Tag Archives: Organic

Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail

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Maybe this makes me an extreme nerd or a yuppie foodie, but one of my favorite activities of late is meal-planning!

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I’m so serious.

I look for time during the week when I can sit down to plan my Thursday grocery shopping trip and my meals for the week. Meal prep ahead of time not only saves me time and energy when I come home exhausted from Internship, it prevents me from making lazy meal choices (i.e. canned soup) when I’m ravenous after the gym. For example, the other night I was feeling extra productive, so I sliced and diced the veggies to marinate overnight that I knew I’d need for the following night’s stir fry dinner. When I came home later than expected the next afternoon and grudgingly still went to the gym, my growling tummy was beyond grateful that I had felt so in the mood for meal prep earlier! All I had to do was cook some brown rice, saute the veggies and presto: dinner.

This week, I’ve been feeling particularly excited about meal-planning, especially with Fresh Market opening so close to school! Yesterday morning was the grand opening, and people were shoving queuing at the unholy hour of 7:55. Uhhh… no thank you!

Anyway, today I made my weekly trip to Kroger for staples, armed with my meal plan for the week and my grocery list. I am usually pretty good about sticking to my list and keeping “splurge” buys to a minimum. So, without further ado:

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Beverages: La Croix sparkling water ($4.49), lemonade mix — per Ian’s request ($1.89), O.N.E. coconut water — impulse buy ($2.99), Vita coconut water — impulse buy ($2.00), and organic milk ($3.69)

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Dairy: Chobani Greek yogurt and Chobani Flips (3/$4.00)… I misread the price tag and thought they were 10/$8.00

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Produce: bananas ($1.24), shredded lettuce ($2.99), seedless red grapes ($1.55), organic celery ($1.69), pomegranate ($2.49), cucumber ($0.75), green pepper ($0.77), Fuji apples ($3.29)

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Random: much-needed [and on-sale] highlighters ($1.29), brown rice ($2.49), organic seedless raisins ($3.49), Truvia natural sweetener ($3.99)

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Grand total: $55.83

I’m all set for the week with breakfast items I already had, fresh fruit for snacks and sides, meals for Ian’s visit this weekend, and five dinners! I’m still planning to drag bring Ian with me to Fresh Market on Saturday to explore, but I fully plan to have a list in my hand and a spending cap in my head. That place makes me giddy!

Now, on to equally as exciting stuff: I spent a little time playing around in the kitchen this afternoon, and I devised my own recipe for quick and easy Waldorf salad. I’m more than happy to share!

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Homemade Waldorf Salad
1 stalk celery
1 C plain Chobani Greek yogurt
handful of raisins
2-3 handfuls of red grapes
half of large Fuji apple
1/4 C whole almonds

Slice the celery, grapes, and apple into bite-sized pieces. Mix all solid ingredients together, then add yogurt. Stir until yogurt coats all ingredients evenly. Refrigerate for up to 5 days. Bon appetit!

Well, blends, I’m off to prep for a double-dose of class tonight. Have an excellent evening!

Stay tuned this weekend for a peek inside my OCD fridge, as well as my exploits at FM! 😉

P.S. I’d love to hear about YOUR meal prep and/or meal-planning! Do you measure portions out precisely? How far in advance do you cut perishable items? Do you cater your grocery shopping to portable foods for on-the-go? Let’s chat! 🙂

Lettuce Talk Greens

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If you’re like me, you can kill a batch of salad faster than you can say, “What happened…?” If you’re not like me, then just go the hell away and eat your perfectly fresh salad.

I kid! Kind of…

In my perpetual quest for foodie knowledge, I’ve read a plethora of blog posts and helpful sites recently that detail how to maintain fresh greens — IF you have a salad spinner. I’m a broke, old-school grad student, so salad spinner goes on my list of priorities right behind BMW and David Beckham. (In other snarky words, I do a lot by hand.)

Here is how I keep salad greens fresh for the long haul (i.e. more than three or four days):

First, break apart individual leaves from a head of Iceberg lettuce or a bunch of leaf lettuce.

If the leaves are a little wilted, fill the sink with cold water and soak the leaves for about 30 minutes. You’ll be surprised how much they perk right up!

