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Food, Panic & Fasting

Confession: I missed two days of doing one pushup last week. Mostly because I just forgot. I have a reminder set now, so I’ll definitely do better this week (did 8 last night)!

I’m actually very motivated to do well with that goal, because I’m finally, after years of being stuck at the same basic weight, losing again. The thing is, I’ve always had good luck with keto-style diets (where your body burns fat instead of sugar/carbs for energy), but it’s not a sustainable diet if, like me, you enjoy a wide variety of foods and food preparation techniques. I’ve never been all that keen on giving up natural sugars like fruit either – there are good nutrients in fruit, and not all carbs are bad, IMO.

There’s a new-ish trend that’s becoming more popular called Intermittent Fasting, and while I’m not normally one to jump on various trendy bandwagons, this one appealed to be mainly because it’s largely how I ate all through high school & college. I was never overweight back then – in fact, I had trouble keeping weight on. But I never ate breakfast, and went from vending machine to taco bell and back while being on my feet for more hours than not during the day.

Also, genetics. When I was young, they were on my side. Now, not so much. *sigh*

Obviously, I didn’t eat all that well back then, but I also didn’t eat all that much, which was the key. And when you love food like I do, and you have enough money to buy food (like I do now), it’s incredibly difficult to just “limit calories” for three meals a day. Also, not much fun.

The thing about intermittent fasting is that if you fast for enough hours in the day, your body will switch to fat burning when it runs out of carb energy. And if you work up to longer fasts, you can ramp up something called “autophagy”, which, from what I read, is when your cells start cleaning themselves up (dismantling the old, dysfunctional or otherwise mutated bits and turning them back into usable “parts”). There are other potential benefits as well, but those are the two I’m most interested in.

So, after a lot of research, the hubby and I decided to try it. He was interested first, so he was already basically following the no-eating from around 7:30pm (when we normally finish dinner) to lunch the next day, though he’d have a light snack late at night, and occasional snacks at work in the morning (so not a true fast). I, on the other hand, was eating round the clock, and I knew it would be more of a mental challenge for me to change than a physical one.

Mostly because, before last week, I panicked if I got hungry. Something about that hunger hormone (gherlin?) hit my brain and told me to eat asap to keep my blood sugar up! Don’t go without! Don’t starve! Very bad things will happen!!

Hormones are drama queens, and can’t be trusted. My brain knows this, but still responded with the appropriate panic to hunger signals. Which was really annoying, once I put it in perspective. My body was controlling me, not the other way around. And that made me want to take control.

Being a control freak isn’t all bad. Sometimes, those powers can be used for good…

To start, I cut out my late-night snack (a half-cup helping of yogurt, granola, hemp & chia seeds, and maple syrup). I have (had) trouble sleeping on an empty stomach, so I was prepared for a struggle, but I managed to make it through to the next morning. Then I started pushing my breakfast back, first by an hour, then another one, and another, and another. The first day was really rough, because that “hunger hormone” kept firing off every time I would normally eat, and the more I didn’t eat, the more insistent it was, so I was hungry pretty much all day – even when I was eating.

The lack of salt in my diet didn’t help – my electrolytes went really low and gave me a whopper of a headache, which wasn’t pleasant. A little sea salt in water did fix that problem, and I’m more attentive to getting a little salt in daily now to combat that (salted peanuts).

In any case, after the first day, things got a lot easier, and now I’m doing 15 hour fasts regularly Mon – Fri, and pushing towards 16 (which is the goal). We don’t fast on the weekends because our schedules are just way too variable, but we still only eat a couple times per day – morning and evening, often skipping lunch.

According to the scale, I’ve lost two pounds in the last week and a half. Which is pretty amazing, all things considered. If I can keep losing a pound a week (or even a pound every other week), that would be incredible. I have a good 15-20lbs to lose, and slow and steady would be perfect (and not leave me with too much loose skin).

I do have to make sure I get enough fiber, which is kind of a challenge with a smaller eating window. But the longer I go without food, the easier it gets, so I’m really not hungry during the fasting window any longer. And I don’t feel the need to eat a lot during my eating window either…so I don’t “binge” to catch up, which is also good. My body is running on less overall, and doing just fine with that, and I don’t have to work at it all that hard, now that I’m through the adjustment period.

