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!

 

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Food Friday

I hope everyone is having a good Valentine’s Day! Kris and I will be spending it the way we usually do – apart! I have to work for like 9 or 10 hours today so he will have to chill out alone most of the evening until I get home. At least we won’t be in separate states for it this year 🙂

We usually don’t exchange gifts, but figured that since we would actually be in the same city that we should go out for a date. We ended up going out on Tuesday night because Kris had Warhammer on Wednesday, the giant snowstorm occurred yesterday, and I have to work today, tomorrow, and Sunday!

For our date we went to a local restaurant that Kris went to for a former coworker’s retirement party. I really enjoyed it. One of the reasons we went there was that it was BYOB I’ve never been to a BYOB place before and I must say it was nice to enjoy wine for both of us for only $11! I’m always really awkward at drinking wine in restaurants, though, because I don’t know any etiquette (this was most embarrassing when we got wine at a really nice place in NYC and the server wanted us to sniff and taste the wine first and we were just kind of like “well, it doesn’t seem terrible, so we’re cool”).

I really enjoyed the food at this place, too. sorry I didn’t take any pictures – the atmosphere didn’t seem right for me to be snapping tons of smartphone photos (we were in a room of maybe 8 tables). We shared the best spanakopita I’ve ever had as an appetizer (spinach-feta phyllo pastries – they are a mediocre generic app at a lot of places, not here); for my entree I had fried ravioli with spinach in a creamy sauce, one of their many vegetarian options (they were a bit more crunchy than I expected, though); and we shared an amazing piece of tiramisu for dessert! I love chocolate but tiramisu is always one of my favorites. The place was a little more pricey but I didn’t feel like it was overpriced because of the quality of the food, which is rare because I can be a super cheap person.


I tried a ton of new things for Food Friday this week!

I’ll start with Sunday, when I actually had enough energy to take crappy smartphone photos of what I was making. I tried a second recipe from Budget Bytes – “Italian Wonderpot.

I don’t think I significantly changed anything about this recipe. It turned out really well and the serving sizes were larger than I was imagining on the basis of the photo that she showed. I’d probably use a bit more seasonings next time, though, as it wasn’t quite as flavorful by the time I got around to eating it as I thought it would be from the smells while cooking! Kris really enjoyed it as well, and it was VERY low in calories (about 350 per serving), so I am sure I will be making it again.

Everything I used to whip this together.

In the pan…I included this because it looks so much less appetizing than the photo on her site, especially with all that shimmery olive oil!

The finished product!

The rest of the week we basically ate this for leftovers, until Thursday, when we were stuck at home all day and decided to do nothing but eat. Seriously – we started out the day with cinnamon rolls, snacked on apples and peanut butter, and I tried new recipes for lunch AND dinner. I’m really glad it doesn’t normally snow this much! Unfortunately I was not as diligent with snapping photos of these, so you will just have to rely on my descriptions.

When I went home for Christmas, my grandpa had given me some canned salmon for some inexplicable reason. Well, perhaps it was that he had no idea what to do with it, because neither did I. I Googled “recipes with canned salmon” and came across a list of 50 things to do with it. The first thing on the list sounded easy enough so that is what we had for lunch. It was…ok. I was really grossed out by the canned salmon -it was like slimy looking and there was a lot of skin I had to peel off –  and sort of lost my appetite. I would have been happier just with the eggs, potatoes and vegetables, I think, but I made it with the intent of using the salmon so I made myself eat it. To be fair, this was “smoked salmon,” and it had like maple syrup and brown sugar in it or something, so perhaps that is why it was slimy looking. I have plain canned salmon and I’ll give it another chance with one of the other recipes later.

