Category: Wellness Tips

 

Bacteria aren’t always bad! In fact, your digestive tract is loaded with colonies of these little guys. While some can be harmful, most are helpful. Having a good balance of bacteria in your intestines (aka gut bacteria) can be a critical piece of your overall health puzzle.

 

Less than ideal gut bacteria have been linked to depression, anxiety, overeating, food cravings, brain fog, fatigue, diabetes, obesity, cancer, irritable bowel syndrome and intestinal damage, among other issues.1-5 Tending to the needs of the tiny bacterial warriors in your gut can be hugely beneficial to your wellness. Here’s are four groups of foods you can eat to support your gut health:

 

Probiotic foods

probiotic foods

 

What they do: Probiotic foods contain the good bacteria that can help reinforce the armies in your gut. Different strains of probiotics have been researched for different health benefits. For example, L. plantarum and L. rhamnosus are linked to lower levels of stress hormones and increased amounts of intestinal building blocks.1, 2 L. heleveticus and B. longum improved stress responses in mice.4

How much: Since research into the benefits different strains of probiotics is still in the works, there is no official probiotic recommendation.

How to get them: Foods that are fermented often retain healthful bacteria all the way into your digestive system. Fermented foods like yogurt, kombucha, miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi all contain healthful probiotics.

 

Vitamins A and D

What they do: Both of these vitamins are linked to improved intestinal and mental health.1

How much: For vitamin A, men should aim for 900 mcg and women 700 mcg per day. For vitamin D, aim for 600 IUs per day unless you’re over 70, then boost that to 800 IU daily.*

How to get them: Boost vitamin A intake with a serving of sweet potato (1403 mcg), spinach (573 mcg), carrots (459 mcg), cantaloupe (135 mcg), red peppers (117 mcg), or mango (112 mcg).

We get vitamin D primarily from exposure to sunlight, but if your area lacks that for some or all of the year (heyyyyy Western Washington!), try a serving of salmon (447 IU), canned tuna (154 IU), and dairy or dairy alternatives with added vitamin D (115-125 IU). For many living far from the equator, a vitamin D supplement can be a wise idea, but ask your doctor to check your vitamin D status first.

 



 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

anti-inflammatory fats to heal your gutWhat they do: Supplementation with the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA is linked with improved gut bacteria and reduced anxiety- and depression-related behaviors.4

How much: 1.6 g per day for men, 1.1 g per day for women.*

How to get them: Different forms of omega-3s are absorbed and utilized at different rates. To get the most usable EPA and DHA, eat a serving of salmon (1.5-1.8 g), mackerel (1.0 g), or trout (.84 g). For non-fish-eaters, plant-based sources of omega-3s contain ALA which can be converted to EPA and DHA, but only about 15% of the ALA is converted. These ALA sources include a serving of chia seeds (5.06 g), flax seeds (2.35 g), black walnuts (.76 g), and edamame (.28 g). If you aren’t likely to meet recommendations with food, a daily omega-3 supplement can back you up. Be sure to choose one that is “burpless” or “enteric coated” to avoid fishy-smelling breath.

 

Prebiotic Fibers

support healthy gut floraWhat they do: “Prebiotic fibers” are specific types of fiber that the bacteria in your gut like to snack on. Keeping a healthy colony of good bacteria well-fed can keep your intestinal lining strong and regulate digestion.1, 4-5 For those who already have a bacterial imbalance or a condition like inflammatory bowel disease, some of these can actually worsen symptoms. Talk with your doctor if you have any concerns about your gut health.

How much: There isn’t a specific recommendation for prebiotic fiber intake, but 25-30 grams of fiber covers it for most adults.*

How to get them: Most whole plants foods are good places to find fiber. For prebiotic fibers, go for lentils, kidney beans, apples, currants, dates, figs, and whole grains like wheat, rye, and barley.

 



 

*Recommended intakes and food nutrient contents were obtained from National Institutes of Health fact sheets. Children and pregnant or lactating women may have different recommendations.

 

Related Articles

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Why eating enough is just as important as not eating too much

Sugar Alternatives: Sweet solution or damaging and dangerous?

