Long Run and Kitchen Issues

I haven’t run a race ALL year – first, I had to cancel my plans to run a 10 mile race to go visit my ill grandfather (don’t worry, he’s back to 100%); then, I cancelled my plans to run the same half marathon I ran last June because Kris and I were going to do one of the bike tours instead, but for some reason that I can’t remember right now, we didn’t; then, I was just going to do a short 5K…and then found out we were planning to be out of town AGAIN (to see Kris’s extended family for the 1st time in a year). So now, I’m planning to run a half marathon in October, but obviously I am not in my peak running condition, here. I’m back to using Hal Higdon’s Novice II plan to train (what I used the very first time I ran a half).

Yesterday, I woke up excited to run my 6 miles. I saw the high was going to be in the low 70s and that it was supposed to be sporadically rainy, so I figured the weather would be great (cool and not too humid, and I could probably sneak in the run between rain showers). I must not have been stretching or something, though, because almost the entire time, something in my legs felt tight, and by the time everything went back to normal in terms of tightness, I was just sweaty and miserable. I ran at a 10:00 pace, which is TERRIBLE for 6 miles for me – despite my general slacking on running, I’ve been regularly running 7-9 miles for my long runs with 10:00 being my slowest pace pretty much all summer.

I’m sure it was just an artifact of postponing my Thursday run until Friday night after work, not stretching, and then going out again the next morning for my long run, but I still had one pretty major concern. When I first started out, my right ankle felt really tight. I’ve been having some minor issues with it since I wrecked my bike a few weeks ago (slipped on loose gravel and skinned my knee – the bike and I were well enough to bike 4 miles home), but I can’t decide whether I should go to the doctor or not. When I first wrecked the bike, I think I like smooshed the area (my lower tibia, right above my ankle) or something, because it hurt enough that I decided to take a whole week off running after the wreck. It seemed to get better, though – I had promised Kris I would go to the doctor if it didn’t start to improve after 2-3 days, and every day it did legitimately feel better. It was never swollen, and the only sign of injury was a small bruise that appeared out of nowhere 2 weeks later and only lasted a couple of days.

The issue, though, is that it still hurts if I touch it. It doesn’t hurt to walk or run on it – even yesterday, it didn’t hurt, it just felt like I needed to stretch it out –  and it never hurts badly, but if I poke the affected area, it is still a bit sensitive, even though it’s been nearly a month. It’s one of those things I do have mild concern about but I feel like it would be a giant pain in the ass to take off work, go to the doctor, have them refer me to another doctor, just for them to tell me that there is nothing wrong. Ok, maybe that isn’t the real reason – I have good insurance, and like, a week of sick time, so this is a really lame excuse, this wouldn’t even cost me any money or be that big of an inconvenience. I think I’m mostly afraid if I ask a doctor about it they will think I am silly for even considering there might be a problem. It’s probably something I just need to get over and go ask about (side note: this fear stems from a terrible doctor I had in high school who would dismiss all my medical concerns as fabricated and literally laughed at me on multiple occasions; I haven’t seen this man in like 10 years but it’s still a huge issue for me).

Now on to the kitchen issues. Lately, for some reason, I have been having MAJOR kitchen organization issues. My mom keeps buying me tons of Tupperware, and I myself keep buying new gadgets, and I do not have room for any of this shit in my teeny tiny kitchen with cupboards that have only one shelf. My solution had been to just pretty much leave things laying on the dining room table, but we were having a board game day with some friends yesterday and we weren’t sure whether we were going to their house or they were coming to ours, and I had to clean up this mess because apparently you need a table to play board games on. I ended up throwing things into random cupboards or putting them into the storage area we have on our enclosed back porch…yeah, right beside the lawnmower. Very sanitary. I have no idea how to fix this organization problem, either. There are no more cupboards and all the places I have to keep this stuff (the backporch and the basement) are not very sanitary or good for things like appliances because moisture can get in. I’ve been trying to hold off on buying a standalone pantry or something because we are probably going to move out of this place in like, less than a year, but trying to deal with this yesterday was incredibly frustrating. 

