Sunday, May 26, 2013
Before Spark People, I had the convicted belief that it was impossible to eat healthy and save money. Now, after having been doing this "Healthy Eating Thing" now for 5 months, I've come to a new realization. It is impossible to eat healthy and spend less unless you are willing to let go of that belief. Without the proper education, motivation, experience and exerted effort, nothing is possible. But if you decide to take steps in the direction you want to go, anything is possible.
I used to eat more food (quantities & types) and rarely ate fresh foods. Most of what I ate was processed, prepackaged and mostly prepared by someone else. I went out-to-eat and ate foods that someone else prepared. The foods I ate at home were prepackaged meals that required me to heat them up before serving them or required me to add meat or some fresh ingredients to produce a predetermined meal product. I rarely if ever made bulk portions and when I made more than I needed, I was motivated to eat all of the leftovers before it spoiled. I was taught to clean my plate because there were starving children around the world and I should eat because I had food. My taste buds were my master. If it tasted good, it was what I needed and the longer I could feed that "Flavor High," the better. It was an entirely unhealthy addiction that I really didn't want to control because it was sooooo goooood! Of course the negative affects of such an unhealthy lifestyle had it's eventual and long term negative side affects. And when I was seeking to eat healthy (before the real healthy eating learning curve) I would eat turkey, chicken or fruit and veggie meals but without any conscious awareness of the other ingredients or the total calorie counts. So coming to the realization of the down side to these mentalities and accepting that I was responsible for my own problems has allowed and brought about a desire for change and motivated a dislike for my bad mindsets and finally came to make the acknowledgments that actually led to my healthy changes. It was like I had to get to the bottom of the pit before I determined that I was headed in the wrong direction and needed to turn around to find my way out. Yes, I cooked foods from time to time but it was according to the instructions on the package. I rarely made anything from scratch apart from grilling or frying meat, or microwaving a potato. I needed to commit myself to learning and changing my ways to enact a literal physical turn around which were based on my attitude and actions.
Now, most everything I eat is made from scratch. And the recipes I follow are not on a package but require the use of mostly fresh ingredients. The ingredients that aren't are like canned/dried beans, frozen/canned veggies like tomatoes, corn, mixed veggies or fruit! They are the stored versions of the fresh ingredients! The only processed food I eat now are bread, yogurt and cheeses but that is because there is no such thing as naturally occurring forms of these healthy foods. Maybe one day I'll venture into learning how to make them from scratch. But I don't believe I'd get the same results or convenient varieties! So now I feel like I'm eating gourmet meals that only rich people would eat. And what is more amazing is that I am making them.
So how can eating healthy be less expensive?
1) When foods are processed and provided already made, there is a cost associated with that preparation and the quantities are typically sized for a single meal for 2 people. So a single person is typically left with leftovers if they comply with the suggested serving sizes. Saving the rest become a hassle. For me, I would just have eaten the full amount! Now when I prepare things from scratch, storage becomes an expected part of the process and serving sizes are immediately apparent because it is a standard concern. So bulk foods cost less and proper serving sizes help to extend the amounts! Preparing multiple servings and storing them for quick access provides convenience and easy preparation during the week.
There is also the lowered cost that can be associated with smart shopping. Smart shopping, for me at least, not only means buying foods that are fresh and healthy for you but means paying less for the same products others pay more for. This can be accomplished in many different ways.
2) Next, one of the most apparent cost saving tactic is using coupons. There's a lot of help online to guide you to where to find coupons beyond the typical store mailers or newspapers and this can help you save money on things you know you will be buying.
3) Then there are the store discounts that are marked down on products for various reasons. Discontinued products, foods nearing there expiration, overstocked items. These will have special pricing labels with include manager specials, value packs and closeouts.
Then there are the standard sales the stores have as an ongoing incentive to shopping at their store or for being a card carrying member.
Many of the sales are not apparent until you walk the isles of the store and physically make the conscious effort to see the specially marked prices on the products.
Some stores have special added discounts for digital-online-coupons that are loaded onto your membership card via your computer at home that are then automatically deducted at checkout. These savings are found at the grocer's web-site.
