Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Being flexible with fitness

You've all heard the recommendations.  Exercise regularly, pick something you like, mix it up when you get bored.

Everyone has their own particular things that they like to do, and their own personalities.  For example, I'm pretty frugal, and I'm a big fan of Mr. Money Mustache.  His fitness recommendations fall along the line of bike everywhere (or walk), and lift weights at home.  These are great ideas, and I love to do them!  But I have certain limitations that make this difficult.

I am a creature of habit.  I love to have a schedule, a plan, and stick to it!  I get disturbed and flustered when my plan doesn't work out, so I try to have Plan B (or C or D).

I have, at times, been a runner, a gym rat, a biker (to work).  I like group fitness - I love signing up for triathlon training groups.  I love taking yoga classes, aerobics classes, going for walks with friends.

But you have to be flexible.  At one point, when my older son was about 3 or 4, my husband started traveling a lot.  I would get very frustrated that I couldn't work out when he was gone - I couldn't go to the gym in the morning, and I'd have to do drop off and pick up at school, so I didn't have time to run at lunch.  So for Christmas one year, I asked for (and got) P90X.  Problem solved!  I had a good, solid 45 min to 1 hour set of DVDs to use when my spouse was out of town.

Then I had a second kid and the flexibility just had to continue.  For one thing, I cannot run anymore.  I've had piriformis syndrome, a sprained knee, and achilles tendonitis.  This makes it difficult - running is something that I can do quickly - throw on the shoes, go out for 30 minutes, get in a good workout.

I can walk - but 30 minutes burns only half the calories and isn't as good of a workout.
I can swim, but I have to go to the pool to do that.
I can work out at home but my toddler won't let me.

So there was a period of time starting earlier this year when I started using a lot more 30 minute workouts at home.  The benefit to at home workouts is time (of which I have little).  No driving to the gym, just get dressed, pop in the DVD and GO.  So on my husband's gym days (MWF), I would do this, at least 2 days.  I'd wake up at 5:30 am to do it (which is 40 minutes later than on my gym days).  The other benefit to a DVD is I'm working out "with a group" and "with a trainer".  On my own, I get bored.

But then life got in the way.  For one thing, my 2 year old would wake up early.  And he will NOT let me work out.  It's just his age.  At some point, I offered by big boy $1 to play with him in the other room.

In previous times, I would get incredibly frustrated by not being able to work out.  I mean, all I want is 30 freaking minutes!!  (The two year old is currently climbing on my back as I type.  I'm home with him today, he has a cold.)

Starting around October, it got so bad that I couldn't get a single workout in all week, aside from my swims on Tuesday and Thursday (45 GLORIOUS MINUTES).

That's when I joined a Facebook group in November that had a 30 day burpees challenge.  I hate burpees.  And I can't jump, so I just don't jump at the top.  The month started with 5 and ended with 100.  The advantage to burpees?  I can do them 10 at a time.

For December I moved on to a squats, pushups, planks, and crunches challenge (and kept up the burpees, at 50).

What does this give me?  A good workout.  If I can manage to do them all at once, it's about 15 minutes.  If not, well I spread it out.  As an example, today here is what I did:

20 pushups
20 sec plank
20 pushups
20 sec plank
25 squats
20 sec plank (toddler laying on my back for the last 10 seconds)
50 crunches (toddler discovered me at 37 and sat on me through the rest)
25 squats (holding the toddler for 10 of them)
50 crunches (hiding in the bedroom)
25 squats (hiding in the bedroom)

I still have to do 50 burpees, and shower, between now and 1 pm when I leave for work.  Oh, and eat breakfast.  And lunch.

The advantage to this kind of workout is that I can do it, literally, in 30 second chunks.  It's not ideal.  It's not a good 30 minute "burn", but it's better than nothing.

For this reason, I also like "Fit Yummy Mummy" workouts (I have her E-book), which are all generally 15 minutes long.  I think about buying her DVDs sometimes but honestly, they are expensive and I cannot even put in the ones that I have.

I do hope that in the next year, I can go back to using my DVDs.  But for now, I have to settle for my bits and pieces, lunch time walks, and 2x a week swims.

