It Begins with Me

Posts tagged ‘money’

Sustaining Progress

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I’ve been on my new diet now for five months. I have gone from 330 pounds to 277 in that time frame. I still suffer from reactions and hunger, tiredness and overall crankiness, but overall I feel better than I have in a long time.

My jeans are loose but still fit.

I am hungry often but nothing looks or tastes all that good. I tend to push eating out of my head and often go all day without eating more than an apple or some corn chips with a Naked juice.

My end goal was not to lose weight, but to feel better – less bloated, less painful, and less nauseous.

The moment I stray from my diet, I suffer from all three.

I drink a lot of peppermint tea.

I am tired a lot. My pain levels are higher than I would like but diet has little to no effect on that as long as I stay away from Nightshades.

When I eat regularly, I stop losing weight almost immediately. I gained 2 pounds when I had Lactaid ice cream or snacks like sweet potato chips. Cheating is apparently not allowed. I also bloated up and felt generally icky the next day – signs that I should not veer off track. sigh.

I have been struggling with depression and anxiety in high levels for the last few weeks. I have had a headache during that time above and beyond my daily level. I am having a hard time dealing with the constant pain and bleh that goes with all of this, and I miss my comfort foods.

I don’t miss them enough to go back, however. It just sucks.

I stopped seeing my shrink around the time of my last entry, which likely isn’t a coincidence. My depression, anxiety, and mood swings returned almost immediately but my insurance will not cover it and there’s nothing to be done about that. I will not put my family into debt or take away food from the budget so that I can find some stranger to talk to about crap in my life that will never change.

Pragmatism.

Summer is upon us and I will be spending a great deal of time and energy getting my house clean, fixed up, and in better shape than it is currently. My children and I will be doing that adventure together. I am putting my weekend job on hold for now so I can focus on the weekends on all the things that need to be done.

I plan to write here more as I progress, and show pictures and write about all the things happening – good and bad. I look forward to that.

My blood pressure is normal.

My cholesterol is fine.

My blood sugar levels have been constant and within acceptable ranges.

I need a mammogram and other tests for my age.

Oh, and I turn 50 tomorrow. Meh.

More later as I find it… stay tuned.

Jaz

Shopping for Six Plus

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We have four growing boys, 8 cats, and 2 dogs as well as 2 adults in our house. My husband and I strive weekly to fill the larder and keep everyone happy, healthy, and well fed. It’s a goal and we do a pretty good job.

First, I should say I never wanted 8 cats because I know you went O.O at that. So do I – daily. However, I used to rescue cats and nearly always had nearly a dozen in and out between cleaning them up, getting them healthy and friendly, and finding them homes. I learned early that cleaning house often, having plenty of kitty pans, and keeping those pans cleaned every few days was the key to a non-smelly house. However, this batch was not my idea and the boys and their father tend the cats, their feeding, and the litter chores. Not my circus. Not my monkeys. Well, 1 monkey likes me. The rest? Meh.

We spend roughly $500/week on food and supplies for the house, which keeps us in kitty litter, pet food, boy food, snacks, and balanced meals.

In the process of balancing this large active family, I have learned how to make lists. Not only that, I have learned how to actually use them. This is probably the more important talent, to be honest.

First, my free plug of the day.

One of the best tools I have ever stumbled upon is a shopping app for my phone. It’s shareable with my spouse’s phone (and anyone else really), updates when either of us makes changes (on all phones and devices hooked to the service), and allows me to make detailed shopping lists so that all that I need is done in one very carefully orchestrated and organized shopping trip (on Fridays).

What tool is that? https://www.ourgroceries.com/

I love this app. I highly recommend it for any busy family. Also, it is free or it’s available for very little. It’s worth the pittance it costs and pays for itself quickly in saved gas from extra trips and frustration of not having your needs in an easily made and easily managed place.

