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Posted on Oct 23, 2012 in Weight Loss 101 | 43 comments

Rx for Advice

The internet.

A floppity jillion bytes of Facebook posts and Tweets and reblogs and fanfic and Wikipedia pages and pirated torrents and, of course, porn — all zooming around at the speed of web. (I promise that link isn’t as NSFW as it seems. It links to a Youtube video of a song from the musical Avenue Q… though, actually, the song lyrics themselves probably ARE NSFW. Lulz.)

In today’s day and age, we have unfettered access to pretty much anything you can imagine on the net. But of course, not everything out there is necessarily going to be of value or interest to you. You have your niches. Your interests. Your bookmarks. And for some of you, perhaps this very blog is part of that list (and thanks!). And for some others of you, infinitely more dangerous sites may also be part of it.

It may not be a surprise when I tell you that I am totally addicted to the internet. I check my phone approximately 80,000 times a day. I am on Facebook and Twitter pretty much nonstop, and, of course, I write this blog (almost) daily. I mean, let’s be honest. It’s almost at Tom Haverfordian levels. And to some of you, that might seem insane. (Of course, as I type that, I realize that’s probably not true, since if you found my blog, you probably also heart the internet.) But as “damaging” as all the time I spend online now might seem, I know for a fact that it used to have a far more nefarious impact on my life.

When I was in the deepest throes of my eating disorder, I was a frequenter of the internet in very different ways than I am now. You see, the internet is like a proverbial (sugar-free) candy store for dieters and people who are looking to lose weight. It offers endless diet and weight loss websites, with everything from Weight Watchers Online to personal blogs like, oh, hey, this one. And that can be a great thing. You can find healthy tips, support, camaraderie, and more within the very loosely designed walls of the interwebs.

But you can also find a lot of not-great things, too.

I used to spend hours surfing the web for diet tricks, weight loss tips, and (God, I hate this word so much) thinspiration. I was desperate to find that quick-fix, that one, somehow unknown trick that would finally net me the size 4 body I always dreamed of. I think some of you may already know where this is going. It took about .0003 seconds for me to stumble upon pro-ED sites. Sites that not only showcased, but actively promoted anorexic and bulimic behavior. Ones that provided tips for how to hide your eating disorder, how to trick yourself into thinking you weren’t hungry. Sites that posted picture after picture of beautiful, thin, photoshopped women as “thinspo.”

It was a dark time for me. You all know this. And I don’t think that any moderately self-aware woman would find a site like that and not be instantly aware of its influence. But that doesn’t necessarily mean she still won’t succumb to it. “Skinny” still has a lot of power. I’ve spent over 2 years writing this blog, and trying to promote HEALTHY weight loss. I know how taxing and wearying years of crash- and yoyo-dieting has had on me. I still bear the emotional scars of my disordered eating behavior, and I have come a very, very long way from that. My journey is still not perfect, I still have flashes back to my disordered thinking and eating, but I work to promote the fact that being healthy IS more important than being thin. I do believe that. And even though I am still trying to lose weight, I no longer do so at the cost of my health.

But, if tomorrow someone were to approach me with a pill that would magically make me thin through almost no effort of my own, if I was shown proof that it worked… even if it had side-effects, even if it wasn’t healthy… would I still be tempted? Of course I would. There’s absolutely no question. That’s the kind of power that being thin still has on those of us who struggle with being overweight.

So to be honest, I didn’t actually start this post to talk about pro-ana or pro-mia blogs. I tend to get a little carried away because I know they can be incredibly damaging, especially to young people. But I also think that most of you guys are probably (hopefully) beyond the reach of sites like that. I actually wanted to talk about those other sites out there that engage people who are interested in healthy living and weight loss. Sites like — gasp! — this very blog.

My blog is literally accessible by anyone with an internet connection. And whether you’re a 35-year-old woman who just had her first baby (congrats!) and is trying to shed a bit of baby weight, or if you’re an overweight teenager, like I was, who just wants an idea of where to start, you have equal chances of finding me. With that in mind, I feel it is my responsibility as the blogger behind this site to stand behind my words and actions. I promote myself as a healthy living blogger, as someone who is trying to lose weight “the right way.” So I need to make sure that while I try to lose weight, I’m doing it “right.”