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When the leaves have finished their bath, rinse each leaf under cold water, then shake it gently to remove excess water. Spread out several paper towels and place leaves individually on the towels to dry.

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I sometimes put another paper towel over top of the leaves to hasten the drying process. When the leaves are almost completely dry, arrange them as you want to use them on a clean, dry paper towel.

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Layer the leaves from first to be used on top to to-be-used-last on the bottom. Sandwich the leaves between clean, dry paper towels to soak up any remaining water.

Lastly, store the lettuce in a Ziploc bag or other airtight container, and be sure to squeeze out any air pockets before refrigerating.

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Your lettuce should be good to go for a couple of weeks!

I wanted to share this information with you because after years of magically transforming crisp greens into limp, slimy piles of earthy-smelling mush I call salads, I have finally found a system that works. Yes, it’s much more time-consuming than simply throwing a cheap bag of greens into my fridge and calling it a day. Spending the extra time on food preparation and storage has allowed me more budgetary freedom to purchase the organic goods I crave less frequently than I was buying (and throwing away) the prepackaged stuff.

If you have any tips or suggestions about rinsing or storing greens, I’m all ears! Salad greens seem to be the produce item I waste most frequently via improper care and storage.

Sorry I’m getting this post out so late. I meant to write yesterday, but it’s been another one of those go-go-go weekends! Enjoy what’s left of your Saturday, blends!

This Week’s Small Haul

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Happiest of Fridays to you, blends! The reason I’m so peppy this morning is because (1) I get to see my handsome fiancé tonight, and (2) I completed — and absolutely loved — my first full week of Internship and third-year classes!

In the midst of all the hubbub this week, I still needed to replenish a few grocery items. I’ve decided that I really like doing these line-item grocery haul posts, so indulge me! 😉

From the produce section, I didn’t need much. In fact, I’m glad I remembered to only get two bananas, since I like them “crunchy,” as my mom says. I’m leaving for Richmond this morning and won’t be back until Sunday evening. By then, any leftover bananas wouldn’t be A.K.-approved.

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Kroger brand bananas, $0.59

As far as “splurge” purchases go, I had a few of those today. As soon as I left my apartment, I could feel my blood sugar dropping. I still needed to run to the post office, which was in the opposite direction of Kroger. I loathe grocery-shopping on an empty stomach, but I couldn’t understand why I felt so yucky after a leftovers lunch of brown rice and chicken stir fry. I grabbed the first thing I saw, and the natural sugar brought me right back up!

$1.99

$1.99

As I was perusing the mixed-up aisles of Kroger (which is being heavily renovated), I happened across these beauties. I liked their ingredient lists, and they were on sale, so into the cart they went! I also picked up an impromptu sandwich for dinner, since I have class from 4:30-9:30 on Thursdays.

London Broil and leaf lettuce on focaccia, $5.29; Quaker single-serving oatmeal, $1.67 each

London Broil and leaf lettuce on focaccia, $5.29; Quaker single-serving oatmeal, $1.67 each

The purchase I was most excited about? Cho, of course! 😉

Chobani Flip and Chobani 2% Greek yogurt, 10/$10

Chobani Flip and Chobani 2% Greek yogurt, 10/$10

As far as dairy products and breakfast go, I didn’t need much. I found that I really like Simple Truth organic milk because of the size and because of the reeeeally long expiration date (October 12 on this carton). I also decided to try buying brown eggs for the first time.

Simple Truth organic milk carton, $3.49; Kroger brand brown eggs, $1.99/dozen; Morningstar Farms vegetarian bacon, $3.99

Simple Truth organic milk carton, $3.49; Kroger brand brown eggs, $1.99/dozen; Morningstar Farms vegetarian bacon, $3.99

Lastly, I needed just a few household items. Normally, I don’t purchase school supplies at the grocery store because they are much cheaper elsewhere. Being that the kids in this area have already started school, most of the school supplies had been marked way down.

