing I am doing, that I can do this, that I was okay. I started to feel a sensation I had never felt before, a deep pressure inside that stuck around even when the pain subsided for a few seconds. I knew it was her, I could feel my baby moving down the birth canal. The only way to explain that sensation is that it was... everything. We had to go to hospital.

At 5:30 we had called my dad who was still 20 minutes away, but I knew I couldn't wait. Between contractions Jessica and Justin got me into Jessica's car. Justin stayed home with our son who had managed to stay asleep despite my pleading screams in the next room. On the drive I was so consumed with what my body wanted to do I couldn't help but start pushing. The hospital is only a couple miles away and I know Jessica must have been driving 50 mph through our little community. I kept asking if they were going to let me push when we got there. I was so concerned that I wouldn't be dialated enough. I told her that if they weren't going to let me push I had to have an epidural because I couldn't do this anymore. Jessica just smiled and reassured me that she's sure they will let me push, knowing that I was in transition.

Our hospital was in the middle of some construction so we missed the entrance and had to turn around in a parking lot. Because of this 30 second delay I had one more contraction in her car where I had not choice but to do what my body wanted me to do, push. So I pushed, hard, and my water broke all over in the front seat of her car as she was opening the door to help me out. I sat in a wheelchair and got rushed into labor and delivery. I am so consumed by my body and the desire to push this baby out that I had little ability to listen to anyone. When the nurse checked me and saw that I was fully dilated and baby was descending Jessica called Justin and told him he had to get to the hospital ASAP. As Justin tells it, he grabbed Waylon out of his crib by his shirt, contemplated changing his diaper but decided against it. He threw him in the carseat and raced to the hospital going 80 mph (an over-exaggeration, I hope).

The nurse was telling me to wait, calm down and not to push. She didn't want me to tear. Jessica knew that I couldn't tell my body not to do something it was already in the process of doing. She gave me the quiet okay to do whatever I needed to do, so I pushed. Luckly we live in a small town and my midwife only lives a couple miles from the hospital. She came in and took over. Relief rushed over me when she told me I could keep pushing, and infact I could push inbetween contractions if I wanted to. They got me a mirror so I could see how close I was to meeting my baby, but I actually only felt disappointed that her head wasn't out as far as I had hoped. Right as I was pushing her head out, my husband was rushing into the hospital with bags in one arm and our son in the other. Everyone was tending to me so when he got to the door of L&D no one was there to buzz him in. Her head was out and he was stuck at the door. Jessica finally saw that he was there and found a nurse to let him in. Right as he walked through the door I was pushing out her shoulders. One more push and her whole body seemed to slither right out. It was the most relief I had ever felt in my life. At that moment I knew it was over, we did it.

Lillian had inhaled some meconium so she had to be suctioned out and put on oxygen. But, they waited until the cord stopped pulsing to take her off of me. I also didn't come out unscathed, I had a second degree tear that needed stitching. It took a couple minutes, but I noticed that not only was my husband there, so was my son, and my mom and dad. It turned into a family affair! It was so nice to see all those familiar faces, especially my son, it brought on a calmness. After I was stiched up, my family came over to the bedside to lay eyes on their granddaughter. I got to have an hour or more of skin to skin with Lillian, where she latched on great and had her first meal outside of the womb. After everyone left it was just Jessica, Justin, baby Lillian, and myself. We talked about how quick and intense the entire experience was. They both told me how proud they were. Talk about a birth high! It was only 12 minutes from the time we got to hospital until I gave birth. After everything calmed down I had no pain. Infact, I felt no pain for 2 days due to all the hormones that come along with the birthing process.

My midwife came back later to check on me and she asked me if I would do it that way again. Even though our family is complete, the answer is yes, absolutely.




Healthy peanut butter mini muffins


My most recent pregnancy craving has been peanut butter cookies. Yesterday I ate 2 Nutter Butters and also stole a couple bites of my sons freshly baked peanut butter cookie from the restaurant we went to. I have been wanting to make peanut butter cookies but if you know me well at all, you know I don't do well with baking. I rarely have what I need in my pantry to accomplish most recipes. When it comes to cooking I pride myself on my ability to just throw together a meal without needing a recipe. Baking doesn't work that way, unless you are indeed a master baker. I am not. In most cases a recipe needs to be followed. Most recipes include an insane amount of sugar, oil, or butter. That is another reason I struggle with classic cookie recipes. When I attempt to make a healthier version or a recipe, about 70% of the time my baked goods end up in the garbage. But, after dinner last night I so desperately needed something peanut buttery that I decided to try out my non-existent baking skills, yet again. To my surprise, they turned out perfect!