Now, that being said, I know that I’m not a dietitian, nutritionist, personal trainer, or medical professional. I have my own experience, and that’s it. I do offer my own set of advice on how to do so, but I always encourage those who might consider taking said advice to do so with a grain of salt. It’s not as if I have the credentials to prescribe weight loss advice, and I don’t try to pretend that I do. Now, as it happens, I do believe my advice is relatively sound, but that’s kind of moot. The bottom line is that I would never actively try to encourage my readers to sacrifice their health for the sake of weight loss.

My concern is that I feel there are others out there who, while they may promote themselves under the same label as a “healthy whatever blogger”, they don’t feel the same responsibility. They preach things under the wrong heading. You can’t label yourself a healthy living blogger, or a healthy weight loss blogger, or a healthy anything, and then offer scores of blatantly unhealthy advice. Well, perhaps my wording is off. It’s a free internet. Technically, you CAN do whatever you want. But that doesn’t mean you should.

Yes, pro-ana and pro-mia sites are undeniably dangerous and toxic. But people who follow those kinds of sites probably know what they’re getting into. They’re probably looking for it. On the other hand, those who Google “healthy weight loss tips” and stumbles upon a series of recipes for things like shredded carrots embedded in sugar-free jello, might not really realize what kind of “advice” they’re really getting.

“Hmm,” they might say. “Well, that doesn’t seem too healthy, but it clearly worked for this girl, and look how great she looks! Look how much weight she lost! Look how much healthier she looks now that she’s thin.”

I should probably put it out there that this really (really!) is not meant to be a smear campaign against anybody in particular. I just feel like there is a lot of interesting discussion to be had behind wielding the internet responsibly. It just bears a little thought, both from a blogger- and from a reader-perspective. I find the implications of both sides to be endlessly fascinating. There was a panel at the 2011 Healthy Living Summit that touched on this concept.

Buuuuuuut, since I’ve already waxed serious for 1,300 words, I think I’ll cut myself off now, and hand over the reins to you all.

Do you feel that bloggers — healthy living bloggers, especially — have a responsibility for the advice they offer? Or do you feel the onus is more upon the readers to vet the kind of blogs they follow?

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Posted on Aug 16, 2012 in Dear Diary, Weight Loss, Weight Loss 101 | 30 comments

The Game Plan: Act II, Part I

Wow. I can honestly say I am blown away by the supportive comments that I received on yesterday’s post. I’ll admit, I was having a semi-hyperventilation experience after pressing the “publish” button, but I should know better by now than to expect anything but amazingness from you all. Thank you so much.

All right, so now that the official declaration (and subsequent confession of weight gain) is out of the way, let’s talk specifics. Obviously, I’m not going to get back into weight loss mode by simply talking (er, writing?) about it (though how I wish I could!). I find myself in an interesting position right now, actually, because yes, the fact of the matter is that I’ve already done this.

So technically, you would think that I already know everything I need to do, right?

Well, here’s hoping.

See, I do know some of the things that I need to start doing. I definitely need to start actively tracking my calories again (which I’ve already started, thanks to my handy-dandy calorie counting iPhone app). I definitely need to get back into some form of cardio, since I’ve been pushing it to the wayside at the gym lately in favor of strength training (which I don’t intend to STOP, I just need to find a better balance between the two). But I am a little worried that doing all of the things I was doing before — snacking throughout the day, pretty much only tracking calories and not other nutritional stats, etc. — won’t be quite as effective this time around (for Act II, as we are calling it). After all, I was still doing those things during the entire time that my weight loss had stalled, and the lack of results got very frustrating for me. I think this was a big part of the reason why I let so many of those good habits slide during “intermission”, and thus why I gained 16 pounds back.

So this time, I want to make sure, like Samantha said in her comment yesterday, that I’m really establishing sustainable, long-term, habits that won’t mean weight gain the minute I stop actively counting my calories. Because I swear, if I have am destined for a life of recording every morsel of food that I put in my mouth and tabulating my calories every single day for the rest of my life, I would rather just be fat.

