29 foods I won't be spending money on in 2018

Photo by  Brooke Lark  on  Unsplash

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

January 21, 2018

I'm not a food blogger, and I don't intend to ever be one; however, I'm pretty fascinated by how certain foods can affect our bodies - not just weight-wise, but internally as well. I come from a long line of digestive issues and have had an ongoing battle with weight for much of my life. I began recognizing that it would be best for me to get in control of food sooner rather than later or I would be headed down a pretty unhealthy road with the potential of a lot of hazards. 

For me - eating habits and spending habits were very closely linked (and I think this may be true for many others.) Before budgeting and Whole30 (more on this in a sec), when I was stressed I would either overspend, overeat, or often both. I used money and food as coping mechanisms for sadness or frustration or anger, never feeling completely in control of my actions. 

In my late 20s I started researching and loosely practicing a Paleo lifestyle which helped me begin to learn the basics of cooking and eating healthier foods, but it wasn't until I embarked on my first Whole30 (I wrote about it here) when I turned 30 that food changed my life. (Physical Exhibit A below: October 2016 | March 2017)

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I began to see the affect food had on not only my body, but also my mind. I felt better physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Whole30 helped guide me on my journey to food freedom (making wiser choices regarding food, not beating myself up for eating a cupcake, learning how to say no and not impulse eat - still very much figuring out this journey FYI), and Dave Ramsey my journey to financial freedom (still figuring this one out, too!). Both freedoms are equally important I believe. (I plan to marry these two loves and do a post on doing Whole30 on a budget in the near future, don't you worry.)

I've essentially lived much of my life in a bloated and gassy state (I know...by far the cutest thing you've ever learned about me) and full of confusing digestive concerns. Growing up, I honestly just assumed that this was how my life would be and I'd learn to deal. However, when I discovered how powerful food can be, I found some hope that things could change. And while I thought I had figured out what foods I was sensitive to via Whole30, I still had some uncertainties. 

At the end of 2017 year, I had some health reimbursement account money left that I was going to lose if I did not use and a friend of mind suggested I do a food sensitivity test. Through a local nutritionist and dietician here, Chews Food Wisely, I completed a LEAP150 test (super simple...just had to get some blood work done) to discover that I have sensitivities to 29 different food items and chemicals (food sensitivities means these foods cause inflammation - inflammation manifests differently for everyone but can include, headaches, breakouts, bloated, etc.) Many of which I had been consuming on a regular basis. I was more than a little surprised:

  1. Sesame

  2. Corn

  3. Cashew

  4. Sodium Metabisulfite (found in wine...sad)

  5. Grapes (also found in wine...double sad)

  6. Asparagus

  7. Cabbage

  8. Clam

  9. Oat

  10. Oregano

  11. Cocoa (like crying on the floor in fetal position sad)

  12. Parsley

  13. Cottage Cheese

  14. Peach

  15. Eggplant

  16. Pineapple

  17. Pistachio

  18. Salmon

  19. Scallop

  20. Soybean

  21. Spinach

  22. Tomato

  23. Mint

  24. Bell peppers

  25. Papaya

  26. Lecithin

  27. MSG (me and every other human)

  28. Food Dye and Color Blue #1

  29. Food Dye and Color Yellow #5

What!? I definitely had cashews, grapes, and spinach all up in my fridge and cabinets, and I'd been consuming tomatoes and bell peppers on the reg. These results were so surprising to me, but the more I started thinking about it, the more things started to add up. (Long story short - sensitivity to tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers ((these are called nightshades)) can cause the same kind of inflammation issues ((i.e. for me - bloated/gassy)) as for someone that may have a gluten allergy. I wasn't feeling bad from the pizza I would eat because of the gluten in the crust, but because of the tomato in the sauce. I wasn't feeling terrible from the burger I ate because of the gluten in the bun, but because of the sesame on top of it. 

Mind blown.

Anywho - maybe all of this is not as exciting for you as it was for me, but I am grateful to have this knowledge so I can start focusing on the foods that will treat my body the kindest, and stop wasting money on foods that do not work for me. And of course, just as with our budgeting, this is all about balance. Will I still sneak some chocolate here and there - you betcha. Will I try to avoid it most of the time - yea I think so.