FLUFFY - SWEET - DELICIOUS

Ingredients:
1/2 cup homemade coconut meal ( or coconut flour )
1 ripe banana
1 cup natural peanut butter ( chunky or smooth )
1 scoop of protein ( I used a vanilla organic plant based protein )
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup dark brown sugar or honey ( optional for extra sweetness )
1 egg
1 tsp real vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 small dash of milk or water to thin out the mix

Directions:
Put all ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix until well combined.
Pour mixture into a well greased mini muffin tin.
These expand slightly, but not much so feel free to fill them to the top.
This will make 15-20 mini muffins depending on how full you fill the cups.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

Let them cool, and eat 1! or 2!

.... or 4 ... yes, I ate 4 of them.


 



Creamy Homemade Almond & Coconut Milk - in 5 easy steps!


It was about 4 years ago when I decided to quit drinking dairy milk. My reasoning was because dairy milk is high in sugar. My reason for avoiding all things high in sugar was so I could... eat sugar! I am very addicted to candy. I love candy like a crack head loves crack, okay? I'm talking SOUR candy... I like the stuff that makes your tongue peel when you have eaten too many. I didn't just cut out dairy milk, but I also cut out all types of condiments such as Ketchup and salad dressings, as well as any and all fruit juices. I have never been a soda drinker or a dessert eater so those things weren't a problem. I wanted to cut out extra sugar anywhere in my diet possible, simply so I could eat candy whenever I wanted and not feel guilty about it.

It was then that I started purchasing unsweetened almond milk. I was in love with the idea, only 35 calories in a full cup, with no added sugar!? Jackpot. For a long time I thought I was making the healthiest choice by drinking almond milk over dairy milk. It wasn't until recently, when I attempted a Whole30 (that lasted a whole 11) that I realized some of the unsavory ingredients in commercial almond milks. It is basically a few almonds, water, and a bunch of thickeners and emulsifiers. One ingredient that really bothered me after I looked into it was carrageenan. It is derived from sea weed so you would think it is good for you, right? Wrong. It actually causes troubles for a lot of people, specifically with internal inflammation. Well, isn't dairy inflammatory? Yes, for a lot of people it can be. So really they are trading one inflammatory product for another without realizing it.

Carrageenan is not just found in a lot of commercial almond milks and coconut milks but I have also seen it in my protein supplements, deli meats and cottage cheese. This stuff is everywhere! This was just the push I needed to make my own almond milk at home. . There are some brands out there that have done away with using carrageenan, although in my mind it was still a lot of money to pay for thickened water. Why pay $4 for that when you can make your own at home for the same price? The cost is the same, but the best part is you know exactly what is in it and you can customize it to your liking. Also a big added bonus, you get coconut or almond flour as a byproduct. Buying any kind of grain free flour at the store can be very pricey, now you can make your own and save money. If you make a couple batches a week you will be giving the stuff away. Your friends will thank you.


What will you need?
  • 1 cup raw shelled almonds, or unsweetened coconut (or you can mix the two and make coconut/almond milk!)
  • 3 cups fresh water
  • Blender
  • Nut milk bag, cheese cloth, or a very clean kitchen rag


Step 1
  • Soak almonds in water overnight. This will increase the nutrient bioavailability of the almond, allowing you to digest it better. It will also make them plump and easy to grind up in the blender.
  • Coconut does not need to soak that long, you can simply soak it for 1-3 hours. Just long enough to soften it up a little bit. I like to heat it slightly on the stove first, then let it soak. But, if you want truly raw milk then it does not need to be heated.

Step 2
  • Pour out the water from the almonds and rinse them off well. Then combine with 3 cups fresh water in the blender. (It is important NOT to use the water they have been soaking in for your milk. While the almonds soak they release phytic acid and other enzyme inhibitors that make it hard for our bodies to digest them correctly.)
  • You can simply keep the coconut in the same water and put it into the blender.