Now, on to a couple of more lighthearted kitchen issues. After my long run yesterday, I came home and decided to make homemade strombolis. Sorry for the lack of stromboli pictures; I was far too hungry to stop and take a picture of them before eating. A few weeks ago, I had bought a new “spice rack” for my kitchen. A key kitchen organization issue was that the area that the spices was in was taken over by other food, and the spices slowly migrated to the top of my microwave, where they were always getting knocked over by the cat (or, more likely, by me because I’m clumsy and the plates are in the cupboard right above the microwave). I decided to buy a small shelf I could hang on the wall over my stove, and found the perfect one at a yard sale for $2! 

Well, I hadn’t had any problems with it until yesterday when I made these strombolis. As far as I knew, the oven in my gas stove vents through the rear right burner. None of the burners are directly below this shelf, and cooking has not seemed to affect the spices, so I didn’t think baking would either. This morning I came down and noticed that the chili powder was falling over in the rack. I picked it up, and saw that it, and several other spices, were completely warped! Upon further examination, my oven has a vent directly below this rack, so when I was baking the strombolis it melted the spices. Luckily, this thing is just hung on a couple of nails and can easily be lifted off while baking, but I can’t believe I melted like half my spices!

The label even fell off!

One final kitchen organization problem. I promise, this really is the last! I also went grocery shopping yesterday (wow, now I am sounding like I was really productive!). I’m not sure if it was the peanut butter recall or what, but the peanut butter I normally buy (which is NOT on the recall) was LESS THAN HALF PRICE. Seriously, it $1.21. Kris encouraged me to be a rational person because we already had some at home, so I only bought two, but I still don’t really have enough room for all this peanut butter. Is there such a thing as too much peanut butter?

Note: this is where I used to keep the spices, if you were wondering why I ran out of room for them.



My Grocery Outlet Experience

I mentioned yesterday that I was planning to try out a grocery outlet store for the first time today, and I thought I’d share my experience looking for and purchasing relatively healthy foods there. The grocery outlet was a local chain so unless you live in Central/SE PA the name probably doesn’t matter, but I’m sure most of these outlets follow a similar model.

I will begin by saying that I have never actually shopped for myself at a grocery outlet before – my parents sometimes took me with them when I was a kid, but for some reason they were just never really on my radar. I was at a party a few weeks ago, though, and someone mentioned that she got an incredible deal on coffee at one, which inspired me to see if one was near my house. Today was a good day to go because we did not need any major groceries, so I figured that if I had to leave empty-handed it would not be a big deal. They unfortunately did not have the same spectacular coffee deal ($2.99 for 1 lb bags of Starbucks!) but overall it was a positive experience.

$43.11 for everything pictured!

Best Deals:

  • Facial cleansing wipes. Half the price for twice as many as I usually get.
  • Freschetta pizza. Half off the sale price at my normal grocery store.
  • The hot and spicy pickles! I have not been able to find these in a normal grocery store in months (don’t worry, they aren’t expired) and I used to pay $1.50 more for them.
  • Bananas were $.12/lb cheaper than my normal grocery store and in better shape.
  • The green tea (hidden in the back). This was priced at the typical sale price for half gallons, 3/$5 (I got a full gallon).

Just Ok Deals:

  • All that shredded cheese. It was actually a really good deal, but it was like 1/3 of the price. I will have to assess later whether stocking up on it was worth it.
  • Most of the other items (i.e. string cheese, oatmeal, crackers) were only $.50-$1 off. Still savings, but I’m sure I could get them at that price with a coupon.

Worst Deal:

  • The dried cranberries. The price wasn’t marked and I intended to ask the clerk how much they were but got distracted because the register would not ring up the makeup wipes and forgot to ask. They were $2.99 for 12 oz., which is probably MORE than I would pay for Craisins if they were on sale and the same price I would pay normally.

Weirdest/Grossest Finds (note: almost nothing I picked up was expired or in super bad shape – most of it was boxes that were a little crumpled, and NOTHING was wrong with the produce – I just didn’t need much).

  • Expired Feta 😦
  • Cream cheese that said nothing but “cream cheese” on it in English. I had no way of knowing if it was flavored, expired, or anything!

One final addition: The store had a fairly decent sized natural/organic section (where I found the syrup, actually) and stocked several vegetarian/vegan items, such as Earth Balance Mayo and multiple brands of veggie burgers. I don’t buy these things but they were impressively good deals if you do!

Food Friday

I know I haven’t been posting much lately. Honestly, I don’t feel like I’m doing anything noteworthy enough to post about.