So when life gets in the way and you lose your mojo, or can't get to your  normal workout, figure out a way to "squeeze it in".  All with a 2.5 year old hanging on your back and giving you snotty kisses on your neck.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

11 Months of Weight Changes

You know me.  Periodically, I go into weight and weight changes on this blog.  It is a "healthy" blog, after all, and weight is one component of health (certainly not the most important component).

I have been struggling with baby weight #2. With my first baby, I was 35 when he was born and 37.5 when I finally was able to lose the weight. I had stopped nursing 6 months before and had gone part time.  So I took it as a part time job to lose the weight.  Cardio, calorie counting (with weight watchers on-line).  20 pounds in 3 months, all over the holidays (November 1 through Feb 1).

I had my second child at 42, and it's been a struggle. For one thing, I gained more weight (this is common - there is a memory effect to pregnancy weight.  It's why you are 4-5 months pregnant before you can buy maternity clothing in your first pregnancy, but need to move into them almost right away with the second.)

The other thing is - I have been full time since he turned one, and I have two children, and I'm older.  Okay, that's 3 things.

Here's what I have found:
1.  What worked when I first lost weight in my 30's and after the first pregnancy, doesn't work now.
2.  Weight watchers stopped working after about 39.
3.  I cannot do the amount of cardio that I had done before - knee issues.
4.  Fat is stubborn.  I have finally gotten down to my *STARTING 1ST POST PREGNANCY WEIGHT* and I'm THRILLED!!  (Meaning, my final weight after pregnancy #1 is a full 20 lbs less than I weigh now.  My goal weight now is about 10 lbs down from now.)
5.  I have to experiment.

The first several pounds came off pretty easily with calorie counting (and a stomach bug).  But stresses have a huge effect on my weight - EVEN WHEN CALORIE INTAKE DOES NOT CHANGE.  So, I'm an engineer and I love charts - I made a chart.  And I labeled it.

There are labels for:
1.  What program I was following (red ellipses and notes written below)
2.  Notes on major life stresses (green arrows and notes written above)

One important note is that my work stress has gone down/ leveled off since the summer, allowing me to focus on my weight and my eating habits.  Experimenting with different methods of eating takes BRAIN POWER and can be an added source of stress.


Notes:
The 21-Day Fix seems to be a successful program for me.  More successful on the second round, I think because I've come to terms with the lower carbohydrate intake.  I was very resistant to cutting carbs in the first round (March).  After reading What to Eat by Luise Light in the summer, I understand that I was eating way too many grains.

Understanding that you are eating too many grains and correcting that is a different thing.  I used Chris Powell's Carb Cycling twice this year (it's only listed once because I do not remember when I used it the first time, but it was probably early Feb).  The useful thing about this was I got used to planning meals that we low-carb.  After that 5 weeks, it was MUCH easier to go back to the 21 Day Fix "moderate" carbohydrate plan.

The "21DF + NOvember" refers to the fact that I re-started the 21 Day Fix AND gave up: wheat, sugar, fried food (tortilla chips), and alcohol for November.  I LOST 6 POUNDS IN 4 WEEKS doing this.  My goal, really, was to be a total of at least 20 pounds down from last year's doctor's appointment, when I go next week.  Looks like I did it!  I had at least 5 pounds to go at the beginning of November and I was doubtful I was going to make it.

I generally eat 1-2 servings of high-carbohydrate foods (those would be the "yellow" containers, for you 21 Day fixers) these days.  These tend to be (in order):
1. beans
2. potatoes
3. brown rice
4. oats

1/2 cup cooked is one serving.

And I still eat 2 servings of fruit.  One cup is a serving, except for bananas - one large banana is two servings.

A typical daily intake would be:
B: smoothie with protein powder and a banana
S: 1 cup carrot or celery sticks, 2 Tbsp hummus, 1/2 cup yogurt or cottage cheese
L: Salad with 2 Tbsp nuts or seeds, 2 hard boiled eggs, 1 Tbsp blue or feta cheese, a few olives, homemade vinaigrette, 1/2 cup beans
D: 3 oz protein (chicken, turkey, beef), and 1-1.5 cups cooked vegetables - steamed, roasted, etc. in olive or coconut oil.  Or soup.  And sometimes a carb, like potatoes or rice or beans.  But this is generally only 1/2 the time.

