Cancelled my Starbucks trip planHere I am yesterday going on about a possible weekend trip to Starbucks, which we used to do all the time, and I forgot all about the farmer’s market on Saturday! It’s supposed to rain, but it also was today originally and they keep changing the forecast…so who knows. But I’ve been good so far; so as long as nothing comes up we should still have a few bucks left over to do that if the weather holds up. Yesterday we went out for more organic berries, since it is the season, after all — with $18, I purchased the following:

Organic strawberries, blueberries and raspberries

100% orange juice (not from concentrate)

Honey, on sale

Two tomatoes on the vine for our salad last night

Wow, $18 for that sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Anyways. I really don’t know what we’re going to have for dinner tonight. I can’t hit any farmer’s markets this morning, but I need eggs for both the salmon cakes and the bean griddlecakes; substitutions for those two dishes just don’t sound that appealing. And we have romaine for another salad, but unlike my wife, I’m getting tired of salads already. Plus, we wiped out the blue cheese and tomatoes yesterday.

Maybe if I had an excuse to go out and get something else I’d be motivated to pick up some more salad ingredients so that at least the lettuce doesn’t go to waste, but I’m just feeling hot and lazy today! Aha — we are out of vinegar and don’t have any lemons. Even if we DO decide on salad, I have to go out for vinegar to make the dressing. Okay. Maybe this afternoon. It’s just too early to think about it now!

TGIF tomorrow!!!

Grocery shopping budgetSo I was lucky enough to be able to stop by Whole Foods on my way home yesterday, and I only spent another $22 on two more bags of pre-washed organic greens, one of which we enjoyed last night with some Gorgonzola cheese I also bought, some delicious organic sweet grape tomatoes, a local cucumber and some turkey lunch meat chopped up as you would in a chef salad. It was another delicious meal, and I also picked up a hunk of some nutty French cheese that was on sale as sort of a treat for us (only $3!), which we snacked on pre-dinner while sharing a glass of red zinfandel.

A box of crackers and some milk rounded out the purchase, and although I was hoping to stay under $20, it’s still pretty amazing to get out of “Whole Paycheck” with only one bag. I used to go in there so carelessly, picking up anything and everything my little heart desired, no matter whether we needed it, it was on sale, whatever. I did bypass the agave, maple syrup, honey, Crofter’s and no-stir almond butter, however, since none of it was on sale.

Now I’m out of cocoa too, though, so unless Target has something cheap today my coffee tomorrow is going to be far from my favorite real-food mocha!

And we did stop at Target yesterday too. While I’m psyched that they now carry agave (and real maple syrup, and no-stir almond butter), none of it was on sale there, either, so we skipped it all. Since they don’t carry any organic fruits or vegetables other than the salad greens (which clearly I don’t need any more of right now!) I didn’t even look there for anything (they don’t even carry anything conventional that’s safe to eat, like whole pineapples or melons, usually), but instead we stopped in the canned fruit aisle.

I explained to my husband how frustrating it is to me that “pears packed in water” have a list of ingredients two inches long and how usually the only normal thing you can find is pineapple, so we chose a pack of that and a pack of unsweetened applesauce for about $3 in total (after a long speech from her about how we should then buy the whole fruit and just make a “compote” and eat it as such — which is fine if he wants to make the compote.

I’ll stick to the little packs on busy days like, well, every day!), which means I still have $55 (wow!) to get me through the rest of the week — and all I really need is money for takeout on Friday — we can’t go out to our usual place because I have a late appointment, and it might rain anyways — and amazingly enough, that may provide enough leftover cash for a run to Starbucks and, more importantly, the bread store, this weekend.

That would be awesome! I get so excited over these things, I know. And it would probably be much more wise of me to go back to my local market and get some more organic berries. So I might. But really, what a cost difference it makes when a) your fridge doesn’t go kaput in the middle of the week and b) you eat salad every night instead of organic free-range chicken! (Don’t get me wrong, I really do like roasted chicken, but there’s something about boneless, skinless chicken breasts that I think I could do without for the rest of my life. We could probably use more protein in our diets, though, so tonight I might make the bean cakes.)