Step 3
  • Blend on the highest setting for 2-3 minutes

Step 4
  • Using a nut milk bag, cheese cloth, or a clean dish towel to strain it, pour contents from blender into a bowl. Ring out all the milk you can from the nut bag, this will leave you with a big ball of left over almond or coconut meal.

Step 5
  • Sweeten milk with sweetener of choice (optional) and place directly into the refrigerator.

Step 6 - optional
  • If you want you can simply throw away the left over almond or coconut meal, or you can make flour with it. If you want to make the flour then spread the left over meal onto a baking sheet with parchment paper and put in the oven at 170 degrees to dry out. This should take roughly 1 to 2 hours. Keep a close on eye on it so it doesn't burn, stirring it around occasionally. Once there is no moisture left throw it into the food processor and process into a fine powder. Store in the refrigerator or freezer.

Shelf Life: The milk will last only 3-4 days but the flours will last months if you keep them cold. 

Edited to add: once the coconut milk has chilled in the fridge some of the fat and creamy goodness will settle on the top. That is your coconut cream! You can skim it off and put it in the freezer to use later. Or you can mix it back into your milk. It's soooooo yummy. 


Some things to keep in mind about homemade almond or coconut milks that differs from store bought:

  • They will not have the same nutritional values. The milk in stores have been fortified with vitamins and minerals that your homemade milk will not have. The advertisement "almond milk has 50% more calcium than dairy milk" is because it is fortified with calcium, just like dairy milk is fortified with vitamin D. If you want a higher micronutrient content in your milk you can fortify it yourself with whatever micronutrient you would like. Just add it to your blender!

  • Not only are your micronutrients going to be different but so are your macronutrients. You will likely have a higher fat and protein content in your homemade milk. Commercial brands have very few actual almonds in them. A simple way to figure out your nutritional information for your milk is to measure the amount of almonds or coconut you used, look up the nutritional information for that. Then after you have filtered your milk, measure your left over almond or coconut meal and look up the nutritional information for that, keeping in mind this will be about 20% water. Subtract the numbers for the meal away from the numbers for the original amount of almonds and you have a pretty good estimate.

  • They will not be as thick as store bought milks. The ones on the shelves have multiple thickening agents in them to make them creamier. The consistency of your homemade milk will be more like skim milk. You can make it thicker by adding more almonds or coconut. If you like thicker milk try a 1:2 ratio rather than 1:3.

  • Your homemade milk will likely not be a sweet as those bought from the store. A lot of them have added sweeteners. You can easily add whatever sweetener you like to your homemade milks. Some options include: vanilla extract, prunes, figs, honey, stevia, maple syrup or even sugar if you'd like. My favorite is to use 2 figs that have been soaked in water for an hour and 1 tsp of vanilla extract.

Enjoy your fresh milk and if you like the post please share it!


















Exercise During Pregnancy



Recently, an exercise video I did was featured on an Instagram page that has a significant amount of followers. That gave me some insight into what it is like to be on the other side of internet bashing. I was amazed that so many people still consider exercising during pregnancy to be dangerous and shameful. There were comments about how selfish I am for exercising. That I am putting my babies life in danger all for a better body. That I was stupid, idiotic, and shame on me for convincing other idiots to do the same.

Why do some people still consider pregnancy to be an ailment? Don't get me wrong, pregnancy is tough! Not everyone is blessed with an easy go at it. Personally, this time around I have really struggled with prenatal depression as well as pretty intense back pain from early on. There are women who have high risk pregnancy and really struggle. The fact of the matter is not all pregnancies are created equal. Exercising during pregnancy is not practical, and sometimes is not safe for everyone. That being said, for a normal healthy pregnancy exercise should be recommended and encouraged.

If you were previously exercising before you became pregnant it is safe to say to can and should resume your regular exercise routine as long as it is comfortable. Even those who have not been exercising should begin an easy entry level routine such as prenatal yoga, light cardio, or simple beginner body weight strength exercises.

Some of the benefits of exercise during pregnancy include:

Weight Management: Though you cannot completely control the amount of weight you gain, daily activity can help you stay within a healthy range.

