Tag Archives: healthy eating

Burnt Toast and a Crock Pot

Recently I was having a texting conversation with a friend of mine who lives in another state. We haven’t seen each other in years, but we manage to stay in touch, like many people, through email, texting, and social media. We’ve been talking a lot more lately with everything going on with COVID-19 in the country.  One of our conversations was on a day when we had both made a quick run to our grocery stores to stalk the pantry and the fridge. We joked back and forth about wiping off the plastic grocery bags with disinfectant wipes. And I laughed when she sent me a picture of her purchases because I had just shot of video of my shopping trip (for an upcoming post), and realized our grocery filled counters looked very similar (mine above; hers below) “right down to the carrot cake mix,” I told her.

After we’d chatted a bit, and I discovered that she shopped weekly in order to keep fresh produce in the house, I asked her how that was working out for her financially, since weeks earlier, she had unfortunately been laid off from her job like so many others resulting from the pandemic’s negative impact on the economy. When we spoke, she was still waiting on her first unemployment check, but we talked about how she’d made it a priority to eat healthy, even through these times when she also had to watch how she spent her money. As we talked more about not only her shopping habits, but cooking, I asked her if she would be open to sharing a little about her ventures to my followers.

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If you’re anything like me, when that lock down took effect, I got worried. I wasn’t too worried about the financial aspects because I knew unemployment would be coming my way. The worry was about eating! OK, I admit it, I’m a lousy cook. My mantra is “I never cook for people I love,” except my ex-husband! How do you think I got rid of him so easily?

I’ve always been a career focused woman without a direction in cooking. I had an awesome boyfriend after my divorce that would cook for me or take me out to dinner. When I lived at home, my mom and dad were the chefs! Dad was an expert on the grill. Mom would make us yummy Slovenian dishes and desserts. Her homemade bread? Well there’s no describing it. But me? I have to buy two loaves of bread just to get two edible pieces of toast because I’m constantly burning them. How do you set those toasters anyway? So complicated.

Being a vegetarian, I don’t have to worry about meats, poultry and fish. But I do get concerned about eating too many carbs. When a vegetarian goes out to dinner and lets the waitress know they are vegetarian, the first thing they do is bring a big plate of pasta with tomato sauce poured over it. Yuck! Even “I” can make that! I don’t like to eat heavy in the evenings so most of it would go to waste.

I guess the reality finally hit me by the middle of my first week in lockdown… I don’t have any food in the house! Thankfully I have a wonderful friend who just so happened to call me just as I was “also” down with the flu. Knowing I’m not a kitchen girl, Mary asked me where the crock pot was that she donated to me a few weeks earlier. My response was one of, “uh … well, um ….” Within an hour, she knocked on my door, slid her hand inside, which was holding a brown paper handle bag filled with goodies, AND instructions on how to use the crock pot! When I opened the bag I thought, “What! You mean I have to “put this stuff into the crock pot!” I was a mess.

Except for the just made warm loaf of challah bread, in the fridge the bag went. And there it sat.

Two days later I pulled out the goodies and my crock pot. I was actually quite impressed. She brought me carrots, celery, fresh parsley, and several little jars filled with measured spices, barley, vegetable stock, etc., And a “recipe”! All I needed to do was put everything in the crock pot with some filtered water, turn the dial to 4-hours, and I was golden! Wow! What a concept.

I took all of the recipes she so generously printed out, along with some recipes my sister brought back from Australia, and I made a list of the foods that I would like to eat and would be able to make in my crock pot.

During my trip to the grocery store, I bought fresh fruits, spring mix lettuce, baby spinach, mushrooms, fresh and frozen vegetables, almost ripe avocados, golden potatoes, high protein pastas, nuts and seeds, some cheeses, sour cream, eggs, vanilla yogurt (to protect my good bacteria), a greek olive mix of feta, kalamata and Spanish olives, ground spices, and a fresh loaf of my favorite Tuscan bread. Yes, two loaves.

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My kitchen was flourishing. For two weeks I made the most delicious foods that not only kept me healthy and filled up, but I lost weight! I was so proud of myself! I had a kitchen filled with beautiful fruits and veggies that I put on display, a new selection of fresh herbs and spices, and my two loaves of Tuscan bread. My freezer had some frozen fruits for smoothies, plus I treated myself to some pierogies. Yes, I did.

In my venture out, I opted to go to Aldi’s. They have great prices and a large selection of organic choices. The avocados were on sale so I stocked up as much as I could knowing they’re perishable. The bread was at Giant Eagle, so I made a trip across the street. Much to my surprise the prices at GE were LESS than Aldi’s! I was very surprised. The third stop I made was to Big Lots – they have some organic spices that really saved me a lot of money. With all this shopping, my bill was less than $70! Did it take extra time, yes, but it was a great day to start my new venture with my crock pot … my toaster, and my pots & pans. I need new ones, by the way. I should send a hint to Mary!

No matter your opinion is about the CV19 lockdown, the reality is we have to go on with our every day. We have to get up in the morning. We have to get dressed. We have to mentally prepare for our survival. AND! We have to eat! Do yourself a favor… make this fun. Find something new in your kitchen, your basement, your garage. Fill your day with happiness and new ventures.

