Life is Good – Employment, Time Management, Farm Meat, and Spring Veg CSA

Wow it’s been so long since I’ve posted. A lot has been going on.

First and foremost, I am EMPLOYED! Yay. After being laid off three separate times by the same company, I am happy to report that I have a brand new job that I really love!

I’m earning more money, but with that comes more working hours, which translates to less time for other things! Haha! But I’m adjusting.

Humbled on a Budget

During our financial rough patch, I was humbled when I realized how difficult it is to eat healthily AND responsibly with less spending.

I’ve had to cut some corners. I think the biggest adjustment was buying more meat from Whole Foods instead of the local farm.

I’m happy that I didn’t have to resort to supermarket factory-farmed meat, but now I can completely understand why so many families are forced to purchase cheap meat because their food budgets are stretched to the max. We are a two-person family and I can’t even imagine how difficult it is for larger families.

How dare I criticize anyone for their food choices, especially if they are trying their best on a limited budget!!!

Scratch Home Cooking is a Challenge

It was easy for me to preach home-cooking from scratch when I was unemployed or working less hours. Heck! I was home for the majority of the day for the past 3-4 years. Of course it was simple for me to find time to bake bread, can tomatoes, make lunches, and cook dinner every day!

Now that I’m away from home 6.5 – 7 hours a day, I realize how difficult it is to manage and balance my time at home. But I’m making adjustments and utilizing shortcuts like the crockpot, meal planning, and make-ahead freezer dinners.

It’s arrogant for me to criticize a working mom choosing canned cream soup or a jar of tomato sauce. Everyone has their own set of restrictions and who am I to judge. It’s another humbling lesson learned.

Farm Meat and Springtime CSA

More good news!

Thursday, I received a meat delivery from Open Meadow Farm – the first one since January, 2013, before I was laid off in March. I am so blessed to have the means again to buy meat from a local farm!

I will never take it for granted again!

Today, after receiving their newsletter, I decided to register for the Spring Vegetable CSA at Farmer Dave’s.

We had a CSA for two summers a few years ago, but this will be a first for the off season. Sure, I’m paying a little more than I’d pay for vegetables at the grocery, but I’ll know exactly where and how my food is grown and it’ll be worth it.

And I won’t take THAT for granted either!

Appreciation for Life’s Blessings

I feel lucky and so BLESSED that both my husband and I have good jobs.

There’s an overwhelming amount of appreciation and gratitude for my life. I’ve been on the other side (unemployment,) and it’s very depressing and degrading.

But there are no regrets, because without emotionally dark experiences, I’d never realize how special the lightness is.

Healthy Food Budget – October & Year End

October monthend $330.01 yearend: $4757.11

Hurray, my spending for October was way under budget. Awesome! My total food expense for the year is well under the projected high total of $5000. I even ended up lower than the $4800 that I was hoping for!

To read more details, check my post over on my budget blog.

October Month Total: $330.01
Year Total: $4757.11

Dining Out: Month $74.34 / Year $1211.54
Gardening: Month $0 / Year $22.17
Groceries: Month $255.67 / $3523.40

Month End – Grocery Store Breakdown $255.67

Market Basket 86.41 (34%)
Whole Foods 84.81 (33%)
Farm 47.48 (19%)
Amazon.com 11.87 (5%)
Tewksbury Farmers Market 10.00 (4%)
Seven Acres Farm 7.50 (3%)
Mann Orchards 4.08 (2%)
Open Meadow Farm 3.52 (1%)