So over the next couple of weeks I’ll be detailing all of the weight-loss-focused elements that I’m working back into my diet and exercise regimen.

Part I: Eat a GOOD breakfast.

I will admit right upfront that I got incredibly lazy about eating breakfast. In fact, it was one of the first things to go. I started falling back into a pattern of skipping breakfast altogether, and in the rare instance that I did chow something down pre-lunch, it was never what I would consider super nutritionally balanced: just cereal, toast, or fruit. So, all carbs, basically. Not that eating carbs is bad, of course. You know I don’t ascribe to that mentality. It’s just that eating ONLY carbs is not good, and certainly not satiating enough for my first meal of the day. I need protein, and I need fat, and thankfully both of those things are delicious.

In fact, and this is a bit of a digression but bear with me, I think that one of the key elements of my weight re-gain was not that I was eating that many extra calories, but rather that my diet because extremely carb-centric. I mean, of course it did. Carbs are freaking delicious. But the unfortunate thing is that I’m really not active enough to be able to use up all of the extra glucose that comes with them. And what happens to unused excess glucose? Exactly. It’s stored for later use… as fat. I will tell you one thing though: I am going to be SUCH a survivor when the zombie apocalypse happens and food supply starts to run low. I’ve got a pioneer’s metabolism. I’ll starve those zombies out!

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. Here’s a snapshot of this AM’s b-fast:

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A whole wheat Sandwich Thin (100 calories) with strawberry preserves on one side (5 calories), a 2-egg patty (140 calories), and 2 thin slices of roasted turkey breast (30 calories). Also, a cup of blueberries (80 calories). I am incredibly stuffed now, and for 355 calories. Score! And with all the protein from the egg & turkey, I’m pretty sure this will last me until lunch.

Of course, it’s not always feasible for me to throw together a pretty little breakfast sammy in the morning. I know how lazy that sounds, but I’m just being honest with myself. I am a notorious sleeper-inner. I’m a wake-up-15-minutes-before-I-have-to-be-out-the-door kind of gal. So it’s important for me to have other options. In the past, this has always pretty much meant the box of instant oatmeal that I keep at my desk. However, my Maple & Brown Sugar Quaker hardly fits into this whole “less carbs, more protein/fat” breakfast ideal. So, the search for solutions there is still on. My friend Darcy recently told me about a recipe for pre-made smoothie you can make, which I definitely will have to try. I always like the idea of having a green monster for breakfast but I cannot stomach the idea of having to both use and, subsequently, clean a blender before work (this is the same reason that juicing in the mornings stopped working out for me). I mean, if someone wants to buy me a Vitamix I’m sure I’ll be motivated to both use AND clean it with frequency. Until that day comes though… ;)

Luckily, for now I do still have a few of the yummy bars that my new friend Kate from Kate Bakes gave me to try (she’s local to DC, and the sunflower butter raisin is the BOMB. You can order them through her website!) With 220 calories, 7 grams of protein and 4.5 grams of fiber in each bar (plus they’re vegan and gluten-free and all that jazz, but that doesn’t really matter as much for me), these are the kind of quick-fix breakfasts that actually last.

Finding solutions for everyday breakfasts is definitely one element of my previous weight-losing action plan that I need to reintegrate post-haste. So far I’m doing so good, so here’s hoping that old habits really do die hard!

Also, just for funsies (and since my last few posts have been just a tad on the wordy side, hehe), here’s a pretty gosh-darned adorable picture of Daxter that my brother Ben took with his new zillion-dollar camera:

SOOC - Sony FS700

Kthxbai.

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Posted on Jan 6, 2012 in Giveaway, Weight Loss 101 | 99 comments

Weight Loss 101: Hello Hydration (Giveaway!)

Catching up? Check out my previous Weight Loss 101 posts!

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(photo by ben)

Water. We need it to, you know, live. It lubricates our joints, regulates our system, gives life to our cells, and heck, we ARE it — you know, what with that whole thing about the human body being two-thirds water (source).


(source)

There’s no doubt that staying well-hydrated is an important part of weight loss, too. Thirst can masquerade as hunger, causing us to eat more and, though it seems a bit counter-intuitive, being dehydrated actually makes you retain water. This causes bloating and (water) weight gain, which we all know can have a dramatic impact on our motivation and self-esteem.