I try to stick to a fairly low-carb diet anyways, and I’m still doing that too. But I haven’t been too strict about it lately, and I’m still losing weight, which means in the fasting parts of my day my body is definitely burning fat for fuel. I want to keep that going, and I imagine when that starts to slow down, I’ll be able to go stricter with the low-carb thing and get some extra loss out of it to keep my metabolism revved.

So…a good experiment so far, and one I’ll continue for as long as possible/feasible. One more weapon in the arsenal against the bad genes in my makeup. Here’s hoping it’ll make a long-term difference.


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Resolution Six-Month Checkup

I had to break one of my resolutions for the year (the one easiest to keep at the top of my mind), so I figured this would be a good time for a six-month “checkup” of sorts to see how I’m doing. As a quick reminder, I did make a long list of goals for the year, but only three actual resolutions:

– Get at least 6 continuous hours of sleep 6 nights per week
– Eat at least one egg per day, 6 days per week
– Read through my goals list once per week, and note any progress or lack thereof. Adjust as necessary.

Needless to say, things aren’t going well. *sigh* Until a last week, I’d been fudging the 6 hours of sleep thing for a few weeks, pushing it later and definitely not getting to bed on time, which makes my mornings suck (not to put too fine a point on it). Granted, some nights this year I just haven’t slept well. That’s partially because we bought a new, much firmer mattress that my husband loves, but it’s taken me a good couple of months to adjust to, and partially because the weather was so weird for awhile, and finding the “sweet spot” for the A/C with all the humidity we’re really not used to was very much a trial and error thing. Another issue was gallbladder discomfort, which I’ll get to in a bit.

But part of it is that I’m just trying to do too much at night, and not getting it done frustrates me, so I stay up later to try to compensate, and then get up tired in the morning which means I’m even more tired/less productive the next night, and it’s a cycle that hurts me more than it helps. I just really need to scale back on the things I want to do and take care of myself by…getting to bed on time. I’ve done that very purposefully the last several nights, and woke up rested, before my alarm, and ready to start the day (except Sat night, but that doesn’t count).

So, I’m relaxing and reorganizing my late night schedule, admitting that I can’t actually do eveything I want to do, and getting to bed on time. Because it’s important.

The Sleep Resolution stands.

I mentioned gallbladder discomfort above…it’s been worse than normal this year, and I couldn’t figure out why after it’s been so calm for several years. I was almost resigned to finally going to the doctor, but still dragging my heels, so to speak.

I decided to try Chanca Piedra again (stonebreaker herb), which worked great last time I had issues. I was also reading up on intermittent fasting for health, and stumbled on a research study that found that eating more than three eggs a week was highly likely (ie, happened in 93% of the test group) to cause gallbladder discomfort.

I’ve been eating 10-13 eggs per week since January, faithfully, per my resolution. And my recent gallbladder issues have been going on pretty much exactly that long. *sigh*

I finished off the eggs I’d already hard-boiled for last week with the help of my husband (egg salad sandwiches are yummy), and cut myself back down to only having eggs occasionally. *One day* after I quit eating eggs daily, my gallbladder inflammation went down and the discomfort all but disappeared. It’s been five days now, and the discomfort is still there (because the eggs probably caused more gallstones to form over the months), but barely noticeable. I think a round of chanca piedra to break up the gallstones will probably get me back to where I need to be in regards to gallbladder health. If it doesn’t, I will go to the doctor, but I’ll definitely try this first, since it worked so well the first time.

So – The Egg Resolution is dead. Turns out the one resolution I was actually keeping was hurting instead of helping. Dang it.

As far as the third resolution goes…well, I think it’s probably obvious that I have *not* been checking in with my goals list once a week, and I’ll be totally honest and tell you that at least several of them have been either ignored or derailed by other things. Which isn’t good. But, I have six more months to work on that, so I’ve set an alarm for myself on Monday nights to do that weekly check-in, and a few other check-ins I need to be more diligent about as well (things like budgeting, meal planning, etc). Right at the first part of the week.

Way back in the “dark ages” before digital assistants were phones, the whole reason I started using one (palm pilot!) was to keep track of my schedule and remind myself to do things. I still do that, but not as much…and it’s a great tool to keep me moving in the right direction. I need to make better use of that particular feature again.