Year End – Grocery Store Breakdown $3,523.40

Whole Foods 924.70 (26%)
Market Basket 774.74 (22%)
Trader Joe’s 575.36 (16%)
Open Meadow Farm 260.89 (7%)
Wilson Farm 215.49 (6%)
Farm 199.09 (6%)
Ocean State Job Lot 93.26 (3%)
Seven Acres Farm 91.75 (3%)
Amazon.com 90.92 (3%)
Tropical Traditions 58.92 (2%)
Mann Orchards 43.80 (1%)
Hannaford 43.20 (1%)
Winchester Winter Farmers Market 30.65 (1%)
Brookline Farmers Market 21.70 (1%)
Penzeys Spices 19.53 (1%)
Newburyport Farmers Market 16.80 (1%)
Four Star Farms 15.00 (1%)
Wilmington Farmers Market 14.25 (1%)
iHerb.com 13.27 (1%)
Salem NH Farmers Market 12.50 (1%)
Tewksbury Farmers Market 10.00 (1%)
Target 9.56 (1%)
Jones Farm 5.60 (1%)
Vitacost 4.94 (1%)
Aubut’s Liquors 3.00 (1%)
WALMART 0.99 (1%)
Misc credits/deductions -26.51

About My Healthy Budget

My healthy budget goal is to eat seasonal (local if possible,) home-cooked meals while sticking to a $400 monthly budget for all food including groceries, dining out, entertaining, vitamins/supplements, and gardening.

There’s two of us eating (mostly) 3 meals per day. DH occasionally eats take-out lunch at work, & that $ comes out of his personal cash stash.

Healthy Food Budget – Sept 2013

September Month End Food Spending Total $380.54

Dining Out: Total $100.09
Groceries: Total $280.45

I surprised myself and came in under budget this month!

To read all the details and more, check the post on my Healthy Budget blog.

October Unprocessed 2013 with Bob’s Red Mill Coupons!

I’m up for the challenge!

October Unprocessed 2013 is right around the corner, and I just took the pledge for my third year.

I just need to set some customized ground rules ahead of time; the original Eating Rules processed food definition is a bit too stringent for me, so I’ll be thinking about my own guidelines in the next few days.

It’s extra exciting this year, as Bob’s Red Mill (my fave) is sponsoring the challenge and they are offering some really valuable coupons, like REALLY good coupons, for those that sign up.

Yay!

I just printed the page of coupons now:

  • Buy 1/Get 1 free (up to $4.99)
  • Save .75 on one product
  • Save .55 on package of Scottish oats
  • Save .55 of package of whole wheat flour

I’ve been slacking on my blog lately, and I’m really hoping this will spark new creativity. I’m looking forward to next month!

New Whole Foods Market in Melrose MA

When I received my receipt from my last purchase at the local Whole Foods Market, there was also an attached coupon for $10 off $50 purchase at one of two new Whole Foods Massachusetts stores (Melrose and Weymouth).

Of course I wanted to check out the closest one in Melrose, so I planned a shopping trip on Friday, which was also their one-day sale for Alaskan Coho salmon ($10/lb).

I knew the Melrose location was previously a Johnnie’s Foodmaster store, so I wasn’t sure how large the store would be, in comparison to other stores. As I suspected, it is smaller, and crowded, especially when trying to navigate a shopping cart in the produce area, during lunchtime on a Friday.

If the produce area wasn’t cramped enough, the “bulk” section is also situated in the same isle, which makes it very difficult to get near with a cart; same with the salad/food bar on the other side of the store. But I was patient, and just went with the flow.

The employees (or team members) were extremely nice, which made up for the lack of space. I had a lovely conversation with the man behind the fish counter about salmon pin bones, and the woman who helped me with my probiotics return/refund was very cheery.

I was disappointed though, when I arrived at check-out and the cashier gave me a little bit of attitude. I always put my poultry and meat purchases in one particular re-usable shopping bag, and I’ve never had any issues at the stores when I leave the meat inside the bag. The cashiers (even newbie ones) usually understand the process and scan each item from the bag then pack them back into my bag afterward.

Well this particular cashier proceeded to unpack all my poultry items onto the belt, coming inches close to my produce. I became annoyed, and told her that I didn’t want the meat touching/contaminating my other items, to which she rudely proclaimed that my fish was already touching the items (as if it was MY fault), and I told her it wasn’t the same as poultry, and that I wasn’t worried about the fish. I never raised my voice, and I didn’t take the issue further, but I could tell that she was not happy with me as she scanned the rest of my items.