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Kroger brand kitchen trash bags, $5.99/50; small spiral notebook, $2.99; Huggies baby wipes, $1.99

When my mom came with me to the ‘Burg a few weeks ago to check on my apartment and to conduct some pre-Internship housekeeping business, she insisted that I have a few Kroger grocery bags. Today was the first opportunity I’ve had to use them, and let me tell you — they are absolutely wonderful. I’m completely unashamed to admit that I use Kroger grocery bags to line my bathroom, bedroom, and laundry room trash cans, so I’m always happy to have an endless supply. However, I hate when my groceries roll around in the back of my car, spill out of those flimsy bags, and when my groceries take up approximately 546 bags that I must carry up a flight of stairs. My haul today only required two of these bags, as opposed to probably eight plastic bags.

Now I have four of them, and I plan to use them every time I run to Kroger!

Now I have four of them, and I plan to use them every time I run to Kroger!

Mom, when you read this, feel free to cheer aloud and dance around and pump your arms in the air, but don’t feel obligated to text me, “See?!?!” 😉

This week’s total haul: $49.24

Have a wonderful day, blends!

P.S. Do you carry reusable bags to the grocery store, or do you prefer paper/plastic? I’m on the campaign trail to recruit more reusable bag buddies!

Grocery Haul Line Item

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Hello and happy Sunday, blends! I’m back at my little apartment for a long, blissful, peaceful, relaxing week of… class. Whomp.

Anyhow, I haven’t written about my grocery shopping exploits in awhile, so I thought it would be fun to update you on what I’m eating these days, how much I buy to feed a household of one, and about how much I spend per week on food. Here goes, in no particular order!

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I was falling a little behind on my TP supply. Get it? 😉 ($7.99)

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My fridge is always stocked with Chobani. This week, all Chobani was 10/$10, so I even indulged in a few Flips.

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In the grains department, organic frosted flakes cereal ($2.50), store-brand whole wheat rotini ($0.99), spicy blue corn tortilla chips ($2.79), and 100-calorie whole wheat sandwich rounds ($3.19).

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My “shame buys”: basil pesto ($3.69) for chicken pesto pasta this week, and soups ($2.69 each). I try not to buy these types of items often, because pesto is so high in fat, and because brand-name soups have a tremendous amount of sodium (34% RDV in just one of these cans!).

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In the beverage department, my impromptu purchase of Metro Mint water (on sale 10/$10), practically sugar-free and low-cal cranberry-pomegranate juice ($2.74), and store-brand skim milk ($2.19).

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I thought I was in desperate need of Orbit gum (2/$3), but it turns out there were two packs of strawberry flavor waiting for me in the pantry. Oops!

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Not-quite-ripe bananas — just how I like ’em — ($0.59/pound = $1.20), organic strawberries ($2.28), and white grapes ($2.99/pound = $5.20).

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As far as veggies go, one green bell pepper ($0.78), two Roma tomatoes ($2.28/pound = $2.51), one cucumber (4/$3 = $0.75), one Vidalia onion ($0.99/pound = $0.64), whole carrots ($0.79), baby spinach ($2.99), and Steamfresh frozen peas ($1.39) and a veggie blend ($2.69).

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One-half dozen grade-A large store-brand eggs ($0.99) and feta crumbles ($1.89).

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And last but certainly not least, my protein department: antibiotic-free, hormone-free, 100% vegetarian-fed, cage-free-raised chicken breasts ($3.95), and farm-raised boneless and skinless tilapia fillets ($3.99).

Drum roll, please……

My total haul for the week cost $83.42, and I saved $12.35 using my store points card. Woohooo!

Some of these items will last me longer than a week, such as three chicken breasts and four pieces of tilapia, a carton of juice, the TP (I should hope!), pesto, pasta, and gum. I needed to make a large grocery shopping trip today since I haven’t been at my apartment for a month and the fridge was looking pretty bare. That explains my high bill, as a typical weekly trip ranges from $40-$60. However, my fruit and veggie haul for this week was pretty typical, with some items varying depending upon weekly sales (e.g. grapes instead of pears, baby spinach instead of a butter bibb blend).

That about wraps it up! I’d love to hear from YOU about grocery shopping! Maybe I’m a weirdo, but I love seeing what other foodies and health nuts buy each week.