The Goals Check-Up Resolution stands.

I think I need to make one more resolution so I’ll still have three to work on (because every creative person knows that odd numbers are better than even). In that light, I’m adding another health-related resolution:

The Push-Up Resolution is a goal to do a minimum of 1 push-up per day/6 days per week for the rest of the year. Yes, it sounds insignificant, but much like the dead egg resolution, the purpose isn’t just to do one push-up, but rather to do one healthy, resistance training thing per day which most days will end up being 5 push-ups, or 1 push-up plus 10 bicep curls, or 20 push-ups, or 10 push-ups plus 10 squats…

You get the point. Taking the time to do 1 push-up per day will force me to think about working out, and if I have time to do one, I can probably do five or ten, or even twenty, or if I’m downstairs by my weight set I might decide to do a few other exercises just because I’m there. Or, I might be busy or sick or just not feelin’ it, and I’ll just do one push-up to satisfy the resolution and that will be that. It’s still something, and something that will affect positive change in the long run.

That gets us back to three resolutions for the rest of the year.

How are your own resolutions (if you make them) going? What about just basic goals? Have you done your own check-in lately?


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Baking Therapy

I spent quite a few hours in my kitchen this past Saturday. My father-in-law’s birthday was last Friday, and we were celebrating Saturday. My husband asked if I’d make a Sour Orange pie he’d seen on America’s Test Kitchen for his dad, who loves lemon meringue and other such sour things. I offered to make some coleslaw too, since hubby and his brother had decided to make ribs (heat & serve – Curly’s from Costo…so good!) and baked beans (BIL’s recipe) for the dinner.

I started off with the crust for the pie, then made the coleslaw while the crust was cooling, and then made the pie filling…and then hubby mentioned that his dad was out of his favorite peanut butter cookies and had hinted for more. So I whipped up a batch of those while the pie was cooling.

Then I had 4 egg whites leftover from the pie filling, and decided to make orange flavored (lightly) meringue cookies to go with the pie. So, I did that, made some orange-flavored whipped cream to go with the pie, and the meringues were just barely done by the time I had to head out the door with all that food.

One would think I’d be tired after spending all day in the kitchen, and I was. But it was a relaxed sort of tired, and my mind was clear and calm (always good before spending time with family of any sort). Everything I made was a big hit, and I had so many meringues that I took some to work on Monday, sent some to work with hubby, and still have some we’re nibbling on at home.

I know a lot of women (people, for that matter), don’t like to cook, or like having help in the kitchen. Not me. I like having the kitchen to myself, and if you offer to help, you’re very likely to be turned down. My kitchen is my “alone” space, a space where I don’t have to make room for other people, or try to work around someone else. I can do what I want, how I want, and when I want in that particular domain, and I don’t have to deal with compromise or interaction or even communicating what I’m doing when. I like having that time to myself, and my small galley kitchen gives me a great excuse for turning down company – there really isn’t a lot of space for more than one person to work in there. I actually kind of hate open kitchens because they invite people to “watch” or help with the cooking process.

Selfish? Of course. And obviously I’m polite and offer to help whenever I’m at someone else’s house (and normally people take me up on it and we have a good time, though I am more grateful for large/open kitchens in that scenario). But when I’m home, in my own domain, kitchen time is much-needed “me time”, and a sort of sneaky, yummy way for this introvert to recharge the social batteries a bit.

That’s probably why I like doing food prep for the week on Sundays – hardboiled eggs for breakfasts, making burritos, meat pies, or whatever else might be nice to have in the freezer for quick lunches, and prepping salads/cutting fruit for eating later in the week. I love food, I like to cook, and I love to bake (though I don’t much, because…calories & carbs), and while kitchen time is a lot of work, it’s also very therapeutic for me.

The only thing I’m really not fond of is the cleanup. But, it’s a small price to pay for the joy of making something I know that I (and hopefully others) will enjoy. And honestly, since I always have the kitchen to myself for my nightly clean-up time too (I don’t clean until late at night), it’s another good transition time when I can let my mind wander, and look forward to one last cup of tea once it’s done.

