How to Save Hundreds with Meal Prep Sunday

Meal Plan Sunday can save you hundreds on your grocery bill. Click to learn how!

I’ve always loved to eat fresh, home-cooked meals, but I haven’t always loved the labor-intensive process some require. As I challenged myself to become a better cook, I also began to seek out ways to make things easier. Plus, I wanted to save money on my food costs. Enter Meal Prep Sunday.

Over the past few years, I’ve worked hard to improve my eating habits. This includes moving to a plant-based diet and paying more attention to what I’m eating. During this process, I’ve also fine-tuned my meal prep process. Doing so has allowed me to ensure I’m eating plenty of healthy foods, meeting various nutritional needs, and creating meals that actually taste good.

By incorporating a Meal Prep Sunday into my week, I’m also saving money!

If you’re looking to up your meal prep game, here are some tips for streamlining the process and saving money:

Meal Prep Sunday: Prepare to Prepare

When I first began meal prepping, I thought it would be boring and restrictive. How was I supposed to know on Sunday what I would want to eat on Tuesday? Would I be eating rice with every meal? What about spur of the moment schedule changes?

All of these concerns were mitigated when I realized how flexible meal planning can be. It’s a lot more than big pots of beans and cookie sheets of roasted veggies.

Used correctly, meal prep is more about ensuring I have healthy choices all week and less about food waste. Sounds like a win-win to me!

As you’re working to set your meal plan for the week, take a few moments to lay some sort of framework. Find some new recipes on Pinterest, let technology help you by utilizing meal prep apps, and make a grocery list before you head to the store.

Taking just 10 minutes to do these things will help you get on the path to saving hundreds of dollars on  your annual food bill.

Shop it Out

If food shopping just isn’t your thing, take comfort in knowing: There’s an App for that!

You can use apps to have your groceries delivered. Or you can shop online directly through your favorite grocery store. You can even use Amazon Prime to purchase pantry staples while in your pajamas.

I happen to be one of those weirdos who loves to grocery shop. In fact, my favorite kinds of shopping are: Grocery, Adventure Gear, and Travel. I’d happily trade a year of department store apparel shopping for grocery shopping. ūüôā

Before I head to the store, I’ve created my meal plan for the week, and I’ve written a detailed list. My #1 rule that saves me money on grocery shopping is to stick to my list. I also make sure to check my pantry and freezer for any food I’ve forgotten about so I don’t duplicate what’s already at home.

Regardless of how you purchase your groceries, stick to the list! This trick alone can help stave off hundreds of dollars in impulse purchases.

When you’re shopping, maximize sales, coupons, and bulk foods. The trick with bulk is to be honest with yourself. If you will use the entire quantity before any food goes bad, by all means reap the savings buying in bulk has to offer. If you won’t eat that 10-pound bag of spinach before it goes bad, seek alternatives. Perhaps you can freeze the recipes, split the spinach with a friend or neighbor, or just forego the product all together.

Also, if you like to grocery shop like I do, don’t go to the store on an empty stomach. Your wallet (and waistline) will thank you.

Meal Prep Sunday: Automation is Your Friend

If you’re pressed for time but still want to make Meal Prep Sunday work for you, automate the process as much as possible.

Slow cookers, pressure cookers, rice cookers and more. These small appliances are your friend. They allow you to do double, if not triple, duty by prepping multiple things at once.

As you’re cooking, work to make multiple meals to be used throughout the week. I try to cook things that taste good re-heated; nobody wants mush day after day!

Make Your Own

If saving money is your main goal with utilizing Meal Prep Sunday, here are some easy DIY ways to trim to reduce food costs:

  • Eschew convenience: Go old-fashioned and cook with dried beans, rolled oats, and plain rice. Sure, it may take a bit more time for prep, but you’ll save a good amount of money by not purchasing convenience foods
  • Make your own: From meatballs to croutons, making your own versions of what you like will save tons!
  • Do the work: Pre-washed veggies are great, but they often come with a steep price tag. Save your dollars and prep the veggies yourself

Meal Prep Sunday: Make it Social

Worried that taking so many of your precious weekend hours for meal prep will cramp your social life? Invite friends to join you for Meal Prep Sunday! I trade off with various neighbors and friends each week with regards to hosting. We show up with our groceries, bust out the knives, and usually enjoy a glass of wine and great conversation as we prep for the week. It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite things to do!

