“Don’t Be Weird,” Mark Sisson

It’s a statement that resounds with me constantly and one I’ve written about before. Mark Sisson first uttered these words, in my presence, at PaleoFX in Austin, TX two years ago. He also mentioned level of choice in the world of clean eating and fitness. Extremes will result in extremes and moderation in, well, moderate results.

When I first began to cut grain and sugar, I was an extremist. I felt like I might die (DIE!) if I ate a grain of rice or a speck of sugar in my coffee, NO potatoes, not even a yam. That was 3 years ago. Over time, and through lifestyle changes on many fronts, I’ve reached specific health and fitness goals and then backed off, introduced some starch back into my diet and backed off from them, tried new things in moderation and decided whether or not it was a short or long-term addition. No matter what the choice, though, each were conscious and that is what I am most proud of. I have learned so much about food and our bodies from my journey with “Paleo” and clean eating. I have researched for myself, compared notes, kept food journals and understand how my body reacts to certain things more so than others.

Image

In my old age (kidding, I fully intend to live to 100. I’m barely a third of the way through!) I’m able to recognize my strengths and weaknesses. I thoughtfully work towards making, what I find to be a weakness, more of a strength. More often though, I just try to make it less of a reason I don’t achieve the results I desire. Like being a food nazi. Strong word, but I have a feeling that’s how people think I live my life and it’s not.

Just recently, I went to dinner with a few friends. The dinner special was Tilapia stuffed with crab. YUM! When it came, there was a small side of rice and a cucumber salad. Everyone waited to see if I would eat the rice. OF COURSE I ate the rice. I was a little surprised by everyone’s anticipation of my decision. The meal was delicious and I devoured every single grain of it. I very rarely eat out but when I do, I try to choose the best options. I don’t ask the waiter a thousand questions about ingredients or sauces because I do not have a specific food allergy or medical reason to do so. I would rather allow room for others, should they need to inquire, without making it weird. I feel that paranoid about a restaurant’s menu, then I’d rather choose another restaurant. That’s not weird at all, just smart.  

Although I still do not condone replacing all your junk food with gluten-free junk just because it’s ‘gluten free’, I have loosened my thought process for my own children and will buy them gluten and gmo free cereals as an easy morning breakfast. Also, just because they enjoy a bowl of cereal every now and again. Processed food is still processed, after all. Fresh is always better. But again, I’m not trying to be weird or make my kids feel weird, so they also enjoy a gluten, gmo and wheat free waffle or pancake from time to time. Still seem weird to you? Baby steps. Besides, they’re just called waffles in our house. My girls understand they are a better choice of waffles because of the brands we choose to spend our money on. 
Image

So, while my stomach is not as flat as it was 2 years ago and my thighs have more fat then they did last summer, I am still healthy and happy with my decisions. I am satisfied with my eating lifestyle at this moment and make conscious decisions to keep my body in a good enough state, while allowing room for ease due to a more hectic lifestyle then I was leading in the past. I’ve dropped from extreme to moderate…with leanings towards extreme. Give me some room here, folks.

I still consider myself 80% Paleo but would rather promote clean eating to others and slowing ease them into a grain-free lifestyle. I realize not everyone is a born extremist and many would rather begin making one better choice at a time. Robb Wolf recently posted the 7 Shades of Paleo, which reminded me that I’m still on track even though I eat sweet potatoes and don’t interrogate the waiter about ingredients. I’m still making great decisions, despite my lack of extremes. Thank you Mark and thank you Robb, you had me at hello.

Image


Healthy Family – Healthy Future

I remember as a little girl, sitting on my father’s running shoe-covered feet, arms around his sweaty knees, while he completed sit-ups after his run. I’m certain each of my 5 siblings has a similar memory. I don’t know how far or how often he would run, but he always encouraged us to run and/or to be physical. What I do know is that he completed his 1st marathon on his 50th birthday and he began Cross-fitting in his 60’s. INSPIRING.