For dinner, I was inspired by this recipe for black bean-quinoa enchiladas. The added bonus of this recipe was that I got to give crockpot beans another attempt to make black beans and it went quite successfully. My freezer is now full of beans! I wanted actual enchiladas rather than a casserole, so I I halved the recipe and cooked it up in some tortillas. The only other major change I made to this recipe was that I used canned green chiles instead of bother to chop up a jalapeno, because the jalapenos at my grocery store are generally overpriced and low quality. I really enjoyed these, though I thought the calorie count was a little high (my fault for using tortillas) and Kris must have really liked them because he ate like half of the pan – there went my plan for leftovers! I still think I personally prefer the butternut squash ones I made before, though.

 

 

 

Stair Workout and Food Friday

The outside world is still covered in ice, so I have been spending the day inside again. I tried to mix up my workout a bit by incorporating a “15 Minutes and You’re Done” workout from Real Simple magazine. Kris and I jokingly refer to this magazine as my “housewife magazine” because it is most certainly targeting that audience and sometimes I find the content quite baffling. I don’t actually subscribe to any other magazines, so it might seem weird that I do this one, which doesn’t seem to match up with many of my tastes. I won a subscription to it about 2 years ago, though, and I really do like a lot of the content (makeup, cleaning, and cooking tips, typically), so I kept it. Also I’m not really sure how to cancel the subscription.

I was hoping I could link to the workout on their website, but it doesn’t seem to be up yet. Therefore, you will just have to settle with my (inadequate) description. The workout makes use of your stairs to incorporate both strength and cardio moves and despite its name, took me about 10 minutes. I did this workout 3 times and then added in 10 additional minutes of circuit-training style workouts in order to get in 40 minutes of exercise and burn about 300 calories today. I found the workout surprisingly intense – I was sweating more after this than after my Jillian Michaels* video I did yesterday. Here are the steps to the (10-minute) workout:

  • Walk up and down the stairs 4 times. Focus on stepping down on your heel to work your glutes.
  • Run up and (walk) down the stairs 4 times, again focusing on the glutes.
  • Stand with one leg on the 2nd step up and do a step up. When you come back down, bring the leg from the 2nd step behind you and go into a lunge. Do 1 dozen of these for each leg.
  • Sit on the edge of the second step with your legs out straight and your arms behind you on the third step in order to do tricep dips. Do 2 sets of 10 and run up the stairs between sets.
  • Do “skaters” up the stairs. Basically go up the stairs 2 at a time swinging your legs out to the edge of the stair. Do 2 sets.
  • Get in a plank position with your hands on the second step up. Do 1 dozen mountain climbers.

Fun fact: doing the mountain climbers reminded me that I could use the stairs to do incline pushups instead of knee pushups. I really struggle with pushups – it is hard to move from knees to full military style! The incline pushups are a nice challenge for me in between these difficulty levels.


Food Friday is going to be relatively boring today. I have worked every evening this week so I didn’t really make very much food! I did, however, try two things for the first time today:

Both of these experiments went rather well!

I have been using beans a lot lately and I know that using dried beans instead of canned saves a lot of money, but I hate hate hate cooking beans. I almost always forget to stir them and they will cook off all of the water and burn sometimes. Using the crockpot took WAY longer, but was so much more convenient because I could just forget about them (until the last couple hours when I needed to go check on them to see if they were done). I separated my pound of beans (chickpeas/garbanzos) out into 4 containers – 1 for the hummus, and 3 for the freezer. This means that for $1.25 I got the equivalent of 4 cans of beans! I bet I could get them even cheaper if I am able to find bulk dried beans rather than 1 pound packages.

The equivalent of one can of beans in each container. I just got dirt cheap containers for this purpose so my Tupperware isn’t always tied up in the freezer.

Covered in bean liquid for freezing.

The hummus is something I’ve been thinking about making for a long time, but I’ve been avoiding it because tahini = $$$. The recipe I saw was on budget bytes, though, which is a blog about how to make cheap awesome food, which helped to convince me that making it myself would actually be cheaper. After buying all of the ingredients I am guessing that even if it is not cheaper it will at least not be more expensive – the priciest thing I had to buy was the tahini, and to be fair it was only $6.50 and will make like a million things of hummus. Hummus runs about $3-5 per tub at my store and we tend to go through about 2 things of it per week so I am thinking that even if this isn’t cheaper it will be more convenient to just always have the ingredients to make more laying around.