Also many grocery stores have a special discount shelving unit that has specially discounted items on it. A quick glance over these items while you are in their store, might allow you to find a great deal.
4) Of course there is the option of buying the cheapest brand. Many foods are sold by more than one provider and completion allows for lower prices for brands that are store brands, generic brands or products sold by companies whose focus is providing foods for less.
5) Shopping around allows you to locate where a particular food costs less. The "99 Cent Only Store" carries dried beans and other bulk foods at a lower price than the regular grocery stores. Big Lots and The Dollar Store just to name a few may have lower prices for foods that you buy all the time so a simple visit might unveil an option that you were unaware of.
Weekly Store Ads are available online and are sometimes mailed to nearby residences where you can quickly look through them to find the lowest prices for that week. If you want, you can just wait until you get to your store and get an ad that is typically available near the door or at the customer service desk as well as posted somewhere in the store. This doesn't give you the option to compare to other stores but it will let you know what is on sale that day. What I do is take all of the local mailers, compare all of the prices on similar products and then find the lowest price on foods that I need. I also like to find particular meats like pork, turkey, ham and chicken and then buy bulk quantities, then divide them into single servings and put them in the freezer. Buying a whole pork tenderloin on sale for $1.49/lb. and then cutting it up into 3 oz. sizes gives me 25 -30 steaks!
Now-a-days, cellular smart phones have apps that can scan a bar code and let you know which local store has the lowest price on a vary specific item. You scan the bar code of the desired product and the app lets you know where it is sold and at what price. This lets you compare prices with a lot less work.
6) Search out and find the alternate or additional sources for buying fresh foods. I participate in a local program called the 3000 Club AKA Market on the Move (MOM) which is a food rescue program. Fresh produce that would typically be thrown away because it has no buyer in a given week, is trucked to a local distribution point where participants get up 60lbs. of fresh produce for $10.00. The variety is what it is each week and changes according to availability and growing seasons. They include fruit and vegetables.
Then there is a food co-op that I participate in as well. This is called Bountiful Baskets. Buyers commit to picking up food at a specific location, day and time and payment is made before that day online. It works very similar to the previous program but the quality is higher while the volume is lower. They have the choice of organic fruits and vegetables and also have breads, granolas, special bulk options like crates of oranges, strawberries, cherries or apples. There are many standard choices and then there are seasonal options. The standard Bountiful Basket is $15.00 for a basket of fruit and a basket of Veggies. Again the choices are not predetermined and you take what you get according to what they have. A lot of the foods have the labels on them that are the same as what is found in the stores. Mangos, Pineapples, Bananas, Lettuce, Kale, Corn, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Squashes, Ginger, Peppers, Apples, Melons, Oranges and much more are among the many different varieties that I have received and the value/quantity is great.
Farmers Markets are another choice. I haven't had much luck with them but it is said that you can find fresh produce at prices lower than what you can find in the local markets. It is worth the effort to check them out.
7) Local growers typically have the option to pick your own produce or they will have pre-picked produce available for easy purchase. These are actually located at the place where the produce is grown. Sometimes it costs more but typically it costs less than produce you can buy at the local market. If it is worth the drive and the time, it could be something to consider. For freshness, there is nothing better unless you grow it yourself.
8) Partner with friends or family to buy the extra large bulk products quantities like dried beans, rice, flour, sugar, oats, grains and other items that give a price break for buying bulk. Bulk products require less packaging per quantity and therefore producers save and are happy to pass those savings on to customers. Buying with friends and family will give you the savings while reducing the need for adequate storage space.
9) Choose and develop a routine to include as many of these choices as you determine as being most helpful to you and your family and you can see a big reduction in costs while increasing the healthy fresh choices to your weekly menu. As your routine becomes a standard part of living, it becomes quick and simple. While the hassles associated with changing your current routine may sound like justification not to put forth the effort, you are choosing to deprive yourself of options that can make what sounds like it is impossible, quite possible!.
10) The greatest factor which can lower your overall cost associated with food purchases which is most often missed is the cost associated with not eating healthy! Doctor's bills, having to buy new clothes because your entire wardrobe is too small because you've become too big to fit in them! The cost associated to lost opportunities that are the result of social image biases. Lost job opportunities because you don't fit the company image. There are costs that are not associated with money that can sway a person to decide that it is better to spend more at the front end of their health investment as opposed to paying more for their back-end results!