I run 4 times a week and do a workout video 2 times a week. Sometimes the weather is cold and unpleasant – the wind slowed me by over 1 minute per mile when running into it the other day; sometimes the weather is better – a 60 degree day is in the 5 day forecast! At least my new March goals have been going reasonably well. I’m not doing perfectly, especially at the 80/20 rule (Good “Fastnacht Day”), but I have been more mindful, especially about getting my workouts in and not eating without purpose at work. I’ve also been getting “back into shape” (not that I was really ever out of shape) and have been blasting out 5Ks in under 30 minutes (now let’s just get that back down to under 25 minutes…).

Short post for this Friday – I didn’t really cook too much this week. Mostly we chowed down on homemade veggie burgers and pizza (from various sources). I did want to do a Food Friday post to share my first experience making Thai style curry, though! I made this recipe, sans pineapple, and it was really simple and turned out great! Next time I might add some red pepper flakes and/or sriracha, though – I love spicy food but wasn’t sure how spicy the curry paste would be, so I wanted to try it plain, first. Of course it wasn’t spicy enough for me (I used to eat homemade horseradish for fun as a child…).

I’ve been making an Indian style lentil curry like, every week because it’s super easy and cheap (it’s onions, carrots, potatoes, and lentils….I’m not sure you could make something cheaper). Kris has always had this weird dislike of Indian food, though. I swear he is the only person who finds it “bland.” Maybe he has the equivalent of being tone-deaf to curry powder or something? He is very picky about which Indian restaurants we go to and so it comes as no surprise to me that my  Indian cooking talents (read: dump in copious amounts of curry powder) do not match those of the nicest India restaurants in town. I asked him for an honest opinion of the Indian lentil curry and he responded with “why can’t you try peanut curry like we get at the Thai place?” I’d be interested in trying that out anyway – any excuse to eat more peanut butter – so I gave it a shot.

The downside: it resembles Hamburger Helper while cooking. To be fair, I kind of love the cheeseburger macaroni kind…

In addition to being easy to make and quite yummy, I would like to add that the coconut-peanut curry was an incredibly healthy and filling vegetarian dish. I split mine into four servings which came to about 400 calories each, following the recipe exactly (with the exception of excluding pineapple, which just sounded weird with it). That means that with a whole serving of rice, this was a 650 calorie dinner, which is pretty reasonable. It also had several servings of veggies in it (a whole cup of broccoli in each serving!), which is good for me because although I LOVE veggies I basically just forget to eat enough of them. There are only 13g of protein in this version, but if you wanted to I am sure you could add in some tofu in place of some mushrooms or just use chicken if you aren’t vegetarian, and if you added that protein you could probably stretch this out to 6 servings to reduce calories. There is also a reduced-calorie recipe available on the website that I linked.

Sorry I haven’t been making more exciting food choices lately. There might be some changes in my life soon (hopefully good ones) so maybe they will change up my food routine a bit 🙂 I do plan on trying out a local grocery outlet tomorrow, so maybe I can at least write a bit about my cheap grocery finds…or my horror at everything being out of date.

Happy Friday! My parting gift to you is a picture of Belle trying to sleep in Misty’s bed and a picture of Misty sleeping on anything but her bed. Note: she has never used her bed.

There is a dog-sized bed in this room.

The pillow in the upper-right hand corner says “not tonight” on the other side. That was an embarrassing bridal shower gift to receive from one of Kris’s aunts!


Is Healthy Eating Affordable?

This morning I woke up, sad that I was supposed to be starting training for the Capital 10 Mile race but that I wouldn’t be able to. A few weeks back, when it had been snowing really hard and I wanted to dream about being able to run outside, I had written up a “training plan.” Basically, I figured out when I would need to start actually working on it if I started with a long run of 5 miles per week then went up one mile per week on that long run until I reached 10 miles, and that week was this week. I figured I could fill in the details at a later date, and assumed the snow would be melted by now. Oops.

I wound up going for a 3 mile run today, though – 18 degree temperature and ice-covered sidewalks and all. I had a discussion with Kris this morning in which I told him to “stop being a baby” and realized that I have been being a “baby.” Not because I was not running in the ice, snow, and cold before – I had no real reason to put myself in that position – but because I was going to let that excuse get in the way of a goal. I was willing to accept that I just wouldn’t be able to run the 10 mile race because of the weather right now, and I’m surprised I was going to abandon that goal so readily just because I don’t have access to a treadmill right now. I will admit that I would much prefer it if I could afford to join a gym and workout in a nice warm and dry space right now, but there is no reason I have to do that. It may have been less pleasant, but after I put on my ice spikes for my running shoes, I really had no excuse, and I was able to go out there and complete my run, even if it was slow and uncomfortable (11 minutes per mile!).

