Friday, May 25, 2012

A New Way of Eating

It is no secret that I am a “big girl.”  I was overweight as a child and again after college with a reprieve from obesity in high school due to obsessing (unhealthily) about what I ate and how much I exercised.

Since April 1st, I have been on a new journey to try to get healthy.  I read a book entitled 4 Hour Body by Timothy Ferris and everything written in the book resonated with me.  My eating habits had been out of control for years and I finally took a step toward improving them!

The “new way of eating” was awful the first two days, I will tell you that flat-out.  After that, it was extremely easy to follow.  I call it the high-protein diet or slow-carb diet, which is similar to the Paleo diet or those who watch their glycemic index.

Instead of telling you what can be eaten on the high protein diet, I will tell you what cannot be eaten. 

  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Dairy
  • Fruit
  • Starch
Now, mind you, I am a professed sugar and carboholic!  I used to eat carbs and/or sugar 3 meals a day with a few extras in between.

So, how does this new way of eating work?

You can eat pretty much anything that has a lot of protein.  The book states you should eat 30g of protein (much of that in the form of beans) for breakfast and lunch.  I cannot stomach that many beans, so I only eat them occasionally when I can hide them in foods I enjoy (chili or ham and lentil soup).

One great thing about this new way of eating is that you get one “cheat day” a week.  Some weeks, I live for the cheat days, but most of the time, I have to remind myself that I can have all the bread, sugar, spaghetti, ice cream and whatever else I may have been craving throughout the week.  (Usually, I feel horrible on cheat day and the day after!)

Since starting this new way of eating, I have lost 17 lbs and over 10" off of my body: much of it within the first two weeks!  I find it easy to follow, and the foods fill me up quickly and keep me full!  I have had no cravings for carbs or sugar, and I have no problem passing by the occasional bagel or cookie that is brought into work.  I actually have to force myself to eat every 4-5 hours to make sure my metabolism keeps up.

This is what our meals look like now that hubby has joined in on the fun of eating a high protein diet.


Eggs over easy
Scrambled eggs (we like ours with spinach, ham, onions and mushrooms: sometimes with salsa over it)


Leftover dinner from the night before
Tuna wrap (romaine lettuce with some avocado spread out on it, tuna, onions and diced tomatoes)
Sashimi (raw fish) with mushroom soup, edamame and salad when I go to Benihanah’s with a co-worker every other week


Ham & Lentil soup (it is so delicious! I could eat this all the time!)
Taco soup
Hamburgers (wrapped in lettuce with all the fixin’s)
Loaded Salad (skip the creamy dressings)
Pork chops
Tacos (again, I use a piece of lettuce as a shell, and it’s delicious)
Black Bean Chili

In the beginning, I thought the menu would be bland and not very fun, but I was pleasantly surprised.  It is amazing what some spices can do to change the flavor of the same ingredients!  And we are finding new recipes all the time!

I am sharing this journey with you because I know I have struggled for a very long time with my weight, and if someone can be as successful as I have been with this way of eating, I think it is worth sharing with everyone.  On the slow carb diet, I am rarely hungry, I have no cravings and I feel great.  For the first time in my life, I am eating to live instead of living to eat!

Side Note:  I have tried moderation, Weight Watchers, green smoothies and Body by Vi within the last year.  With all of these, I couldn’t stick with any of them due to my lack of willpower and my true addiction to food.  For me to be on a single diet for any length of time has been a blessing. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Recipe: Taco Soup

This recipe was given to me by a friend of mine, and I couldn’t believe how simple (yet tasty) it was!  It takes less than 30 minutes to make, but it tastes even better if you make it up the night before and eat it the next day.