Whatever any individual decides to do, there will be a cost. There is cost associated with taking the easy way out and there is the cost to putting forth good effort. But with good effort comes the rewards. My cost which was accumulated due to self-neglect and an addiction to eating unhealthy foods because I let my taste buds control my choices, along with the lack of controlled portions has produced the price that I am paying for now and have been paying for from the onset. The price to change is the effort, motivation and dedication that I have come to be more than willing to spend on this venture and journey to good health and fitness. I am convinced that the rewards will far outweigh the negative costs. As a matter of fact, for me, not changing and failing to put forth the effort has become the greater cost that I am not willing to accept. There is something known as a good and bad investment. Knowing the difference is priceless!
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Even though I am turning 50, I can still learn! Unless we take the time to put the pieces of life's puzzle together, sometimes we fail to see the big picture. And then even after seeing what is in the picture that we've developed in our minds, we fail to recognize how to apply what we see to our every day living!
I'm learning that failing to see the individual parts of the big picture, and then recognizing that each piece has value that must be given it's due credit has to be part of the process. Without each small part, the big picture has diminished value. Thus the Big Picture becomes a bunch of smaller pictures pieced together to create the larger image.
Yes I know it sounds like I am just rambling but hear me out! In life, we are like artists that get to paint our lives into existence. Working within the confines of a preexisting world. This has two sides to it. Limitations as well as liberations! In order to make forward progress, we need to follow the rules! But we don't have to stumble across the down falls of learning if we learn from those who have already charted a way to the destination we want to get to. People have documented their paths to success. Yes, we might have a slightly different end goal but the steps to get there are relatively similar to the journey of others. So we have the limitations that combine with our liberations to allow for individualism! We get to take the best of both world to set our own course to sail to the dreams that await us.
When a painter paints a picture, they can use each brush stroke to create subtle features in the painting that will affect it's final visual affect. Each small step leads to the final outcome and each step can be as important or as unimportant according to the desired affect that it is intended to have.
So how does all of this add up to provide helpful advice or input to help you get to meeting your goals? People that have succeeded have shared what they've learned along the way. They have created a sort of virtual GPS to get you were you want to go. You can take a step back and see the general direction of how to get there, but unless you become familiar with all of the little bits and pieces that make up the whole picture, you may stay lost without an idea of how to get to where you want to go. You too must "paint your own individual brush strokes" that will create the personalized picture that you want to see. You must take the individual steps that will carry you on your journey. You can take the shortcuts laid out by others but you can't skip those steps to get there! The limitations say we can't get there unless we set our hand to the task. The freedom that comes with our liberations say that we get to do it our own way. But unless we have a Big Picture in mind, realize what little things must be included to create that Big Picture, and then set our efforts towards creating every piece that is needed to make it materialize, it never will!
There will be many who wait for the life they want to just materialize around them. Those who have the happy life they've always wanted, have taken the steps that have carried them there!
Shortcuts are not meant to cheat you out of living, they are intended to bypass the parts of the journey that really don't matter. So if you want to live and learn, stay on the path that meanders as you wait to get to where you end up. If you know where you want to go, set a path, determine what it will take to get there, and be happy to be able to take the steps that will get you there!
If you have no idea where you want to go, I have news for you!
"You Are Already There!"
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
Life is a gift as is each moment we spend in it. We all should try to find the treasures of each passing day that come in the form of small moments of peace, joy, pride and honor and hold on to each of the seemingly insignificant pieces (all the bits and pieces of gold dust) and cherish each of them to improve the quality of our lives!
Just like when panning for gold, all that is not gold is allowed to be wash away and no attention is given to it. It is the silt and dirt and rocks that are given no attention at all because they have no value. However, even the tiny small particles of gold dust and flakes have value even if it is not quite as valuable in comparison with the value of a larger nugget.