Blurry ingredient pic so that you can get an idea of what I used to make this.

Actually making the hummus was incredibly simple. Basically all you do is put all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and mix until it’s nice and smooth. Mine did turn out a little bit runny but I think I know why that occurred. My tahini had not yet been stirred up yet so it was very oily (like natural peanut butter before you stir it). The recipe also called for 1/4 cup of lemon juice, which seemed like a lot, and I was right – the hummus is WAY more lemony than I would want. I think next time I will use only a tablespoon of lemon juice and adjust from there. I will also try blending the ingredients before adding any water to see if it is even needed (the recipe said to start with 1/4 cup and go from there). I might also add more roasted red pepper, but that wouldn’t change much of the consistency – more the flavor. I would say that I am happy with how it turned out, though, and I definitely plan on doing this again!

The hummus, sprinkled with paprika!

Hopefully I’ll have more food to talk about next week. I have a 10 hour shift tomorrow so I should be able to continue my protein bar experiment. I am also planning on trying a new recipe on Sunday. If I don’t get a chance to write again over the weekend, have a nice weekend everyone!

* Something that I feel needs mentioning. I don’t watch the Biggest Loser, so I will let others out there who do be the voices heard concerning the controversy surrounding the winner. I will limit my comments to saying that I find it very sad not only that the show allowed this to occur, but also that they encouraged it (by having her be the winner). I also find it sad that the show probably did this because this is what society values – even if she is predominately facing a negative reaction now that she is underweight, she became that way and the show encouraged her to become that way at least in part because of the value that society places on being thin.

Food Friday

Time for Food Friday again! This week started out pretty boring – Kris and I were sick so we were pretty much just eating canned soup and orange juice (more out of being lazy and cold than anything). I also had to work at night on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, so I didn’t really make any dinners those nights. I ate something small (like a granola bar or a can of soup) before work and a peanut butter sandwich when I got home. How appetizing!

On Thursday, we were basically running out of food, and after packing an incredibly pathetic lunch for him, Kris and I decided it might be best to go out to lunch. We settled on Neato Burrito, which is basically a local Chipotle clone (if Chipotle was run by even bigger hipsters). One nice feature they have over Chipotle is that they offer a special salsa every day in addition to regular mild/green/hot offerings and have multiple wrap flavors, making it possible to have a “burrito of the day.” Yesterday the burrito was a Pad Thai inspired creation. I decided to try it even though I could have eaten vegetarian there very easily because it sounded fairly unique – chicken, black beans, brown rice…and banana-cashew salsa on whole wheat. I was intrigued. The only thing I didn’t really like was that in true burrito fashion, all of the cashew nut sauce ended up on one end and all of the banana bits at the other. The salsa really was great, though, and I am sad that I can’t seem to find a recipe for something similar online – I guess I’ll just have to keep looking! Sorry for the lack of a picture – being a burrito, it was not very good looking.

Then, for dinner, I attempted to make curry for the first time using this recipe. I chose this recipe because I had a bunch of lentils and chili powder left over from the lentil-quinoa chili, and I thought it turned out great and it was really simple to make. Note: I would agree with the comments on the recipe that you need to add extra curry powder and garlic. I more than doubled what it called for and it was quite spicy (which I enjoyed). I served it over brown rice with whole wheat naan and it was delicious and low calorie, coming in at 540 calories for one serving of curry, rice, and half a piece of naan. Side note: the naan selection at my grocery store is dreadful and expensive. Again, I didn’t take a picture because it looked disgusting, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. I rounded out the day by making some chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. Nothing fancy, just the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag, but they really hit the spot!

Now, on to today, which includes pictures!