 

  1. Bischoff SC, Barbara G, Buurman W, et al. Intestinal permeability – a new target for disease prevention and therapy. BMC Gastroenterol. 2014;14:189. Accessed from:  https://bmcgastroenterol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12876-014-0189-7.
  2. Carabotti M, Scirocco A, Maselli MA, et al. The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiotia, central and enteric nervous systems. Ann Gastroenterol. 2015;28(2):203-209.
  3. Galley JD, Nelson MC, Yu Z, et al. Exposure to a single stressor disrupts the community structure of the colonic mucosa-associated microbiota. BMC Microbiol. 2014;14. Accessed from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25028050/
  4. Foster JA, Rinaman L, Cryan JF. Stress & the gut-brain axis: Regulation by the microbiome. Neurobiol Stress. 2017;7:124-136.
  5. Oriach CS, Robertson RC, Stanton C, et al. Food for thought: The role of nutrition in microbiotia-gut-brain axis. Clin Nutr Exp. 2016;6:25-38.

 



Wellness Tips

hacks for losing weight

 

Regardless of your body’s size, maintaining positive habits makes a significant difference in your overall health. Sometimes, though, your health goal itself may include losing some extra fat that is causing you discomfort or health problems. Weight loss is a commonly sought after and frequently frustrating goal – mostly because there is so much confusion about how to effectively go about it! After working as a dietitian for 6 years, I’ve compiled a list of my top 15 weight loss tips to help you meet your goals. Enjoy!

 

1. Ease into it

I know this might be a weird thing to hear from a dietitian, but don’t come out of the gate doing every healthy thing you can think of. Plan a couple of healthy changes, add them into your life, get used to them for a few weeks, then add in a couple more.

 

There are a couple of reasons I recommend this – first of all, it’s much more likely that you’ll be able to stick with your new habits if you have a little time to get used to them and work out the kinks. Second, nearly everyone will run into a plateau at some point on their journey. For plateaus lasting more than 2-3 weeks, it’s nice to have a couple of healthy changes in mind to get things moving again. If you start out by maxing out your exercise and strictly limiting your food intakes, you don’t have anywhere to go when things inevitably get stuck.

 

2. Be part of your own plan

As tempting as it is – trust me, I know – avoid going for pre-made meal or diet plans. These plans are convenient and seem simple, but they were not made to match your lifestyle. They may get you moving along for a week or two (or even a month or two), without teaching you to make your lifestyle more healthful. Often, they contain foods you don’t care for and leave out some of your favorites – that’s no way to live! This is one reason I don’t make meal plans for my clients. Participating in the creation of your own healthy plan will help you practice making a healthy lifestyle that you actually enjoy and can follow long term. If you’re lost on how to do this, find a Registered Dietitian to help you!

 

3. Don’t expect (or aspire to) perfection

Do not expect to never eat your favorite foods. Do not aspire to never eat your favorite foods. It makes me sad just to think of it! You can and should include all kinds of foods that you enjoy while meeting your health goals. Do it intentionally and without guilt. Including favorite foods will help your plan be sustainable and enjoyable, and prevent out-of-control bingeing.

 



 

4. Consider your personality

A sustainable healthy lifestyle is about so much more than calorie calculations and exercise. Consider aspects of your personality that you may never have thought of in relation to nutrition and fitness before. Are you detail-oriented? Tech savvy? Flexible? Need structure? Tend to obsess? All of those things should play into your choices about which paths to take. If you’re not sure how to do that, check out this handy graphic to guide you.

 

5. “Begin as you mean to go on”

Originally said by Charles Spurgeon, the sentiment of the quote is to only begin a life change that you expect to be able to continue long-term. Do not begin any nutrition plan that you only intend to follow temporarily. Your plan should be sustainable. Now, sometimes, life will happen and you’ll have to change up your plan accordingly, or you’ll change it up to match your workouts, for example. The point is that you shouldn’t embark on a plan that you know beforehand will be too hard to stick with after a few months.

 

healthy habits that fit your life

 

6. Embrace the trial and error

Approach your healthy plan as a series of trials and errors, designed to find the healthy plan that perfectly fits your life. If you try something that doesn’t work, it’s not failure, it’s information. That wasn’t the right approach for you. Try another! Keep going, and you’ll have ironed all of the wrinkles out of your plan and it will fit your lifestyle like a glove.