But even a small gold particle's value can be compounded to be receive greater value when you gather each of them together and look at the many small pieces that you can treasure as a whole, which are collected, gather and saved. Before long you can gather much from your labor and efforts if you are patient and persistent to commit yourself to the gathering of the many small bits and pieces that you come across. But if you focus on the bulk of your efforts and consider it as meaningless and filled with nothingness, the work you've spent sorting through the dirt and silt will allow you too to be washed away in the currents of time as your sorrows and despair will be compounded and come rushing down over you. So don't fail to notice the real treasures that were meant for you to find! To gain any profit and to be successful, you have to be vigilant to keep your eyes focused and watch for the greater valued gold that is washed through your pan and not let them pass you by being washed away with the rest of the dirt and debris.
Now don't be confused, this blog is not about the gold that we can hold in our hands but the valuable opportunities that we have in each moment to catch a glimmer of life's treasures that we can experience in relationships and interactions with one another if we choose to seek and find them in the many moments of our lives. A smile, a simple encouragement, a laugh, a reassuring pat on the back, a thank you, a small gift of kindness, the holding open of a door, the picked up something you dropped, the assistance of instruction when you are confused or the wink of an admirer. The luxuries that we take for granted, the selection of foods we have in a store, the peace of living in a free land, the assurance and peace that comes from living in a civilized world, the modern miracle of medical, dental and optic care, running water in your home, interior plumbing, heating and cooling and on and on. When you count every flake of what you do have, like the conveniences of this life, the pleasures and opportunities that you have each day and the people that you interact with, and if you choose to develop the habit of seeing the good instead of the bad and find that being able to sort through your struggles to find the solutions to resolve each challenge you are presented, you will find that you are truly rich beyond belief.
But if you choose to focus on troubles, on what you do not have, on what others have that you wish were yours, the abilities that you do not have, the things you've done wrong, the life that has been wasted, the future that you find hard to believe will ever come, the opportunities that you have passed up, the money that has been wasted, the things that you have lost and all of the negative things that happen in life, you will find yourself being swept away in the unstoppable currents of life.
Receive peace, create joy, experience happiness, bath in healthy fellowship, wash yourself and others in forgiveness, be a fountain of mercy, search for goodness, grab hold of God's grace, believe in charity and become a river of life!
So I leave you with this one simple question to contemplate: How much gold do you have?
Friday, April 26, 2013
These are 2 very important questions that I continually ask myself. And why are they so important? It is because I have come to realize some very important truths about life.
When we focus on something, the things in the background are blurred and we cannot see much more than what we are focused on!
Can you tell what is in the picture behind the rose? Everything but the rose is blurred because it is not focused on at the same time! This same kind of thing happens in many other aspects of life. When we focus on positive aspects of something, the negative aspects are blurred in the background of your mind. It's not that they don't exist, it's just that they are not present within the rage of focus while we set your mind on the positive things.
While we fight the battle of going from one lifestyle to another, we must transition our vision from what was normal and okay to a new and better normal as well as the things that are more than just okay. Just as when focusing on something where the things that are behind are not focused on, while we move forward toward our new futures, looking backwards affects our ability to stay focused. This is normal but we must force ourselves to stay focused forward so that we are not caused to sway off course. It is always easier to hit the target that you focus on because all of the distractions are no longer in view.
So how do we use this to our benefit as we seek to set and accomplish our goals? Our goals are our BIG MAJOR TARGET which we must break down to many smaller goals and targets that we must hit in order to get us to our final goal.
If we focus on that same old cake and ice cream we used to eat just as we have always done, we stay where we are because we can't go where we are not focused on going. Our healthy choices are blurred in the background and it makes it very hard to move towards our goals.
If we focus on our healthy choices, that same old cake and ice cream gets a healthy makeover because of our focus. The type of cake may change, or the amount will change or we won't even see the cake as an option. The same happens for the ice cream.
If we make an active decision to avert our focus from what we have been doing to what we would rather be doing in the new future that we want for ourselves, we actually equip ourselves by doing that small first step. We may still make mistakes but as we recognize them and make adjustments, we start moving in the direction that we want to go. If we focus on fitting into a pair of old jeans, how will that affect our decision on what we eat? It won't! It will blur our goal and push our good choices into the back ground blur that we are hoping will affect our decisions keeping us from making the good choices that we want to make. If it is not in our view, how can it affect our focus? A photographer cannot take a picture of something that he doesn't bring into the view finder!