Now, if I could just figure out a way to cook, bake, taste, and not have all those calories stick like frickin’ glue…that would make this particular hobby/therapy absolutely perfect…


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On Food, Cooking, & Eating

No, I don’t have a menu plan drawn up yet this week, though I have the beginnings of one in my head, and by the time you read this, I might have actually committed it to “dry erase magnetic menu board”. It was another incredibly busy weekend (don’t see those ending until the snow flies again, honestly), and while I need to figure out how to make time for menu-ing, it hasn’t happened yet.

But I do make time for meal prep on Sundays – making things ahead of time to keep the freezer stocked with “homemade fast foods” and the fridge stocked with my weekday breakfasts (two hardboiled eggs and five prunes, eaten in the car on the way to work – yay fiber/protein rich finger food!). I try to stagger the larger freezer-stocking recipes so I don’t have to do so much all at once, but this past weekend, I needed to restock both oatmeal bars and burritos, and I found myself sort of grumbling under my breath about having to take the time and thinking about buying such things pre-made like we used to in order to save the time on Sundays.

I do that often – complain about the work I create for myself, that is. And then I remember why I do it, and shut up and get it done, thankful that I’m lucky enough to be able to make the time. Health and taste are almost always the reason I make something rather than buying it. I started making oatmeal bars at home because my husband (who isn’t even eating them at the moment) didn’t like the fiber bars we were buying because they tasted too much like coconut (and honestly, I wasn’t all that fond of them either). The burritos we used to buy came/come in beef or bean flavors, but not both together, which always annoyed me. And of course after reading the labels on both packages and finding a lot of stuff I’d rather not have in there for various reasons, I decided to make my own.

As I was standing there, rolling burritos with less filling than I personally would have liked but just enough to fill them without over-filling, I got to thinking about how every Monday I eat one of those burritos that look somewhat “scant” when I’m making them, and it’s plenty of calories to take me all the way to my 4:30pm oatmeal bar snack. I don’t feel hungry, and I don’t need more…it’s plenty, even though it *looks* like it won’t be enough.

Which made me think about how little we really *need* to eat for optimal health (not even just survival, which is less yet, but truly optimal weight and performance), and yet we so often blow right past that need just because…well, because it doesn’t look like much, for one thing, and for another, we have access to a lot of really good food, whether we buy it or make it. It’s *so* good that we don’t want to stop when we’ve had enough. Or even when we feel way too full. We still want more, and we often have it.

I love food, and I love to cook and bake. I love a lot of different tastes and textures and colors and scents, and affording them wasn’t always a luxury I had. When I was young, we were poor, and we ate a lot of antelope meat (couldn’t afford beef, and antelope was easier to find than deer when my dad went out hunting with my grandparents). I like deer quite a bit. Antelope, not so much. It’s often tough and “gamey” and the only real way to make it less so was to cook it with a lot of spices. By the time I hit high school, I’d perfected using just enough pepper and garlic to make an antelope steak taste like sausage. Ironically, I don’t get wild game anymore – hubby didn’t grow up on it, and as is pretty common, it’s too rich for his system.

I learned to cook pretty young, first helping my mom and grandma in the kitchen, and gradually doing more myself. My mom went back to work when I was 13-14 or so, and that year, it was my job to make dinner every night. We had a lot of Hamburger Helper (with wild game, of course), but I also went through my first recipe book as well as my mom and grandma’s old ones, and since we often didn’t have the ingredients needed for any given recipe (and couldn’t just go buy them), I learned early on how to experiment with substituting in pretty much every recipe.

To this day, even though I can afford the “proper” ingredients and have a very well-stocked pantry, it’s extraordinarily rare that I make it through a whole recipe without changing something, even if it’s just because I think it will taste better. More often, if I want to learn to cook something, I’ll go look up a bunch of different recipes and then make up my own version using a bit from this one and a bit from that, etc. Yes, even with baking, though I don’t do that too often any longer due to the carbs and calories involved.

Which brings me back to portion sizes, and health, and how little we need for optimal “performance”. I try to keep my portion sizes down, but man…it’s hard. Mostly because I love food, and love to cook, and the correct portion sizes for my body are really very small. The correct foods for my body don’t include carbs, but who doesn’t love a beautiful french bread for dipping, or corn chips for chili, or pasta here and there? It’s kind of a delicate balancing act, and one I’m still a long way from perfecting.