I never did go for a run, not until just recently actually, but I was active in baseball, softball and swim team through most of my adolescence. After activities ended, I gained weight and ate/drank unhealthily for most of a decade. Towards 30 is when I found Paleo and Crossfit, only after entering motherhood. Motherhood is when it all clicked for me; I am a role model, a leader of a pack and I must make right choices for my cubs. At least, that is what goes through my mind on a daily basis.

My girls on a recent hike up White Rocks Trail in Cumberland Co, PA. We made it all the way to the top!

My girls on a recent hike up White Rocks Trail in Cumberland Co, PA. We made it all the way to the top!

While I once lived to party, I now enjoy walking my children the 10 blocks to a mile, to and from school, digging up soil and mixing compost, researching what plants work best with other plants to help deter critters, promote healthy growth and of course, taste the best. I’m using heirloom seeds, recycled egg cartons to start them, chopped off milk jugs in the event of a chilly evening… Who am I and how did this happen to me?! But most importantly of all, I am doing all these things with my children. Children who live in a culture where we are taught to trust the government, doctors, big brand names and their friends’ well-meaning treats on a daily basis. I’m hoping to infuse them with their own power through information gained and gathered on the fringe of what passes for our modern American culture. Do as I say / Do as I do. I am teaching by example and although they make choices that aren’t best, they also know that eating healthy food before a sweet treat is a better idea so their bodies don’t feel bad. That they learned on their own.

One of my 2013 resolutions was to grow as much as possible based on what my family likes to eat. So far, I have 2 4×4 garden beds with carrots and onions, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and I’ve begun seeds inside (due to a late winter chill and fear of frost) which include a variety of peppers, cucumbers and greens; arugula, spinach, butter crisp, head lettuce, I’ve also planted snap peas in a very fun way…I’m sure I’m forgetting something and I hope I’m able to keep up with it all! I also plan to add another raised bed to our farm this season for all the greens and the potential of 3-6 hills for melons and pumpkins. Luckily, our backyard has plenty of room for both play and food. Of course we’ll also be mixing these two very important aspects of life together by building a wall for the vining veggies to grow up and my kids to play under, FORT!

I used scrap pieces to make a humble wall for some snap peas to climb. I am propping it up with another stick to create a fort for the kids to play in and to provide some shade in our very sunny backyard.

I used scrap pieces to make this humble wall for our snap peas to climb. I am propping it up with another stick to create a fort for the kids to play in and to provide them additional shade in our very sunny backyard. They helped paint, roll out the chicken wire and plant the peas.

While my 6 year old churned the soil and collected any weeds from our back 2 beds, my 5 year old helped me plant seeds in egg cartons with a bit of our first batch of compost, started last year in my Mother’s Day present. We tend to the yard every chance we get on these brisk Spring days, before I have to go to work and they have to attend school. We look forward to Sundays when we can really get our hands dirty and everyone gets a say in where and what we plant. The time we spend together is priceless because we’re working as a family FOR our family.

That's me in the black, next to my father and his wife, both active members at Crossfit717, along with 1 of my daughters, 2 nieces and 3 nephews. They were all participants during a fundraiser featuring family wods and a pint sized wod circuit. Not pictured: another daughter and my husband, who dj'd the event.

That’s me in the black, next to my father and his wife, both active members at Crossfit717, along with 1 of my daughters, 2 nieces and 3 nephews. Not pictured: another daughter and my husband.

Life has a way of coming full circle as I caught my nephews sitting on each other’s feet while the other completed sit-ups in preparation for the family WOD (work out of the day) at Crossfit717‘s weekend event in support of Autism. It was a great day, filled with fun, family and fitness. My younger girls were able to participate in a WOD circuit, built just for 8 and unders including box jumps, burpees (their fave), air squats, farmer carries and more, while my husband dj’d the event. We have surrounded ourselves with quite a community. My only wish is that my children influence their own friends and family in a similar way some day and my efforts are not in vain.