Let’s Talk Baby Food

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Wow! Thanks for the support of Monday’s post! Turns out y’all really like your bars. Ironic…

Part of today’s post actually is about baby food, but not in the context of a baby eating it. Got your attention, didn’t it? 😉 I’m the one who eats the baby food around here!

Awhile back, I read posts on several of my favorite bloggers’ sites about the pouches their toddlers were eating. That got me to thinking… If these women, who value wholesome, nutritious foods, have sampled them and feel comfortable with their children eating these pouches… they must be good and good for you, right?

I decided to give ’em a whirl. (Not just because I love spending extra time in the Natural Foods section.) I picked up a few varieties at Kroger – blueberry banana, carrot apricot mango, beet-and-something-or-other (I do not recommend the beet flavor; both it and the carrot were very earthy-tasting), butternut squash and banana (I was afraid to try that flavor), so on and so forth. I had my misgivings after trying a few of the veggie-heavy ones. I made faces in class so contorted I was forced to reveal that I was sucking on organic baby food. Yep – I’m that girl. I wonder what Freud would have to say about my choice in snack foods…

All in all, though, they’re delicious. They have a good bit of sugar, but it’s natural. The ingredient list is short and entirely pronounceable and recognizable: organic beets, organic carrots, organic blueberries, organic pureed banana, etc. They’re about a hundred calories apiece, and they’re surprisingly satisfying.

If you’re looking for a healthy alternative to your same-old-same, I give these my stamp of approval.

Switching gears completely…

I want to discuss a commercial I’ve been seeing a lot recently that just bugs me. It’s for the Slimful bar. Have you seen these commercials?

You eat one 90-calorie bar, drink a glass of water, and (presumably) eat less at a meal. In my mind, if you’re going to be consuming approximately 270 calories in Slimful bars each day, why not apply those calories toward nature’s nutritional supplements? (Hippie much?) I mean, instead of a bar, why not toss back a banana and some whole-wheat toast with Nutella? Or an apple with a dab of PB?

I’ll admit that I have no idea what’s in the Slimful bar, but honestly, I don’t want to know. It’s a rapid weight-loss strategy, which in my (observational) experience, is a recipe for unhealthy weight loss and almost immediate weight-gain following the “strategy.” I’m much more pro clean-eating and whole, natural foods. It can’t be that great, or CVS and Walgreen’s would be marketing fresh fruits and veggies and whole grains. Sigh.

What really irks me about the Slimful commercials is the slogan: “Eating less is a beautiful thing.” Of course, of course, everything in moderation. Five small meals a day. Drink an 8-ounce glass of water before a meal. Recognize that sometimes thirst is mistaken for hunger. Keep snacks on-hand to avoid overeating/binges when hunger strikes unexpectedly.

We’ve all heard it all, right?

So maybe gorging yourself isn’t the way to go, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. But it just really burns my toast that a bar is being pushed as a substitute for adequate, legitimate nutrition. The commercial even depicts the “meal” consumed after the bar as being a few meager pieces of broccoli and some lame, undoubtedly flavorless meat. Let’s be real – who eats like that? Rabbits? My mouth doesn’t water thinking about some bar prior to a less-than-satisfactory meal; it waters when I think about all the ways there are to fill a plate with naturally delicious, naturally nutritious foods that keep me fuller longer, satisfy my sweet tooth, and give me more energy than some crummy bar.

Please excuse me while I readjust my attitude.

Alright, my apologies. Rant complete. I hope you are having a thrilling Thursday, blends!

P.S. My shipment of Chobani Bite is expected to arrive March 6 – much “oohing” and “ahhing” plus reviews to come!

Positive Vibes from Eating Out

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My family has been eating out a lot over the holidays — far more often than we usually eat out. It’s due partially to occasions that call for dining out as opposed to coming all the way back home (for example, University of Richmond basketball games), but it’s mostly due to the great deals Groupon has been boasting. Nevertheless, we’ve all been conscious of our need (as well as our desire) to eat healthy, home-cooked meals and watch our waistlines and our wallets a bit more carefully. Tonight, however, Mom and Dad and I decided to try something completely new: Positive Vibe Cafe.