A sharp shooter can't hit the target that he isn't focused on. A person wanting to improve their health can't do the individual things that are necessary to achieve their objectives, unless they focus on each of the pieces that will take them to that final, "Big Picture Destination."
So if we see each piece of the puzzle and determine which piece is the right piece to place in our focus at the right time, we can move ever more steadily and directly toward our goals.
What is for breakfast and will it take us further or closer to our goals? What's in the pantry and the fridge and what should be in them? What kind of exercise am I getting and what kind should I be getting? What are the negative things that I am focused on and what positive things should I be focused on? What type of words and phrases come out of my mouth and what should they be to take me to my destination? What kind of visual influences do I allow myself to be exposed to and will they help me reach my goals? What words are my ears continually bombarded with and are they words that positively influence and guide me or are they distracting and negative? As we focus on and answer each of these questions, we are given the opportunity and are empowered to take active steps to alter our actions and our surroundings which will help take us to where we want to be.
Each of these questions and many more help us to decide on the many smaller goals we set for ourselves. If we ignore these truths and fail to take hold of the control that we are given to stay focused on our objectives, we are doomed to slip and fail while remaining stagnant or even moving backwards away from our goals! You have a destination and where you go has a lot to do with what you are focused on and where you want to go!
Friday, April 19, 2013
Many of us have a basic need to be in control! Many people don't want to be in subjection to someone else's watchful eye or judgmental regulations! This type of life is stressful especially when we fail and are subjected to the wrath or consequences of our failing to measure up to those other peoples standards.
There a few factors that can affect or minimize the affect that external stress factors have on us! The first best step is our personal response to the external factors in our life. How do we deal with the things we can't change so that there is change that removes the burdens that weigh us down. Our perspective on how we analyze our position in each circumstance is something that is in our control. Some people see themselves as victims and others will not be victims. Some see the circumstances that they encounter as inevitable recourse of failed actions or inactions while still others don't correlate circumstances with their actions.
The truth is that allowing ourselves to feel like a victim disables our ability to accept the opportunity to take control. Where as regardless of the reason, what we do from the point of realizing our situation is what will make the difference. How will we react to give us the best outcome should be our first best focus.
So what does all this have to do with living within the strictest set of rules and really living? When we are in charge of our own responses, we get to choose our stress levels and affecting any consequences that might come back at us. Are we the ones setting the consequences, are the consequences inherent to nature or physics or are the consequences dictated by governing bodies and groups that we are under submission to? Then according to each of these, how can we improve our perspectives to minimize stress and control our actions.
If we are the controlling force of our consequences, we get to choose whether we fail our selves and our goals as well as what we will do if we do fail. We also get to choose if we call it a failure or deem it a tolerable change in allowing ourselves to abide within our own restrictions.
When we understand that something is a law of physics or nature, it is easy to realize that we have to come into alignment with those ideas or things and that our first best action is to accept them and abide within them willingly. If we don't, trying to walk through a burning building might have some consequences that we'd rather not want to deal with.
When it comes to rules, regulations and laws, many people feel that it is easier to live in line with them to avert negative affects that come from failing to do so. But then there are those that just feel that not getting caught is the best recourse. Which ever philosophy one lives under is up to them. When you receive a ticket or get kicked out of an organized group for failing to abide by the rules is the price for the failure and that will be the circumstance that is given for those who don't meet the standards.
So what choice do we have to be able to really live? One option is to willingly and wantonly to learn to conform and abide within the restrictions that exist! This allows us not to stress about being in the situation we are in but puts us in the place and power to start taking control and moving toward productively doing what it is that we have decided for ourselves to take the best actions to live by. The other option is to let go and realize the consequences that will abound and then accept them when they come!
So when does the stress go away? When our lifestyle matches what we chose for ourselves! When we are no longer victims but take control of our destiny. When we decide that that is the way things work and it becomes our choice to accept it. When we have reached our goals and are holding the prize which is self-control and a new found peace. There will always be troubles in this world. What you decide to do in response will be what decides whether you survive, exist or live!
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