Yesterday when I was at the store, I went to grab a couple of Larabar Alt bars. I really like having filling protein bars around now that I have such weird work schedules – they are perfect if I have to go in for a shift that has a meal time right in the middle so that I can feel full the whole time without eating 2 dinners. Clif bars used to be my go to favorite, but Larabar Alt has just as much protein with fewer calories and I would argue tastes about as good. I still buy Clif bars sometimes because there are more flavors available, though. Anyway, when I went to grab the Larabars, I noticed something new – Luna “protein” bars. I have never tried Luna bars before because I see no point in them – they are Clif bars “for women.” To be fair, they have extra vitamins in them or something like that, but I feared they would be lacking elsewhere in order to make them lower calorie because that is obviously all women desire in their food. These bars apparently have like 14g of protein in 190ish calories, though – whoa! In comparison, Clif and Larabar Alt have about 9-11g. I decided to do an experiment where I compare Larabar Alt; regular Luna (which I’ve never tried, but it’s protein content is equal ); and Luna Protein bars to each other by eating them before long shifts and seeing how hungry I get.

The bars in question:

Luna Protein bars (12-14g?): both available flavors, chocolate peanut butter and cookie dough; Regular Luna (10g?) in white chocolate macadamia nut (it was on an endcap); Larabar Alt (10g?) in peanut butter cookie (favorite bar ever)

Today, I tried the plain Luna bar. I must say it did it’s job – I ate it at 9:45ish for a 10 am – 2 pm shift, where I wound up staying until 4. I started feeling hungry around 2 (meaning it worked as long as intended) and when I ate a couple breadsticks for “lunch” I ended up feeling too full. My only “complaint” – it was definitely more “girly,” though I found the “girly” traits to be a plus (maybe because I’m female?).  Though the white chocolate macadamia nut flavor of Clif is very sweet (I don’t know what I was thinking when I chose this flavor, I really don’t like it), this was somehow sweeter, even though it has 10g (!!) less sugar. This could be a plus if you like very sweet things. I also found it more aesthetically pleasing – Clif bars and Larabars look like mush, or occasionally mush with chocolate drizzle. This looked like a cereal bar with a nice chocolate coating on the bottom and drizzle on top. The texture was far better as well. I imagine they made all these changes to make them more appealing to women, which makes me wonder why they make the men’s bars have such bad texture and mush-like appearance. I always assumed it was because they couldn’t improve them without hurting macros, but apparently not – the women’s even have more vitamins! I’ll probably try one of the Luna protein bars before my 5 hour shift starting at 5pm tomorrow to see if it is even more effective with all of it’s extra protein – and to see if they have to revert to manly mush!

A comparison of the two bars so that you can be reminded of how gross and mushy the men’s one is:

Luna version. Image credit: pbfingers.com, because I forgot to take a photo

Men’s (?) Version

I then ended the day with something you think I’d be sick of – pizza! You think I’d be sick of pizza from my job, but trust me, that is impossible (plus I never really eat pizza at work or I’d gain all 110 lbs back). Kris and I went with an old favorite tonight – white pizza with spinach and tomatoes! Fun story: he actually made fun of me for taking this photo, so I tried to justify it by telling him white pizza with veggies looks healthier than it is, so I had to take a picture so that I would look really healthy on the blog.


Oh, and one final piece of info – I finally created an email address that is specific to the blog. If you want to contact me, you can do so at therewere2ofme@gmail.com

Yay!

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.

Food Friday

I am so sick of winter. Today is one of those deceptively sunny winter days – it is only 15 degrees!

I haven’t run in well over a week because of snow and ice. I’m supposed to run the Runs for Cookies virtual 5K tomorrow, but it is supposed to snow another 2 inches. Even if the weather was half decent tomorrow, I’m not sure I could run it – the entire park is still covered in snow. If it was just ice, I could wear my ice spikes (which I now have), but with the added inches of snow I’m not really sure what to do. I’ve considered walking it with Belle, but I’m afraid it will be too cold and too hard on her little paws. I might just have to sit it out and pretend it doesn’t count because it’s a virtual race. I feel very disappointed and frustrated and I’m becoming more genuinely worried that I will lose a lot of my running fitness and have to essentially start from scratch this spring. I am now remembering why I started going to the gym on campus last year around this time! Unfortunately, unless I get a full-time job (I’ve had a couple interviews, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed) I can’t really afford a gym membership here (the gym on campus was free).