Also, because I love beans and lentils, about once a month (so, 3 straight meals), I'll make a lentil or black bean soup, and that will be our dinner instead of meat.

My typical weekly workouts would be:
M: Burpees in the morning, 30 min walk at lunch
T: Swim 43 min in the morning, 30 min walk at lunch
W: Burpees, squats, pushups in the morning, 30 min walk at lunch
R: Swim 43 min in the morning, 30 min walk at lunch
F: Burpees, squats, pushups in the morning, 30 min walk at lunch
S: One hour walk
U: ??  Varies.

Ideally, I'd do at least 2 days of PiYo or 21DF videos a week, but the children.  They are not letting me do that right now in the mornings.  Burpees, pushups, etc. can be done in 30 second bursts and do  not require a 30 minute commitment.

Here's to hoping I can take off those last 10 pounds!  My plan is to continue NO-vember - avoiding wheat and alcohol, sugar and fried foods, for awhile longer.  If I re-introduce them, I have to set a number of times a month or week.  Unfortunately at my age and reduced metabolism, I have to assume I can only have 8 servings a month (TOTAL among the four).

Saturday, November 22, 2014

3 days of Indian Feasting

So Sunday was a big day.  I tried a new recipe for Crockpot Butter Chicken.  I'd share it here, but it wasn't great.  I mean, it was okay but not OMG THIS IS AWESOME.  I looked up many recipes, picked the one that matched what I had in the house (mostly), substituted Trader Joe's Thai red curry sauce for the red curry paste + coconut milk.  I know what you are thinking - Thai curry in an Indian dish?  Yeah, maybe that should have been my first clue.  Anyway, I think the problem was *mostly* the garam masala.  I don't really care for it, and this recipe seemed to have a LOT of it.  Even though I cut it down, it was still too much.

So back to the drawing board for butter chicken.

I served it with red lentil curry and roasted potatoes and cauliflower, and we ate it for days.  It was still pretty good.

Funny, when I searched my very own blog for cauliflower to see if I'd posted the roasted potato/cauliflower recipe, I found a link to a crockpot butter chicken recipe, that I apparently made 2 years ago.  I never repeated it, so it also must have been "meh".  Ah well, the search continues.  I don't know why I'm obsessed.  Well, not obsessed, but - I attended an Indian wedding about 10 years ago, and they had butter chicken, and it was awesome.

In any event, the roasted cauliflower and potatoes recipes is pretty simple: chop your veggies.  Start the oven at 400F.  Toss with the following spice mix and oil of your choice (coconut, olive, etc.):
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne
3/4 to 1 tsp salt

Roast until your desired amount of doneness, for me, that's 30-40 minutes.  It's especially delish tossed with chopped cilantro.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Easy Frittata

So we have a neighborhood potluck almost every Sunday. Apparently this group of neighbors have been meeting for 14 years.  Kids have grown and gone to college in this time.  Our friends up the street joined 5 or 6 years ago and they invited us to join 2 years ago.  Well they invited us before then, but we kept forgetting.

Our two families are the "newbies" now - we are the two families with young children (8 and under).  Every year it starts up around mother's day and ends mid-October.  That works with the weather and the time change.  It's a 5:30 pm event at a local park (walking distance, 1/2 mile for us, and more or less for the other families).  This local park has a lot of picnic facilities that can be reserved, plus soccer fields, softball fields, etc.  So we all just wander up there and find an open spot.  There's a hierarchy of good spots.

For a few years the group would try to switch to people's homes when it got too dark to do it outdoors, and it never really "took".  This year, someone came up with the great idea for a brunch!  So for the last month, that's what we've done.  It's a smaller group - some are at church, some are busy with the church of Sunday Football. (And today we canceled because the park is super busy.)  I've really been enjoying the brunches.

It makes it a little bit trickier to figure out what to take though.  For much of the summer, the Sunday evening dinner was my "meal off" for the week.  And it was easy to prep for it.  Salad, appetizer, chips and guacamole, bruschetta and bread, cheese and crackers, crockpot ribs, pizza.