Good luck!

My Trip to the Farmer’s Market

I love going to the community farmer’s market. I don’t go as often as I should, because I keep forgetting. Out of sight out of mind, I guess. But whenever I’m visiting my hometown in SC during the summer, I always remember to go because it’s located right across the street from an outside mall I frequently visit or drive past. That wasn’t always the case. Before I moved away, the only option was going all the way downtown to the large city-run one. Road side farmers started popping up right before I left, but it would be years later before organized community markets started to become the norm.

I suppose that was the case everywhere. When I first moved to Nashville, the only Farmer’s Market was the large one, again, in the downtown area. I lived 15 miles away, and even though I worked downtown, the traffic and parking wasn’t worth trying to get there during lunchtime. I’ve actually been a little surprised by how slow the community markets have come up around here. But since moving to a town just to the south of Nashville, I found one that sets up on the downtown square, only six miles from where I now live. It’s worth the short drive, past all the grocery stores, to pick up fresh vegetables; mostly grown locally. And many of the items I pick up cost less than what’s in the store. I mean, have you noticed there’s almost never a store coupon for fruits and fresh vegetables?! 

I’ve gotten to where I enjoy walking around the farmer’s market; even with the summer heat. It’s kinda nice looking at all of the small farm and family booths and checking out what their farms have yielded. I think that even while we’re watching our money, trying to stick to a budget, and stretch our paychecks each month, we cannot forsake our health in the process. One of the things we don’t think about, and that is not often taught or talked about, is the fact that not eating healthy will often cost you more in the long run. Someone once said to me, you can pay more now to eat right and do the things needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle, or you can pay more later, with the cost of doctors’ visits and medications from diseases we develop, mostly attached to our unhealthy lifestyles.

I’ve decided to only use cash when I go to the market now, so that I can control how much I’m spending. The other decision I made was to not buy more than what I could prepare and eat in one week’s time. In the past, too often I’ve ended up having to throw away some of my vegetables if I couldn’t eat them fast enough before they started browning, wilting and growing mold. I always feel bad when that happens because wasted food is wasted money! I recently read that Americans waste  approximately 150,000 tons of food each day, which comes out to be about a waste of one pound a day per person. That is ridiculously sad; especially given the number of people who go to bed hungry every day in America. 

While I can’t control what other people do, I am motivated to do more of my part, and not contribute to the  “American waste” mentality. And I do think it’s a “mentality.” Here in America, we live in a society where no one likes to be told what to do; certainly not what or how much to buy. Where “rights” have overtaken common sense. I mean, why else were so many people originally against wearing seatbelts and still fight helmet laws?  

Regarding food, I still think about how so many schools were against Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution; when he set out to show how the foods being served in many American schools were high fat, high sugar, high sodium, processed foods, that were contributing to the increase in childhood obesity, and the decline in the overall health of children at much younger ages. The state governments may be saving money by the food choices they make for the schools, but parents of these kids are spending more time and money in doctor’s offices, and setting up an unhealthy lifestyle that their child will have to deal with once they become adults, and the cost gets transferred on to them.

But I digress.

So being single, I have had to learn how to figure out what’s enough and what’s too much, because there’s no one else helping you eat it. That’s why I also try to only buy those things I know I like, or in some cases, things I know I need, like these beets. I don’t like them, but I’ve figured out a way to prepare them to help me try to eat them more often, mostly because of all of the nutritional benefits they provide. 

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As you work on your monthly budget, and make out your weekly shopping lists, remember to leave room for the bigger picture. Plan today so that you’re not paying a bigger price tomorrow.

Catching Raindrops in Water Barrels

I love hearing from people who have made changes in their lives because of something I’ve shared here, and on our Facebook page, or challenges I’ve made to encourage others on ways to take control over their own financial future. It’s not always possibly for someone to take on a second job; or even in some cases, working outside the home at all. But there are lots of ways we can all make changes to help save and stretch the use of the money that IS coming in to the home. So I was really excited to hear from a friend of mine who had not only done just that…but utilized one avenue quite literally, by catching raindrops in her water (buckets) barrels!

Meet Erica Manly, a stay at home mom, who previously worked full-time outside the home. Much has changed in Erica’s life over the past five years, including marriage, quitting her day job, having a baby, and moving three hours away from her family for her husband’s job. Erica’s life changed…so Erica had to learn how to adjust her lifestyle to her new normal. Let me let her tell you more about that.

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My name is Erica and I’m a wife and stay at home mom to the cutest and busiest little three year old you’ve ever seen. In order to make it possible to stay with her full-time and to save for our future (and hers), I am always looking for ways for our family to save wherever we can. We became even more serious about saving last year after reviewing exactly how much money was going out every month. I started serious couponing first, because most of our budget was going to the grocery store. I wouldn’t call what I do “extreme couponing”, but we are definitely saving about $400 per month in comparison to two years ago between the grocery and other big box store spending. And as a bonus, our cupboards and closets are full of food and toiletries!