On top of all this, Kris has a cold. So we are just sitting around being totally lazy while he recuperates and I worry about him because that is what I do. I have been trying to keep up with workouts at home but with everything going on I’m afraid I’m having far too many days like yesterday, where I did well with my “rest day” until dinner where Kris and I shared a large stromboli and I ate 3 brownies while watching Battlestar Galactica. Oops.


The good news is that I was able to accumulate enough content for a Food Friday post this week! This should be unsurprising, considering yesterday’s post where I bemoaned the amount of groceries that I decided to purchase.

I purchased one new thing to try this week: fancy pierogies. I briefly mentioned the pierogies (side note: WordPress wants to correct that word to “groupies”) in last night’s post, and I will note that while I have eaten many pierogies in my life, I have not purchased them in a long, long time and I had no idea how many varieties there are now, which is why they are something “new.” When I was growing up I did not know they made pierogies beyond the “cheddar and potato” variety, and after learning about other terrifying options like “potato and onion” I mostly ignored pierogie offerings. That was until the other day when I went shopping for them and couldn’t even find plain old cheddar and potato. Instead, I “had” to buy broccoli cheddar, spinach and feta, and five cheese (all with whole grain noodles). I was pleased to find these slightly fancier and healthier sounding options and plan to eat them for quick meals sauteed with some peppers! Fun fact: Mrs. T’s pierogies and Yuengling beer are made in the same county in PA (Schuylkill), further proving that PA produces all of the best things.

I also attempted two recipes for the first time: Lentil Quinoa Chili and homemade guacamole.

I liked the lentil quinoa chili, but it was not my all-time favorite vegetarian chili recipe. The only changes I made to the original recipe were that I used frozen bell pepper strips instead of buying and cutting up a pepper and I ran out of cumin so I just put in taco seasoning. I also made it in a crock pot instead of standing around cooking it for an hour. I think it just wasn’t spicy enough for me (most things aren’t). I still like it, though, and would recommend it to those who are more into flavor than heat.

A not very aesthetically pleasing picture of the chili.

I will note that the guacamole recipe I linked is a very generic one, and I followed it mostly because I have never made guac before and needed to know avocado:tomato ratios. I am fairly certain that I had never heard of guac until I was about 16 years old so obviously my parents do not make or buy it (though they love it at Mexican restaurants!) and I therefore had no idea how to make it. I also spent the last 3 years living with someone who makes incredible guac so there was no reason for me to even attempt it. The first thing I saw when I entered the grocery store was avocados and tomatoes on sale, though, so I was inspired. I think it went ok – I’ve certainly eaten worse. To my friend the amazing guacamole maker: you will be pleased to know that Kris has deemed it “good, but nowhere near as good” as yours. I blame the fact that I forgot fresh cilantro and had to use dried.

Close-up of the guac.

Couponing and Healthy Eating

A few months ago I posted a grocery list and reflected on whether I was making mindful purchases or not. I’m one of those people who can sometimes cross the line between frugal and cheap (and can sometimes completely contradict myself by buying $22 eyeliners…). This is especially true when it comes to groceries – I will stand around paralyzed by the decision of spending an extra dollar. Kris hates grocery shopping with me and I understand why. Once, when he was at the store with me I stopped in the middle of the aisle and started yelling about how they only had name brand chili powder and it was 50 cents more. Kris calmly responded “well, what do you want me to do about that?” and an old man and his wife walked past and the man said something that implied Kris was catching on to the whole “how to deal with irrational wives in grocery stores” part of marriage rather well. Because of my grocery-spending angst, I try to use coupons. However, I haven’t decided yet whether I am just bad at using coupons, or if using coupons and healthy eating do not go well together.