If the idea of schlepping your food around doesn’t appeal to you, you can still make meal prep work for social activities. Instead of going out to eat, suggest an activity where you can bring your own food. Your wallet–and eventually your friends’ wallets–will thank you!

Do you meal prep? How do you save money doing so? Please share below!

 

Break Out of Your Fitness Rut: 6 Tips for Getting Back in Shape

 

Struggling to regain your fitness? Coming back from an injury? If you're in a fitness rut, here's how to break free!

 

As someone who has been running for nearly 2 decades, I have had my fair share of injuries. I’ve also had times where life or work was a little too crazy and my fitness goals slipped. Let’s just say I understand¬†how hard it is to get¬†back in shape after a hiatus. If you are looking to break out of your own fitness rut, here are¬†some ways to help you get back on track:

Breaking Your Fitness Rut: Get the Facts

Whether you’re injured, fell off the wagon, or are just feeling plain lazy, it’s important to know what’s going on. If you’re trying to break out of your fitness rut after injury, see your doctor. Get a full analysis of what’s injured. Also get professional guidance on how best to return to activity.

If you’re fallen off the fitness wagon, consider why. Have you been burning the candle at both ends? Do you need more sleep? Are you eating properly? Bored with your current training plan?

Get to the root of the issue so you can effectively break out of your rut.

As for feeling lazy, I hear you; especially in the winter. Sometimes, all I want to do is curl up in a fuzzy blanket and nap the day away. However, that will not help me reach my goals.

If you’ve been bitten by the laziness monster, take some time to recall why you were exercising in the first place.

Easy Does It

Once you know why you’re in the rut or how to heal¬†the injury that put you there, it’s time to move. The key is to move sloooowly.

The more gently you ease back into activity, the less your chance of re-injury. If you weren’t injured before, you certainly don’t want to be injured now!

As you ease back into your routine, make sure you’re not overdoing it. For runners like myself, this means a slow build back to old mileage levels. If you’re more of a gym rat, reduce the amount you’re lifting or cut certain reps out of your plan.

When I’m returning from injury, I increase both my warm up and cool down. This helps keeps my body happy by reducing the stress of the new routine. It also helps stave off soreness, which can be an easy excuse to bail on the next day’s workout.

Breaking Your Fitness Rut: Listen to Your Body

Ultimately, your body tells you what it does and does not need. Your job is to listen to it.

You can listen to your body effectively by tuning into its clues. Extra sore today? Cut back on miles and/or minutes. Have a certain recurring pain? Take it easy and do extra stretching, dynamic drills, or anything that helps alleviate the pain.

Do NOT push through it! This isn’t the time to over-exert yourself.¬†Listen to your body’s signals so you know when you’ve reached your limit.

Your body will respond best to incremental changes. Remember that even the shorter workouts produce enough stress on your body that muscle damage occurs. Remember how it felt to be sidelined/overweight/unhappy if you need a reminder of why to stop early.

If at any point you feel pain, stop what you’re doing. Take a break and rest that body part or muscle. By cross training or doing a variation of the move, you can lessen your chance of injury.

Patience, Young Grasshopper

Patience is truly a virtue when it comes to breaking out of a fitness rut. It takes time for your body to build back to its previous fitness level.

Fortunately, our bodies are adaptive. They are built to be worked, and they respond well to incremental physical challenges.

Research suggests it takes roughly 6-8 weeks of modified exercise to build an adequate base. Be patient! Resist the urge to push yourself.

If you’ve been given a PT plan, make sure you follow it. And by follow the plan, I mean follow it precisely. Your doctor has your best interest at heart; heed their advice so you can be back in shape in no time!

Breaking Your Fitness Rut: Enjoy the Ride

As you work to break out of a fitness rut, there will be inevitable ups and downs. Make an effort to enjoy both.

On days where your workout seems too daunting, break it up into smaller sessions. If you aren’t able to do a certain activity due to injury or physical inability, find an alternative. I like to bike, hike, and swim when I can’t run. I also will throw in some yoga and gentle stretching when I can.