 

7. Make sure you’re eating enough

There is so much bad info out there. Weight loss is so much more than eating less and moving more. In fact, about half of the clients I see who are trying to lose weight are undereating, not overeating.  Their undereating is what keeps them from being able to lose weight! Without going into the nitty-gritty hormonal details, chronic over-restriction leads your metabolism to slow down and puts your body in fat-saving/fat-storage mode. Strict calorie restrictive diets actually teach your body to store fat. The next time someone says that you should be eating 1200 calories per day to lose weight, just let that comment roll off your back. The goal is to eat exactly what your body needs, minus just a tad. Then your body won’t mind filling in the gaps with extra fat.

 



 

8. Don’t fear the carbohydrate!

While we’re on the subject of slowed metabolism, let me address one of the most common weight loss mistakes I see – undereating carbohydrates! Poor carbohydrates, they get such a bad rap as being one of the leading causes of weight gain. Not true! Carbs are the primary fuel our bodies use. When our bodies don’t get enough carbs for a while, they slow our metabolisms down to “survive the winter.”

This is why nearly every low-carb diet works spectacularly for a while, then weight tends to plateau. Typically as soon as you start adding carbohydrates back in (no matter how gradually), most of the lost weight comes back. This is because your body believes it is now summer again – time to start stocking up fat for the next period of starvation!

This is not to say that a mild decrease in carbohydrates can’t help speed weight loss, but drastic reductions are not the answer for sustainable weight loss. Lose the weight in a way that includes carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, but choose well in each category. Go for complex and nutrient-dense carbohydrates like whole fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and low-fat dairy or dairy alternatives. Choose lean proteins like skinless poultry, lean beef or pork, fish, eggs, and nuts. Aim for liquid, plant-based fats like avocado oil and olive oil. Add plenty of antioxidant-laden veggies. 🙂

 

9. Hold steady (and expect plateaus)

Plateaus happen for all but the very lucky in weight-loss journeys. Sometimes they happen for a discernable reason, sometimes your body just isn’t feeling like losing weight that week. Don’t stress, and continue doing what you are doing. If your weight sticks for more than 2-3 weeks, only then is it time to consider tweaking your plan. Try adding a little time or intensity to your workouts, or add in some cross-training.

 

10. Build in non-scale victories

Keep goals besides weight-loss goals, because sometimes the scale just doesn’t want to reflect the hard work you’re putting in. It happens. To everyone.

My faves are achievement goals. They are the most fun! Explore new territory – maybe something you’ve always dreamed of doing but never believed you could do. Want to learn to box? Hike part (or all!) of the Pacific Crest Trail? Ride a horse? Become a personal trainer? Play tag with your grandkids? Skydive?

Pick one that fires you up. Consider your workouts training for that dream. Be consistent. Achieve it. Pick a new goal. Rinse and repeat.

 



 

11. Embrace health improvements, not just pounds lost

Along those lines, make changes for their benefit to your health, disease prevention, or an increase in energy. Believe in the good you are doing for your body by moving it more, eating more vegetables, or drinking more water. Read handouts or books about it if you need to! Sometimes it seems the only reason someone is willing to do anything healthy is to watch the number on the scale go down. While that can be a satisfying and healthy goal, the scale does not always cooperate (as mentioned above). If you’re putting all your eggs in that basket, you’re setting yourself up for frustration. Instead, notice the way your body feels – your energy levels, your digestion, your skin, the way your clothes fit. All of those are signs that you’re headed in the right direction, and none of them require weight loss.

 

achieve your health goals

 

12. Ditch an “all-or-nothing” mindset

Some people are inclined to have an “all-or-nothing” mindset, particularly about nutrition or fitness. Either they’re doing all the things – eating “clean,” working out out 5 times a week, drinking enough water, and taking their vitamins – or they’ve given up on being healthy. One day of a missed workout or a serving of french fries leads them to throw in the towel on all of their healthy habits. Health does not work this way, and neither should you think this way about your health. Every step is a step in a healthier direction. Don’t let one “imperfect” moment tell you how everything has to be. Just pick it back up and move on.