The father and son who cofounded the restaurant in an old renovated bank spoke to my dad’s Kiwanis group about the restaurant’s hiring of men and women with mental and physical disabilities. The son was diagnosed with a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy at a very young age, and his father wanted him to learn job skills and be employable. That’s the entire mission of Positive Vibe — hiring individuals with varying disabilities, providing them training in the food service industry, and helping them seek employment upon “graduation” from the restaurant.

Not only was our service fantastic (and I’m not just saying that in a “Oh, they did the best they could” or a pitying kind of way; we truly had excellent service), the food was incredible. My eyes were a bit bigger than my stomach, so I ordered the Watermelon, Mixed Greens, and Goat Cheese Fritters Salad and the Jumbo Shrimp Stuffed with Crab Meat with sides of Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese and Celery, Apple, and Fennel Slaw. Even with eyes that will permanently overshadow my stomach, I don’t normally order so much rich food. The shrimp were a special, and there were only four of them, so I thought I’d be fine adding the salad onto my entrée and its requisite two sides. Wrong. Everything, however, was fresh and delicious.

[As usual, I would have snapped pictures, but I was ravenous by the time we arrived.]

Oh, and that’s the other great thing about Positive Vibe — the menu is centered around “comfort food,” but many dishes are catered toward being lean, low-fat, and using steroid-free ingredients (e.g. the buffalo burger). Other dishes are created with organic and locally grown ingredients (e.g. the boneless loin pork chop). The menu has a variety of dishes for practically every diet, including specially designated vegetarian and seafood selections. The menu even boasts legitimate family recipes!

If you live in the Richmond area, I highly recommend Positive Vibe. The atmosphere was friendly and relaxed, the restaurant had the feel of an old seafood place (complete with an anterior bubbling fish tank), and the staff could not have been friendlier or more gracious. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of dining at Positive Vibe, and it didn’t hurt knowing our choice of restaurant was contributing to such a valuable and overlooked mission. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but I was highly impressed, and I will be going back.

If you have been to Positive Vibe, what did you think? Would you give it a try?

What Does That Even Mean?!

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Steel-cut oats.
Quinoa.
Chia.
“Whole.”
Roasted vegetables.
Kale chips.
“Clean eating.”
Gluten-free.
“Natural.”
Superfood.
Sea salt.
“Raw.”
Coconut water.
Grass-fed beef.
And of course, the catch-all, the big O: organic.

Raise your hand if you know what all of these words pertain to. Well, okay, so I can’t exactly see your hand raised. (Or not raised.)

These are all buzzwords I’ve heard floating around the wellness and healthy-living spheres during the past year. Quite frankly, I didn’t know what the hell most of them meant until I did extensive research and label-reading. I am not ashamed to admit now that until I tried most of these things for myself, I didn’t at all fully understand their nutritional value or their merit as part of my diet. Okay, let’s be honest — I didn’t know most of these things existed until I ran across them in someone’s blog or the newspaper or on Twitter.

I know I’m not alone in this. We hear something (e.g. steel-cut oats) and we pretend that we know exactly what that is (a different way of cutting oats? a different type of oats altogether?) until we can look it up on Wikipedia or secretly Google it on our cells under the table. I’m not a Registered Dietician or a physician, so I don’t know the biochemical breakdown of every single food I stuff into my gob (i.e. why all of a sudden everyone is gluten-free). Honestly, I don’t see the benefit in pretending to like something just because it’s popular in some social circles or in defying ignorance for the sake of dietary sophistication.

Should I be using fat-free plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream atop my vegan chili? The operative word here is “should.” I should be eating whatever it is that I’m comfortable eating.

What exactly are the benefits of drinking coconut water as opposed to good ol’ H2O? Besides my wallet losing weight…

I’m all for research and experimenting with different foods. That has been the name of my game over the past 11 months. But I’m over feigning understanding about why peanut butter is out and almond butter is in. I’m done nodding and smiling and saying, “Yep, mmhmm,” when someone raves about a particular brand of herbal tea. My eyes are probably glazing… but don’t worry — it’s not you, it’s me. I surrender to the almighty foodie powers that be: I don’t know everything! I don’t think heaven has reserved seating for vegans, while those ignorant to the existence of granola are banished to the smokers’ lounge. Just sayin’ 😉

P.S. Your comments are always welcome and appreciated!