Monday, August 16, 2010
I've blogged recently about how home cooked meals changed my life. Instead of dining out for most of my meals, I eat in. This has saved me a tremendous amount of calories and money over time.
How do I do this while holding down a full time job, time with the fiance, and time for myself?
Believe me, I know how exhausting the grind can be. There are many, many times when I come home and I just don't feel like cooking.
Actually, I find most of my 'don't feel like cooking' excuses means 'I don't want to put forth the effort of coming up with a menu, chopping, sauteing and dishes'. So I need to remove these barriers, mainly choosing the weekly menu and the prep time. I find if I already have onions and bell peppers chopped for the pan, I'm more likely to be motivated to cook.
Everything about time management in the kitchen I learned from my mom. She worked a full time, manual labor job while I was growing up, and still was able to put a home cooked meal on the table for my dad and I every night. If anyone should have been 'too tired to cook', it was her. So how did she do it?
It's really, really simple. She prepared ahead of time. On her days off, she prepared big batches of marinated meat. She chopped all veggies and put them in bowls to be stored in the fridge.
On work days, she started the rice cooker before she left for work in the morning so rice was ready when she got home. When she got home, she threw the marinated meat in a pan. She put veggies in a salad bowl, scoop of rice on the plate and voila! We had dinner for the family in less than 30 minutes.
One day a week she came home with a box of Popeye's chicken or a pizza. 90% of our meals were home cooked, though, and I was skinny-fit back then.
Mom knows best after all. Sundays are my "Martha Stewart" days. I marinate meats, chop onions, bell peppers, carrots, celery and other veggies for the week and put them in containers. When work day is done, meat goes in frying pan, and veggies on a plate. Mom didn't use a dishwasher, but I do. Dirty dishes go in, set timer on dishwasher to run while we sleep. Put dishes away in the morning. One day a week, we'll go out for a restaurant meal or pizza.
Easy, easy, easy.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Ok, I've never lived in a place where roaches are commonplace. I grew up in Colorado, and lived in Seattle for about 6 years. Roaches like warm, wet places. Colorado satisfies neither of those requirements. Seattle satisfies only one - wet. While roaches live everywhere, you have to live in extreme squalor in order to have a roach problem in either places.
I guess it ain't so here in the south.
So this morning I was washing my hands in the bathroom sink after gardening. I saw something move out of the corner of my eye near the drain plug. Then I saw antenaes and a head. I thought, "Ugh, there's a beetle in my sink." This long, slinky brown thing crawled its way out, fighting against the current of the water faucet.
Then it hit me.
I turned the faucet on as high as it would go, but to no avail. It wasn't strong enough to flush the alien down the drain. I freaked out, looking for something to pick it up and toss it into the toilet with. I grabbed some toilet paper and threw it over the top of the monster.
IT CRAWLED THROUGH THE TOILET PAPER AND WAS TRYING TO USE IT AS A LIFERAFT!
Ack ack ack!!
I threw even more toilet paper over it. By this time, the TP was no good for picking up and tossing in the toilet - it was wet and disintegrated. I grabbed an old wooden spoon from the kitchen, picked up the huge wad of tp and roach, and chucked it in the toilet. I saw it in the toilet, swirling down the hole, so I know it didn't escape. I flushed 3 times.
I know roaches are common down here, and even the cleanest house can have unwanted guests, but I couldn't help but feel like a housekeeping failure. I mean, in Colorado you'd have to have a pile of pizza boxes months old to have a roach problem. My apartment probably wouldn't pass a white glove test, but I keep it neat and clean. I don't leave dirty dishes at the side of the sink. I vacuum several times a week due to my cat's asthma. I thought I had a pretty clean living space!
I grabbed bleach and a vacuum, and cleaned everything. Then I closed the stopper on all the sinks.
I washed my dishes tonight, and ran the garbage disposal an extra long time. Then turned it back on again, just to be sure.
I brushed my teeth and stared at the sink drain suspiciously. I filled the basin full with water before opening the drain.
And now I'm getting ready for bed, huddled in my blankie. I wonder if I should leave the lights on like a little kid, scaring off the monsters in case they are under the bed.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
"If you really want something, and really work hard, and take advantage of opportunities, and never give up, you will find a way." - Jane Goodall
A long time ago, I used to think it cost more to eat in, than eat out. I also thought I was "too busy" and "didn't have time" to cook. I ate out at almost every meal.