Taco Soup


1 lb ground beef (I use ground turkey)

1 pkg taco seasoning

1 can diced tomatoes (do not drain)

1 can pinto beans (do not drain)

1 cup water


1.      Brown the ground meat and drain

2.      Add seasoning, tomatoes, pinto beans and water.

3.      Let simmer for 20-30 minutes

4.      Serve with tortillas, sour cream and cheese (all optional)

Because I am on the slow carb diet , I eat the soup just as it is, without any optional chips, sour cream or cheese.  It is the perfect quick meal!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Book Review: Backyard Homesteading by David Toht

Photo Credits

I checked out a book from the library several weeks ago that is an awesome reference book for those who are striving to become homesteaders!  The book is entitlted Backyard Homesteading : A back-to-basics guide to self-sufficiency.

For me, this book is everything I need to plan my homestead and to make it as efficient as possible!

The contents of the book include the following topics:

  • Getting Started
  • Raising Vegetables and Herbs
  • Growing Fruits, Berries and Nuts
  • Raising Chickens
  • Raising Goats
  • Beekeeping
  • Harvest Home
Because our garden is in full swing right now, there are several resources in this book that are priceless to me!  One of them being "How much should you grow?" which tells you how many pounds of each vegetable a person eats on average and then tells you how many rows of the specified vegetable you need to plant and harvest to feed that person.

Another valuable resource in this book is about companion planting, which I have not gotten into yet with my gardening, though I should!  There is also a section in the "Raising Vegetables and Herbs" chapter that explains each variety of vegetable, how to plant the vegetable, how much the vegetable will produce, and other instructions to make the most of your garden experience.

We now have a half dozen fruit trees around our yard and we have no idea how to prune them or when to prune them!  Backyard Homesteading spells out when we need to prune the trees (with photos), what branches to clip and which to leave alone. 

I was contemplating trying to raise bees this year, but decided to try to focus on a productive garden instead, not to mention my husband HATES bees.  Backyard Homesteading provides an abundance of great information on raising bees, and even a diagram on how to build your own bee hive!  One deterrent to becoming a beekeeper this year was the investment of the hives, bees and equipment.  If hubby can make the hive for me, the investment will be very small compared to what the bees would {hopefully} provide for us!

If you have a weakness for animals, I would skip the chapter on raising goats.  I so badly want to raise pygmy goats for the milk, however, we would have have 3 goats in the rotation to maintain a steady supply of milk.  Not to mention each goat can have anywhere from 2-5 babies per pregnancy! thanks.  That is a bit too much for our acre homestead.

The last chapter in the book is entitled "Harvest Home."  This chapter shows step-by-step how to can fruits and vegetables, dry fruits and vegetables, can meat, smoke meat, make beer, wine or apple cider and even how to make a simple mini root cellar (which I may try next year!) to help preserve the harvest of the season.  The only thing this book doesnt have that I am interested in is  identifying trees and how to tap them for syrup!

If you are even remotely interested in homesteading, or are looking for resources on how to begin your journey as a homesteader, I recomment checking this book out from the library.  I look forward to taking this out from our library every spring and fall to keep our homestead growing abundantly!

I was in no way compensated for writing this review.  I wanted to share information and my findings from this valuable resource so that others may benefit from it as well.  All views and opinions on this book are my own.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Canning 101: Supplies Needed

Last year, I was on a mission to learn how to can my own jam as well as other gift items for Christmas; however, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a brand new canning system unless I knew I was going to use it.  Come to find out, it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to start preserving!  Please note, the method of canning I will be explaining over the next several months is the water-bath method.  You can can most all fruits using this method as well as tomato-based items.  I have found it is easiest to freeze vegetables instead of canning them (which would require a pressure canner).
The supplies needed to start canning (water-bath method):

Glass Jars

I went onto Freecycle (or you could try Craigslist) in our area and asked if anyone had any mason jars they would like to get rid of.  I was inundated with emails of people who were more than happy to get rid of their mason jars.  One woman gave me so many that the boxes barely fit into the back of my car. The only expense was gas to drive 12 miles to her home to pick them up. I got over 100 mason jars for free!!


Because I had used jars, I didn’t have the lids needed to seal the food inside the jar.  In the spring, I have found that Dollar General and Family Dollar both have little boxes of these lids.  They are $1 for 10-12 lids.  I have found these lids to fit all of the mason jars I have: quart, pint, and some odd brand names that I’ve never heard of.  I had the ring to put on the lids from some of the jars that were given to me, so those weren’t necessary.