I remember that my mom used to use coupons all the time as a kid. When I first moved out I was moving around too much to try to get a paper and we didn’t eat very many groceries anyway (mostly fast food). Therefore I didn’t worry about couponing too much. Trying to cut down my grocery budget only came with eating more actual groceries (and, I suppose, caring more about my financial stability). I still don’t get a Sunday paper because frankly, I have no idea how to get one. This means that I get most of my coupons from the internet. I know this is what is keeping me from some savings because a lot of sites like couponmom.com show you how to get items for essentially free by combining specials with paper coupons (i.e. drugstore X is running a 2/$1 sale and in this paper there is a coupon for $1 off 2).  I primarily print coupons from the creatively named coupons.com and the shopathome.com Chrome extension. This gives me a lot of coupons I could theoretically use, but they don’t always work for several reasons: I don’t need the item before the coupon expires; it is for a brand my store doesn’t carry; or the store brand is cheaper anyway. I have also tried using the Ibotta app but it tends to be for incredibly specific products and my normal grocery store (Giant) isn’t on there so I have to figure out if one of their affiliate stores (Stop & Shop) will redeem rewards – I’d otherwise have to drive out of my way to go to Target or Wegman’s to use this program. So from this discussion you can tell that I am incredibly new to using coupons and still quite confused and I might just be doing it poorly.

The other issue is that it is not very easy to use coupons if you are trying to keep a healthy diet. First of all, there are almost never coupons for fresh produce. There are a few – for example, I’ve seen them for the bags of Dole salad, and my store will sometimes print me a “$2 off your produce purchases” coupon, but in general, a diet using a lot of fruits and veggies is not going to benefit much from coupons. Another issue is that even for other less-processed items, coupons tend to be for more processed versions or at least branded, pre-packaged versions. For example, there are not coupons for plain, brown rice; only coupons for those boxes of rice mixes. Another example would be that specific brands of pre-packaged meats will have coupons (rather than the meat packaged in the store). This leaves me with the few processed, pre-packaged things I buy being things that I can coupon.

For proof of how these two issues – me being bad at couponing and coupons being inappropriately matched to healthy eating – let’s discuss how they interacted with my grocery shopping yesterday.

Yesterday, I was able to use only 4 coupons during a huge (for me) shopping trip:

  • 2 for coffee. This was one of those deals that was so good I couldn’t pass it up even though I have plenty of coffee. Coffee at my store was only sale for like $5.75 a bag and I had coupons for $1.50 off the bags. I go through this quickly so it wasn’t a big deal.
  • 1 for pierogies (the wiki link is because I’ve met more than one person who thought these were a fictional food). This was another great deal. Pierogies were 3 for $7 at my store and the coupon was for $1.50 off 3. Score! Notice, however, that these were happy accidents – a good couponer would have known about these amazing deals in advance.
  • 1 for almond milk. I needed almond milk and this coupon made Silk (not my favorite, but better than Giant brand) cheaper than Giant brand.

However, I also had the following coupon issues:

  • I left a coupon for Halo brand clementines at home (one of the elusive produce coupons) because Giant “never” carries that brand. I wound up buying them because they were the cheapest fruit at the store anyway.
  • Giant does not carry “Treasure Cave” brand Feta cheese, apparently.
  • They also don’t carry Gardein vegetarian products.
  • I also forgot to look to see if they had the specific brand of string cheese or sour cream that I had coupons for. Oops. I didn’t really need them anyway.

I think the one exception to this rule might be in terms of toiletries – there are a ton of coupons for things like vitamins and skincare products. Unfortunately for my new-found drive to use a ton of a coupons, but fortunately for my wallet in general, Kris and I go through toiletries very slowly (the perks of not having little ones yet) and have a lot of backstock of things like sunscreen and body wash (well, women’s, I guess I could buy some men’s). Also I can never conveniently find a coupon for the toiletry I need when I need it 😦