Even without carbs, it’s hard to get in all the fiber and veggies I need for one day. Fiber takes up a lot of calories, but thankfully veggies don’t. By the time I get in all the fiber, protein and good fats I need, I’m either right at or already over my calorie limit for the day. It’s crazy and fascinating all at once.

Obviously, exercise is something I need to do often (and I’m working on it), but so is cutting those portion sizes even smaller, and accepting the fact that I really don’t need nearly as much food as I’m taking in. Acknowledging that I eat too much, and I do so because I enjoy it, and the consequences of that is a less than optimal body.

I’m not judging anyone for the food choices they make, and I hope that’s not how this sounds. I’m completely focused on myself here, and what I need. Which is “less”. And my most recent food project is to do exactly that – eat less, and accept that I need less. Part of that is presentation – making “less” look nice with good presentation, and part of that is looking into smaller plates and such, so that “less” looks like more than it actually is. Mind games are sometimes handy.

I’ve lost about 2lbs in the last six weeks or so, which is slow going, but it’s going in the right direction, so I’m not complaining. Cutting portion sizes and lowering carbs way, way down has been very beneficial, and so has the weight training program I put myself on (not to mention all the concrete blocks I’m building garden walls with in the backyard). I’d like to lose about 15 more pounds, but I’d settle for 5-10. We’ll see how it goes over the next few months. This stupid over-forty metabolism is for the birds, I tell you what. But hopefully by Christmas I’ll have good news there, and also some smaller-portion meal examples to share.

And tonight, we’ll probably have fast food for dinner, because we have to go get another load of cement bricks for the back retaining wall. And I don’t cook when we have to go out and about right after work. Baby steps!

Do you like to cook? Love to eat? Tell me your favorite recipe (or three)!


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Budgeting Sucks (but Works)

Happy tax-month! Here in the US, April is tax time, and like a good little citizen, I did our taxes this weekend. Our income goes up (nominally) every year, and so does our tax bill. Thank goodness we have our mortgage interest and property taxes to deduct, or it would be even more painful.

In any case, it was slightly less painful this year as far as actually getting it done goes, because I managed to keep better track of my business (publishing) finances last year. And I could have written a lot more expenses off, but I didn’t, in order to claim a (very small) profit so the government won’t be tempted to downgrade BSB to a hobby (which would mean being unable to write off expenses for it ever again). Going along with everything I’ve been discussing for the past few weeks, this just underscores the fact that my business has been just sort of floating along while my head was all screwy, and now that I’m back to a much better “normal”, I really need to up my game and start promoting my books (not to mention publishing new stuff) so I can bump that income up, and at least break even with the business expenses (I’m not right now, obviously).

Stuff to work on. Better mental clarity seems to have helped with both motivation and self-control, so I’m feeling pretty good about being able to work on building BSB this year. And writing/publishing more books.

After I finished the taxes (Turbo Tax is awesome, BTW), I forced myself to go look at the budget I’ve been largely ignoring all week because I was very aware that I’d overspent. The interesting thing is, since I’ve started budgeting, I’ve noticed that even when I overspend, I still have money to cover it, and it’s just a matter of moving things around from one category to another. I have more flexibility, and I’m also less likely to overspend *too much* – I’m far more conscious of where and how I’m spending, so my indiscretions are less damaging. That was an unexpected side effect of budgeting (though it does make sense), but a very helpful one.

I still don’t *like* budgeting. It feels confining and while every budgeting guru out there will tell you that it’s “really not that much work”, for me, taking the time to sit and actually allocate my dollars and then taking more time to actually check in with the budget and reconcile my accounts *is* definitely a lot of work. Mainly because I have about a million other things I’d rather be doing than that. But as restrictive as it feels, it’s actually giving me a lot more freedom to be flexible and allocate dollars to things that I want to make priorities, like debt paydown and investing. Yes, I know. Today was not a good day on Wall Street, but that’s why I’m a long-term investor (and our penny marijuana stocks did just fine during this crash, thankyouverymuch).

Days like this make me think “flea market – yay! Let’s pick up some cheap stocks!” Then of course I sound like my mother when she says she bought a shirt off the clearance rack that she might wear one time because it was “only $2, and you can’t pass up a sale like that”. *sigh*

But I digress.