Photo Credit

I found a great deal on all of the tools I could ever need for canning on Amazon for less than $13!  They were perfect and exactly what I needed to start my journey into canning!

Photo Credit

Another item I found on Amazon was a plastic basket.  This basket enables you to process (cook) 4-5 half pint jars or 2 quart jars at a time.  This is not the type of equipment for those who are looking to can hundreds of jars of food a year, but it was perfect for my 50-60 jars of homemade jams, applesauce, and pie in a jar!  This cost less than $12, and it even came with 3 pint jars along with canning recipes inside.

Stock Pot

While canning with the pint jars, I used a stock pot that I had available.  When canning using the water-bath method, you want to have a couple of inches of water over the top of the glass jars.  This is easy to do with the pint jars; however, I borrowed a huge stock pot (turkey fryer) from my dad to can the quart jars.

This is all you “need” when it comes to canning!

The initial cost is less than $30 (even less if you use SwagBucks like I did!) I am so excited to start canning again this year!

Have you ever preserved your food by canning?
If not, would you like to learn how?

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Cost of Gardening (April)

I am happy to report that we have spent no money on the garden in the month of April!  I will tell you that the spinach I attempted to grow did not come up: at all!  Maybe next year, I will attempt to plant spinach in an area that gets more sun and has better soil (the garden in the front of La Maison de Merde).
In the month of April, I planted:

The reason we decided to try the straw bale garden method is because it was mentioned that there aren’t as many weeds.  I don’t know if the farmer who sold us straw actually gave us a few bales of hay or what, but we’ve got some major rye grass coming up!

I had to pick as much of the grass out as possible to ensure our pea pods would grow properly.  I will admit, it wasn’t nearly as bad as weeds that usually grow in our gardens.  But it is annoying to see another blade that needs pulled amongst the beautiful pea pod sprouts. 

Since the middle of March, I had wanted to plant the onion seeds indoors.  I had it on my to-do list forever.  Mid-April, I decided to just plant them in the ground and hope for the best!  Onions take for-ever to grow, according to the package.  120 days!  This is the area I planted 3 packets of onion seeds.

That’s all I have to report on the garden.  Here are some pictures of other fruits that are growing around the yard:

Dwarf Plum

Pear Tree

Raspberry Canes
(that werent supposed to come back in this area!)

I forgot to take a picture of our blueberry plants, but they have started to flower!

The Nitty Gritty:
January: $35.29
February: $60
March: $69.74
April: $0

Total Spent on the Garden in 2012: $165.03

How is your garden coming along this year?

Friday, May 4, 2012

8 Tips to Save While Traveling

(This is a guest post on Financial Excellence back in February.)

There is no better time to start planning vacation destinations than very early in the New Year when snow is still on the ground and the thought of a getaway warms the soul.

My husband and I love to travel and experience new destinations as much as possible.  We have traveled to at least three new destinations each year of our marriage creating many great memories.  Financially, we are able to do that by being smart while we travel and cutting back while on the road.  The following are a few tips that we use consistently while we travel to save money while enjoying ourselves to the fullest.

Stay close to home
It would be great to be able to go to Hawaii, Florida, California or Alaska every year; however, it is extremely costly to travel such distances, especially on a strict budget.  Instead, traveling 2-3 hours away from home in any direction can provide a complete change in scenery, fresh sights to see, new educational experiences and natural beauty to take in!

One great way to plan your next trip is at service centers along the way to your current destination.  We have found several potential long weekend getaways for the future closer to home than expected.

Bring your own food, snacks and beverages
One way to spend a lot of money while traveling is by eating out!  Many people have determined that on vacation, they shouldn’t be expected to cook or clean.  After all, they are on vacation!  Being frugal, we do not agree with this at all.