In order to fully manage a large family and a strict budget, I make meal plans. Our menu is set out for the week and items are purchased for that plan. Here is an example:

Dinner Menu:

  • baked chicken, butternut squash, mixed vegetables
  • baked pork roast, baked potato, baked carrots
  • beef chili with biscuits and potato wedges
  • beef meatloaf, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables
  • brats-n-kraut, mixed vegetables
  • noodle bake with vegetables inside
  • tacos, baby carrots

Lunch Menu:

  • school boys (3): shaved ham, sliced sharp cheddar cheese, and a loaf of bread with baked beans,  pineapple tidbits, and canned carrots/peas
  • school boys (3): hard salami slices, sliced sharp cheddar cheese, and a loaf of bread with baked beans, pineapple tidbits, and raw baby carrots
  • school boys (3): shaved turkey, sliced sharp cheddar cheese, and a loaf of bread with baked beans, pineapple tidbits, and baby cucumbers
  • school boys (3): (x2) summer sausage, chucks of sharp cheddar cheese, corn chips, baby carrots with dip, and apple pieces
  • home lunch: sausage patty with tater tots, a slice of cheese, green beans, and apple pieces
  • home lunch: beef patty with tater tots, baby carrots (wheels), sliced cheese, and orange pieces
  • weekend lunch: leftovers

Desserts:

  • pineapple upside-down cake
  • cookies
  • fruit crisp

Snacks:

  • meat sticks
  • cheese (string) sticks
  • pepperoni
  • leftovers
  • can of vegetable choice
  • baked beans
  • sweet potato chips (make yourself)
  • potato fries (make yourself)
  • tortilla and cheese (or peanut butter honey)
  • apple
  • orange
  • banana
  • baby carrots and dip
  • salad

The boys are allowed to make some simple snacks as long as they clean up afterward. Both the 14 and the 12 year old are capable of it, although the kitchen is usually a mess afterward. Sigh. The 6 year old isn’t allowed to do more than watch and help as he learns. The 22 year old is handicapped and in a wheel chair with the mind of a 1 year old child, so he has to have everything prepped for him to eat.

The boys have learned over their lifetime that you do not eat anything out of the ordinary or off the list without asking first. Nothing makes Mama angrier than going to make dinner and find the locusts have consumed something she needed as an ingredient. I am pleased to say it doesn’t happen very often.

Because of my dietary restrictions, I cook my own meals separately from the boys’ meals. This means that the boys ALSO ask when they find something that looks yummy, because if they eat MY food it will mean no tech and an unhappy Mama. I am not pleasant when hungry.

Our grocery list consists of ingredients, some snack foods that I deem acceptable, some easy prep foods for the boys to snack on, and pet supplies. I strive to buy foods for my boys without high sugar, simple starches, red40, or corn syrups. I avoid Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) in all its forms, gluten in all its forms, “low fat” items (high in sugar), food coloring, and fake things such as artificial sugar, artificial or synthetic fats, sugars, and materials, margarine and hot dogs. Gluten free is more expensive, so our grocery bill is roughly $125 more a week than the average family of 6 shopping in this manner.

I allow them three “bad” things weekly: one candy (for each boy) of their choice from the .99 aisle, ice cream that is as close to natural as I can get (Breyers, one container), and the meat sticks that I had to search to find so that they were not as horrible as they might have been. They are also allowed one soda every now and then.

I strive to stay between $400-500 a week for all our supplies and groceries. The more ground meat we use, the lower the cost for the week – but the boys get tired of it and there’s only so much you can do with ground meat. I enjoy a variety and so do they, so it’s worth a bit more now and then.

I will be continuing along this vein for a while, to show how we function day to day in our healthy diet and lifestyle goals.

Jaz

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Eating for Tomorrow

“Eating healthy is too expensive.”

How often do I hear that? All the time.

One of my friends that reads this blog, asked me to do a blog on that issue, to explain how I do it, and how I feed a family of four kids and two adults, 8 cats and 2 dogs on the money we spend.

Before I start, I should say that I don’t shop at Aldi or any half price anything. I don’t grocery shop at WalMart although I do buy supplies there for the household. However, were I given a small town choice, that carried what I need, I would take it. Sadly, living in Rural Iowa, that simply doesn’t work much of the time. While a quick “oops need that” run will suffice at the small town stores, they simply don’t have enough selection to justify me shopping there weekly like I do otherwise.

“Why don’t you shop at Aldi?”

  1. The food is green/unripe/damaged, picked over, packaged in groups that are not useful to me usually, and tends to spoil faster for all of the listed reasons.
  2. The food really isn’t that much less expensive in the long run, mostly for the above reason.
  3. Their food is lower quality than I prefer to feed my family.

“Why don’t you use coupons?”