How does your family stay focused on health? Leave a comment or join us on Facebook for more posts and discussion.


Week 7: Menu & Receipt

Lately, I’ve been able to stretch my 7 day meal plan and shopping to 8 or 9 days. Whether it’s because I just don’t have the time or I’m force-feeding leftovers to the family, I’m grateful since we’re still in a tight financial spot, as so many of us are, and need to conserve every penny.

That being said, the 4-year-old who named this blog, turned SIX on February 23rd and her younger sister turned 5 yesterday. We aren’t outrageous with gift-giving but when the yearly “Birthday Extravaganza” comes around we celebrate our daughters from one birthday to the next, as any proper celebration should play out. 30(ish) days of extraordinary fun! The little extras add up fast and I’m honestly looking forward to re-tightening our pocket.

photoThis week’s menu was thrown together just for the blog. I went shopping Tuesday morning while my little one was at preschool. Upon my husband’s request, I picked up a roast, I also went for the organic chicken club pack which cuts the cost per lbs from $7.99 to $6.99 and includes portions for 2 dinners instead of one. Chicken thighs and wings seem to be a staple these days because 1) they’re a cheap option, 2) my family devours them and 3) they’re easy to make, bake and the leftovers are bangin!

Incidentally, a friend recently suggested a way to save money was to skip the organic chicken breast and go conventional. I won’t argue a monetary savings here and have typically suggested the same.  He added “Almost every article I read says that the nutritional benefit over regular chicken breasts is negligible. Most impurities and toxins are stored in fat and chicken is so lean that only trace amounts would even exist”.  He is an intelligent and trusted friend, with killer hair, so I stored this info in the ole’ brain and went for a sale on conventionally raised chicken drumsticks a few weeks ago, not breast meat, I realize. I roasted and served them to my girls for dinner. They didn’t gobble them up, as usual, but I didn’t give it much thought as appetite has ebbs and flows. The following day, I served myself a few for breakfast and nearly spit it out before I could get a napkin. The taste was so obviously inferior, it made me feel sick. Bad batch? I don’t know but it reminded me that choice does matter and organic chickens always taste better! I threw the rest away.

You’ll notice Tuesday starts off with chicken (cooked with onions and peppers) and noodles. I finally found a gluten-free, GMO-free noodle option at my local grocery store: TruRoots. After reading the website, I see they claim an ‘al dente’ texture after cooking. My husband, however, says he over cooked his first batch and they were a little mushy, but decent enough to eat. I didn’t warn him they were ‘different’ then his regular noodle variety so it doesn’t’ surprise me that it overcooked. Regular noodles could boil for much longer then required and still not become mushy. Imagine that sitting in your gut… just chillin. Despite over-cooking, he said he’d eat them again and that’s a win for me since we rarely have noodles and now we have some in stock.

photo-2Another exciting find I made was on thursday morning when I stopped by the grocery to pick up some taco shells for my now-5 year old’s requested birthday dinner: Bearitos. This little gem of a company is also non-GMO (found through my non-GMO app) and for a corn meal/chip company it was thrilling discovery since 85% of the corn in our country is genetically modified and that creeps me out. I suspect it’s mostly gluten-free as well, but they do not follow the testing practices for gluten so they do not claim it. They were delicious and had a more authentic taste then the cheaper, standard taco shells. I will now only buy GMO-free tortilla chips, as well. We’ve found and tried 1 or 2 other brands at my local store, my husband says they’re good but aren’t salty enough and I’m okay with that.

During this quick trip to the store, I decided to check the organic meat section for sales while I was there. Often you can find a few items marked down in yellow to add to your freezer and low and behold, I DID! 1 package of organic pork sausage (I often cut up and use sausage in my soups along with another protein) and 2 lbs of organic ground turkey breast were marked 50% off, so I snatched them up. That means you’ll have to add $4 for the taco shells and $12 for the extra organic sale-meat to my receipt for the week. Worth it!