I just gained a lot more room in my grocery budget.

Some numbers talk:

  1. It was a total of $400 for me to complete the LEAP150 test. $375 for the test itself and $25 for the blood work. You can probably find the test for cheaper in your area, just do a little googling. If I had not had my health reimbursement money left over, this is something I would eventually have saved up my money for.

  2. A lot of people think eating Whole30 has to be really expensive. Nah, y'all! First of all - Whole30 is actually pretty commercialized now which is a GOOD thing. It is so much easier to meal plan and prep than it used to be because of this. You are eating all whole foods so that means fruits and veggies galore, and produce is some of the most inexpensive food you can get.

How to do Whole30 for $75 a week or less

March 11, 2018

A year and a half ago, I took the plunge and did my very first Whole30. Yea - you know that food thing everyone keeps talking about? The one that your mother, brother, sister, cousin, neighbor, and teacher have all done? The one that everyone thought would be a fad but has actually stuck around for quite some time?

Finding the Whole30 has been, hands down, one of the best things I've done for my health. It's helped me control unnecessary food cravings, make better food choices in general, understand my relationship with food better, all while slimming up a bit. I've never felt better, slept better, or had my clothes fit better than when I do a Whole30. I've actually written about why I love it so much before (you can read it here), so I won't bore you with all of that again, but take a read if you've been thinking about it but have been afraid to take the plunge. 

Picture evidence. May 2016 to December 2016 after doing my first Whole30 in October 2016.

Picture evidence. May 2016 to December 2016 after doing my first Whole30 in October 2016.

However, I do want to share some words that I wrote in August 2016...just two months before I tried Whole30 for the first time. They were written at a time where I realized how closely dumping debt and dumping weight were intertwined. It's where I realized that trying to get in control of my money and trying to stay in control of my health were equally as important and had so much in common.

1. It is a daily battle. I'll be honest - every single day that goes by where I don't spend money on something that wasn't budgeted and where I don't eat something really horrible for me are both counted as great victories in my book. I have to intentionally think about both of these things as I walk through life and remember what my goals are. I wander around the grocery store with, "No, you don't NEED to spend money on that, just like you don't NEED to consume that," in my mind all the time. These choices are tied very tightly together in my mind. And they both happen to be choices about the lifestyle I'm choosing to live. 

2. It is not an overnight change...it is a lifestyle change. I'm at the point in my life where I am working toward making leaps and bounds toward a healthier eating lifestyle. This girl, that used to eat poptarts for breakfast and hot pockets for lunch, is now an 80% Paleo kind of girl. When I started teaching BodyPump regularly (along with Zumba), I felt myself getting stronger but noticed that little change was actually happening in the appearance of my body. I remember thinking - if I'm going to be working this hard multiple times a week to build strength, I'd better be seeing it. And that's when I started making S L O W changes to my diet, because it really is 80% diet and 20% exercise. I figured I needed to my fuel my body well in order to get the results I wanted to see. The fact of the matter, too, is that as I am getting older (we're in plain sight of 30, people) I'm more in tune with my body, how it reacts to certain foods, and how I feel internally. (And also how my metabolism is slowing down...) Over time, this mindset has nestled itself into my brain and I do my best to eat clean, whole foods (I fail quite a bit, but I'm working on it). It's taken almost a year and a half to get to 80% Paleo and I've got more work to do. But lifestyle changes don't happen overnight.

Living the Dave Ramsey way is also a lifestyle change. It doesn't happen overnight and it takes quite some time to get the hang of. Just like weight management, it is an 80/20 formula. 80% behavior and 20% knowledge. Anyone can understand that living within the guidelines of a budget is a smart thing to do, but so many people don't actually practice it. Just like most people know that eating pint of ice cream in one sitting is not good for your health, but so many people still do it. Lifestyle changes take a lot of time, patience, practice, and perseverance. 