If she just left my poultry in the bag, she could have easily scanned each piece and simply re-packed, like the dozens of other cashiers have done. But instead she was rude.

I’m not out to get her into trouble, and I am not one of those entitled shoppers that think customer service workers need to kiss up to me. (In fact, I really hate that!) But in this case, a little bit of the “customer-is-always-right” should have come into play.

I spend a lot of money on my groceries, and I choose specific items (especially perishable produce) very carefully, so I expect the food to arrive into my home in the same condition that I chose it. (Not covered in poultry bacteria.)

She should have seen that the situation upset me, and immediately tried to make it right, instead she tried to prove me wrong. It was something I rarely ever encounter at Whole Foods Market. They do a remarkable job at defusing any customer issues before they escalate.

But all in all, the experience was positive at this new store and I was thrilled to use my $10 off coupon!

It makes me happy that the Melrose area now has a Whole Foods, as it’ll be a benefit to the community. It was also wonderful to see local produce being sold there, but at the same time, I would rather consumers support their local farmers directly at a farmstand or farmers market.

But if shopping at Whole Foods is the first step in getting people to consciously eat more local produce, then that is what matters. The next natural step will then be seeking out a farmers market or buying into a CSA.

Healthy Food Budget June, July 2013 {{MOVED}}

My detailed weekly posts for the healthy food budget have moved to a new area.

I thought that it would be more organized to keep most of the budget posts in one separate area instead of getting them all mixed up with my regular blog posts. I know most visitors aren’t interested in my spending details, and truthfully, I am really budget blogging for myself, to keep a record I can refer to if needed.

So, detailed budget posts are found at http://www.thatsjustme.com/budget/, but I’ll continue to post quick monthly updates here as well.

I copied all older posts to the new blog, and eventually I’d like to remove the originals from here, and set up URL redirects, but that will take a lot of time, and it might not even be necessary. In the meantime, there will be two copies of older posts.

So, here’s my monthly update for two months

June 2013: $401.72

Dining Out: Total $23.57
Gardening: Total $16.39
Groceries: Total $361.76

Great month. Considering I started my cleanse/detox/elimination diet mid-month, I did very well. But truthfully, the real reason I made my budget was because we didn’t go out to eat but once all month. The bulk of the spending was groceries.

Groceries: $361.76
Trader Joe’s 119.58 (32%)
Whole Foods 99.81 (27%)
Wilson Farm 48.65 (13%)
MARKET BASKET 45.34 (12%)
Open Meadow Farm 37.41 (10%)
Wilmington Farmers Market 14.25 (4%)
Hannaford 2.50 (1%)
Food Pantry donation credit ($5.78)

July 2013: $475.43

Dining Out: Total $116.20
Groceries: Total $359.23

Boy did July kick my budgeting butt! Yikes. I didn’t just go over, I was ran over by a bulldozer!

Two changes came in July though. A lot more meat consumption. I’m still experimenting with my diet, but I drastically reduced legumes and grains, especially wheat and gluten, along with dairy and eggs. It’s been very difficult since I was such a proponent of a plant-based diet with only occasional meat consumption. My go-to meals were fried eggs, bread pizza and pasta with tomato sauce. Working with an elimination diet, I had to increase meat and lower the carbs. I’m still not ready to blog about the details yet, but hopefully soon. It’s been a long overwhelming life-changeing haul, but I’m getting closer to answers.

The second change to my budget was removal of supplements and vitamins. These really were a necessity and wasn’t something I could control as easily as groceries, so I moved them to a separate budget expense.