 

13. Steer clear of “diet lingo”

While we’re at it, avoid phrases like “eat clean,” “cheat days,” “cutting carbs” and “guilty pleasure.”

There’s nothing dirty about dessert, eating cheese is not cheating, carbs don’t need cutting (except with a bread knife), and no tasty food should make you feel guilty.

Using these phrases reinforces the mindset behind them, and that is not a helpful mindset. All food can fit in a balanced weight-loss lifestyle.

 

14. Rewrite your cassette tapes

This is an idea one of my clients had and I loved it. She said she had all of these old self-deprecating diet “cassette tapes” playing in her head, telling her she was too fat, shaming her for what she would choose to eat, or telling her that fruit was bad because it was too high in sugar. As she was working with me, she learned that the voices on these tapes were misinformed or just plain wrong. She had to make a conscious effort to “record over” the unhelpful voices with something she knew to be true. She actively thought about how nutritious fruit is and how the fiber helps her digestion, or how she is making many efforts to improve her health and she should not be ashamed for the choice she is making now. Rewriting her tapes enabled her to take charge from all of those old, useless philosophies that had held her back for years.

 

15. Believe in yourself – no matter how long it takes, you can do it.

If you follow the other tips, losing weight and making healthy changes shouldn’t be excruciating. If it is, it’s time to change your plan! I certainly won’t say it will be a walk in the park (though it may involve some of those!), but it’s doable. It takes consistency, patience, and dedication to the process over anything else. Slow and steady, and if you need some help, go and get it. There’s no shame in that. You can lose weight. You can improve your health.  Believe it.

 



Wellness Tips

How to Make an Effective Meal Plan

 

Ahhh pre-made meal plans…I gotta tell ya, I love to hate ’em. Finding them, selecting them, and most of all, following them. They are stinky, like fish. That will make more sense in a few paragraphs. Promise.

Why are they stinky, you ask? Well I would be more than happy to tell you.

The food we eat is connected to everything in our lives. Everything. Your budget, your spouse (or lack of spouse), your kids (and their preferences, allergies, and appetites), your schedule, your culture, and your mood all play in to the food you choose to eat. That being said, someone would have to thoroughly understand all of those things about you in order to select foods that are good options for a meal plan for you. Now, how many meal plan makers know you that well?

Let’s take, for example, some meal plans I’ve been on in the past for different blog experiments. For the heart healthy meal plan I followed, the ingredients increased my grocery budget by 75%! Typically I use dinner leftovers for lunches, but that meal plan used NO leftovers for ANYTHING. You know what that gets you (besides an expensive grocery trip)? A fridge full of leftovers waiting to go bad. It also leaves you cooking two meals every night – dinner and tomorrow’s lunch. Not sustainable, functional, or enjoyable.

 



 

My final gripe about following meal plans made by others? Sometimes I just don’t like the food. Like, for example, coleslaw. I’m not a huge fan, but it’s on the meal plan, because the person who made it didn’t know me and my lack of appreciation for coleslaw. So here I am, either eating coleslaw or feeling as though I somehow “failed” my meal plan because I didn’t like it.

And you know what else (yes, I lied about the final gripe part)? As a dietitian, my goal is to empower my patients to live a healthy life they love. Now even if I gave them the perfect meal plan that worked great for their lifestyle, are they empowered? What will they do when the week-long meal plan is over? Will they just eat the same food week after week forever?

Of course not.

Remember the old saying, “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and feed him for the rest of his life”? Well, a meal plan is a fish.

 



 

I can give someone a meal plan fish and they can meet their nutritional goals for a week (if they manage to stick with a meal plan someone else made), or I can teach someone how to plan for themselves and meet their health and quality of life goals. Truly, they are the only ones who know themselves well enough to do it. So usually, if my client’s would like to have weekly meal plans, we set aside a portion of each of their appointments and make the meal plan together. It’s not easy and it’s awkward at first, but once they get the hang of it they are empowered. After a few sessions they’ve got the hang of it and they’re making their own meals plans (that they love, that fit their budget and their health goals). They can eat for life – on a budget and with foods they love! And that is why I love what I do.

And why I hate stinky meal plan fish. End rant.

 

Related Articles

How to Meal Plan on a Budget (step-by-step walkthrough)

The Must-Try Meal-Planning Hack to Stop Wasting Food and Money

How to Meal Plan to Save Time and Money (with free printable meal-planning template!)