  1. Coupons are typically for items that I do not buy, or for quantities that I will not use in time to make it worth the money to buy.
    • coupons entire goal is, as an advertisement, to get you to buy their product and buy MORE of their product than you intend
    • I resent being used that way, and keeping track of cost and waste has made me choose, for me, against couponing. If it works for you? Grand.
  2. I used to be a cashier and I HATED coupons. The instilled resentment is probably coloring my opinion – won’t lie.
  3. In all my years of clipping and using coupons (about 3 years during a determined stage of my life) I never saved any long term money on anything. I did the math and when coupled with my personal dislike of stray bits of paper and clutter, it really just didn’t work out for me.

“Why shop at Hy-Vee?”

  1. They are “employee owned” … which I don’t completely understand but I know the workers there have been there a long time and seem very happy. I see a lower turnover than other stores.
  2. Their produce is well tended and handlers are trained – no bruised fruit here.
  3. Their prices are competitive.
  4. They offer a member card – certain purchases earn me pennies off my gas prices which adds up quickly.
  5. The “friendly smile in every aisle” is no joke. I enjoy my time there.

So there’s my free ad of the day for Hy-Vee.

I spent roughly $67 on apples (2 bags), pears (1 bag), oranges (2 bags), spaghetti squash (1), 2 boxes of fresh sliced mushrooms, baby carrots (1 lg bag), carrots (2lbs), shredded lettuce (4 bags), 1 lg bag of potatoes, and some corn husks (tamale style).

Last week I bought green onions, onions, mushrooms, apples, oranges, fresh curly parsley, 1 zucchini, 1 yellow squash, and a bag of cranberries. For roughly the same cost.

I typically buy all of the above and sweet potatoes, bananas on sale, grapes on sale, cabbage heads (red and green both), cucumbers, and occasionally squash.

As I have stated before, it comes down to using these things before they spoil. And as aware and careful as I am, I still sometimes lose items to waste. IF I was a single woman, that $70 would buy me a month supply of the same veggies listed. That’s not bad at all.

In comparison, processed food costs more to feed the same number of people the same day. It just seems less expensive – even when it’s not. It’s easy to eat and prepare. It doesn’t go bad if you forget it. And it tastes “good” to you. But in reality, once you go to raw food, you’ll never be able to go back to that cardboard tasting stuff ever again.

When you stop buying processed foods, you’ll discover you eat less, not more. This is due to there being less sugar and less chemicals that are designed to make you eat more. Chewing your food also changes how you feel after you eat it. Raw food requires you to chew it up and the process of chewing is satisfying. It’s why we like potato chips. If you are serious about your health and weight loss, try the following things for that crunchy and satisfying snack:

  1. slice up celery into bit sized bits to snack on in place of chips
  2. use snow peas or sugar snap peas in place of unhealthy snacks
  3. baby carrots are easy to eat and satisfying to chew
  4. baby cucumbers are a thing – try them!
  5. cut up broccoli and cauliflower as a healthy snack
  6. cut fresh fruit into slices to eat as finger food
  7. pineapple tidbits or chunks are a great ‘sweet’ treat

There are also healthy alternatives to chips such as sweet potato chips that you make yourself. Slice up a sweet potato into slim wheels and lay on a sprayed cookie sheet (I use olive oil spray). Spray lightly with oil and bake for 15-20 minutes. Or, as an alternative, place pepperoni on each slice and then layer another on top. Spray lightly and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Here are a few rules of thumb when eating raw food and keeping it fresh:

  1. Process your food into sealed containers such as cut up celery, sliced green onions, chopped fresh spices, or lettuce. Never leave them out in the air either in your kitchen or in your frig.
  2. Place onions, potatoes, and sweet potatoes into a dark, cool, dry place to keep them fresh and unspoiled for weeks. Do not keep these items in plastic but in a breathable sack or their original mesh.
  3. Place fruit in baskets in the open air and do not leave them in sealed or plastic containers. If fruit flies are an issue, place some apple cider vinegar in a cup and place the cup near or beside the baskets (or between them).
  4. Process sweet fruits such as bananas once they start to turn brown skinned. Mash into a bowl and add a splash of lemon juice and some honey – then freeze for later.
  5. Process stone fruits by slicing thin and placing on a wax sheet after dipping into a mix of lemon juice and honey. Freeze overnight and then peel off and place in freezer safe sealing plastic bags such as Ziploc. (This works for apples too.)
  6. Freeze tomatoes whole and in their skins in a freezer safe bag. When ready to use, run the tomatoes under hot water and the skins will peel right off. They will be ready to core and use, or process in a food processor.
  7. Only buy enough fresh spices and herbs for you to use in a week as they spoil quickly – even in a closed container in the frig.