Last night, I noticed a link on my Facebook wall to an article that is a couple of months old. I had heard about this article before, but had not really read it. In the article, the author argues that it is feasible to eat “healthy” for under $6 a day, which is apparently an amazing feat because a) eating healthy is supposed to be “expensive” and b) the average person spends more ($7 ) per day on food, making his option “cheap.”

When I first heard about the article, all I saw was a discussion on a forum somewhere about how someone had proved that it “only” cost $6 a day to eat healthy, which implied that everyone who thinks that is expensive is incorrect. I saw a lot of responses reminding the person who held that opinion that for a lot of people, $6/day person is actually quite expensive – after all, that is over $700 a month for a family of four – and did not investigate further. Last night, I actually went and read the article, though, and I now have a number of my own thoughts to add (sorry I am a bit late to the bandwagon).

  1. Disclaimer before I start: Kris and I spend close to the national average on food, including eating out, and I consider this doing quite well at saving money on food. I shop exclusively at one store because I like it more and not because it saves me money. I am obviously in a privileged position in regards to grocery shopping, and one should keep that in mind when considering my opinions. To be fair, that national average is only $1 per day higher than he prides himself on achieving, which I don’t think is significantly higher – at least not the point that you can declare it as evidence that healthy eating is cheap.
  2. That being said, I do not disagree with his original premise. I believe it is possible to eat healthy on a budget, and I believe he is correct that the misconception that healthy food is more expensive does come from misrepresentative statistics, like comparison of calories per dollar.
  3. I would like to add that I personally believe that some of the other discussions on this matter come from different poorly represented statistics. A lot of these comparisons also compare healthy meals cooked at home to fast food menu items as though one is inherently healthy and one is not. Setting aside for the moment the subjective nature of healthy, let us think about what would happen if we compared healthy and unhealthy meals of more similar types. Are grilled chicken value meals significantly more expensive than burger ones? How about a grilled chicken meal vs. a red meat and potatoes meal at home? If we stop comparing apples and oranges (to be fair, I think in this context they would be in the same category and be unable to be compared) I think the statistics would be less shocking.
  4. We also need to think about what is meant by the word “expensive.” In the article, this man spends less on his entire day’s food than some people might spend at McDonald’s (it is less than most value meals, and similar in price to a handful of value menu items). He also, however, spends $76 at the grocery store in order to do this, and does not  show evidence that he understands grocery budgeting in this trip. He buys ingredients only with these 3 meals and 2 snacks in mind. I bought twice as many items at the store last time I went for the same approximate price, including $20 I spent on paper products! To be fair, he buys enough to  make his omelets and parts of his sandwiches for a couple of days, but he is going to quickly run out of snacks, parts of his sandwich, and sides for his chicken. He did not meal plan at all, and in order to eat a second day, he is going to need to return to the store. He also doesn’t discuss trying to shop sales/seasonal items or buying certain produce in bulk to save money (it is way more expensive to buy one apple or potato  than to buy a whole bag on a per item basis). Even if he had done proper meal planning and sale-shopping, it is important to remember that spending that much in one trip might not be possible for someone with small paychecks, making it impossible for them to “stock up” and reap the benefits of lower long term cost. To that person, it might seem better to grab a couple of $1 items at a fast food place here and there; to grab some hamburger helper and a pound of beef to last 1-2 meals; to subsist on ramen once the money runs out altogether.
  5. One thing no one is discussing is what this man’s actual diet consists of. As I previously mentioned, “healthy” is subjective, but I would say that most people include “eating enough calories to sustain oneself” in their definition. If you tally up the calories that this man ate – despite his claims that he is a large man, and therefore he couldn’t possibly be skimping on calories – it is roughly 1600-1700. A man his size probably needs 500-1000 more calories a day, depending on age, activity level, etc. To put this in perspective, I am 10 inches shorter than him and weigh 70-75 lbs less and I eat more than he did on a daily basis. Unless his goal is weight loss, he is going to need to eat more. On average, I eat 20% more than this per day (roughly). If we assume that 20% more eating equals 20% more spending (a bit of a jump, I admit), his spending would come far closer to the national average, making his “accomplishment” seem far less amazing.
  6. I would like to end by pointing out that there are a number of issues that I have not touched on that others have brought up in the past, and I largely did not bring them up because others have discussed them at length – I wanted to contribute to the discussion, not beat a dead horse. I will briefly state, though, that I agree that many articles like his dismiss the issues that many of the poor who fail to eat healthy face, like not having enough time to cook and clean up dishes after working long hours, or difficulty getting to far away grocery stores without a car (or even if they have a car, money for gas).