Brunch is trickier for a couple of reasons: 1. People aren't as interested in as much variety for brunch.  And 2. I'm not taking any "meals off" anymore.  So I'd have to figure out what to take that would work into my regular eating pattern.  Plus there are a couple of vegetarians, and a few people who eat seafood but no other animal.

So the first week I took roasted potatoes.  The next week, I took a frittata.  Eggs and vegetables and cheese, cannot be easier.  At some point one of my regular weekly emails from the kitchn linked to this recipe, and I saved it in the back of my head.  The reason I like this recipe is that it's made in a 9x13 pan.  I don't have a pan that will work with a traditional "cook on the stovetop and finish in the oven".  I also like to make them in muffin tins, but muffin tins are a lot harder to clean.

The other advantage to frittatas is that you can "use up" lots of ingredients.  We are in "greens" season again at the CSA, which means kale and chard.  I love kale!! I don't love chard. Chard ends up in soups, in beans, or in frittatas.

Yesterday's frittata was for dinner, not brunch.  Chard from the CSA, tomatoes from our plant (don't hate me, it is still producing!), sauteed onions, and little bits of cheese.

(Pardon the ugly photography)

Easy Frittata:
1 Tbsp olive oil: 0.35
1 onion, diced: 0.40
1-2 medium or 4-6 small tomatoes, diced: free!
1 bunch chard, washed, torn into pieces: $1.50
  (I did not use the stems, but you can - just separate them and dice them and add them to the onion)
4 oz of cheese (I used mozzarella, some "Quattro formaggio", blue cheese, and cheddar): 0.75
1 dozen eggs: 1.79
1/2 cup milk: 0.10
Salt and Pepper

Total: $4.89 for six to eight main-course servings.  I generally consider two eggs to be a main course, so that would be $0.82 per serving.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Steam the chard until soft, 5-10 minutes.  Let cool, squeeze dry, and chop.

Saute the onion in the olive oil until soft and starting to brown a little.  Add the diced tomatoes and cook until they have given up most of their liquid.  Add the chard.  Stir well until mixed.  Add S&P to taste.

Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray or grease with butter.

In a medium to large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, S&P.

Spread the vegetables on the bottom of the 9x13 pan.  Pour egg mixture on top.  Drop the cheese on top of that.

Bake 45 min.

Let cool, cut into squares, enjoy!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A couple of frugal, healthy, one-pot meals

You really can't beat the simplicity of one-pot  meals.  Fewer dishes, fewer things to stir, piece of cake.

Last weekend my one-pot meal was black bean soup.  I flavored it with pork fat and stock leftover from a pork shoulder I'd cooked in the crockpot.  It was some pork from a local farmer, and expensive, so I didn't want to waste the leftover juices!

I opted for black bean soup because I have a 10 lb bag of black beans.  I've been working hard at losing weight, and have been cutting carbohydrates.  I've given up bread and pasta for November.  But I love beans, so I decided to make them a big part of my November diet.  I try to eat about 2 servings of carbohydrate foods per day (grains, beans, potatoes), more beans than anything.

I also happened to get a lot of chicken this week from Zaycon chicken, in addition to the chicken I already had from Trader Joe's.  So I've had to figure out a lot of chicken recipes.  I was thinking chicken and rice, and remembered a dish I made from the newspaper years ago that was ground beef, marinara sauce, mushrooms, and instant rice.  Oh how times have changed.  I decided to combine that recipe with my "one-pot pasta" concept using brown rice.

First, the soup.  This base of this soup came from The Pioneer Woman.  Because, google took me there.  I made mine in the pressure cooker because it was faster.

Black Bean Soup, adapted from The Pioneer Woman
1 lb dried black beans: 0.90
1 onion, diced: 0.50
2 peppers, chopped: 1.00 (one red, one yellow, farmer's market, smokin' hot deal!)
1 bunch cilantro: 1.00
3 stalks celery, chopped (because I had them): 0.20
3 cloves garlic, pressed: 0.15
1. 5 tsp each chili powder and cumin: 0.30
1 tsp salt
1 few tomatoes from my plant
2 pork fat: free (can use olive oil)
2-3 cups pork stock (use water or chicken stock): free
water: Your total liquid will be about 6 cups

Total: $4.05 for about 10 cups of soup, or $0.41 per cup

Soak the beans all day or overnight in water.  Drain.