 



Wellness Tips

don't diet this year

 

The New Year is almost here! So why not put out my dietitian two cents on New Year’s resolutions, particularly as they apply to healthy eating goals? Do you want to become healthier in the new year? That’s excellent! The next thing to do is determine specifically how you plan to do that. Are you going to exercise more? Eat more fruits and vegetables? Drink more water?

 

Too often the answer is, “I’m going to lose weight by following _______ diet.”

 

I encourage (and plead and beg of) you NOT to make that commitment this year. Here’s why:

 

Whoever made _______ diet did not have you in mind.

 

They don’t know about your budget, your son’s food allergy, your love for lattes, your busy, busy mornings, or your picky, picky toddler. They made _______ diet with the goal of getting pounds off of people and more than likely, selling some books/supplements/shrink-wrap belts/etc along the way. You may be able to fight, claw, and scratch for a few days, weeks, or even months. But the chances that the entire diet plan fits so effortlessly into every part of your life that you can maintain it forever are slim to none. It’s likely that you’ll throw your hands up at some point and say, “I’m DONE!”

 



 

Here’s the other reality about weight-loss diets: they aren’t necessarily good for you. If the goal is only to take pounds off, most of them work like a charm. They do! The pounds come off for most people (not all) if they really follow a diet plan. The problem is, if the goal is to keep weight off, most diets are total failures for most people.

 

Most weight-loss diets in some way mimic starvation (often with a myriad of dietary contortions that are miserable and difficult to follow). Do you know what mimicking starvation does to your body? It tells it to live off of stored fat (hence, weight loss) and it teaches it that starvation is a very real possibility in your life. In fact, it has happened! It teaches your body that every time it gets a chance it should take every single extra calorie and store it away as fat to help you survive starvation. That means that as soon as you are sick of your diet (or reach your weight loss goal) and begin to eat normally, your body will be itching to build up its “savings account” of fat again to weather the next starvation storm.

 

This also means that every time you “cheat” your body will store that innocent little piece of cake or that perfectly acceptable apple crisp and send it straight to fat storage. Have you ever thought, “it seems like if I even look at dessert I gain weight”? It is practically true for some dieters. Your body will not happily burn through something that it sees as a vital deposit in a dwindling emergency fund.

 

Most weight-loss diets teach your body to store fat!

 

These diets slow down your metabolism (bye, bye energy!), prepare your body to regain weight, and let’s be honest…just suck to follow. Let’s be real.

 



 

Here’s what to do instead:

 

1. Don’t get married without dating first!

What I mean is, don’t commit to stick to a plan if you have no clue how well it is going to work for your body and your life. If it feels like fighting, clawing, and scratching, then it’s not the right change for you. Avoid committing to any plan that you haven’t tried out first. Honestly evaluate how it fits into your life and if it doesn’t, it’s not your failure – it’s the wrong plan!

 

healthy habits that fit your life

 

2. Commit to a habit, then figure out how to make it work in your life.

Instead of a whole plan, pick a healthy habit. Want to drink more water? Great! Pick an ounce goal (80-100 oz is a good start for most folks) and try however many strategies you must in order to find the one that actually helps you get there. Try carrying a water bottle everywhere. Try setting mini-goals (20 oz. by 10 am, 40 by noon). Try an app like My Fitness Pal. Try a cheesier app like Plant Nanny. Try fruit-infused water. Try tea. Try filling a gallon jug of water daily. Try whatever you need to try until you get closer to where you want to be. The real work is in finding the strategy that doesn’t feel like work.

 

Once you’ve figured that one out, choose another habit and stack it on top of the first. Ready to eat 5 servings of fruits and veggies per day? Walk for 20 minutes 3 times per week? Regardless of the goals you pick, this test-driving strategy means you’ll have the opportunity to make each change fit your life. Once you stack up all your new (and easy to stick with) habits, just think how much healthier you’ll be! Not to mention how much more enjoyable it will be than that “clean eating” cleanse you were thinking about trying…

 

3. Put your blinders on

This is the toughest part and it’s a total mental game. Your cousin’s on keto, your PTO pal is on paleo, and your fitness-nut friend is fasting 16 hours a day. They’re all losing weight and you’re over here working on your water intake. It can truly be maddening. Remember from before – most any diet will get weight off. Most any diet will not keep weight off. Remind yourself how many times you’ve watched someone (or you yourself have done this…it’s okay!) diet, lose weight, then gradually gain it all back and then some. All of these people you know are setting their bodies up to gain more fat in the long run. It’s sad, but it’s true!