When you feel frustrated about your lack of progression, check yourself. A positive attitude will help so much more than negative vibes. Acknowledge your emotions, but don’t let them get the best of you.

Track your progress (I note my daily workouts on my calendar) and reward yourself along the way. This will help keep you motivated even when you’re sore or feeling disenchanted.

Just Keep Swimming

Whatever you do, don’t give up!

As with most things in life, if you work diligently and consistently, success will come. Write down your fitness goals, workout with a friend, or mix up your routine.

Whatever it takes to get you off the couch, just do it. Eventually, that injury or lazy phase will be a figment of your imagination.

Stay focused and keep moving forward, no matter how slowly.

 

How have you busted your own fitness ruts? Share your suggestions and stories below!

Weight Loss: 10 Ways to Accelerate Your Efforts

10 Ways to Accelerate Weight Loss--Miter Saws and Mary JanesNearly 2 months ago, a new year was rung in. Along with it came plenty of resolutions. Year after year, one of the most popular new year’s resolutions is weight loss. Whether it’s 10 pounds or 100 pounds, plenty of people have weight loss on their minds.

Now that we’re nearly 1/6 of the way through 2017, you may find yourself lagging in your attempts to eat well, exercise often, and take care of yourself in the name of weight loss and achieving a healthy lifestyle. If you’re struggling to hold onto your weight loss resolution, here are 10 ways to accelerate your effort:

Eat More to Lose More

It sounds counter-intuitive to suggest eating more will help you lose more weight but it’s true! Dramatically slashing your caloric intake does nothing to help your weight loss progress. In fact, it actually harms your efforts by slowing down your metabolism, causing your body to put the brakes on fat burning, and can cause nasty dips in blood sugar levels that open the door to mega binges.

Instead of adhering to a super-restrictive diet, add in some snacks and make sure you’re at least getting enough calories to compensate for your body’s natural, resting metabolic rate (the amount of calories your body burns simply by existing). Some great snacks to add to the mix are nuts, seeds, veggies, hummus, and fruit. One note is that fruit juice does little to nothing for your body–make sure you’re eating the actual piece of fruit to benefit from the fiber and vitamins packed in each serving.

Drink Up

As much as I’d like to say this is a free pass to drown your sorrows in some wine or to chug those caramel macchiatos from Starbucks, alas, that is not what I’m advocating. ¬†What you should be drinking is plenty of water. If water is boring or just doesn’t taste right to you, consider adding fruit and/or veggies to it to enhance the flavor. Better yet, fill up a thermos of green or black tea and sip throughout the day to ensure your body is being adequately hydrated.

Listen to Your Body

Hunger pangs making you feel like Marsha Brady in those Snickers commercials? Before you reach for a snack, check yourself. Often, when we feel what we believe to be hunger, it’s actually just thirst. Try downing some of the fruit-flavored water or tea you’re toting around. If you’re still famished 10 minutes later, opt for a small snack that incorporates some healthy fats and protein.

Additionally, develop the habit of stopping before you’re completely full. Hara Hachi Bu: Eat until you’re 80% full. This ancient Japanese practice makes a hell of a lot of sense. Considering Japan yields some of the fittest, happiest, slimmest, and oldest living people on Earth, I think they may be onto something. It takes your brain at least 20 minutes to register you’re full. Avoid the bloating, irritating food coma by stopping just short of feeling full. You may be very surprised with the outcome!

Get Moving

This one is a no-brainer. Incorporating more movement into your everyday life is the easiest way to jump-start your metabolism and get your weight loss journey on track. Traditional exercise is a must-do but there are other ways to increase your movement. Fidgeting (quietly tapping your feet under the desk during a meeting, drumming your fingers, etc) is a proven way that naturally thin people stay thin. Other proven methods of getting–and staying–slim include¬†parking further away, always taking the steps, doing a lap around the office every hour, and even challenging yourself to carry more groceries in one haul. Just keep in mind that while exercise will certainly help your weight loss efforts, it won’t do enough if you’re not eating well, too.