I don’t know about you, but I am TERRIBLE about drinking enough of it. Depending on where you live, your weight, how much you exercise and sweat, etc, the specific volume of water you should be consuming may differ. Even just going by the old standard “8 x 8″ rule (64 oz, or eight glasses full of eight ounces of water daily), I find myself constantly falling short. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m too lazy to refill my water bottle, or if it’s ’cause I really just don’t think about it, but I would say I am under-hydrated on more days than not. To that end, I’ve compiled a few of my tips for staying hydrated that I’m sure will make you say “well, duh.” Also, you’ve probably already heard/read them 1,000 times before. But now you get to read them again! Huzzah!

Old water cooler bottles
(source)

1. Make it convenient.

At my last job, there was one of those little water coolers (you know, the kind with the big plastic jug that makes the “bloop bloop” noise when it bubbles?) about 4 feet from my desk. I could essentially swivel my chair and have water at my fingertips. I drank so much more water at that job than I do now, where I have to walk the length of the office (the horror!) to get to a water fountain! Why? Convenience. I’ve admitted to my laziness time and time again (at this point, it’s practically boasting!), so making something easy to access is a number one priority for me. If you find yourself without a similar convenience, try asking your office manager if you can get a similar water cooler installed in a central place, or get a mini-fridge to keep at your desk to store pre-filled bottles in.

2. Carry it with you.

Okay, so maybe your boss says you don’t have the budget for a more hydration-friendly office, or you’re thinking about those non-office moments (rare though they are). Well, no fear, there’s an even simpler way to ensure you have water available at all times. Just make sure you always carry a bottle with you. (See? Cue the “… duh”s.) Now, for bag ladies like me, it’s easy to toss a Klean Kanteen or other reusable water bottle into your giant purse. If, however, you find you’re needing another way to hang onto your hat bottle, might I suggest a bottle holder? And if you hang around until the end of the post, you’ll even have an opportunity to win one!

Healthy Water with splash
(source)

3. Make it interesting.

I hear it from people all the time. “Water is so boring!” “I just can’t drink that much water.” “I don’t like the taste.” Well, people, water is awesome. You can flavor it with anything, you can make it sparkle, it’s good hot and it’s good cold. Experiment! We all know my devastating love for all things sparkling water, an addiction that our new Soda Stream helps enable daily, hehe. Other suggestions:

- Add a squeeze of lemon or lime to ice water when at a restaurant.
- Enjoy a drizzle a touch of honey in a steamy mug of hot water on cold days.
- Use frozen fruit instead of ice cubes to give your glass some color and zing.
- Homemade cucumber water is very refreshing (it makes me feel like I’m at the spa, haha) and just about the easier thing ever: slice cucumbers, add to water. Ta-da!

There are tons of combinations and experiments you can do make water more appealing to you. Try a few of them out!

So there you have it. Whether you like your water fizzy, flavored, or flat, there’s no excuse not to try to get your 64 oz. in each day. And for one of you, it’s about to get even easier. Giveaway time!!

My good friend Sarah‘s mom handcrafts the very macrame water bottle holders you see in the photos above. They come in three colors (pearl, tan, or brown) and one of you will win one in the color of your choice!

I have one, and I love that due to its drawstring top, it’s flexible enough to fit a variety of bottle sizes (from the standard plastic water bottle to my giant reusable ones!) It’s soft, lightweight, and would be great to sling over your shoulder on a hiking trip or photography tour. They are also available from her Etsy shop, and she’s also working on designs for a farmer’s market bag, as well as a wallet that will clip onto the bottle holder. Neat, huh?

To enter, simply leave a comment offering your favorite tip for staying hydrated. Be sure to indicate which color you would want, too!

As always, bonus entries are awarded for:

1. Liking me on Facebook
2. Following me on Twitter
3. Blogging/posting/tweeting about this giveaway!

Just make sure to leave a separate comment here for each thing you do to ensure you have multiple entries! I’ll be drawing a random winner on Wednesday, January 11th.

Happy Friday, everyone!

