If you know me personally or if you're a regular reader, you're probably well aware that I highly value organization, structure, and calculating everything down to the last cent, second, or pinch. On that note, I realized that I've been a little budget-crazy lately. For example, I have $1000 per month to divide among my expenses. Rent is $665, my sewer bill is usually around $19, cable and internet are $83, my power bill varies depending upon how often the heat runs, and the rest (usually about $200) is grocery money. I find myself constantly tabulating my expenditures on my bank's website, the very tech-savvy index card I keep on my desk, and my computer's numbers-cruncher.
I've also found myself recently budgeting food and calories. I do not mean this to sound unhealthy or troubling. I simply mean that living on a fiscal budget means living on a caloric budget, too. Planning my meals for the week helps. Sometimes I wing it, but most of the time I'm more organized:
It's highly likely that I won't eat these meals in the order they're listed. I just like to know that each day is accounted for. I try not to put two "heavy" meals (i.e. chili and spaghetti) next to one another. I also plan my workouts accordingly, such that heavier meals are paired with 5K training days, and lighter meals are paired with weight training days. I find that my strength and stamina are tested when I don't pair well, but that they're enhanced when I do.
Tonight, I made Iris's Vegetarian Chicken Casserole; the recipe was posted last Thursday (Really gReat Recipe thuRsday). I paired the casserole with one cup of brown rice, and I have enough leftovers for at least one more meal.
I pair carb-heavy dishes, such as spaghetti, with ruffage, such as salad or frozen veggies, and Smart Sauce. Also, vegetable combos like salad fill me up, so I'm not as inclined to gorge on pasta.
This is what I mean by budgeting calories. I'm not restricting my eating or crazily counting calories. If I crave dessert, I almost always have Fig Newton Thins ready to go, a bowl of Jell-O prepared, or even a cup of Folgers decaf hazelnut and some fat-free creamer for just a little something sweet and filling.
I feel certain that not everyone will agree with my choices or my lifestyle.
I'm proud that I've learned how to treat my body right, which foods are good for me, which foods I can healthily and easily substitute for meat, and which foods I have proudly eliminated (e.g. Toaster Strudel, Pop-Tarts, Doritos, soda, queso dip, Smarties, donut holes... and other such delicacies I consumed on a regular basis in my past life). Now, when I grocery shop, I take great pleasure in reading labels. I understand that the word calories is not evil, and that fat content and calories are different entities. I learned to scan nutrition labels for fiber, sugar, and sodium, as well.
I look for foods that say "no salt added," "fat-free," "low-fat," "whole wheat," "natural" (though this one can be misleading), etc.
I select foods that are their own single ingredient, such as tomatoes, blueberries, bananas, cucumbers, almonds, and onions. I bargain shop and I utilize coupons, instead of falsely believing that the brand-name product will taste better. I look for foods that contain pronounceable and understandable ingredients. Who cares about Red Dye #6 and soduimchloridesulfatepotassiummonooxidase, anyway?
I try to stick to the outer walls of the grocery store, which for me is Kroger. This is where the store stocks fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, milk, yogurt, seafood, frozen veggies, and nuts and grains. The more I venture into the sea of inner aisles, the more I'm tempted to buy Oreo Os instead of Kashi GoLean, or five cheese potato crisps as opposed to blue corn tortillas.
One downside to all of these choices is that they're much more expensive. I could buy 3 tasty, kid-attractive cereals for the price of one box of Kashi, but the benefits I reap are worth the cost. Another is that I stress myself out with so much planning and calculating. I try to remind myself every day how very fortunate I am to be in good health with the luxury of purchasing such wholesome, nourishing goods. But, I also try to remind myself to breathe every once in awhile! My body doesn't reap any benefits from constant stress and pressure. All in all, I'm happy and I'm proud :)
P.S. Do you plan your meals in advance? Do you grocery shop with a list, or do you wing it? Are you able to stock certain foods (such as decadent dessert items) without consuming them in mass quantities? I'm curious about how others do it!