Pump it Up

In addition to adding more incremental movement into your days, you should also be strength training. Strength training is the number one way to increase lean muscle mass which in turn burns more fat, helps regulate your metabolism, and keeps your body firing on all cylinders even when you’re sleeping. Who doesn’t like the idea of burning calories while they sleep!?

To get the most out of your weight lifting sessions, try to add some short bursts of cardio in between exercises. This type of interval training will keep your muscles guessing and will torch huge amounts of calories if done consistently. On the topic (debate?) of lifting less with bigger weights or lifting more with smaller weights, it really doesn’t matter. Less than 10% of women are capable of naturally gaining large muscles because of how our bodies and hormones are designed. Better yet, why not try both?

Eat Before You Eat

What the what? Eat before I eat? Ok, now this is really getting a little bonkers. Lest you think I’ve gone off the deep end, consider what I’m saying. Eating before you eat means having soup before your pasta; salad before your steak. The best choices are something hot, something spicy, and/or something with fiber. With the hot temperature, you’ll wait for the food to cool as you gradually consume it, which gives your body time to register those calories (see above regarding the brain taking 20 minutes to decipher fullness). Spicy foods are difficult to eat quickly which gives your body the same time. With fiber, it fills you up so opting for an apple with peanut butter before you go to the restaurant will help you say no to that massive plate of nachos your boyfriend/husband may order as an appetizer.

Change it Up

Our bodies become accustomed to what we do on a regular basis. If you want to supercharge your weight loss, make sure to change up your routine. From adding a new strength exercise to adding a completely different form of exercise (swimming for runners, yoga for football players, it all works!), changing things up will help your body wake up, shape up, and lose excess pounds. Switching gears will give your metabolism a zap and ensure your body is torching calories as efficiently as possible.

Sleep on It

According to research done by Columbia University, if you get less sleep than usual, you may consume an additional 300 calories simply because you’re tired. Additionally, researchers found people who sleep at least 8 hours of sleep per night lost over 50% more body fat than if they slept only 5 hours while consuming the same diet. Your body mass is directly affected by how much you sleep, so sleep more to improve your weight loss.

If you constantly find yourself burning the candle at both ends, consider this: Your body has two hormones that regulate your appetite; ghrelin and leptin. Simply stated, leptin helps your body regulate fat storage and ghrelin stimulates your body to produce more growth hormone which increases appetite. Skimp on your sleep and these two hormones go completely out of whack. Not only will you be tired (and possibly a wee bit grumpy), but you’ll also be more likely to binge on sugary, fatty foods to help you get through the day. It’s definitely not worth the stress and impact on your body–log those hours in your bed, not at the computer.

Eat the Fat to Beat the Fat

A lot of fodder has been spread about the impact of a low-fat diet on weight loss. While reducing your overall intake of fat certainly helps you to lose weight, completely cutting it out does not. Those so-called “healthy” foods that tout ‘fat free,’ ‘calorie free’ labels are nothing more than engineered chemicals. When fat is stripped from your foods, sugar, sugar substitutes, and salt are often added in its place. Instead of obsessing over the amount of fat you’re eating, try to focus on the type of fat you’re consuming.

Unsaturated, healthy fats are a dieter’s best friend. Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated, the kinds found in nuts, avocados, fish, and seeds, are burned faster by your body than saturated fats, contribute to a higher resting metabolic rate (see above), and incite diet-induced calorie burn. Make an effort to balance your diet and your waistline will thank you!

Fill Up on Fiber

Much like fat is a beneficial resource for your body, fiber is a nutritional powerhouse that could be the secret ingredient in successful weight loss. Ditch the refined flour in lieu of whole grains–barely, farro, oats, and brown rice are a great starting point. Replace the meal replacement bars with the real things–those fake sugars (hello claims of “negative net carbs!”) wreak more havoc on your body’s insulin levels than actual sugar does. Eat real food rather than relying solely on shakes and smoothies. Smoothies can be an effective tool for weight loss, but they can’t be the only way you consume your food. Make sure you’re boosting your fiber levels to ensure you’re consuming vital nutrients, stoking your metabolism, and filling up on real food rather than fake substitutes. You’ll be more satisfied, less likely to binge, and will feel awesome!

What do you do to accelerate your weight loss efforts? Share your tips below!