RUNNING

Too Fat Too Run – But I Do Anyway!

So, right now I’m 207lbs. I struggled to run even when I was 180lbs with zero baby-jiggle. Almost 2 years of no exercise, and medical lifting restrictions later, here I am. Too fat, jiggly, out-of-breath and slow to run.

But our apartment building has a fitness centre that is very rarely used in the daytime, so I figured I might as well start using it. At least on the treadmill I don’t have to worry about being self-conscious. It is air-conditioned and has cable TV, but neither of those matter as I still sweat red hot buckets, and have my headphones in to drown out the sound of my own wheezing.

Right now, I can only run one mile. Going full pelt for that mile takes me over 10 minutes. It took me weeks to even run one mile without stopping to catch my breath/re-inflate a lung. It hurts like heck for the first few minutes, and time slows to a crawl for the next 7-8 (while still hurting like heck). I am super sweaty, red in the face and tremble-legged when I am done. I don’t care! I’m proud of all my crappy accomplishments!

My next goal is to run for 2 miles without stopping. Starting to believe I can do it :)

The Secret To An Amazing, Low-Cal Lentil Curry

Now, I’ve been putting off posting my curry recipe, even though it is amazing, because I’m worried that Americans aren’t big curry eaters? My only experience is my hubby and his family though, who eschew most spicy foods. Though hubby has an admirably open mind when it comes to trying new things, and he really likes my curry, so I should be open to bragging about the recipe in front of Americans.

So, my curry is inspired by Indian Cuisine that I partook of in England, but it is certainly not faithful to any particular type (i.e. jalfrezi, tikka masala, biryani, etc.). It also does not contain much for oils & dairy, which really cuts down on the calories. Adding meat or not is entirely the dealers choice – you’d simply brown it, and then simmer it in the sauce for at least 10-15 mins. I leave mine for an hour to really absorb the flavours and start to break down.

So, onwards with the actual recipe!

To serve 4 (with BIG portions) you’ll need:

1/2 an onion, chopped

2tsp minced garlic, or 2 chopped garlic cloves

1 bell pepper, chopped

1 cup water (optional: use chicken stock or add 1tsp of chicken stock powder for extra ‘body’)

1 tbls tomato paste

Seasonings: cumin, turmeric, curry powder, ginger, garam masala (in the spices section of most grocery stores now, but not Walmart. If you can’t find it, leave it out), chili powder, salt & pepper. I use onion & garlic powder on everything so feel free. You can also add coriander but I hate that stuff.

1/2 cup frozen peas

1 carrot, cooked (boiled/steamed, your choice)

1 cup lentils

Instructions:

First, cook the onions for a few minutes. Add the pepper, you want to kind of soften it, but I get impatient and toss in the garlic a couple of minutes later. I use that 0 calorie cooking spray to lubricate, or you could use your preferred oil, or even a bit of water on the bottom. Once your onions/peppers are softened, add the water. Then mix in the tomato paste & seasonings. I don’t measure seasoning, so my only advice is, go very lightly on them, at least at first. A lot of cumin gives it too much of a spanish/mexican aroma. Too much chili powder and you’ll be steaming from the ears before you’re done eating. So a sprinkle of each will do. Add the peas and steamed carrots, and simmer this mixture for however long the peas take to soften (shouldn’t take longer than 5 mins).

Now, here comes the secret part, mentioned in the title, that only the brave, faithful warriors who read this far will get to see. When I first made this dish I was totally winging it, using up what I had, and at this stage my curry looked awful. Lumpy and watery, like a baaad soup. And I have no idea what normal culinary tricks are used to thicken sauces. So, I got out my blender! And I blended it! And it became this thick, creamy-looking, orange thing that looked like curry! With flecks of green and red! Then I tossed it into the slow cooker (optional, you can go straight to simmering it on a low-ish heat), added the lentils, and an extra cup of water for them to absorb, and set it on high until hubby got home (about 2 hours).

Then I mixed in some fresh parsley, scooped it on top of wild rice, and hubby and I went to town on it! Calorie-wise, it is amazing because it’s all veggie!

Daily Prompt: A Stay At Home Wife’s Answer

Work? Optional!

Q. If money were out of the equation, would you still work? If yes, why, and how much? If not, what would you do with your free time?

A. As a woman who doesn’t work, it’d be easy for me to say, well money is obviously out of the equation already! We can survive (and thrive) on one income, so that must make work ‘optional’ for me, right?

But it is not quite that simple. I am not a Housewife because of any religious or political reasons. It is a mix of happenstance and misfortune (I quit my job to become a stay at home mother, and then my baby died), and part of me feels guilty for not bringing in any money, but sick at the prospect of working out of the house and facing the general public every day – the idea of having to fake-smile and keep my mouth shut about my internal pain is abhorrent to me. So on most days, work isn’t an option for me. I am not strong enough.