Heat the fat in a pot.  Saute the onions, peppers, celery, and garlic until soft.  Add the beans, stock + water.  Bring to a boil, put lid on the pot, bring to pressure.  Cook at pressure for 9 minutes.  Remove from heat, allow pressure to release naturally.  Remove the lid.  Add the spices, salt, and tomatoes.  Continue to cook for 30 minutes to an hour.

At this point, I used the immersion blender for a few seconds to grind up some of the beans and make the sauce "thicker".

I served this with some cheese and diced avocado - and some bread for the boys who aren't giving up bread.


Chicken and vegetable marinara rice
1 onion, chopped: 0.50
2 peppers: 1.34 (no smoking deal this time)
2 cloves garlic, pressed: 0.10
1 package sliced mushrooms: 2.29
1 jar marinara: 1.79
1 cup water
1.5 lb frozen chicken tenders; 3.50
1 Tbsp olive oil: 0.40
3 cubes homemade pesto: 1.00
1.5 c. brown rice: 0.95
10 kalamata olives: 0.50
4 oz shredded mozzarella: 1.00
7 small tomatoes from my plant
salt and pepper to taste

Total: $12.97 for about 10 cups, or about $1.30 per cup.

Saute onions and mushrooms in olive oil until soft and mushrooms have given up much of their liquid.  I use my dutch oven.  Add peppers, garlic, pesto, and tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes, until they start to soften.

Add marinara and water and bring to a boil.  Add rice and chicken tenders (yes, they can still be frozen).  Stir, put lid on pot, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until rice is fully cooked.  It took about an hour.  At that point the rice was well cooked and the chicken was fully cooked.  I used the spoon to cut the chicken into smaller pieces.

Add the olives and stir.  Top with shredded cheese, put lid back on pot to let it melt.  Serve!

I thought for sure that I took pictures of at least the soup, but no such luck.  Anyway, you guys don't read my blog for my photos.  They suck.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How I food prep

An example of my weekly prep:

My life is so busy right now, and I’m trying to lose weight, so my success heavily hinges on my weekend prep.  I spent some time on the internet looking for examples, recommendations, tips and tricks to help.  I didn’t find much.

So instead, I decided to write down what I do and see where I can make improvements.

Step 1:  Figure out what you like to eat.  This is the biggest thing. 
-          Find things that you like to eat ALL THE TIME – these will be staples
-          Find things that are easy to make

Step 2: Figure out your schedule
-          When are you eating breakfast, lunch, dinner? Snacks?
-          Are you eating at home, at work, at a soccer game?
-          Are there certain nights that you work late and are tired?

Step 3: Any special goals?
-          Do you prefer to eat organic? Local?
-          Are you trying to lose weight?  Save money?
-          Do you have special dietary needs?

Step 4: The meal plan
-          Do you want to plan daily, weekly, monthly?
-          Do you want to incorporate leftovers?
-          Do you have time to shop more than once/ week?
-          What can you prepare ahead of time?
-          What will go bad first? (What produce lives longer vs. not)

Step 5: Make a list of “best”, “better”, “okay”, “rather not”
-          Best: cook from scratch with local ingredients
-          Better: cook from scratch with grocery store ingredients
-          Okay: prepared foods from the fridge or freezer section of the store: Costco chicken, frozen pizza, frozen chicken tenders, pre-prepared meatballs, pre-sliced deli turkey
-          Rather not: eat takeout food
-          (Your list may be different!)

For my family, it would look like this:
1.        We eat just about everything.
2.       “Easy to make” for us means Trader Joe’s frozen breaded chicken tenders, microwaved vegetables, frozen pizza, one-pot spaghetti, crockpot meals, soup.
3.       Breakfast at home, snacks and lunch at work (microwave available for the adults, not the kiddo), Dinner at home.  Always tired but especially Friday.
4.       Special goals: weight loss (meaning: extra time chopping veggies and counting calories, so try to keep meals simple – more whole foods or proportioned packaged foods, fewer homemade casseroles).  Salads, steamed veggies, hard boiled eggs, deli turkey, fruit, almonds, cottage cheese.  Most of what I eat is a single-ingredient.