I think I’ve covered everything from this week. My last request: Your favorite recipes including chicken thighs and ground turkey. Please comment here or add them to our Facebook page and you may see them on next week’s menu! Also, I added the spice combination I used for our taco seasoning to the Facebook timeline. Check it out & share with friends!


Week 4: Menu & Receipt

As you see, our weeks are not set in stone. If we go out of order, I like to cross off a meal so we know what we're dealing with. My husband appreciates variety so I try to mix up my proteins throughout the week. I, on the other hand, could eat the same thing all day until it was gone. Leftovers are my jam.

As you see, our weeks are not set in stone. If we go out-of-order, I like to cross off a meal so we know what we’re dealing with. My husband appreciates variety so I try to mix up my proteins throughout the week. I, on the other hand, could eat the same thing all day until it was gone. Leftovers are my jam.

IT’S BACK.

The past few weeks have been hectic as I am knee-deep in a new career. After being in school all day for 12 months my routine of leftover lunches has now become leftover dinners because I typically work in the evenings. My family is left to fend for themselves (with the help of my menu planning and preparation, mind you) while I work 3-5 evenings each week. My house hasn’t been this organized in a year and we’ve been checking off the Pinterest ‘to do‘ list at lightning speed. Life is good. My weekly shopping trip, however, has been chopped into spurts.

I don’t mind shopping in spurts, but I received a lot of positive feedback on the weekly menu & receipt posts so my intention has been to continue doing a weekly $100 grocery trip and meal plan (you know, to keep myself busy) so, HERE I AM.

I put a few things back this week, like a 2nd box of k-cups ($5.99), in order to afford a few treats. I also decided against the organic butter (4.29) because we have some butter in the house and my sister recently picked us up 2 jars of Trader Joes Coconut Oil, which I have been using more of recently.

  • Budget: $100
  • Meal Plan: 1 week
  • Final purchase: $92.61

Eating As A Family on a Tight Budget

During my hiatus, I will note, we were not living it up, it was quite the contrary as a matter of fact. My girlfriend, Jodi, recently asked “Without pasta or a starchy filler is it difficult to stretch (a dollar)?” and my immediate answer was “no”. We maintain our eating habits, as much as possible because we are committed to health. It’s almost better for us to spend our money elsewhere 😉 We (/I) are nowhere near perfect. Paleo is the goal and we live as close to it as we can. Sometimes, we don’t want to. 🙂

1. Snack less; It is a privilege, not a right

2. Pack meals with protein – no counting calories or controlling portions (within reason). EAT.

3. Cook with coconut oil instead of butter – it adds more fat to our lessened amount of food. Fat = energy and we all need energy to keep our brains and bodies working well.

4. Use more eggs – added protein and fat for a good price

5. Drink (even more) water.

6. GET BUSY and/or NAP – our bodies work best in these conditions

WHEW, Treats! There was a new brand of nonGMO cereal I decided to throw in for the kids, a bag of potato chips, flavored coffee, crackers & cheese and a sack of ENJOY chocolate chips. PRIVILEGE.

WHEW, Treats! There was a new brand of nonGMO cereal I decided to throw in for the kids, a bag of potato chips for the husband, flavored coffee for me, crackers & cheese…for me, and a sack of ENJOY chocolate chips for all of us. PRIVILEGE.

Have you visited us on Facebook?

To view more $100/week budget Menu & Receipt posts click below.


“Everyday is the Fourteenth”

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends.

Treat-focused holiday traditions need not apply! This year, my girls took some of their extra crayons, peeled, cracked and tossed them into a silicone heart-shaped mold I happen to have in the house and reshaped them.
Image
We were crayon making machines until I haphazardly turned the oven on for dinner, while the last batch was still cooling, and almost ended up burning the house down. I coated my oven in wax, melted the molds and yelled for help when I saw flames. The fact that this happens all-too-often was proven when my husband didn’t even come running. Don’t worry, I took care of it…and husband cleaned out the oven a few days later. (WIN!)