Staying at home is definitely what I really want to do – I feel like I’m not very good at it yet, but I have found my dream career (add a tonne of babies and we’d be golden). And I know I am lucky to even have that option – lucky and smart, because we aggressively paid off debt and refuse to take on any more, and we have always (usually) kept our living costs as low as possible for this very eventuality. We practiced living on one income, and will continue to do so whether I am able to work or not.

So all my time is now ‘free’, and I use some of it to write, some of it to do general housekeeping chores, some of it to play games on Facebook. My goal is to stay on top of all the chores, wake up early and get started, and have supper prepped and ready to go when hubby is hungry (he gets home anytime between 2pm and 6pm, so I can’t have it on the table for when he gets home). But that’s management-level housewifing, and I’m still a rookie.

Losing Weight – Don’ts And More Don’ts

I’m still stuck, weight-wise, where I have been the past few years. I weigh the same as I did on my wedding day, and still 20lbs more than when I met my husband. So I am obviously not exactly the fountain of knowledge when it comes to weight loss, I do know what doesn’t work.

Don’t restrict yourself.

It is tempting to go ‘cold turkey’, and completely stop eating chocolate, drinking your favourite beverage (coffee, alcohol, soda), and eating only lettuce and avocados or whatever superfood is being advertised right now. But this has never worked for me, and I doubt it has ever worked for anyone. My husband has amazing willpower and even he needs to hit the all-you-can-eat buffets every now and again. He has lost, and kept off, over 100lbs so far, 60 of those while married to me, so he must be doing something right!

Don’t starve yourself.

This goes without saying. But hunger is usually a sign that you should eat. When I get particularly emotional I have had pangs of hunger right after a big meal, but I can recognise those and use common sense to ignore them. Figure out your eating pattern and allocate calories accordingly – if you’re starving at breakfast and not-so-much at lunch, then have a whopping 600 calorie breakfast and a 200 calorie snack for lunch, and a normal sized supper. Personally, if I have a steady supply of coffee, I don’t even feel hungry until around noon-1pm. But I need to eat either right before bed or while in bed, or the cravings kick in and I make really bad decisions.

Don’t buy low-calorie packets of junk.

Feel free to buy fat-free or lower-calorie dairy products, of course. But those ‘Skinny Cow’-esque brands of treats are a big peeve of mine. A few weeks ago, I had a craving for crunchy and salty snacks, like potato chips. But at 150 calories an ounce, it really wasn’t worth the deep-fried goodness (who can only eat 1oz of chips anyway). So I looked at the ‘omg healthy package whole wheat’ snack crackers. 150 an ounce. Low calorie/sodium variety – 140 calories per 24 grams (less than 1oz, plus the box costs more and weighs less). It’s the same with a lot of low-calorie snacks, cookies, ice cream bars, etc., they just give you less, charge you more, and call it healthier. I am always looking for good snack ideas, but right now I’m happy with some jazzed up popcorn, and chocolate pudding for my sweet-tooth.

 

 

Why I Love Budgeting (And You Should, Too)

After a week of crazy spending on our vacation (water parks, theme parks, fancy hotels, capitol cities, sight-seeing, and lots and lots of amazing restaurants), it’s time to buckle back down to our usual, budgeting selves. And I really don’t mind it. Perhaps I’ve been so frugal for so long, that excessive spending seems silly and unsustainable? So I thought I’d share my reasons for loving to pinch those pennies.

1. Having money. This is the main reason, and pretty much every budgeters primary concern. Every penny you don’t spend on that “thing” you think you want goes towards the financial goal you have set yourself. For me, every penny I don’t spend on silly things goes towards saving for a down-payment.

2. Tracking/following a budget keeps you feeling secure. There’s no ‘will we have enough for rent?’ and ‘will our money last the rest of the month?’ – it’s all there in black and white, and you update it after every purchase. And if you do splurge, your budget will show you the ramifications weeks in advance, so you can do something about it, like cut back elsewhere, or (worst case) take some money from savings. This has definitely helped us out more than once.

3. It makes your goals feel closer. Knowing how much we’re putting away, and how much we will need, means we know exactly how close our dream of buying a house is. The downside to this is, you also know how far away your dream is. Right now, our house is about 4 years away. But if hubby gets a payrise, we move into a cheaper place, or I start working again (or all 3), then that’d definitely speed things up a bit.

4. Emergencies become less financially devastating. Having money put away definitely helped us when we really needed it. Penny’s death was, and still is, the worst thing that has ever happened to me, and I miss her every day. But being able to give her a beautiful funeral and set up a memorial area for her in our house, plus the much-needed visit to England to see my family, was all paid for out of pocket. If we had to put it on plastic, we’d still be paying it off, plus interest. It would have just added salt to the wound.