Have a great day!

Have some real food instead of junk foodI’ve decided that I should write a cookbook called “Real-Food Recipes: Changing Your Health Destiny One Plate at a Time.” Any publishers out there? I can guarantee it will be a hit!

Anyways, this is one of those genius ideas that come to me at random moments in my life, and I almost forgot about it entirely as our whole family was rocking out to “Last Friday Night” by Katy Perry yesterday. My son has started his baby-dance phase, and he particularly likes dancing this beat, so I had a temporary loss of creative sanity. But it came back to me, and I’m writing it down so I don’t forget and also to tell you that I started clearing out my kitchen of all non–real food recipes.

I may have only alluded before to the fact that I’m obsessed with cookbooks. I don’t often cook from them, I usually just use them as inspiration, but cracking open a new one and flipping through all the new-to-me mouthwatering recipes (food magazines are a close second) just makes me so happy. So I’m not planning to part with any full cookbooks at present, although any time I get a new book I do make room for it on my lone bookshelf by giving an old one away. What I did start doing yesterday is tossing any loose (torn out/photocopied from magazines) non–real food recipes. You have no idea how many pages of Everyday Food went in the garbage. Now, of course I do believe in moderation (moderately, however), so I kept a recipe for pumpkin bread pudding with dulce de leche and double-chocolate tiramisu, which the husband loves. But tossing the blackberry-swirl poundcake recipe was painful. I can still see the picture of it in my mind. In fact, I think I can taste it in all its heavy, fruity glory. But let’s face it: If someone needs me to bake a poundcake for their brunch or baptism, I can probably find the recipe on line. And I’ve never, ever had to bake a poundcake for a brunch or baptism. So I’m probably fine.

In terms of my notes to save money and stay healthy, it hit me after walking out of Target yesterday (having spent $40, with my RedCard discount, on diapers, fabric softener, organic spinach — for dinner, on sale, as per my plan, yeah! — tomatoes, blue cheese, mushrooms, bananas and toothpaste, all of which came out of my “Shopping” budget) that my Shopping budget should actually not be for such things. Yes, we all brush our teeth and wash our clothes, but I already have an extra two tubes of toothpaste lying around the house; I have a Bounce dryer bar yet to be used; and I rarely even use fabric softener to begin with. The Shopping budget should be for FUN! Like cute new address labels (I know, dork), those running shorts I’ve had my eye on (even though I’m just walking once or twice a day now — who cares, they’re cute!), the preserved lemons I’ve always wanted to cook with or any of the gazillion things I store in my Amazon cart for “some day.” So with the $8 I have left in the Shopping budget and $7 for “Baby Supplies” for the rest of the month, I’m determined to do something fun with it. Fun and creative, not a couple magazines and a chocolate bar. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Something else I have been noticing is how un-structured my son’s eating is. Not that it’s a big concern at this point, but although the kid is clearly not starving, I find myself worried that he’s not eating enough at meal times, so I’m offering him snacks to graze a few times throughout the day, which I don’t think is a good habit to create. I’m a three-square-meals and two-snacks (if necessary) kind of guy, and although standing in the kitchen feeding him strawberries feels random and half-assed, sitting down for a mid-morning snack when it feels like he just had breakfast and/or is just about to have lunch, due to the mid-morning NAP somewhere in between, seems like too much. So I’m not sure what to do about this one, but at least I’m aware of something feeling off. I guess I just need to follow his clues, and if he’s hungry, it’s always best to sit down and focus on the food and not try to do three things at once.