A typical day's meal comprised of:
Breakfast at McDonalds:
Sausage McMuffin, Hash Brown and OJ
Mexican Restaurant Burrito with Regular Coke
Olive Garden salad and spaghetti with glass of wine
Approximately $40/2600 calories per day. Or $280/18,200 calories per week
I ate this, or something like it, every day. I honestly thought I was getting better value eating out than cooking in. I also thought that I was gaining weight because of 'slow metabolism'. In other words, I was fooling myself.
I ended up with credit card debt and a size 14 pants to show for it. At my heaviest, I was 160 lbs on my 5'0" frame.
Since changing my lifestyle, I typically spend $100 per week on groceries on two people. If I really had to stretch, I could spend less than that.
When I was overspending on restaurant meals, I had a nice paying job right out college. I didn't really know how to cook at the time, so it was easier to just pop into an Applebee's after work than fumble around in the kitchen.
When I moved to Seattle after the tech crash, I took a significant paycut on my new job. I also had all that leftover credit card debt when I spent like money was always going to be there. This meant I had to live more frugally.
I joined ediets.com to learn how to prepare a healthy meal. (I quit when I later found Spark.) I learned to cook watching "30 Minute Meals", "Good Eats", and "Emeril Live" on the Food Network. I bought a set of high quality pans and knives.
At grocery stores, I loaded up on veggies and ate smaller portions of meat. Iceberg lettuce isn't my personal favorite variety, but a head costs $0.49 and I typically get 4-6 salad meals out of it. I bought a whole chicken, which cost $0.89 per pound, and learned how to cut it up with my new knives watching video on Martha Stewart's website. I learned to make chicken stock with the bones, which made a fabulous, low cost flavoring base to rice, soups, or anything where water is used. I took a sack lunch to work instead of eating fast food.
I learned to make 'steakhouse' steaks at home for a weekly treat. Steak is obviously the most expensive component. Even if you buy a pound of hormone free, free range, grass fed ribeye for $12/lb at Whole Foods, but eat only 1/4 of it, that's $3 per meal for 4 meals. After adding mashed potatoes, green beans and a glass of wine, my homemade organic veggie, grass fed steak dinner cost $8.00. A significantly inferior quality of steak dinner at Applebee's costs $12, not including tip. The main trick was, I needed to learn how to cook it. Thanks to Rachel Ray, I learned to not only cook it, but make it all start to finish in about 30 minutes.
Ok, it usually takes me about 45 minutes - I'm not as fast as Rachel chopping!
The result of this? I lost 30 lbs and paid off my credit card debt completely.
I'm still doing this today. Yes, I eat an occasional restaurant meal out. It is a treat, not a daily occurrence. I find I appreciate it more. It's something I look forward to.
The result? 6 years later, I've never rebounded back to 160lbs. My credit cards are still paid off. There's nothing that I miss about my old life. The new me is worth every sweat and tear I shed to make it happen.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
In my last blog post, I said this:
"The truth is, we are eating too much fat and carbs. We are also eating too much protein, sugars, and salt. The western diet is too much of EVERYTHING."
Except veggies and fruit.
Why is this?
As western agriculture shifted from local farms to food trucked in from elsewhere, produce suffered the most in terms of taste and nutrition. Have you ever had a fresh, watery, warm, sweet, plum plucked fresh from the tree? Have you ever eaten a salad made with lettuce that was just pulled from the ground that morning? Have you ever eaten a potato that tastes bright and earthy because it WAS the earth that day?
When I lived in Washington state, I did all those things. I went to a local farm and picked lettuce, carrots, potatoes, apples, blueberries, raspberries, squashes and more myself. No trucks, no preservatives. Just food from the earth. And it was marvelous.
Now I live in Georgia, everything is brought in trucks. Fruit and veg taste bland. No water, no flavor in them. They are texture only. So I'm a lot more limited in my choices. Melons are my fruit of choice because they remain sweet and juicy in transport. I grow my own tomatoes, because store bought just won't do. Lettuce isn't horrible, but it isn't as 'bright' and crisp as when pulled from the ground. It tastes more bitter, which requires more seasoning to mask. I'm working on adding a lettuce garden now that the weather is cooling (lettuce does not like strong heat).
Transporting fruit and veg leads to greater variety, even in off-seasons. Yet, if people don't want to eat them, is the variety worth it?
I still eat more fruit and veg than the average American. I can only nod sadly when I hear people say, "I hate vegetables! I hate fruit!" I admit it is harder to chew when it tastes so lifeless. I probably use more salad dressing than when I ate farm fresh produce in WA. I have to be a lot more picky when chosing produce in the market, which is usually underripe or too ripe.
I don't hate veg and fruit. I'm a nerd - I LOVE veg and fruit. So I just sigh sadly when I eat my salads, reflecting nostalgically on how good it SHOULD be.
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