3. It is not the same for everyone. This little lesson has probably been one of the hardest for me to learn and I believe it applies equally to dumping debt and dumping weight. We are all made and shaped differently, with a unique gene pool and different metabolisms. I tend to look at what other people are doing and imagine I can live my life the exact same way. "Oh, well so-and-so eats pasta every day for lunch and is still as thin as a rail. I can eat pasta every day, too!" Sometimes, I'm an idiot. Over the years I've had to be really careful about comparing myself to others when it comes to food and exercise. It's been a long journey of figuring out what works best for ME and MY BODY. I carry weight differently than others. I react to carbs in a different way than others, etc. And the same exact lesson applies to money.

I have to continually remind myself that my budget does not look like everyone else's. Not everyone is carrying around hundreds of dollars of debt that they are paying off monthly. Just because my best friend can order 5 things from Ann Taylor Loft (y'all know I still love this store) doesn't mean that I can. (Well I COULD, but I'd have to budget for it...budgets are beautiful). Finances can produce the same theft of comparison as body image (and then some) if you allow them to. I say, keep your head down, stay in your lane, and figure out what works for YOU.

Living in a healthy eating lifestyle and a smart spending lifestyle are one-in-the-same in my mind. They both take discipline and hard work. They take practice. They take breaking bad habits. And sometimes it's no fun and all you want to do is spend 70 bucks on 5 pizzas (but then you've just screwed everything up, so don't do that). But the hard work and discipline will pay off and beautiful benefits will be had.

Two months after I wrote those words I realized I'd had enough and it was time to make some even bigger changes. I did my first Whole30 and never looked back. It's changed my health drastically and has helped me make smarter food choices. And since I'm making smarter food choices, I've got tighter boundaries about the foods I'm buying at the store which makes my budget happy. It's all intertwined.

And I get it...it can be hard to try to eat healthy AND stay on budget. I was always really hesitant to try Whole30 because I can't really cook and I remember thinking, "now why would I spend a ton of money on food only to ruin it with my subpar cooking skills?" But eventually I gave in and took the Whole30 and my subpar cooking skills for a whirl only to realize that a) it doesn't have to be expensive and b) you can keep it simple...you don't have to create crazy fancy recipes for it to work. 

The more Whole30s I've complete, the better at it I get and the easier I can fit the foods into my grocery budget without overspending and the more I enjoy the meals I'm making. This makes approaching each Whole30 I do feel easy and manageable.

So I've created a free guide in hopes that others will see how easy it can be to complete a Whole30 if that's what you've been wanting to do. In the guide you'll see how to complete the program with simple and sustainable recipes, all for $75 a week or less. Grab it by clicking the button below and start the journey to get in control of your health without going broke!

 

How Whole30 is going to help me save money

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March 25, 2018

It's March which means, here in Houston, it's been what we like to call "Rodeo season." The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is a 3 week event that includes a carnival, an actual rodeo, a concert, a livestock show, and so much more every single day. It is, hands down, my favorite Texas time of year. 

Along with the Rodeo comes really great and fattening food. Corn dogs, bacon-wrapped sausages on sticks, fried brisket balls, fries, fried Oreos, fried cookie dough, fried, fried, fried, etc etc etc. Since it's my favorite Texas time, and only happens once a year, I allow myself to indulge a bit more than I normally would and eat all the things.

But Rodeo is now officially over and to kick off Spring I'm doing a Whole30 to give my fried body a reset. I love Whole30 because it's a great opportunity to not only feel better overall, but also to realign my relationship with food.

Whole30 not only helps me keep my food cravings in check, but it actually also helps me stay on budget. This may seem contradictory as we often associate Whole30 - or eating healthy in general - with spending more money. But actually, I've found the opposite and that I actually do better with my food budget instead. Here's why:

1. It eliminates the impulse buying - When I am following a reset program such as Whole30, I am obviously only able to buy items that are compliant with said program. Because of this, I go in with a very specific shopping list and do not stray from it. This cuts out that $11 frozen pizza, $3 chocolate bar, and $3 bag of chips I am so often inclined to throw in my buggy as I push it through Sprouts. I walk out only with what I need without spending an extra $17. It's a win-win. A win for my wallet and a win for my waistline. ;)

2. It eliminates the decision - Again, since Whole30 is a pretty specific program with hard and fast guidelines, it makes the decision about whether or not to eat out for lunch or dinner pretty simple, the answer typically being no. While there are certainly restaurants out there that serve Whole30-compliant meals, I am more likely to simply avoid eating out to avoid the possibility of being tempted by something I cannot have (I'm looking at you Chick-fil-a chicken strips). And voila - more money in my pocket. 

