Why I Am Not An Amazing Homemaker

whyiamnotanamazinghomemakerI have a confession. I am a horrible homemaker. I dont bake like Patty does, i dont have a pintrest worthy home.

Every day thousands of moms around the world talk down to themselves, myself included. Then we all wonder why we don’t have the motivation to get things done. As women we see our limp dishwater hair, wiggly thighs, or an expanding waistline. For the majority of us the less than positive side of ourselves is always in focus.

I want to be the most amazing homemaker on the planet for my family. I am going to say this in the third person because I don’t feel as alone in this struggle when I do. So bear with me. Continue reading “Why I Am Not An Amazing Homemaker”

Why I Feed my Family Venison

venisoncover

With the following disclaimer I will share with you why I feed my family venison. This post is either going to go really well or really bad. There are so many ways that each of us try to take care of our families. We all come from different cultures and different backgrounds. I am not the most politically correct person. And if I am being honest I don’t want to be.  Continue reading “Why I Feed my Family Venison”

Victory over the Winter Blahs

snow

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Yes, I’m one of those people who gets the blues during the winter months.  I can’t stand the cold and gloom.  I read an article recently about how to beat the winter blues but I didn’t find it that helpful.  However, it did cause me to think about the things I do to get through the winter without losing my mind.

  • Open the curtains!!!  Even if it’s gloomy outside, I do better if I open the curtains so I can see outside.  Leaving the curtains closed makes the house dark and cave-like.
  • Turn the lights on. If it’s dark out because the sun isn’t shining, I turn lots of lights on.  It doesn’t make that much of a difference on my electric bill and it makes me feel better.
  • Keep the house warm. I hate winter even more if I’m freezing.  So as much as possible, I keep the house at a temperature that’s comfortable.
  • Keep a normal schedule. It’s tempting to skip going out because it’s too cold.  But as long as it isn’t dangerous (snow or ice), I go out anyway. Feeling trapped in the house or feeling like I can’t go out doesn’t help my mood.  I try not to let winter prevent me from anything I would normally do.
  • Don’t sleep too much.  It’s tempting to stay in bed where it’s warm and comfortable but that’s a bad idea.  It makes me feel lazy and sluggish.  That doesn’t mean I don’t do it occasionally.  I mean, come on, some days are just asking for it!
  • Be prepared for winter.  Have on hand the things you need to survive and thrive in winter weather.  For example, a nice warm coat, gloves and a scarf so when you go outside you’re not as cold; ice melt to thaw frozen sidewalks; a full tank of gas.  By the way, fill your tank up on the nicer days so you don’t have to do it when it’s not so nice.
  • Have winter traditions.  There are some things you just can’t do any time but winter.  Incorporate as many of those into your routine as you can so have things you can look forward to during the cold months.
  • Adjust your expectations. The truth is, winter is more difficult than summer for most people.  A lot of the things we normally do are a bit harder.  And we spend more time inside than outside.  But it doesn’t have to make us miserable.  We need to keep reminding ourselves that this is a different season but it’s not bad.  And it won’t last forever.
  • Try not to complain. I find that the more I complain, the worse I feel about something.  So try not to complain about winter and maybe you won’t hate it quite so much.
  • Go outside!  It’s tempting to stay inside but it can actually be invigorating to go out in the cold for a little while.  Just make sure you dress warm and don’t stay out too long.

In a nutshell, the best advice for coping with winter is

DON’T HIBERNATE
and
LIVE YOUR LIFE.

Do you struggle with the winter blues? What are your strategies for coping?

Musings from a Chunky Girl Going Skinny

Scale

by Ashley

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Many of us these days struggle at least a little with food.  Most of us want to lose a few pounds (or a lot of pounds!) and/or eat better.  Here are some things I’ve figured out in the last 3 or so months and why am down 25 pounds and still going strong.

Eat when you’re hungry. Some of us are on a set schedule of breakfast at such and such, lunch at noon and dinner at 5. But if you aren’t hungry at those times, DON’T EAT! There’s no rule that says you have to eat at set times and eating when you aren’t hungry is one of the biggest food problems out there. Also, if you aren’t “scheduled” to eat but find yourself hungry, EAT! If you get too hungry, it causes a feeding frenzy and that’s a good way to blow your calories.

Walk away. Decide what you’re going to eat, jot it down in your food journal, make it, eat it and walk away. Even if you don’t feel immediate satisfaction, you most likely will be full within ten to fifteen minutes and you’ll be glad you waited it out.

