Thursday, April 28, 2011

Easter and Such - a Wrap Up

It's been a quiet week around here, thanks to my sciatic nerve screaming at me all week long.  I must have slept the wrong way on it last week because I woke up one morning barely able to move.  Thankfully, between ibuprofen, the heating pad, and an ice pack, things are doing much better now but I did have to stay low for a couple days and wait it out.

We had a quiet Easter here at Paleo on a Budget.  I had bought jelly beans and plastic eggs to do a little Easter egg hunt with the kids.  That was going to be the extent of our sugar gluttony this year but my ex derailed those plans by handed me a full bag of candy for the kids' Easter basket.  *sigh*

Thankfully, my kids are so desugared here at my house, that they weren't that excited about it.  "Ooooo...candy.  Can we do another Easter egg hunt?"  So, after they picked out three pieces of candy each, I tucked the baskets out of sight.  Later that evening, I poured all of that candy into the "potty rewards" bucket.  Tah-dah!  Candy dealt with...

Surprisingly, I have no need, want, or craving to eat any of that junk.  I did sneak a couple pieces of chocolate while I was packing the baskets but the sugary taste got to me and I spit it out.  What happened to chocolate these days?  It's ALL sugar, no chocolate!  ((Or maybe my taste buds are changing again....))

I did buy a ham while it was on sale this last week but we didn't get into it until Tuesday night.  Between my backache and the sheer amount of leftovers that were taking over the fridge, I just didn't see the need.  So, our Easter dinner were leftovers: chicken stew and roasted Brussels sprouts.  Exciting, huh?

The ham met it's demise Tuesday night, when I roasted it, defatted it, and took off what I needed for dinner before tossing the whole thing into the fridge to cool overnight.  The next morning, I dissected, bagged, and froze it into 12 oz portions (dinner portions for my family), so we'll have Easter ham to eat throughout the summer.  Yum!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Gluten-Free Birthday Cake

How do you guarantee that your kid is going to have gluten-free birthday cake at her dad's house this weekend?

Simple - offer to make the cake for him.

My daughter is turning the ripe old age of 6 tomorrow.  As usual, my ex and I had a long discussion about how we were going to celebrate her birthday, thanks to it landing on Thursday, the day BEFORE they go to their dad's for the weekend.  Because of the bad timing (and high gas prices), we're having separate birthday celebrations - cake and presents at my house on her birthday....and cake and presents when they arrive at his house late Friday night. 

In the heat of the moment, I crazily offered to make his cake when I make mine.  "I've already bought the gluten-free cake mix and I personally don't want or need all of that cake in the house, especially over the weekend."

So, tonight, after dinner, I cracked open the Betty Crocker Gluten-Free cake mix (chocolate, as requested by the birthday girl) and followed the directions to make 2 - 9" round cakes.  They were slathered with frosting straight out of the tub, sprinkled with chocolate and rainbow sprinkles, and decorated with 6 candles

And wha-la....The birthday cakes are done!

Sometimes, I think I'm waaaay too nice to my ex.  Actually, I did this for the sake of my daughter's belly, who is much happier on a very-low-gluten diet.  ;-)

FYI - This is not an advertisement for Betty Crocker.  I bought the cake mix at Target with my own $4 and mixed it with my own two hands.  Though I will say this - Thank you, BC, for making this mix!  Our non-gluten family can have birthday cake!!!  WOOT!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Going Against the Grain of CW

I had lunch with a friend Saturday - a friend I haven't seen since before Christmas.  She was amazed at my weight loss and starting asking me questions.   The conversation went like this:
She: "What are you eating?"
Me: "Protein, veggies, healthy fats, and some fruit."
She: "Healthy fats?  So, olive oil and canola oil."
Me: "No, no canola oil."
She: "Why not?  Everyone says that's a healthy oil."
Me: -- gives a 2 minute lecture about the evils of canola oil --
She: "Well, what do you use then?"
Me: "Well, I use butter and lard to cook in because it's cheaper and good olive oil for salad dressing and other cold uses."
She: -- eyebrow goes up -- "Lard!?!?!?!  You eat LARD!?!!??  Aren't you afraid of what that's doing to your arteries?"
That's about the point in the conversation where my head exploded.

OK, maybe not exploded but I did quickly change subjects.  Though I don't mind exposing people to the joys of Paleo, there are times where they are so deeply invested/involved in the conventional wisdom of the day (aka - low fat), that digging them out would be like digging to China.

At the end of our lunch, I promised to send her some easy-to-read links so she could read all of the information for herself, which I did the moment I got home.  Haven't heard a reply yet.  Guess I ran her off...or I buried her so deeply in information, she can't type.  ;-)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Going "Grain-Free" One Step At a Time

A friend recently decided to go "grain free" in hopes of losing her extra pounds and improving her health.  Over dinner one night, she asked me how I went grain-free so easily.  Her question was such a good one, I thought I'd post it here, along with my answer, in hopes of helping others.

How I Went Grain-Free

After suffering with every-other-day migraines for years, I took the leap in Jan 2010 and decided to drop wheat from my diet.  It felt overwhelming at first - it seemed like everything in the house had wheat in it!  After hyperventilating in my pantry for a few minutes, I stopped and made a game plan:

Step 1 - Drop Obvious Wheat Sources -
I immediately stopped eating bread, cereal, and noodles but ignored all of the processed foods that had minute wheat in them.  This was a big change for me - I mean what better way to stretch a meal than add pasta?  I had to rethink my meals and keep vigilant during my shopping trips. 