When you take control of one aspect of your life, it makes taking control of the others so much easier. Doing the Whole30 in the month of April will not only help me reset my relationship with food - i.e. looking at food for sustenance and intentional enjoyment vs. emotional eating to fill a void or out of boredom - but it will also help me continue to reflect on my relationship with money. Food and money are so closely related and we often don't realize it until we gain control of one of them. When you put a grocery budget into action for the first time you will likely notice how often you spent money on food you didn't actually need or want. Taking control of one will definitely help keep the other in check.

So here's to April and resetting my budget and my digestive system. It's the perfect time to do a little Spring cleaning just in time for Summer, and I'd love to have you join me if you're interested! Below you'll find a free guide on how to do Whole30 for $75 a week or less (just click the picture). AND if you want a little more support, we've got an accountability group set up to conquer the April Whole30. Join us here! 

How to meal prep for the entire week in one hour

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June 17, 2018

Listen - we're busy. We're over here living life on budgets and still having fun. We've only got so many hours in a day and so much to do! I hear you and I'm here to tell you that living life on a budget AND eating healthy are both possible and we don't have to spend that much time in the kitchen to make it happen.

When I started figuring out that I needed to get my eating habits in order, I remember being really overwhelmed by the whole idea of meal prepping. Much of the overwhelmed feeling had to do with my lack of skill in the kitchen, but also just the time I thought it would take to prep an entire week's worth of meals. The last thing I wanted to be doing on a Sunday afternoon was cut, chop, and cook for 4 hours!

However, once I started getting serious about clean eating, meal prepping on a Sunday was the only thing that would lead me to success. It took some trial and error but I now have preparing all of my food for the week down to a one hour science. 

The key to implementing a quick meal prep is to just keep things simple. I choose foods that will not only be easy to make on a Sunday afternoon, but that will also keep for a week and will be easy to heat up. When it comes to breakfasts and lunches during the work week, I am not as focused on creating elaborate dishes, rather than just having something that I won't absolutely hate eating and that will give me sustenance for the work day.

Here's what my weekly meals look like:

Breakfast - two hardboiled eggs and roasted red potatoes and broccoli (don't knock it 'til you try it)

Lunch - pieces of rotisserie chicken, roasted Brussels sprouts, an avocado, blueberries and strawberries (I really love just throwing a bunch of random things on a plate and calling it lunch)

Snacks - banana, carrots and cucumbers

Here are my steps for a fast and easy prep:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

  2. Chop up red potatoes and broccoli

  3. Toss in olive oil and season with salt and pepper

  4. Cook at 400 degrees for 25-35 minutes

  5. While broccoli and potatoes are cooking, put a pot of water on the stove for hard boiled eggs

  6. While waiting for water to boil, chop up Brussels sprouts, toss them in olive oil and season with salt and pepper

  7. Once water is boiling, place in ten eggs and let boil for 9 minutes

  8. Around this time the first batch of roasted veggies are done, so replace those with Brussels and cook for 25-30 at 400 degrees

  9. Remove eggs from boiling water and place them in an ice bath to cool

  10. While Brussels are cooking, pull apart rotisserie chicken and place in tupperware

  11. Chop up fruit and additional veggies if necessary

  12. Clean kitchen

Boom. Done in one hour!

Meal prepping on a Sunday not only keeps me on track to put good, clean food in my body (something my waistline appreciates), but it also ensures I'll stay on budget (something my wallet appreciates.) 

Do you have any tips for quick and painless meal prep? I'd love to hear them! I'm sure, eventually, I'm going to get tired of roasted broccoli in the morning. ;)

PS - Have you wanted to try something like Whole30 but haven't because of all the $$ you think you have to spend? I've got a free guide for getting you through the program for $75 a week or less. Click the picture below to snag it!