Don’t obsess! This is a huge one, folks. We get on a weight loss craze and every waking minute is consumed with thoughts of what we’re going to eat, when we are going to eat, how many calories we’ve had and freak outs about last minute invites to join friends for pizza. It’s NOT a big deal. You can have an off day or even an off week and still stay in weight loss mode. So practice thinking about things other than food and calories. If you obsess, you won’t be able to maintain it. Focus your attention elsewhere. And go eat pizza with your friends.

Let yourself live. Give yourself a day off (not to go bonkers but to eat pizza or eat out) and don’t worry about it. One day isn’t going to blow it. In fact, it may be just what you need to keep on keepin on! Allow yourself to periodically eat your favorites that won’t fit into your daily allotment of calories (mine is pizza.) It’ll keep you sane and help you not to feel frantically deprived.

pizza

Don’t let yourself get too hungry. If I get too hungry, when I eat, I end up feeling apathetic about what I’m eating in my rush to get full. And of course, I eat junk and I overeat. So keep something in your stomach all the time.

Recover gracefully. If you have a slip up, don’t continue eating junk or say, “I’ll start over tomorrow.” Get right back on track at the very next meal. You may be discouraged and feel like you’ve blown it, but that doesn’t mean you give up for the day. You’ll feel better physically and emotionally if you recover quickly.

Retrain your brain on how you think about food and what you eat. Eating is fun but it’s primarily an energy source for our bodies. I often tell myself, “It’s just food.” Remind yourself often that food doesn’t equal life, rather it is simply A PART of life. Practice living for more than just meal times.

Keep quick, healthy snacks on hand. I try to keep my fridge full of things that are low in calories, healthy and tasty. That way, when I get hungry, I’m not as tempted to reach for the nearest bag of chips. My currents faves are cottage cheese, mini Baby Bell cheeses, mini bagel with almond butter, yogurt, apples with almond butter or peanut butter, or crackers with a Laughing Cow cheese wedge.

So, all that to say, you can lose weight and live your life simultaneously. And it isn’t until you change your view of food and your thought process that you’ll be able to maintain a weight loss plan and/or a goal weight. So, I’m gonna keep on keepin on and maybe it’s time for you to take a whack at it too.

TTYL,
Ash

10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Diet (and calorie count)

eating better

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1.       Drink water.  Water is good for you.  Water doesn’t have calories.  And water fills you up which can help you eat less.

2.       Lighten something up.  Switch out your full-fat cheese slices with 2% slices.  Use skim milk instead of 2% or whole.  Use Neufatchel Cheese instead of full-fat cream cheese.  Reduce the amount of sugar in desserts.  Little changes can add up fast.

3.       Decrease the size.  Instead of eating a full-size candy bar, have a fun size for substantially fewer calories.  Just eat slow and make sure you savor every bite.

4.       Have dessert WITH your meal instead of later.  If you eat dessert with your meal, you’ll probably eat less because you’re full from dinner.  If you eat it later, you won’t be as full and you’re more likely to eat more.

5.       Add fruits or vegetables whenever you can.  Put fruit in your cereal or oatmeal.  Add fruit to your vanilla ice cream.  Put veggies on your sandwich.  Add veggies and fruit to your smoothie (lots of times you can’t even taste them – especially the veggies).  All those extras will add up.

6.       Treat your calorie allowance like a budget.  With your budget, you first have to pay the necessities like rent, utilities, cell phone, insurance, etc.  You use whatever’s left for the fun stuff – like eating out or going to a movie.  Your calorie budget should be the same.  Use the bulk of your calories for the good stuff like fruits, vegetables, protein and grains.  If there’s any left, use that for sweets and salty snacks.

7.       Limit yourself to one plate of food.  When you’ve finished that one plate of food, you’re done.  Gradually you could even start decreasing the size of the plate.

8.       Keep it simple.  Casseroles tend to be higher in calories plus less satisfying because everything is combined into one dish.  It can help to focus on more individual foods like a marinated chicken breast, a big salad and a piece of bread or a serving of pasta.  Your plate looks fuller, it takes longer to eat, and you feel more satisfied when you’re done.

9.       Eat at set times.  When you eat whenever, you might also eat whatever.  If you have set meal times, you might find that you eat more thoughtfully (and healthier) instead of just grabbing whatever’s handy.

10.     Eat using a formula.  Sometimes what gets us in trouble is having too many choices.  If you eat using a formula, you don’t have as many decisions to make and that can keep you from eating too much or the wrong things.  For example, for breakfast every day have a bowl of cereal or oatmeal.  For lunch, have a sandwich, a few chips and a piece of fruit; or a big salad with sliced chicken.    You can vary the type of sandwich or what’s in the salad but the basics are always the same.

What else do you do to eat better and reduce your calories?