For her class Valentine’s, my little one decorated heart-shaped cut outs with cute little faces, wrote her name on the back and taped a crayon to it (they LOVE tape!). My older daughter ended up taping a sticker (yes, taping a sticker) to each of her heart crayons, then adding that and a small box of stickers to a ziplock baggie for her friends.

For my daughter’s Kindergarten teacher, we checked out Pinterest for a few ideas and settled on using items we had in the house. PERFECT. A cleaned out jar, a box of pencils, paperclips and a few binder clips created the perfect setting for a Love Bouquet. I had her write 5 little notes to her teacher on cut hearts and we clipped them to a few pencils. I think it will bring a smile to Mrs. P’s face, my 5 yo agrees!

Image

“I like math and science” and “I like you because you are helpful” are two sentiments written by my 5yo to her teacher.

Although I agree, “Everyday is the Fourteenth” I will give in and celebrate tomorrow by having a love-fest of our own, beginning (but certainly not ending) with heart-shaped pancakes upon a Valentine’s place setting with special cups, homemade Valentine notes for each of my girls, some stickers, red and pink glitter glue and a fresh supply of TAPE! I bet they are most hype about the tape. We’re fresh out…if you can believe it.

What will you do to celebrate?


There’s an App for that!

I’m on my iPhone all the time. Whether I’m looking up a word in the dictionary, scheduling my calendar, posting to Pushups and Carrots on Facebook or using it to log my workout, everything I want or need is handy! I’m not a junkie, however. I have 1 page of apps. And I’m not a gamer so everything I download is a tool with a purpose.

Here are a few of my favorite apps that help keep me focused, motivated, and in shape. AND THEY’RE FREE.

 

  • dirtydozenDirty Dozen – Simply lists the 12 most contaminated fruits and veggies. 5 servings from this list will bring no less than 14 different pesticides into your body a day. YUCK. You’ll want to buy these 12 plants organic whenever possible. The app also offers a Clean 15 list which you can find deals on since you’re not committed to organic-only options. It’s an easy go-to when I’m in the produce section. They even have a list of 53 fruits and veggies ranked in order of most pesticides. Apples are #1. I believe 5lb bags of organic apples are on sale this week at GIANT. Just saying.

 

  • nongmononGMO – I’m the asshole standing in the organic aisle just staring at her cell phone. I promise I’m doing something valuable, not texting my girlfriends. Typically, I’m comparing brands via my nonGMO app and finding the brand who doesn’t use genetically modified organisms in their ingredients. I am especially interested if this is a non-paleo item, as I want it to be as clean and wholesome as possible for my 4 and 5 year olds’ bodies. Just because something is labeled organic, does not mean it is the best choice. Research your food.

 

  • workoutsWorkouts – This takes the guess-work out of what exercise routine to perform when I’m running behind, only have 30 mins and can’t think straight because I just rolled out of bed. Choose your target area ie; abs, arms, butt, legs, cardio or full body, then choose your length of time 10-30 minutes. Only have 5 minutes? Make it count. The app provides a count down during each exercise so you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, it also shows a video of the movement along with posted tips for best form and technique. EASY PEASY. Remember to stretch.

 

What are your favorite apps? PLEASE SHARE!


A Cheap & Healthy Perspective – Week 1

I hear it all the time, “I’m on a tight budget, I can’t afford to eat like you.” Well, I too am on a tight budget. $100/week for food, in fact. I have a family of 4 and this budget also includes non-paleo foods for my (amazing) husband because again, this is my journey and I won’t pressure him into it, nor will I sabotage myself because of his preferences.