Pain/constipation/bloating: Exercise can help with back pain and general stiffness by strengthening your body and improving posture. Many women also suffer from constipation, bloating and swelling. Daily activity can help prevent those symptoms or atleast move them along quicker.

Stress/Anxiety/Depression: Exercising can be a great way to alleviate stress and boost your mood. During activity your body will release endorphins and endorphins make you feel good! Getting your heart rate up and your blood flowing can increase your daily energy as well as self confidence.

Labor and delivery: Keeping your body strong and your cardiovascular strength up during pregnancy can help you have an easier labor and delivery. Squatting is commonly a position during labor that will help the pelvis open during pregnancy to help the baby descend. Practicing squatting during pregnancy will strengthen your pelvic floor and prepare your body for labor.

Recovery and postpartum: If exercise is maintained during pregnancy it will aid in a quicker recovery from birth. Also, it will be mentally and physically easier to get back into exercising when your care provider gives you the okay to do so.

There are obviously some high risk activities that should not be continued into pregnancy, such as skiing, scuba diving, contact sports or any other sport with a high fall risk. When it comes to regular basic exercise, it is better to participate than not for a low risk normal pregnancy. The benefits are well worth it. So get clearance from your doctor to get out there and get active!






Protein Packed Curry Butternut Squash Soup with Orzo and Spinach

1 butternut squash
1/8 C orzo pasta
4-6 C homemade broth (or store bought)
1 C whole milk (or coconut milk)
1 T coconut oil
1 package of Silken Tofu
1/4 C unsweetened coconut flakes
2 stalks green onion
1 bunch spinach
1/2 tsp chopped basil
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp green curry paste
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper



-Preheat oven or toaster oven to 425 degrees.
-Split butternut squash in half and scoop out seeds.
-Coat squash with coconut oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and basil.
-Bake for 40 minutes or until tender enough to be scooped out of the shell.
-Scoop the flesh into a large soup pot, add broth, milk, chopped tofu, coconut flakes, chopped green onion and all of the seasonings, stir together well. 
-Bring soup to a boil then turn it down to medium/low heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
-Remove from heat and blend using an immersion blender until the soup is smooth and creamy.
-Return the soup to the heat and bring it back to a simmer.
-Add the orzo pasta. Stir gently until pasta is cooked, roughly 5 minutes.
-Turn off the heat.
-Chop spinach using a food processor and stir it in.
-Top with fresh green onions or cilantro for garnish.




A message to those with Get Fit resolutions.


Get fit. Lose weight. Eat healthier. Those are all things that seem to be on the top of the list for New Year Resolutions. People buy their gym memberships, shop for their new exercise attire and head in for their first workout. Most people don't really know where to start and the most self explanatory item in a gym is the treadmill. They start there. As the week goes on they get a little more comfortable and move on to the resistance machines, or even using some free weights. Seasoned gym goers watch from afar as all the newbies take up their equipment and throw a wrench in their regular workout routines. It's not the newbies I have a problem with. It's those of us who have gotten so comfortable in our routine and our gym that we can't seem to make room for new people with new goals. I used to be one of those avid gym goers that would dread the New Year. January meant a packed gym full of uneducated people hogging my benches and spending too much time resting between sets. You can hear the meatheads saying things like give them a couple weeks and they will give up. Since when did the people who have actually had to opportunity to achieve their goals gain a monopoly on the gym? At what point does it become okay to judge someone just starting on their journey to health? We all started somewhere. We all have goals we have yet to reach.

So this is to you, the person just starting on your health and fitness journey. First off, congratulations for making such an important decision for yourself! When you go to the gym for the first time, I don't want you to feel unwelcomed or out of place. I want to say welcome to your new sanctuary! Yes, some of us are possibly irritated that you are here and counting the weeks until you disappear. Not all of us, though. I don't like seeing the population of the gym dwindle month after month. I want you to stick around! I want to see you reach your goals. I want to help you reach your goals. If you get discouraged, and at some point you probably will, I want to challenge you to ask someone for help. If you are intimidated by the weights, ask someone to show you a few moves. You will find we aren't all too preoccupied with ourselves and our workouts, some of us want to help you succeed. We are willing to take the time and show you some of the things we have learned. I hope the gym is just as busy next December as it will be this January. Stick around, 2016 is your year.