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Posted on Jun 29, 2011 in Weight Loss, Weight Loss 101 | 38 comments

Weight Loss 101: Mythbusters

Coming back from the Fitness & Health Bloggers Conference in Boulder, CO I have a lot of inspiration for posts and practices to implement! One interesting session was titled “Carbs are the Devil! And Other Nutrition Myths Demystified“, and I thought it was especially pertinent to this blog. Plus, I’ve been thinking about doing a Weight Loss 101 post on weight loss myths for a while now. Fate! Utilizing information from that session (which was created and led by RDs), as well as some of the information I’ve discovered through pure trial-and-error of my own, it’s time to bust some heads myths wiiiide open!

Mythbusters!
source

Disclaimer: While some of the information provided in this post has been provided by registered dietitians, I am not a nutrition or medical professional. I encourage you to utilize your own research and experience in conjunction with my own to draw your conclusions on the validity of my statements.

Myth: Skipping meals will help you lose weight.

Duck!

BUSTED! Skipping meals and snacks will cause your metabolism to slow down and make your calorie-burning ability less effective,. In fact, eating smaller, nutritious meals every 3 – 4 hours (lean protein + high-fiber carb) will be more conducive to keeping your metabolism high and will increase your ability to lose weight while keeping you full and satisfied.

Fact: When I started eating more frequent, smaller meals I FELT like I was eating more than when I was trying to skip meals in attempts to skip calories. Feeling fuller while eating less and thus losing weight? Yes please!

Myth: Don’t eat past 8 PM.

Busted! Caloric deficit, regardless of the actual times you’re consuming those calories, will result in weight loss! So if you’ve hit 8 PM and you’ve only consumed 1200 calories that day, go ahead and have a snack if you’re hungry! The only problem occurs if you are prone to late-night snacking when you’re not hungry. Obviously anytime you are eating when you’re not hungry will probably hinder your weight loss.

Fact: Caloric deficit is as caloric deficit does. It doesn’t really matter what time of day you stop eating as long as you’re still creating a window for weight loss. However, I know that I do have to watch my late-night snacking because I am far more likely to want to down half a pint of coconut milk ice cream than some hummus and crackers. And if I do end up going a little crazy at night, I just don’t have the opportunity to balance out the calories with other meals or work them off, ‘s all.

Myth: Going gluten-free will help you lose weight.


source

BUSTED! Going gluten-free is only truly necessary if you have Celiacs disease or another gluten-intolerance, and won’t help you lose weight on its own. Unless, that is, there’s a caloric deficit being created anyway. But solely by the act of cutting gluten out of your diet alone you will not lose weight, and in fact, gluten-free products tend to be higher in calories compared to their gluten-inclusive counterparts.

Fact: The sheer act of cutting a group of foods out of your diet is never a guarantee that you’ll lose weight (with a variation of the exception for carbs, but we’ll address that next.) Even going vegan is not a guarantee that you’ll drop a single pound, and I know that from first-hand experience!

Myth: Bread makes you fat.


Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: Bread makes you fat?!?

BUSTED! Carbs rock. They’re delicious. And as a former Atkins devotee, I can also tell you that while yes, you can and probably will lose weight if you cut all carbs out of your diet, it will not last. The second you start eating bread, pasta, potatoes, or sugar again, you’ll start gaining the weight back. In fact, if you’re a carboholic like me, you’ll probably end up gaining more weight than you lost, because you felt so deprived of all that glorious carb-y goodness!

Fact: Carbs are a source of energy for our bodies, and they make us feel happy and satisfied (actually increasing the levels of serotonin in our brains! Which is why you can see it’s easy to go overboard on them.) Just try to ensure that the majority of the carbs in your diet come from whole-grain, high-fiber sources.

What are some other diet myths we can bust wide open? Or maybe you’re unsure if it’s really a myth or not? Let’s find out together!