5 More Food Journals for Your Planner

Food Journal

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The only way to know for SURE what you’re eating is to write it down!  These five food journals can help.

Food Journal 1

Food Journal

This food journal is especially helpful if you like to plan ahead what you’ll be eating.  It gives you space for the plan and space for what you actually ate.  You don’t have to re-write like I did – you could use some sort of symbol or other technique.

 Food Journal 1 Classic
Food Journal 1 Compact
Food Journal 1 Personal

Food Journal 2

Food Journal

This one is pretty much like a check register.  You record your initial deposit (how many calories you’re allowed), deduct your expenses (calories you eat) and record your deposits (exercise calories earned).  Hopefully at the end of the day you’ll have a positive balance.  You could carry your balance forward until the end of the week but I don’t recommend that.  It’s better to start fresh each day.

 Food Journal 2 Classic
Food Journal 2 Compact
Food Journal 2 Personal

Food Journal 3

Food Journal

This food journal is for one week.  It doesn’t give you a lot of space, though, so you’d have to write small or abbreviate.  But if you like to see the whole week, this one is for you.

Food Journal 3 Classic
Food Journal 3 Compact
Food Journal 3 Personal

Food Journal 4

Food Journal 3 Personal

This food journal is pretty simple – just record your food and exercise and total it up.

 Food Journal 4 Classic
Food Journal 4 Compact
Food Journal 4 Personal

Food Journal 5

Food Journal 3 Personal

This food journal is the best one for me.  It includes the basics at the bottom (F/V – fruits and vegetables) and an extra special set of columns to help with healthy eating.  My downfall is junk food so it’s helpful for me to have the healthy column and junk column.  When I eat something, I put a checkmark in the appropriate column.  At the end of the day it’s easy to see whether I ate more junk or more healthy food.  If there are too many checkmarks in the junk column, things need to improve!!!  I might actually shade those columns so the junk column is red or yellow and the healthy column is green.  That would give me even more of a visual reminder.

 Food Journal 5 Classic
Food Journal 5 Compact
Food Journal 5 Personal

Four more food journals are available here and tips for keeping a food journal are here.

Do you keep track of what you eat? What kind of food journal to you use?


More time management/planner articles are available here.
More healthy living articles are available here.


 

How to Figure Calories for Homemade Food

Pesto Chicken Penne

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When you’re trying to count calories, it can get pretty complicated when you’re eating homemade food.  When everything you eat is processed or packaged or simple (like fruit or bread), it’s easy.  But homemade stuff can get pretty difficult.

However, there are a few things you can do to make it a LOT easier.

1.       Keep a calorie counting book handy.  I have two – one is much more detailed and one is an abbreviated version.  Sometimes I use my phone.  But I like my book the best.  My calorie counting book lives in the measuring cup drawer so it’s convenient.

Calorie Counting Book

2.       Get a food scale.  I started out with a cheapie and it did an adequate job.  But then I graduated to an electronic scale that cost about $35.00.  I use it for more than just figuring calories.

food scale

3.       Figure the calories on commonly used items and keep it handy.  For example, if you use a lot of cream of chicken soup, figure out how many calories are in a can of soup.

cream of chicken soup

To figure the calories for the whole can, take the number of servings (2.5) times the calories per serving (80).  The calories for this can of 98% fat free cream of chicken soup are 200.

Now every time you use a can of cream of chicken soup, you’ll know it’s 200 calories.  Repeat that process with anything you use often and keep it handy – in your phone; in your planner; in a chart on the inside of one of your cabinets or at the front of your recipes.

4.       Write it down!  Whenever I’m figuring the calories on a recipe, I write them directly on the recipe.  That way, if I make any adjustments or do something differently next time, it’s easy to correct the calorie total without having to re-figure everything.

recipe with calories counts

calorie counts on recipe

5.       Be consistent with ingredients.  Unfortunately, if you’re serious about counting calories, the calorie count you figured last time will only be accurate if you make it the same way next time.  So if it calls for 2 cups of cheese, you can’t throw in 3 – not without adjusting the calories.  Or you can’t guess because that might throw the counts off.  So you’ll need to make it the same way every time.

6.       Be consistent with how many the recipe makes.  If you make cookies and you figured 3 dozen cookies and each cookie is 100 calories, then if you make bigger cookies and end up with 2 dozen, they won’t still be 100 calories each.  I like to use a cookie scoop so I end up with uniformly sized cookies and the same amount.  If you’re off one or two, it’s not a big deal.

6.       Choose serving dishes that are easy to measure.  For example, whenever I make linguini a la anne, I always put it in a 9×13 dish. When I figured the calories, I figured the serving size as 1/12 of the 9×13 pan.  So when I cut the linguini, I cut it into 12 pieces.  I don’t have to weigh or measure.