5.       Meal plan – I plan weekly, or every couple of days.  I usually make something on the weekend, then fill in during the week with our “easy” meals.  “Make ahead” meals are things like vegetable soups, bean burritos, pasta.
6.       Vegetables that go bad first tend to be the leafies or the things like peppers.  Carrots last longer.
7.       Shopping – strictly once per week for me.

Here’s an example of a weekend prep.  I spread it out over a couple of days.

Breakfast:  (What do you like to eat?  What about the family?)
1.       Make sure you don’t run out of cereal and milk (easy, husband’s fave)
2.       Or oatmeal (cheap)
3.       Or bananas (I have a smoothie every day)
4.       Bagels and cream cheese (kids)
5.       Toast (last resort)

Snacks:
1.       Veggies and hummus or dip.
-          Wash and make veggie sticks: carrots, celery, snap peas, peppers, cucumber.  Package up in five small Ziploc bags for each day of the week.  Prep time: about 20 minutes, dependent entirely on how small the carrots are from the CSA (so much peeling!)
-          Buy hummus or Goddess dressing for dipping.  Measure out.
2.       Cottage cheese or nuts and fruit
-          Buy apples.  Buy pre-bagged almonds.  Buy cottage cheese and scoop out each day.
3.       Ham and cheese (or turkey and cheese) rollups
-          Buy deli meat and sliced or string cheese.  Pack up each day.

Lunch:
I pretty much eat salad every day for lunch.
-          Wash a head of lettuce.  Depending on the size of the head, this is 2-3 salads.  This is about 10 minutes per head. I store the rest of the washed lettuce in a Ziploc baggie (large) with a paper towel.
-          Hard boil a dozen eggs (my children sometimes snack on my eggs, so I need to cook up a bunch): 20 minutes total.
-          Keep small pouches of tuna or salmon on hand for when you run out of eggs.  Or canned beans.
-          Mix up a bottle of vinaigrette dressing, or buy Trader Joe’s bruschetta and use that for dressing, with a little added vinegar.
-          Each day: put dressing in the bottom of the Tupperware container.  Add chopped veggies (I usually take a few out of my snack baggies).  Peel and chop two eggs to put on top.  Finish with the lettuce.  (Essentially, wet on the bottom, dry on the top.)  Shake up at work before lunch and eat – bonus – only one dish to wash!  Time: about 10 minutes.

Dinner:
1.       Make one big meal on the weekend, two if I’m being ambitious.  This could be:
-          One pot pasta
-          Refried beans in slow cooker, made into burritos
-          Soup
-          Fried rice
-          Pork shoulder in the crockpot
2.       Eat this for dinner until you run out.  I aim for it to be 2-3 meals, no more.  If it’s soup, I make a double batch and immediately freeze half for later.

3.       When you run out of this for dinner, move on to plan B:
-          Soup from the freezer
-          Grilled cheese sandwiches
-          Microwaved vegetables with some sort of thing from Trader Joe’s or Costco like pizza or chicken
-          Costco chicken
-          Crockpot
-          Cheater stir fry (chopped veggies, frozen meatballs, Trader Joe’s island soyaki sauce)
-          Pancakes or cereal

4.       Don’t forget Saturday!  If you have energy, you can cook a special meal on Saturday.  But I find that by the time I get to Saturday, I’m kind of over the whole cooking thing and I forgot to plan for it.

What happens if you are the last one home, the spouse doesn’t feel like cooking?  How can you “help” avoid the takeout trap, or the processed food trap (as you can see, I am not avoiding the processed food trap)?

-          Start small.  Simply cooking one big pot of one-pot pasta on Sunday night – that will last you for 3 meals, depending on the size of your family.  Ingredients are: whatever veggies you have, a jar of marinara, 13 oz of whole wheat pasta, and some meatballs if you’ve got them.