We were talking about budgeting, and how it sucks, but it works, and like most other humans on the planet, when I learn (or take up) a new trick, I tend to apply the philosophy to *everything* for awhile (until it gets boring). So, given that budgeting has helped with my finances so much, I’ve started “food budgeting” (read: menu planning) too.

I’ve tried just about everything when it comes to menu planning, and nothing ever works, because inevitably, I get to those days where I don’t feel like eating whatever I planned, and then I go “rogue” with the menu, and then the rest of the week is shot and there’s no point in planning the next week since I’ll just do the same thing…

Yes, I know.

I’ve tried pen and paper, calendars, digital planners, online menu planners with recipe books, and none of it ever “sticks” well enough. I think it’s mostly because I love grocery shopping (I know, who doesn’t, right?), and I love food, and I hate buying off a list made from a menu because I’d much rather keep a well-stocked pantry/fridge/freezer and be able to make whatever I happen to feel like having that night.

Only what tends to happen is I’m tired, or rushed (lunches especially), and I spend more time making the decision than actually cooking/eating. Therein lies the rub – I want my decision-making time back…or at least limited to the weekends.

In any case, budgeting money gave me the idea to try “budgeting” with my food. Which is backwards from most menu planning advice. Instead of deciding what to make and then buying the ingredients, I decided to just shop like I normally do, and then “budget” the food I got out over the week (or two weeks, or whatever). The main goal being, of course, to *use* all that lovely fresh produce I got before it goes bad, and also to use up what I have before buying so much new.

I’m only on the first week, and the second day, but so far, I’m feeling pretty good about it. I bought a menu magnet/board to put on the fridge, and made a menu for this week (lunches and dinners) after I shopped, keeping the fresh produce and stuff that’s been in the freezer longer than others in mind. We’ll see if I can keep it up, but last night, I actually remembered to get meat out of the freezer for dinner tonight – a meal we wouldn’t be having if I had to defrost meat right before, and also one we wouldn’t be having on a random, unplanned night, because it takes more time than normal (but I get off early on Tuesday nights, and earlier still tonight due to a dentist appt).

So, budgeting money, budgeting food…who knows what I’ll decide to budget next? I just hope that some of it sticks past the point where I’d normally be bored. That’s the true test of whether or not it’s a good system.

Are you a budget-er? What are some things you budget with besides money? Inquiring minds…

On Food, Cooking & Meal-by-Mail Services

Ooo…that last one got your attention, didn’t it? Meal-by-Mail, you say? What the heck is that?

Allow me to enlighten you…

I love food. I love eating, and cooking, and fresh ingredients that are local when I can get them or fit it into our lifestyle (note: we live in Montana, so if we *only* ate local, our diet would be pretty limited/boring after awhile, especially in the winter). I’ve mentioned that I hate menu planning, and I’ve finally made peace with the fact that I’m never going to just sit down and plan out a full week’s worth of menus the week before. And definitely not before going grocery shopping – how would I know what produce looks good on any given week if I don’t go to the store first?

Oddly enough, I like to grocery shop (about the only kind of shopping I actually enjoy). When you enjoy grocery shopping, and don’t enjoy menu planning, it’s kind of a recipe for regular budgetary indiscretion and seriously overstocking the fridge with perishables.

I should probably mention I’m not all that fond of budgeting either. Though I am rather fond of paying off debt…but that’s a whole ‘nuther post. The fact is I *can* budget, but I often don’t unless I’m working to pay off or save for something specific.

In any case, I spend a lot more on food than I need to, and considering there’s only two of us, I end up wasting a lot more than I should. Fresh produce, mainly – meat never goes to waste since I can pop it in the freezer, but fresh fruit/produce often goes bad before I can freeze it (and some can’t really be frozen with good results, obviously). No, I don’t have a good composting solution in place. That’s a whole ‘nuther post too.

Enter companies like Blue Apron, Home Chef, and a plethora of other new/trendy “meals-by-mail” services. The geniuses who started these companies decided they could get people cooking and fix the problem of too much food waste all while making restaurant-style profits for themselves. They basically do the meal planning for you (like any of several meal-planning services out there), but they take it one step further and send you all the ingredients – exactly the amount you need for each meal depending on how many people you’re cooking for – and charge you an average of $9.99 per meal to do so. You get the box with the amount of meals/recipes you signed up for, follow the recipes, and voila! You’re cooking at home, eating healthy (depending on what you get), and paying…well, quite a bit more than you would buying in bulk for the same meal, but without the potential wasted extra food from bulk.