As you can see, eating raw and healthy is not more expensive but it IS more work. No, you can’t just grab a frozen dinner and pop it in the microwave but your body, your health, and your pocketbook will thank you.

Jaz

Being Me: This is how it Starts

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I took the picture you see, with all the multicolored string. It’s a self portrait of sorts, stemming from a class I took at Iowa State during my time striving for my Bachelor degree in Design.

If I could be anything I wanted, I’d be an art photographer and a writer.

I turn 50 this year and it feels a bit surreal. I don’t feel 50. Does anyone feel 50? I don’t look 50 and I suppose that’s a good thing. When I was young, I was told I had an “old soul” and a wise mind. I never felt old or wise. I still don’t. I keep wondering when that will kick in.

I have four children, one through adoption and 3 from my body. My oldest was adopted in a previous relationship which ended badly and he wanted nothing to do with our son afterward. He has special needs and requires round-the-clock care. When J came into my life as more than a friend, he accepted my oldest as his and became in every way his father. That was part of what drew me to him, to be honest – I saw in him the most amazing ability to be a dad. And he certainly is.

He gave me three children who are now 14, 12, and 6. My oldest is 22 and will be 23 by year’s end. It truly is strange how time passes quick yet slow, and then you blink and it’s 20 years past. I can remember their first steps, their first laugh, their first true tears. I remember it all and watching them grow up has been both a joy and a terrible pain. As I understand it, that is simply how parenthood goes.

I have been many things in my life. I have done just about every kind of job imaginable in the service industry, spanning food service to administration. I have driven trucks and buses. I have run businesses and I have worked for others. I have handed out tools and I have processed pigs into meat. I am a jack of all trades.

I used to think that was an insult when I was young. Now, it feels like a badge of honor. There’s not much I can’t do or learn to do. I am not afraid of challenges. I have lived without running water and I have left signs of civilization behind to camp and hunt. I was taught to take care of myself: I can hunt, sew, clean, cook, and gather. I know how to make soap and I know how to chop wood. I love technology but can walk away from it and just be. I love to drink and I love to be sober. I have always been of at least two minds about everything. I like myself.

I set out as a young adult to be myself. I had no idea what that meant. In the last 30 years of tears, struggles, and triumphs, and quite a few disastrous failures, I have learned who I am and I have proven to myself that I am stronger, and weaker, than I could ever imagine. I am not going to live forever, despite my young assurances to the contrary. I am flawed. I am imperfect. I am a pain in the ass, but I am me.

I am coming to the realization that if I want to change things, I’m going to have to get out there and do it. It’s a terrifying thought that my opinions and what I am driven to say and do could get me killed, but it’s worse to think my children would be harmed. I’ve been living carefully since they were born, walking that fine line between being involved and being too involved. I need to raise my children.

The other night, one of my sons – the 12 year old – said he was surprised I didn’t attend the women’s march in DC. I told him I wanted to, but it wasn’t something that I could realistically do. He asked me why. I said, we can’t afford it and I can’t leave you guys alone that long – what would your father do? He gave me an odd look and said, “Pretty sure we’d be fine. We do fine in the summer when you travel. Maybe you just don’t really want to go and we’re an easy excuse.”

It gave me pause. Was he right? I suppose on some level, perhaps. I realized that I am sending a message by my inaction and I’m not sure it’s one that I want my children to learn. I suppose I will just have to jump in, and land where I can. I worry that my choices will hurt my children, either from action or inaction. I worry constantly if I am putting them first and being a good mother. I worry often that I put too much on my plate and then fall short of my goals, which puts a strain on our finances and on my husband. He never complains however, and has never fallen short in his support of me, my dreams, goals, and plans.

I’m slowly inching toward the idea of striving for human rights and change within the government, running for office and seeking to get face to face with the people that I have spent half my life angry at. I have no money and I am not a professional anything – can I run for office and do any good whatsoever? These are the questions that plague my mind late at night.

In the end, I suspect I will simply be laying the groundwork for my children to strive forward into the fight. There is pride in knowing I am raising good, decent, strong men for the next generation. I teach them patience and compassion. I enforce the idea that they are people and I don’t have a right to destroy their ability to choose, whether or not I agree with them. I feel strongly that these young men I am raising will one day rattle the status quo and challenge the world.

For now, that’s where I am and where I start my fight. We shall see where it goes from here.

Jaz

 

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