-          Keep emergency food in the freezer for when you don’t even feel like doing that.  Pre-made lasagna, enchiladas.  What are options on the way home from work?  Costco chicken is cheaper than takeout.  Or “just heat and serve” meals from most grocery stores, like mac and cheese.  Deli salads are also an option. People are so busy and cook so little these days that there are TONS of options of ready made food at the store, depending on your budget.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Stupid little money saving tricks

Why do I call them this?  Well, you'll see them on *every* frugal living list.  Or most of them.  And you'll almost ALWAYS have two types of commenters:

1.  "You have to hit the BIG THINGS!  Washing out baggies is stupid, call the insurance company and get a better deal!"

2.  "Same old stuff, I want new ideas!"

Here's the thing.  I've read dozens of "frugal tips" books and as many blogs.  There's a lot of repetition, but life changes.  I may read the same idea 10 times, but the 11th, it clicks. Or a tip just may  not apply to me, but as I get older, change jobs, add new kids - suddenly, it does!

Or I start to slowly lose my frugal ways, and then have to re-dedicate myself to them.

Here are a few "silly and stupid ways" to save money.

1.  Water.  When you go out to lunch or dinner with friends (you know, rarely), drink water.  Soda is what, $2?  Eat out once a week, that's $100 a year.  Twice, $200.  And then it becomes a "thing".

When you go somewhere for fun - a walk, the park, the zoo - take a bottle of water or two.  I mean, really, if you get thirsty suddenly, you are looking at $1 to $3 for a bottle of water.  Tap water?  1/2 cent per gallon.  Just get used to carrying water.

We have a potluck in the park every Sunday with the neighborhood.  There's food.  There's wine.  A lot of wine.  So much so that fairly often, there's no water.  So the four young children (aged 8, 8, 4, 2) and the 3 older children (teenagers) sometimes don't have anything to drink.  Sure, a lemonade or soda can be had for $2 from the vending machine.  But really?  I know am in the habit of filling two stainless water bottles with cold filtered water and bringing it every week.  This way, if nobody else brings anything non-alcoholic, it's there.  Often there is bubble water, but many of the kids don't like it.

2.  Weekend trips.  Now, this is a new thing for me.  Now that I have two kids, we find ourselves heading to the beach on the weekends.  If you go to the beach, your trip can really vary from "all out" to "bare bones".  "All out" is a big sunshade, blankets, chairs, a table.  Coolers with water, beer (it IS the beach), veggies, fruit, sandwiches.  Surfboards, boogie boards, towels, sand toys, a volleyball, a frisbee, a football.  All out is great if you have lots of people to carry the stuff.

"Bare bones" is a towel for each person, a bottle of water, a bucket and a shovel, a boogie board, sunscreen and a hat.

We tend to go in the middle with towels AND a blanket, one chair, one umbrella, sand toys and boogie board.  It's usually two trips, but the problem here is: food and drinks. We inevitably go from 10 to 12:30, and then it's lunch time.  And everyone is hungry.  Problem with packing food?  I have to do it.  So sometimes we just plan to eat out as a treat, but most of the time it's a last minute eating out.  Then it's a habit, and it's not a "treat" anymore.

But packing food inevitably falls to me, and I try to pick things that people like.  That won't get covered in sand.  And will stay cool (but that requires a cooler, another thing to carry).  Sometimes I pack simple snacks to tide us over.  Sometimes full on sandwiches.  But it seems that everyone is unhappy with that.  I guess I need to get a thick skin about it.

3.  Prepared food.  If you find yourself out and desperate for food, compromise.  Or if it's Friday night and you REALLY don't want to cook.  This is where the prepared food aisle is your friend, or the salad bar at the grocery store.  Sure it's better to make your own pizza, but a $5 pizza is cheaper.  If you are going home, microwaved mac and cheese is fine.  If you aren't and need to buy cold food, some crackers and cheese, fruit, salami, baby carrots - these can be a meal and they will be a lot cheaper than a meal out.

4.  Eat what you buy, buy what you eat, and don't shop.  Don't give in to the "well, I'm here, I'll just grab..." (a soda, a bottle of water, a bag of chips). I found myself coveting many things at Kmart yesterday, but really, I had veggies and hummus in my fridge at work.  So I didn't buy anything.

I know these seem obvious, and silly.  And only a few bucks at a pop.  But it's the HABITS we are forming here.  And like any habit, they are hard to adopt, and conversely, so easy to lose!