As I said, it’s around $10 per meal, per person, so it’s not cheap, but it’s no more than going out to eat either (less in many cases). I wish one of these services would have it set up so that you buy the meat, and they just send everything else, as I prefer to buy/eat local meats (Montana = excellent home-grown meats). And there are the ever-present philosophical arguments about supporting your local stores over a mail service, carbon footprints for having things shipped in (if I were going to worry too much about that, my Amazon Prime membership would be the bigger issue), and the extra packaging for the bits and drabbles of things sent with the orders. All of which are good arguments, but I think sometimes depending on your personal situation, things even out in the end.

Typical three meal Blue Apron delivery.

                       Typical three meal Blue Apron delivery.

I ordered boxes from both Blue Apron and Home Chef, so I could compare the services. I have to say, I’m impressed with both of them. Blue Apron is more of a “foodie” service…they’re not so concerned with health as much as good, tasty meals (though they are very concerned with sourcing things responsibly, and they’ll take all packaging back for recycling too, which is excellent). I have to say, I’ve made four meals from them so far, and the only one that was just mediocre included couscous (which I’d never made before), which neither of us had tried, and it wasn’t bad tasting, it just sat really heavy on the stomach. Everything else has been very good, and they pride themselves on never repeating a recipe in a year. That’s a pretty big departure from my limited weeknight repertoire. Their smallest order is three meals for two people, but of course you can order more for larger families.

We’ve gotten just one Home Chef box so far, but both meals were simple and very good. The packaging is a bit nicer with Home Chef, as everything is packaged together for a meal rather than separate plastic bags for each item – which means less packaging waste. Also super-easy to find in the fridge – just grab the bag marked with the meal you’re making, and the meat (if there is any) and you’re good to go. Blue Apron’s ingredients are a bit more segregated, but still, no big hardship to grab, by any means.

Home Chef two-meal delivery.

                             Home Chef two-meal delivery.

Home Chef’s smallest order is two meals for two people which is nice (though you will pay shipping for anything under $50), but they also offer a smoothie-per-week add-on that’s $5 per person, and a breakfast option as well, which is kind of fun (haven’t tried that yet – might later though). Our first box was just the 2 meals option, but I added the smoothie pack on for the next orders, as that will be a nice change for one breakfast per week.

Both companies send big, full-color recipe cards that not only have pictures of each step of meal preparation, but also includes the nutrient and calorie information. We’ve been keeping pretty careful track of our calories lately (and losing weight – hooray!), which requires a lot of math and estimation when figuring out the calorie count for homemade meals. So it’s a huge time saver to make a recipe with everything already measured out, and know exactly how many calories are in it without doing all that extra work. Saves me a good 15 minutes reading labels, making lists, and adding/dividing numbers. Plus, I don’t “cheat” with the portions just to avoid wasting leftover food, because with these pre-portioned meals, there is no waste.

Every week, each company lets you know when the next menu is ready, and you can go in and choose from several different meals if the ones they choose for you aren’t to your liking. But the selection is still limited enough that it’s not something you’ll agonize over, and you can only get certain combinations. That works great for me, because it forces me to just glance over it, substitute one or two meals if there’s something included we don’t like, and leave it at that. Both services also let you skip weeks, so you aren’t locked into the weekly thing – you could just do once a month as a fun thing if you wanted.

I’m really enjoying them at the moment – it’s fun to add new dishes to the mix without having to buy, say, a whole bottle of fish sauce or black bean paste just for one new recipe. And it’s nice to have several meals already planned and shopped for with an incredibly small amount of effort on my part – takes a lot of the “what do I feel like eating/cooking tonight” stress off without the added stress of sitting down to actually menu plan. My husband will be gone for the last week in July, so I’ve already skipped that week in the Blue Apron account, but I’ll go ahead and get the Home Chef delivery which will give me four meals since it’s just me, and two smoothies – and I’ll still get fresh produce for the week, where I wouldn’t be able to buy that in such small quantities just for myself at the grocery store without wasting a fair amount.