Groceries Total 359.23
Whole Foods Market 93.28 (26%)
Trader Joe’s 89.16 (25%)
Wilson Farm 62.83 (17%)
Local Farm 59.36 (17%)
MARKET BASKET 39.82 (11%)
Open Meadow Farm (meat) 7.54 (2%)
Penzeys Spices 7.24 (2%)

Even though the budget was over the top in July, I learned some valuable lessons. I’m still affected by impulse buys, whether it’s at the grocery or DH clamoring for take-out. When I don’t follow my specific list, I get into trouble. It’s something I need to work on.

And secondly, even though the last few days burst the budget, I was eating good healthy food, so it really was worth it. Summer fruit is expensive but it’s good for you and that’s all that matters!

Happy August Budgeting!

Coconut Palm Sap/Syrup, Responsible & Sustainable, or Not?

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about coconut vinegar, and how healthy and awesome it is.

I was browsing on iHerb.com this morning, checking out items on my “wish list” and noticed the coconut vinegar product from Coconut Secret – on the summary page, they praise their product, claiming it’s low-glycemic and healthier than apple cider vinegar. The vinegar is made from the sap of the coconut palm tree.

In the back of my mind, I remembered something about palm sap or sugar not being sustainable, so I googled.

tropical traditons logo

I found the article from Tropical Traditions (whose products I just LOVE) and was reminded how truly UN-natural coconut palm sugar is.

Coconuts or Coconut Sugar – A Coconut Tree Cannot Produce Both!

If a young blossom from the coconut palm tree is emptied to gain its syrup, then that blossom will never create a coconut fruit. Please read their article, as it contains a lot more information that I’m sharing here.

After more research, I found the follow-up rebuttal from Coconut Secret disputing the Tropical Traditions claims, and arguing that once a coconut palm tree has been sapped, it will continue to give syrup for 20 years. They also maintain that the benefits of coconut nectar outweigh the benefits of a mature coconut.

…sap products offer a nutrient-rich array of amino acids, minerals, B and C vitamins, are low glycemic and have a nearly neutral pH.

So who’s right? If you believe Coconut Secret, there should ultimately be a balance of both worlds, using the sap as well as fully matured coconut for all benefits.

That sounds fine, until you begin converting the sap into sugar, and because of that, I’m on the side of Tropical Traditions.

First of all, I didn’t appreciate the “tone” of the Coconut Secret article. It was a little petty, suggesting that the Tropical Traditions owner had ulterior business motives and because TT owned the web domain coconutsugar.com, they were hiding future plans.

Seriously, wouldn’t TT be jumping on the coconut sugar bandwagon to sell more products if it was truly a sustainable, responsible product? Of course they would!

And I think that it’s brilliant that Tropical Traditions had the forethought to purchase the coconutsugar.com domain so no other coconut company could profit from it! I think they should forward the traffic to their article page not their cane sugar product page, where it goes now.

Coconut Sugar – Healthy, Responsible, Sustainable or Not?

I’m truthfully not against the time-honored tradition of extracting the coconut flower sap to produce “tuba,” which is used to make coconut vinegar and coconut vodka.

What’s distressing is the world has been convinced that coconut “sugar” is better than any other sugar (shades of agave nectar!) But really, coconut sugar is SUGAR, something that should be consumed in moderation. It’s not the new wonder food, {some reports are not convinced it’s glycemic load is as low as claimed or that it’s as healthy as claimed, since it’s got a big dose of fructose}

Increase in popularity means an increase in coconut palm sapping production. How can a process be healthy and sustainable if it’s goal is to be producing SUGAR!

And that, is where the real trouble lies. Consumers love new health foods (especially when Dr Oz promotes them), which eventually leads to cheaper mass-production and loss of sustainability and integrity. Nothing is 100% sustainable when greed and profit take precedence.

The key is moderation and variation in our food consumption!