A few things:

  • Is grass fed meat better? YES. Does that mean it’s all I eat? NO. I buy meat that is on sale. Some of it is grass fed (YUM) and some of it is not. From the sale meat, I create my weekly dinner plan.
  • When not fresh, frozen or canned veggies? FROZEN. Freezing vegetables will help lock in the nutrients but also doesn’t allow it to sit and soak in sodium until consumed.
  • Cooking serum? Coconut oil or butter. Real, unsalted, raw butter – THE best. Although I’m attempting a Whole30 right now so I’m sticking with coconut oil or bacon fat. Butter is a dairy.
  • Fast & easy? Sure, there are lots of fast and easy ideas I can and will share, but eating plants & proteins does require preparation and forethought. It’s a lifestyle CHANGE, so all you fast paced, eat-on-the-fly, no time for prep folks, take a deep breath and reevaluate your priorities. Is health one of them?  …Always make leftovers so you have them for breakfast and lunch options …bake some eggs in muffin tins and freeze for easy access …soups and stews in the crock pot are a lifesaver! …whole fruit and veggies are a sweet and crunchy snack option. SIMPLICITY in food brings forth a simpler life.

paleo-food-pyramid

With that being said, I’ve decided to share my shopping list and meal plan to help folks get started. Also because I’m a simple girl with simple tastes and my recipes/meals are far from fancy. I think most of you can relate to having small children or spouses who aren’t always adventurous with their palates. Also, they are not on a Whole30, I am, so I will post my variations to anything for my own plate. Here we go:

Sunday: Leftover Stew – In a crock pot on low, I tossed leftover roast and meatloaf, frozen veggies of our liking, and broth together. After seasoning to taste, I checked back at dinner time! To serve, I added a dollop of pre-prepared mashed cauliflower to a soup bowl and scooped some soup on top. One of my daughters enjoys soup in a bowl, the other enjoys soup on a plate sans liquid. Wa-la.

Monday: BBQ – 1lb ground beef and a can of Manwich. I had my husband dish out my portion of beef first, before adding the Manwich. The family had it with fries and apples, I enjoyed it on top a bed of greens and carrots.

Tuesday: Pork & Kraut (OF COURSE!) – In a crock pot on low, I added a layer of sliced onion, a layer of sauerkraut, pork loin, and a final layer of kraut. Checked back at dinner time and added some pre-prepared mashed sweet potatoes and apple sauce to my plate. MY FAVORITE MEAL.

Wednesday: Chicken with Onions & Peppers – My husband pan cooks the chicken and sautes onions and bell peppers. I enjoyed that atop a bed of greens, carrots, cucumbers, radishes and celery. The rest of the bunch had some noodles with their chicken.

Thursday: Leftovers for the family – There wasn’t anything ‘clean’ leftover so I enjoyed some frozen Tilapia, sweet mash and crunched bacon sprinkled on top. I keep a stash of frozen fish, shrimp and scallops for myself to enjoy on nights the family decides on pizza, spaghetti or other grain based choices.

Friday: $5 Pizza night for the fam ala Little Caesars. I will be enjoying a Large salad (1, because I don’t want the greens to go bad before eaten and 2, because I’m craving a big salad) with roasted chicken on top.

Saturday: Bacon wrapped turkey with roasted vegetables and salad.

For those of you who love a grocery bill, here is this week's bill, keeping with our goal of $100/week and including $29ish of non-paleo food.

For those of you who love a grocery bill, here is this week’s bill, keeping with our goal of $100/week and including $29ish of non-paleo food for the Mr.

My method of shopping and meal planning is to create the first few meals of the week from items we HAVE in the fridge, then write a list of items we would like in the house (veggies and fruit, etc). Once I am at the store, I keep a running calculator of each item I put in the cart, remaining super selective on the items I choose, even if on my list. For instance, this week I knew we still had 6 eggs so I passed on another dozen because I didn’t have an egg heavy menu planned. I complete all non-meat shopping first, THEN I go to the meat department and check out what they have for sale, spending the rest of the budget on protein that will pair with any/all of the produce we have in the cart.

Easy peasy.

I don’t enjoy sharing my entire menu (I find it quite boring) but if you find it valuable please let me know by commenting here or on our Facebook page. Thanks for reading!

To view more $100/week budget Menu & Receipt posts click below.