When I made the switch, I went through my cupboards and tossed all of the OWS.  Well, I didn't actually throw them out - I gave them to my ex-husband - but you know what I mean!  Out of sight, out of mind.  Then I rearranged my cupboards so the deletion wouldn't be so obvious.

Results - I lost 20 lbs and the headaches disappeared within the 2 weeks.  Woot!

Step 2 - Drop Rice and Corn
Seeing those sorts of results made me push on.  As the weeks passed I realized I was depending more and more on corn (corn tortillas) and rice (rice noodles) to bulk out my meals.    As my intake of these two items when up, my "tummy issues" increased too.  If wheat was causing headaches, could the other grains be messing me up too?

So, I stopped buying these items, filling their space on my plate with more fresh fruit and vegetables. Frozen vegetables saved my life during that time - a 1 lb bag filled out our plates with limited effect on time or my wallet.

Results - Tummy issues calmed down almost immediately and the weight continued to come off.

Step 3 - Drop Minute Sources of Wheat -

As winter started to turn into spring, my migraines returned with a vengeance.  After some research and investigation of the few processed items in my fridge, I realized that my body was becoming more and more sensitive to even the smallest amount of wheat found in soy sauce, fish sauce, etc.

I spent a weekend scouring my kitchen, tossing anything that had even the smallest amount of gluten in it.  Ingredient lists were scoured and products investigated online until I was sure those few remaining items in my kitchen were safe for me to eat.

Results - Headaches were banished once again!  Victory!!!

The Next Step - Going Paleo:
As I told my friend - I consider going grain-free a "gateway drug" to switching to the Paleo Diet:
  • A few weeks after going completely "grain free", I dropped dairy (I've proven that I'm lactose intolerant). 
  • A month later I stopped eating beans - my tummy thanked me. ;-) 
  • As time went on, I slowly pushed more and more processed foods out of our diet...mainly because I wanted more of my money going towards farmers rather than the huge food corporations who's minds were more on money than our health.
What about you?  Did you go "cold turkey" or go the "incremental" path like me?  Let me know in the comments below!

Friday, April 8, 2011

5 Ways to Save Money on Meat

Protein takes up a big portion of my budget these days.  Since I follow a high-fat / low-carb Paleo Diet, it's not like I can go Vegetarian once a week to alleviate the burden on my poor budget.

Instead, I've come up with other ways to save money on my protein bill:

1) Watch the grocery fliers and stock up when there's a good sale - 

I review the grocery store fliers every week to see what's on sale.  Usually, the best sales (their "loss leaders") are posted on the front page to entice busy families to do all of their weekly shopping at their store.

When a cut of meat I like goes below a certain price (usually $1.99 / lb for most meats), I buy enough to stuff my freezer full.  This "stocking up" usually carries us through to the next big meat sale.

2) Check out the warehouse stores -

I haven't had much luck with this method.  Our local Costco used to have good meat and chicken prices but nowadays, they're outrageous.  But don't give up!  I've heard from other frugal shoppers in other parts of the country that their Costco and Sam's Club have the best prices in town.  So go might be in luck!

3) Buy tougher cuts and offal - 

The tougher cuts of meat require the "low and slow" cooking method - something most busy people don't want to deal with.  As a result, these cuts are usually cheaper. I buy then and either cook ahead of time or plan to cook them on the weekend and eat the leftovers during the week.

The same goes for "offal" - the heart, liver, tongue, and other interesting parts of the animal.  I was introduced to the yumminess that is "Peruvian Style Grilled Cow's Heart" at a Peruvian restaurant in So Cal and haven't looked back since.  My local Asian store carries chicken hearts, which are good grilled to a nice medium well.  I also like liver, which I can find at the same store for a serious discount from the regular stores.

4) Buy large portions and butcher it down yourself - 

Our local Smart & Final carries large cuts of beef vacuumed-packed in plastic.  I'll usually buy these when they go on sale, bring it home and have a field day cutting steaks, roasts, and stewing beef off of the larger chunk of cow.  Leftovers or the more "interesting" bits are ground up using the grinding attachment for my Kitchen Aid Mixer.

5) Don't let anything go to waste -

Don't let last night's roast fester in your fridge - reuse it in inventive ways.  Shred and place over tomorrow's lunch salad.  Toss the cooking juices and beef into a pot and make stew.  Slice thin, slather on your favorite condiment, and roll for a quick lunch.  There's a million options out there!

Do you have any tips to add?  Please comment below!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Reader Poll: Is The Organic / Green Movement Going Too Far?

I was reading an article titled Exhaustion and Green Backlash: Capitalizing on Crunchy and a certain paragraph stopped me in my track:

"I'm all for learning about what we can do to leave less of an impact on the earth. To make sure our children grow up healthy and strong. To gain knowledge, and therefore power, over companies like Monsanto and McDonalds that want to sell us the, "It's all ok, just shut up and smile" package. To understand the choices I make for my family. It's important to me.

But part of me thinks that perhaps we've taken "natural parenting" to a level that is becoming unachievable to most regular people. People who make a middle class living and have a limited amount of time to study and buy food and products. Who hear the warnings and start to panic about the decisions they are making."
And later she says:
"But maybe, just maybe, these do-good-for-the-earth companies are capitalizing and cashing in on our fear of "What if I feed my child the wrong kind of food? What if I don't know about what's in the next product I buy and it gets recalled? What if my parenting choice is wrong? What if this makes us sick?"
We can't protect our kids from everything, yet many businesses don't even consider this an option. If you're not making sure that every.single.thing in your home -- from paint to potatoes -- is toxin free, then you're not really doing your job as a parent."

Where do you stand on this issue?  Do you worry when you hear the "dire warnings" or are your more laid back, doing what you can afford?  Comment below!