I Like Tropical Traditions :)

So, bottom line, I’m supporting Tropical Traditions in this argument. I’ve been consuming their gold label virgin coconut oil (and coconut cream and shredded coconut) for a couple of months, and wow, there is a difference in quality and taste compared to other coconut oils I’ve used.

coconut water vinegar

I also just found out that they have their own coconut vinegar product, produced from coconut water, not from coconut palm sap! Their product is not distilled or pasteurized like most commercial vinegars, it’s sold in its raw state, complete with the mother, like Bragg’s apple cider vinegar. So cool!

On the other hand, I am not opposed to trying a Coconut Secret product also; their coconut vinegar and especially their coconut aminos look promising, as both are in a raw state, like the Tropical Traditions vinegar.

As for coconut sugar, I don’t think I’ll ever be using that product. We don’t consume that much sugar/sweeteners and when I do, I try to use sucanat, honey, or maple syrup, but we also keep normal everyday white cane sugar in the house for DH’s coffee and for my canning needs.

What I do believe is that the only way to true health is a reduction of sugar consumption. It doesn’t matter if it’s white cane sugar or coconut sugar. Sugar should be considered as a special treat or reward, like it was back in the “olden days” before it was mass-produced for massive profit.

(Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate link(s) for which I might receive a small referral reward for any purchases made after clicking the link.)

Crocodile Tears for Paula Deen

I just watched Paula Deen on the Today show, interviewed by Matt Lauer.

I wasn’t looking for the interview, I came upon it by chance, switching channels.

Let me say, first, I don’t really like Paula Deen. I think she and her family (sons) are fake and are very monetarily motivated.

With that said, I don’t fault Paula for past sins. Something she did 30 years ago doesn’t have anything to do with her now. People can change, and as we all age, we grow and sometimes regret our past.

But her actions after the fact have been troubling.

When I start to cry while tying to speak about something that’s difficult or emotional, I immediately tear up. Whether it’s just a few teardrops or an outpouring, there are actual wet tears.

Paula tried like mad to show actual tears, but failed. Yes, her face was scrunched up, and looked like she was deeply upset, but there was not ONE wet tear until the very end when I saw a tiny glistening in the corner of her eye.

It looked like a bid to fix her reputation and had nothing to do with truly being sorry. As they say, Paula, you’re sorry BECAUSE you got caught, not because of your actions.

My advice to Paula is to shut up. Stop talking about it, lay low and make your comeback in a few years. People always forget about stuff like this and allow celebrities to come back bigger than ever.

Library Monday

I was so lucky today! I wanted to re-borrow the JJ Virgin book “The Virgin Diet” so I could read about what I wasn’t ready to deal with a few months ago.

I know the copies at the library have been on hold, but surprisingly, when I checked the online catalog, there was one lone “available” copy at a library a few miles away, so I jumped in the shower, and drove over to see if I could grab it.

Long-story-short, I couldn’t initially find it, but with a little gentle nudging, the wonderful library woman ended up finding it behind the desk on the cart. Yay!

So, that’s #1 on my reading list, I’d like to see how it compares to the Clean Detox.

I’ve also been reading “Crazy Sexy Kitchen: 150 Plant-Empowered Recipes to Ignite a Mouthwatering Revolution” by Kris Carr because I need all the help I can get to find clean recipes!

Until next week, Happy Monday to everyone! Keep reading and supporting your local library!

Wilmington Farmers Market

veggies I bought from the wilmington farmers market

Just returned from The Wilmington Farmer’s Market.

I bought from three farms for a total of $14.25. The prices were really reasonable and I’m so happy that the summer season markets are back!

From Nagog farm I spent $4.25 for red cabbage, scallions, and a large white onion (I was thrilled to see so many different vegetables especially the cabbage they told me they started growing them early in the greenhouse)

At Farmer Dave’s I spent $7.50 for six cucumbers, one big lettuce, chioggia beets with greens (For some reason I’ve been craving cucumbers and pickling cucumbers were wonderful to see there.)

At Gaouette farm I spent $2.50 for large bulb scallions (I love this small organic farm, I remember them from last year.)