I also took up gardening last year with one raised bed garden of vegetables. Whenever I decide to start a project like this, I’m sure my husband cringes as this means work for him. He built a nice raised bed for me and filled it with a truck load of dirt. Our friend had started extra tomato plants and had other extra seeds, so we actually spent absolutely nothing on our plants!

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As a new gardener, I noticed how much more everything grew when it rained in comparison to my usual watering from the hose. Our friend calls it “magic water”.

Partly inspired by our Catching Raindrops friend, Gloria, I told my husband that I needed a rain barrel. The way I remember it, he rolled his eyes and sighed. A couple days later, my man was researching rain barrels and told me he found some 55 gallon drums for sale nearby and had found a way to tie them into our downspout under the back porch. Within a week, the project was complete – three 55 gallon drums filled with water after one good rain.

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I can’t break down exactly how much money it is saving us, but I was watering our new landscaping on the front of the house and/or the veggie garden almost everyday. Since installing the rain collection system, I have only pulled the garden hose back out a few times. I am looking forward to expanding my garden this spring to two raised beds of vegetables and using my good and bad experiences from last year to improve. My husband will also add another rain barrel or two to be sure we never run out of rain water.

While my ways may be extreme to some, and my reasons to save money may be different from yours, there are almost always ways to spend less and save more for a rainy (or even not rainy) day!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go follow my child around while turning off lights and try to explain (again) that just because you can flip all the light switches now doesn’t mean you need to turn all the lights on!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I hope everyone had a wonderful new year’s eve and were able to welcome in the New Year with positive anticipation! For me, my resolutions for Catching Raindrops is to do a better job of sharing positive and encouraging news and stories here (in addition to the facebook group); and to encourage more discussion among the members who would like to contribute their own stories, ideas, and ways they have adjusted their lives to their new lifestyles…creating their new normal.

For me personally, my resolution also includes taking better care of myself — physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I believe that everything ties into one another. When you’re not feeling well physically, it can have an impact on your mental and emotional state. On the other hand, keeping a positive attitude when you’re going through challenges, can often times help the heal process. And eating well helps to build your immune system and body system in good shape in general, helping you ward off some of the other things that can run your down. So with that in mind, my personal focus is getting more vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds into my body, and less refined sugars and junk food! This should also help me keep focused too — which means being more attentive to this page in the future as well.

So happy new year everyone. Be happy. Be healthy. Be blessed!

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Meet Our Mommypreneur

Rosie pixRosie Schmitgen is a busy woman who believes that putting family first helps keep everything else in their right place. A wife and the mother of three vivacious and busy children, Rosie is also an entrepreneur, running two businesses she co-owns with her husband. With the flexibility of being a self-employed businesswoman, Rosie is able to keep focused on her family while still growing her businesses, all from home.

After several years of buying and flipping properties for resale, Rosie and her husband Allen started Schmitgen Rentals 17 years ago. A home and apartment rental business based in Corpus Christi, the company rents fully furnished and unfurnished homes and apartments to vacationing families or traveling business people throughout the year.  With a 15-year background in retail management, Rosie’s desire to serve people by providing them what they need has helped to grow the company each year since its start.

Her other company, Beyond Espresso of Corpus Christi, which was started seven years ago, is a rental company of commercial grade coffee machines from Italy. Targeted for placement in small and large businesses, Rosie also provides rental of the popular cappuccino and latte making coffee machines for special events, private parties, and fundraisers around the country.

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Rosie lives in Corpus Christi where she has been happily married to Allen Schmitgen for over 18 years. She loves being a cheerleader to her kids, Justin, Caleb, and Aleena, as they grow into their own individually creative self. But balancing the life of a wife, mom, and business owner can definitely take its toll. And as women, sometimes we are the last ones to take note. For Rosie, it was her oldest son Justin who recently told her that she needed to start taking better care of herself. Noticing how tired his mom was getting by the end of each day, 15 year old Justin told her that it was because she wasn’t eating right and not getting enough regular exercise.

What a revelation coming from a teenager! What was probably more shocking to Rosie was both of her sons insistence on her providing them with healthier food options for their meals, as well as their desire to join a gym so that they could get regular exercise. As if the roles were reversed, it was mama Rosie who pushed back. “I tried to explain to my sons how time consuming it would be to research all of the right foods, in addition to adding another trip to an already hectic schedule by trying to get them to and from the gym throughout the week.”

But Justin pushed back harder. “Mom, I have researched the foods, I will tell you what to buy and I will help you prepare our meals for the week,” he said, showing an incredibly high level of maturity for a teenage boy. So Rosie agreed to give it a try, and has made plans for the whole family to join a local gym and work out together. But it is the last words of her son’s plea that is probably the most worth sharing. They are words that ring true for everyone, and hopefully will prove inspirational to those of you reading this, as you go through the day, and plan your week, and wonder how you can fit even one more thing in it.

 

“In being organized we will eat better, have more time for things, and be healthier.”  Justin Schmitgen (15 year old kid who wants his family to live a better life)

 

Rosie family