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Posted on Jun 22, 2011 in Food, Weight Loss 101 | 38 comments

Weight Loss 101: Eat Real Food, Not Your Savings

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So lately I’ve been thinking a lot about eating healthy and finances. As in, how do you eat REAL food without going REALLY broke? And then yesterday Ali tweeted at me that she had similar concerns: How do you eat healthy without going bankrupt at the grocery store? Which obviously got me thinking about it even more. I’ll be the first to admit (and I’m sure that my sister will be the second, haha!) that I am not exactly the most frugally minded person. Sure, I can appreciate a good deal as much as the next person, but for the most part I adhere to the mindset that I would rather pay more for better quality, faster service, or convenience, than have to deal with the opposites of those things. Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate a rockin’ deal as much as the next person, but some things aren’t worth the hassle to me. Hence why it’s more likely you’d find me leisurely perusing the displays at Nordstrom than getting sweaty and harried pawing through the racks at Marshall’s, haha.

That being said, I’m not exactly rolling in it over here. And real food is expensive! Ramen is cheap, produce is not. So while I often ignore my own advice, I do feel like this is an area where saving money really matters. And I feel there are some surefire ways to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to healthy eating.

Number 1: Eat at home.

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Uh, duh. This should probably go without saying, but I’m gonna say it anyway: If you want to save money, don’t go out to eat. Shop for your own groceries, and prepare your own food. I spent just over $20 at the store yesterday and will be covered for meals for three days. When you break that amount down, you’re talking about something like $2 – $3 a meal!

Number 2: Meal plan.

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I’ve admitted in the past that I’m not very good at creating and following meal plans. I try to pretend it’s because I’m all spontaneous and like to be creative with my meals, but really I’m just lazy and unorganized hahaha. This week I tried to make an exception, however, because I’m taking off for the Fitness & Health Bloggers Conference in Boulder, CO on Friday morning! So going grocery shopping mid-week, while a complete necessity given the state of food options in my house, wasn’t the most ideal situation. I didn’t want to buy things that were just going to spoil when I left! I feel that the biggest money-suck when it comes to eating real food is having it spoil because you weren’t able to utilize it in time. Meal planning is the absolute best way to avoid this.

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Number 3: Make (and stick to!) a grocery list.

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My list yesterday was super short because I was literally only shopping for a few days’ worth of food. But if I hadn’t done up a list, I would have walked out with so much unnecessary, unusable food.

Number 4: Buy generic.

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Stacy’s pita chips are priced at $2.99 a bag. Giant’s Nature’s Promise brand pita chips at priced at $2.49 a bag. Which product should you purchase? Seems like it should be a no-brainer, right? I mean, sure 50 cents might not seem like that much, but it adds up. Fast. And this rule applies across the spectrum: groceries, pharmacy items, etc. People will pay a lot more just for a particular brand slapped on the packaging, when the generic version is just as good (and oftentimes, the same manufacturer makes both products anyway. So you are LITERALLY just choosing between a branded and a generic version of the exact same thing.)

Number 5: Stretch your meat.

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There are lots of creative ways to make the expensive items you buy, like meat, last longer. Cara gave me the tip of adding ~2 cups of mashed chickpeas (which you can snag for about $0.89 a can!) to turkey burgers to bulk ‘em up and stretch ‘em out. I took that tip as inspiration for my own dinner last night, which involved bulking up my T-burgers with tons of veggies that I already had!

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I chopped up green onion, red onion, button mushrooms, and grated baby carrots and added it all to the mix. Not only did it make for big, thick patties, the mushrooms kept the meat SUPER moist (often a complaint when it comes to turkey burgers — thanks for that tip, Aunt Lynda!), but the meal was healthified with the addition of extra veggies, AND it helped alleviate that whole food-spoilage thing mentioned previously by letting me use up more items that were just waiting to spoil in the fridge! Win-win-win.

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With the addition of asparagus that I subbed the grocery-listed bibb lettuce for because it was a much better deal, and potatoes that I already had lying around, we have a complete meal, with enough leftovers to last me for lunch today AND tomorrow (and would have lasted another dinner, too, if I hadn’t been a piggy and had two patties last night. Whoops! Hahaha.)

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I really need to get on this meal-planning train much more regularly. That way I’ll have more money leftover for the massages I apparently desperately need! ;)

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What are your tips for saving money but still eating healthy? Another thing I should probably look into doing more is deal-shopping (going to different stores for specific items) and couponing, two things I’m terrible at! Any advice on those fronts?

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