While traveling, pack a small cooler with pop, bottled water, snacks*, sandwiches and other finger-foods.  To keep it fun, don’t take items that you eat day-in and day-out.  Spice it up and make it an enjoyable experience!  With a little bit of planning and preparation, there is a substantial amount of money to be saved by avoiding convenient stores or fast food restaurants.

 *Watching your waistline?  There are always healthy snacks like carrot sticks, ants on a log, popcorn, grape tomatoes, nuts, grapes, berries, cut up apples or peppers and the like.  These are the best type of snack because they don’t require any refrigeration. 

Find an affordable hotel that provides breakfast.
I will admit, many hotels we’ve stayed have made very little money off of our stay because of the great continental breakfasts they provide. We take full advantage of continental breakfasts whenever possible.  If breakfast is not provided, bring some muffins, bagels, fruit or doughnuts to satisfy your appetite in the morning. 

Eat out only once a day
With the assortment of delicious snacks prepared for the trip, it is easy to munch on goodies throughout the day.  By doing so, you can limit the number of times you eat out in a day.

I use the word “lunner” to describe how we eat out.  We eat between lunch and dinner (between 1 and 3) while restaurants still have their lunch prices available. By doing so, we get the lunch rates, it great food, and fills us up for the majority of the evening.  This may not work for everyone, but it has worked for us.

Search for free entertainment
When deciding on the location of your next getaway, is Google “Free Things To Do (City, State.)”  On every single trip we’ve made, we have found free or inexpensive (less than $10) activities to keep us busy.  We have gone on scenic walking tours, visited President’s homes, strolled through the most amazing Farmer’s Markets, watched people make yarn out of animal fur, and many other entertaining and educational venues.

Bring a Backpack
It is extremely important to stay hydrated and nourished while traveling.  By carrying a backpack with you, you are able to keep healthy snacks and empty water bottles to fill up at area water fountains.  The flavored water drink packets are great to throw into the backpack for those who don’t like to drink water by itself.

The backpack is also great for carrying along items such as a wallet or purse, camera, GPS (if you have one, most have a pedestrian so you don’t get lost walking in an unfamiliar area,) and for storage if you pick up some pamphlets or find a great homemade gift somewhere in your travels.  We have purchased several unique gifts for people that we’ve found in our travels.  When we give the gifts, they always have a story behind them.

Public transit
If flying is required to get to your destination, we have found that public transportation is not as bad as everyone makes it out to be!  We were able to purchase a 1 week unlimited bus pass for $16/person while in Orlando enabling us to see many areas of the city that we would not have been able to travel by foot.  The same was true with Seattle, Miami, Washington D.C., and Gatlinburg!

Have fun!
No matter what may happen on a trip, most important are the lasting memories that are shared with those you love.  Missing a bus, finding out an attraction closed early, or that horrible sunburn that you got because you forgot the sunscreen at home all pales in comparison to the lifelong impressions these experiences burn on your heart.  

These simple, effective tips enable us to save enough money to go on 3 or 4 trips a year just by cutting expenses!  I would be interested in learning how you cut expenses while traveling.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

5 Years of Marriage

Picture of us before we got married: camping!

Today, my husband and I celebrate 5 years of marriage.  As you read this, we are coasting down the Colorado River for our anniversary  celebration and making great memories together.

In the past five years, we have…

  • Laughed a lot
  • Raised several animals together
  • Traveled to marvelous places all over the United States
  • Survived Todd flying an airplane!
  • Created a home together
  • Had many disagreements
  • Several nights where we went to bed angry
  • Attended a dozen counseling sessions
  • Cried tears of loss (our precious pot bellied pig, Squiggy)
  • Shed tears of fear  (not knowing if our marriage would make it)
  • Worked out our differences

That is a lot to go through in a short time-frame.  Out of all of this, the one thing that we’ve done most is love, and that trumps all the hurt and pain we’ve experienced and brought upon one another at points in our marriage.  Love and perseverance won! 

I am anxious to see what the next 5 years together will bring us. If it is anything like the past 5 years, it will be challenging, but well worth it!