Now, in terms of my question, I’m still really ticked off at Mint right now because the “Net Income” tool at the bottom left of my home page always makes me look like such an over-spender. I know I admitted to you before that we dipped into our savings twice, a few months back, to cover our expenses without charging up credit cards. And we ARE paying off a snowblower and a dishwasher, both without interest. So my question is, if I do charge something to my Target card, for example, and then also pay the full bill at the end of the month, which I always do — which is an improvement for me over the last few years, I might add — is Mint counting that against me twice? As two separate debits from my account? I know I said this before, but how can I possibly be consistently (supposedly — according to their site) spending more than I earn, if I always have money in the bank? It makes it look as though I’m always in the red, which isn’t true. I wonder if I should just ignore that, write to them and ask, or continue shaving down my spending WAY more intensely. It feels like I’ve already taken such a huge step (two, actually — paying for my groceries in cash, and no budging in these last two weeks; I even paid for a loaf of bread mostly in change yesterday, which I’ll never do again, because it was made with refined flour! — and not “allowing” myself to buy anything from ANY budget if I’m already over that daily line) — these two things have really affected what I buy and when I shop — so it seems as if I can’t possibly continue to cut down NOW. But we’ll see. Maybe there are more hard facts I have to face up to. Boo!

On the bright side, because there is ALWAYS a bright side, of course, today is Monday, I got my cash out for the week’s food already yesterday, and so we may finally be able to go out and get some maple syrup, cocoa, agave for my husband, eggs from the farmer’s market…as long as I can “afford” all that on top of the week’s dinners. (On a side note, my husband said yesterday as we enjoyed a delicious spinach salad that if it were up to him, he’d eat salad ever day — holy crap!). All of this healthy eating started after that company meeting I had recently. It affected me in more ways than one and I’ve decided to sort out my lifestyle a little bit.

Hope your Monday is bright and sunny like mine. Talk soon!

Always be healthyOnce every quarter, the company I work for in Miami (remotely from my home in Chicago) has a company meeting, and when it’s over I get to watch the video of it before I close up shop for the day.

To give you a bit of background, I work as a copy editor, writing and editing text and graphics for print and on-line “journals” for oncologists — doctors who treat breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, you name it. It’s hard work — you don’t want to screw anything up, but at the same time, how involved are you, really, in the care of Joe Smith, a patient who’s suffering in a small town in Idaho? It’s hard sometimes to feel the tug of pressing deadlines and turning in a perfect assignment and at the same time remember what’s really at the heart (or should be) of all your efforts, your long hours, “putting in your dues” — that 80% of oncologists in the country do actually use our research and translate it into their daily community practices, caring for a patient who could be your mom, your brother, your friend, your uncle.

This week’s company meeting was an intense reminder, and I’ll explain to you why it also ties in, of course, to diet and fitness.

A slide was shown during the meeting of one of the nation’s top cancer researchers about becoming an organ donor. Although, of course, some patients with cancer do rely on transplant at times, it’s never been a main focus, per se, of our business — so when this slide popped up, originally at a major scientific breast cancer meeting in Texas last year, the owner of the company I work for was taken aback, asked the doctor what the story was behind it and is actually going to run the same photo in a book we publish this year.

The story, of course, is surprising. The marathon-running, always-healthy cancer doc was shocked to find out he had a fatal heart condition, and save a transplant, he was quickly running out of options to literally live out the rest of his young life. Without a heart transplant, he had no hope. (He underwent the transplant, obviously, and is thriving now and spreading the word as often as he can.)

The other slide from our meeting that undoubtedly caught everyone’s attention was just a number: 2021. Five years from now. And the question was, Where do you want to be? In your personal life, in your work life, within the spectrum of your family, your community. Our fearless leader encouraged us all to turn off our phones for two minutes; he dimmed the lights, put on some music and suggested we all just relax for a bit and really try to focus on that. He admitted, also, that part of his little 5-year fantasy involved reflecting on the state of affairs we’re in right now when it comes to cancer, where some 500,000 Americans are dying each year of the disease, and what it would be like if we were coming from a place in 2021 when the disease was eradicated — no matter how possible or impossible that may seem.

The point of all of this is that what I’ve been remembering lately and trying to keep top of mind — and it’s moments like these that help — is that it really all does come down to health, not how I look in my cutoff jean shorts or the bathing suit I rarely put on. Whether you want to lose weight to lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, risk of heart disease or diabetes, or whether your weight is fine and you just want to boost your immunity, lower your risk for cancer and other diseases, it is possible — and among other things, you can do your part by voting with your fork.