5. You get to be creative. And if your creative ideas work out, it’s amazing how much you can save. Like making the spreadsheet all pretty and figuring out the formulas we need to track our spending, which is always fun, and challenges you to find places to cut back. Like finding coupons to get things we already use, for free! Trying out a recipe with super cheap ingredients and finding it absolutely delicious – like replacing meat with lentils in our curry dishes. Amazing.

I know this list is pretty general, but feel free to add your own favourite reasons for budgeting!

The Best Turkey Shepherd’s Pie EVER (Slow Cooker Recipe)

I don’t usually brag about food I make – usually I take recipes from online, so credit goes to the original creator. But I have to admit, my shepherd’s pie is totally amazing. And 100% original. So I thought I’d share it (with pictures).

Now, I obviously didn’t invent the Shepherd’s pie, or the idea of substituting the traditional beef with turkey to lower the caloric impact. But I think I have perfected it. I have followed other recipes, and it often tastes very turkey-ish. I think the meat is often infused with extra turkey stock, so that kind of overtakes the dish at times. I have come up with a recipe that adds the much-needed beefiness back into the dish, without adding the calories.

So! Onwards.

What You’ll Need To Serve 2:

10oz Turkey

2x Oxo Beef Stock Cubes (or any brand you prefer)

Salt & Pepper, Parsley, Sage & Rosemary (to taste)

1 Peeled Carrot, diced

1/4 Onion, chopped

1 Clove Garlic, diced

Beef Gravy Granules

12oz Potatoes, peeled and cubed

Dash of Milk & Butter

1oz Shredded Cheddar Cheese

First, brown your turkey, and crumble 1 stock cube over the meat as it browns. This removes some of the turkey flavour and infuses it with beef instead. Once the outside is browned, put into the crock pot. Use the pan to fry up carrots and onion until softened and sweet-smelling (about 3-4 minutes), then add garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Put all this into the crock pot too. At this point, add another stock cube to the pot, along with your beef gravy granules (however much it says makes 1 serving – you don’t want it too runny) and 1 cup of water. Add your herbs and seasonings (to me, the rosemary is the star of this dish, and the thing that really makes it feel very homey and British). Put the crock pot on high for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally. Feel free to add any veggies you like, too – peas & corn go well in this dish.

Next, put your potatoes into hot water and boil for 15-20 minutes until they’re soft. Drain and mash, adding your milk & butter (I use small amounts of skim milk and margarine) and seasoning to taste. Scoop out your gravy/pie filling mixture into a baking dish (I use a 9×9 for 2 people), and top with the mashed potatoes. Spread them out with a fork so they’re smooth and level (and it gives it a nice look). Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top, and bake in the oven until the cheese is golden (400 for 10 minutes or so, or blasting it with the broiler works too).

Then pull out your amazing Shepherd’s pie and serve it up! I let it sit for a few minutes before serving because it’s always ridiculously hot. Gives me time to whip up a salad and serve it alongside.

It may not be the prettiest looking food ever, but it’s delicious! To spruce up the plating (and make it easier to serve), cook in individual oven-proof containers. I added corn because I love corn.

Low enough in calories to have a glass of wine or a nice dessert :)

More Budget Meal Planning

So, for the past couple of weeks, usually on a Saturday afternoon, hubby and I have sat down and made a for-real meal plan for the week. I have tried meal-planning before, but my hubby wasn’t exactly ‘with it’ at the time, so I’d make a plan based on what I wanted, then hubby would suggest something, or he’d offer to cook or take me out to eat, and the meal plan went out the window. It’s not his fault, we just weren’t working together. Now, we’re sick of being ‘stumped’ about what to have for supper when 5 p.m. rolls around – or having partial meals everywhere, like a meat but no side dish, or a side dish idea but no meat. So we’re meal planning.

We start with thinking about what we have in the house – loads of pasta? Potatoes need eating? Relative gave us a ham? – and make them into the ‘bones’ of the plan, and then work out what we’ll need to buy to make meals out of them. This works for our budget, because we’re using the never-ending supplies in our cupboards. Right now we have about 9 jars left of pasta sauce, so we’re having a pasta dishes every week – and using the sauce on pizza, etc.

Once we have the meals planned out, we organise them according to the perishables. So, if we have a sloppy Joe night, and a burger night, they should be next to each other so that we only have to buy/use buns & meat once. If one was on Sunday and the other was the next Friday, the buns and meat would go all gross in that time.

We’ve also discovered that leftovers don’t really work for us all the time, so we are trying to make meals without having loads left over. Having leftovers usually means we end up eating them for lunch (a full dinner-sized portion of food) and then either having to make another meal later that night, or have sandwiches for supper. We’re being kind to our waistlines if we keep leftovers out of the picture.

Our food budget for the month has kept steady at a lean $200, and when we go shopping on Saturdays for the following week’s meals, we spend anywhere between $25-45 (less if we have coupons). That leaves us with a little bit extra to go on milk-and-egg runs, because we’ve also discovered that you can’t plot shopping trips around when you’ll run out of those things, because it’s utterly unpredictable.