Guess what I did today?

I went for a run! Outside!

I was super slow, but please keep in mind that most of the park was still covered in snow; I have a sore, stuffy nose; I haven’t run in like 2-3 weeks; and I am still sore because Jillian Michaels is tough. I’ll take finishing a 5K at any pace, right now. Keep in mind that I am about as graceful as a dog in snowboots in the snow:

It was actually quite funny – I used to chicken out if the weather was less than 20 degrees, unless it was REALLY sunny or I had a friend going with me and I didn’t want to seem like a chicken. Today, it eventually got up to 20 degrees, but it was still only 13 when I left my house and I was excited, if only because the “feels like” temp was also 13 degrees instead of like, -4. When I got to the park and was waiting for my GPS watch to find satellites, a man (side note: he had the prettiest dog ever – a brown cocker spaniel; when I was a kid we had several of these dogs so they will always hold a place in my heart) actually had a conversation with me about what a beautiful day we were having. Before this winter I couldn’t imagine a conversation about 15 degree weather involving the word “beautiful.”

The other good news? Here is the weather forecast for the next 5 days:

No terrifying snowstorms or polar vortexes in the forecast; most of the snow and ice might even melt when the temps get up into the 40s, there. I am really looking forward to being able to get out there and run. Last January I was able to squeak in 9 runs and I wasn’t even really trying or training for anything; I even spent about a week doing almost no workouts because I was out of town for a funeral. This year, I’ve done a grand total of 5 runs because of the weather, and will only get up to 6 if I run tomorrow. If I want to run as many miles as I did last year I’m really going to have to work hard in the coming months!

In other news, today was in general a busy day! I got up, took Kris to work, then came home to walk Belle and go for a run. Then I went back to meet up with Kris for lunch at a local place called Neato Burrito (this lunch will be featured more heavily in Food Friday tomorrow). This took forever because Kris was in a meeting and got let out for his lunch break late.

Then I had to go to the grocery store because we were basically out of food and alcohol and I needed to pick up some medicine. The grocery store took over an hour and I spent about a billion dollars. I feel like using coupons is costing me more money – since I started using them, I’ve been spending substantially more. However, I only bought one thing (nuts) that I would not have otherwise purchased without a coupon, so I don’t know. Using coupons also takes forever; I have to find them, print them, remember them, then stand awkwardly in the store trying to find the right one. I’ll experiment a few more times and see what happens. It could also be that I’m trying a lot of new recipes that require ingredients that I don’t have around and I forget to grab the first time through the store because I’m not used to them. It could also be that we are just eating out a lot less and therefore still saving money even if we are spending more at the store (other than when we went to Indiana, we haven’t spend much more than $20 eating out 1-2 times per week; we usually do that a couple times plus like one $40-50 meal out because we are obviously very frugal people /s).

After my over an hour long adventure at the grocery store (I also had to get beer, which is a completely separate process in our lovely state, and I had to get gas points loaded on my card from the store card from a time I forgot my card), I basically came home for like 45 minutes and, after putting all the food away, screwed around until it was time to pick up Kris. Fun story about this, though: the stray cat I posted about the other day has been coming around more (we think the neighbors stopped feeding it), and we have been feeding it Belle’s food in an old dish on the porch. I decided to buy the poor thing some real cat food (will save us money because Belle eats pricey food), and when I got home I saw the cat sitting near our porch. I told her I had a present and got the bag of cat food out of the car. She jumped all the way over our stairs and onto our porch in one leap and sat right by her bowl! I wish I had a picture, because it was super cute. When I finally went to pick Kris up, he was in a meeting again, and I had to wait like 20 minutes for him again. I’d be mad if I hadn’t paid so many tax dollars for him to be sitting in there :p At least we finally made it home where I made some delicious eats that I will further discuss tomorrow and got to relax with some beers while watching the IT Crowd.