Go to the store and try kale for the first time; make it into kale chips, if you must (they’re delicious!). Incorporate broccoli into your daily diet regimen. Take a walk, or two — morning and night. Think about where you want to be in 5 years — okay, have kids, move to a bigger house, whatever, but you. Really think about you. Give yourself two minutes, or five, and think about what you want to feel like, be doing, what you want to change. And know that this is just the start — because after that, you have to figure out how to get there, and you ACTUALLY have to take the steps to do so, if you’re sincere about all this!

If this has inspired you in any way just like it inspired me, let me know. Or if there’s anyone in your life who could use a lift, a focus on health and wellness rather than dress or pant size, forward them a link to this page with whatever message you choose — it doesn’t have to be awkward or strange, just tell them you love this site (wink, wink!). You never know who will read it and really decide it’s time for a change, time to take that first step. Switch from white pasta to whole wheat to potentially lower your cholesterol and risk of heart disease. Add a fruit or vegetable to every meal to boost your immunity and lower your risk for cancer and all other kinds of illnesses. Drink water instead of soda and decrease your risk for high blood pressure and hypertension. The links between food and these illnesses are not fuzzy or weak science. It is absolutely true that you can change your health destiny by changing what you eat. I’m hoping to find some organic salad greens on sale at Target this afternoon instead of putting a frozen pizza in the oven for dinner tonight. What choice will you make today to better your health and that of your family? Leave me a comment and keep inspiring me more every day. Thanks!

Weekend Farmers MarketSo, because I actually did spend more at Whole Foods this week than I did last week at other stores, we have only $2 left over this morning after our dinner out yesterday, so we can’t go to the farmer’s market for fresh goodies, which was a little disappointing to me when I realized it mid-afternoon yesterday.

You know how much I love the farmer’s market and ALMOST everything about it: Meeting up sometimes with my family; having a coffee after; the amazing and colorful displays of fresh fruits and veggies. The only thing I wish were different is the fact that most of the produce costs so dang much. I have price envy when I hear about people in other states, what they spend on food, how much a bagful of groceries costs.

Other than New York City, lots of other cities are a LOT cheaper than Chicago. Still, I love to support local farmers and local businesses whenever I can — which is why I will be going to a local boutique today for a birthday present for the nanny and an anniversary present for my sister and her husband. I will always find a way to shop for something!

Although I’ll have to really think about what I buy at Whole Foods next week in terms of the trade-off — no farmer’s market again? Or, at the very least, take-out on Friday instead of a restaurant meal? — all options are still pleasant. I enjoy picking out what’s on sale at my local market, I enjoy our Fridays out, I enjoy takeout once a week if that’s what it comes down to, and of course I enjoy the green market if we’re able to go.

But if we’re not, the day will be wide open. Lazy, long-breakfast, morning-nap kinds of Saturdays are sometimes just what a guy needs.

A free Steak is the bestAlthough the milk I was going to take from my mom’s house yesterday was past its prime, I did salvage some already-cooked noodles and arugula for our dinner on Wednesday, three eggs to bake a cake with that night and two steaks for our dinner last night. She saved us!

Every year near Christmas time, my dad gives out boxes of steak to his employees, clients, family, etc. — so what we got to take home yesterday was a perfect strip steak for me and actually a T-bone for my husband, which he never gets to eat.

We enjoyed delicious steaks on the grill, spent the afternoon/evening cuddling with the baby, and what do you know, it’s already Friday again! Unfortunately, I have to work this weekend, but if all goes according to my master plan tonight we’ll seriously enjoy our dinner out, complete with a beer special for me (cheaper than what my husband orders and bigger, too!), vegetables and a sandwich for me to share with my son.

Last weekend when we tried to go it was already late and they were so busy, when we walked out the baby started crying! I guess even he’s gotten used to our fun summer tradition for Friday nights. I always like creating new habits, as long as they’re healthy for me and/or the family.

Together time is so special, and I can’t wait until he’s old enough for us to do cheesy stuff like game night or family movie night. Even though it’s just the three of us, we may be a small family, but we’re a happy family nonetheless!

Happy weekend!