9x13 pan

Another helpful dish is a muffin pan.  Instead of making a pan of cornbread, make cornbread muffins.  That makes it really easy to figure calories based on serving size.

Silicone Muffin Pan

7.       Soup is a little bit harder to figure.  The best way I’ve found to do it is to figure the calories for each of the ingredients.  Add up the total.  Then, using your soup ladle which you’ve already measured so you know how much it holds, ladle the soup out of the pan and into a serving bowl one scoop at a time, carefully counting how many scoops you end up with.  Then divide the total calories by the number of scoops.  That gives you the calories per 1 cup (or whatever your ladle holds).  Next time you make the soup, you don’t need to remeasure.  Just go with 1 cup = 200 calories (or whatever).

NOTE:  To figure how much your soup ladle holds, just get a measuring cup filled with water and start pouring into the ladle.  When it’s full, look to see how much is left in your measuring cup.  Subtract that from the total and that’s how much the ladle holds.

ladle

8.       For bread, like Italian Bread, I figure the calories for the whole loaf.  Then I have two choices.  1.  Weigh the whole loaf using the food scale.  Let’s say it weighs 13 ounces.  Take the total calories for the whole loaf and divide it by 13.  That tells me that 1 ounce of bread is x number of calories.  When I get ready to eat the bread, I can weigh the slice (before butter) and see how many ounces it is and multiply that by the calories per ounce.  This method is the most accurate.  2. Or I can slice the loaf into x number of slices and divide that by the total.  It won’t be exact because some of the slices will be smaller and some bigger, but it will probably be close enough.

9.       On some items you have to guess a little bit.  For example, I make oven baked chicken using a crumb mix.  But I don’t always use ALL the crumb mix.  And some of the pieces of chicken are bigger than others so they have more crumbs.  So the way I figure something like that is figure the calories for the entire crumb mix.  Then I divide that by the number of pieces of chicken I have.  Let’s say the crumb mixture is 300 calories and I have 6 pieces of chicken.  Divide 300 by six pieces of chicken and that’s 50 calories per piece of chicken for the crumbs.  When I’m ready to eat, I weigh the chicken, multiply it by the calories for chicken (approximately 40 calories per ounce of chicken breast) and add 50 for the crumbs.  It’s not exact but close enough.

10.     Some recipes are really hard to figure.  For example, I make a chocolate trifle that is amazingly delicious but nearly impossible to figure without a LOT of effort and without messing up the dessert.  Sometimes it’s best to just guess.   Figure out the calories for the whole thing, guess how many servings there are and how much each serving is, and divide the calories.  The truth is, after you’ve been counting and figuring calories for a while, you get pretty good at guessing accurately.  And my philosophy is that if it’s too hard to figure the calories, maybe I shouldn’t be making it – at least not very often.

chocolate trifle11.     For some items, you have ingredients left over that you included in your count.  For example, for pie crust I figured the calories in the whole batch of pie dough.  But after I roll it out, I cut some of it off and throw it out.  That means the calories I figured are actually too high.  If you only waste a little, it’s not a big deal. But if it’s very much, you might want to re-figure.

So here’s how I did it for pie crust.

  • Figure the calories for the whole batch of pie dough.
  • Weigh it on the food scale.
  • Roll out the dough and use what I need.
  • Take what’s left over and weigh it.
  • Subtract the total from what was left and that’s what I used.
  • Figure the calories.

From then on, that’s the number I used for my pie crusts.  It wasn’t exact, but it was close.

12.     If you absolutely don’t want to bother figuring the calories for something or you’re short of time or you’re eating something someone else made, you can always look up the item in your calorie counting book and go with the number for homemade.  Or even go with something processed that sounds similar.  Counting calories isn’t an exact science so as long as you’re careful, it’ll probably come out in the end.

13.     For marinades, I don’t count any calories.  I weigh the meat and figure calories for the meat but I don’t add anything for the marinade.

14.     The more variety you have in your menu, the more work it will be to figuring calories.  If you eat the same dishes over and over, figuring calories won’t be too bad because you’ll do it once for each dish and then you’re done.  If you try a lot of new recipes, like I do, you need to find shortcuts to help you do it faster.  My best strategies are the dishes, serving utensils and master list of calorie counts.  Those three strategies make it a lot easier.  Plus I’ve been doing it for a while so I can guess pretty accurately if I have to.

Do you figure calories for homemade foods? What strategies do you use to make it less of a hassle?


More articles about healthy living are available in the Healthy Living Index.
More cooking articles are available in the Cooking Index.