These won’t be for everyone, obviously, and who knows how long I’ll subscribe, but at the moment, it’s a fun, stress/hassle-free way to try a bunch of new things and keep track of calories more easily. If nothing else, by the time I’m tired of it or these companies go out of business, I’ll have a bunch of new recipes and cooking styles/methods/taste profiles in my wheelhouse (In one and a half weeks, I’ve already tried several things I’d never cooked with before, and used a couple of cooking methods I hadn’t used before as well). That’s a win-win, I’d say.

Now I’m hungry…

Of Food & Tattoos

I’m off work today for Columbus/Indigenous People/National Farmer’s/Canadian Thanksgiving Day – hooray for holidays!

You may want to grab a snack before you read on…

WhiteBread

The first loaf.

I’m happy to announce that last week’s experiments in food were all successful. The pickled beet and curry eggs turned out great (and I expect they’ll keep getting better in the fridge), my bread turned out nicely even though the dough was too dry (will correct that this week, and even hubby liked it!), and my yogurt turned out very nicely as well, if a bit tart (no biggie, just won’t let it sit as long this week). Needless to say, I didn’t buy bread this week, and while we had a pretty long power outage that set me back with the housekeeping yesterday, I’m going to mix up three different types of dough once I get the fridge cleaned out today. Thank goodness today’s a holiday, or I’d be in trouble, but the power outage did make me think – what would I have done if I had to go to work today?

For this week, instead of watching three episodes of Warehouse 13 with my husband, I probably would have gone out to the kitchen and mixed up bread dough. Might have gotten my yogurt done for the week too. But I knew I had today, so I didn’t need to rush.

One of the beautiful things about artisan bread dough is – it’s freezable after the initial rise. So my plan for this week is to mix up three full-sized batches of dough (the soft white style I made last week, plus an olive oil dough and a brioche dough), keep them in the fridge for this week and use what I need, and then freeze the leftover dough. Then I just take what I need out of the freezer the night before baking day, and only mix up fresh when I run out. Voila, future power outages/schedule changes/last minute Sunday plans thwarted (I won’t run out of all three types of bread at once)!

YogurtGranola

Mmm…yogurt, granola & maple syrup…

I do love an organized plan. Especially when it facilitates good, healthy eating. That homemade yogurt has been a really nice late-night snack…I like it with a little pure maple syrup for sweetness, and a scant handful of locally made Sweet Almond Honey granola for extra protein/fiber. Seriously yummy.

In other news, I’m really looking forward to Thursday this week, when I’ll be getting the outline done on a new tattoo that will replace/cover an old one. Last Friday, I took a long lunch and stopped in to see my tattoo artist, who got a sketch of the 22-year-old tattoo on my right shoulder. It’s a cross and a bible verse written in Greek – the first tattoos I ever got when I was 18 and still in the Christian zealot phase of my life. The idea being, of course, to declare my beliefs, but also to remind my older self to remain faithful.

CrossVerseTat

Bad pic, I know, but you get the idea.

Obviously, a lot has happened in those years, and my philosophical leanings have changed/matured quite a bit as well, but that’s not the reason I’m having this old piece covered up. For one thing, it isn’t pretty, or even particularly well done, and the lettering has long-since run together and become pretty much illegible. I don’t like how it looks, and very few tattoo artists are willing to go over/redo old work – they’d rather do their own (understandable).

Also, it didn’t take me long at all after getting this particular tattoo to realize that when people see writing, they want to know what it says (duh – I was 18). And when you tattoo yourself in a foreign language, especially one very few people study, they have to ask you what it says. And telling them gets really, really old…really fast. I haven’t worn tank tops in years, just because I don’t want to deal with the questions (and also because it just doesn’t look good).

So…I’m getting it covered with a new design that sums up the changing/fickle nature of my personal philosophy rather nicely: a big, red apple with a snake curled around it. No words needed, and if bits of the old ink happen to peek through, no problem, as the old and new are a “set” of sorts.

Going forward, no more words on my tattoos. Images only, thank you very much. Lesson learned!

I suppose it’s time to get to work…and I still need a shower. On my list for today (aside from catching up on kitchen duties) I have comic book reading, knitting, and writing, plus a few errands to run after lunch. Chop chop!


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