So try not to let them influence you. It’s so, so hard, I know! I’m a dietitian – I’ve studied nutrition for 10 years – and I can still feel myself being influenced by social media progress photos from diets and supplements that I know are not safe or effective. It is a battle. But it’s a battle worth fighting, because even if keto is the perfect fit for cousin Kathy, you are not Kathy.

You must find your healthy life.

That means that you eat what works for your body, your family, your budget, your lifestyle, and makes you happy. Put in the work to find out what that is, and you’ll be so pleased with how easy it can be to be healthy!

 



 

Related Articles

How to Make Healthy Changes that Actually Stick

To Diet or Not to Diet: 5 Ways to Know if an Eating Plan is Right for You

What to Do When Your Healthy Plan Falls Through

Goal Setting Wellness Tips

eating well on a budget

 

While some sales come and go without warning, stores discount certain items on predictable sale cycles. These usually line up with holidays, seasons, or annual events (think back to school, etc). One way to lower your grocery (and overall household) budget is to work with the sale cycles as much as possible. Whenever a food or item is on sale, stock up! Buy as much as you can fit your budget and pantry and will reasonably use in the following year.

Produce, of course, also goes in and out of season. In-season produce is cheaper, more delicious, and more nutritious than out-of-season produce (which is usually picked before it is ripe and transported long distances to get to you). If your budget allows, purchase in-season produce in large volumes to preserve for the rest of the year. Food preservation is much simpler than you might think! Stay tuned, because I’ll be talking more about how to preserve foods to save money and boost nutrition in a future post.

Meanwhile, use this handy list to help guide you to a stockpile of useful items and nutritious foods, all purchased at rock-bottom prices. I’ve saved hundreds of dollars each year (and simultaneously upped the nutrition factor of our food) by following these sale cycles.

Click here for a free printable version of the list.

 



Sale Cycles

January

Food: broccoli*, cabbage*, tangerines/mandarins*, oatmeal, yogurt, chips, soda, Christmas candy

Household: exercise and fitness equipment, supplements, electronics, winter clothes, wrapping paper, Christmas decorations

February

Food: oranges*, kale*, biscuits, cinnamon rolls, canned goods, chocolate

Household: televisions, toothpaste/toothbrush, contraceptives, perfume

March

Food: avocados*, spinach*, frozen foods

Household: cleaning supplies, bleach

April

Food: bananas*, ham, eggs, Easter candy

Household: kitchenware, vacuums, cleaning supplies

 



 

May

Food: condiments, pickles, chips, hamburger patties/hot dogs and buns

Household: sunscreen, towels, paper/plastic plates and utensils

June

Food: strawberries*, watermelon*, milk, yogurt, condiments, pickles, chips, hamburger patties/hot dogs and buns

Household: sunscreen, paper/plastic plates and utensils, tools

July

Food: raspberries*, blackberries*, marionberries*

Household: sunscreen, aloe, paper/plastic plates and utensils, outdoor furniture

August

Food: cherries*, blueberries*, zucchini*, corn*, tomatoes*, cereal, lunch meat, cheese

Household: school/office supplies, clothes (including socks and underwear), tissues, bleach wipes, camping equipment, linens, pillows, towels

September

Food: peaches*, pears*, apples*, green beans*, live herbs

Household: school/office supplies, lawn mowers, barbecues, cellphones

 



 

October

Food: pumpkin (fresh* or canned), acorn or butternut squash*, potatoes (including sweet potatoes)*, candy, baking ingredients

Household: muffin cups, kitchen/baking utensils, tires

November

Food: turkey, boxed stuffing, baking ingredients, gelatin, marshmallows, gravy, broth, canned soup, canned green beans, Halloween candy

Household: toys, aluminum foil, electronics

December

Food: candy, baking ingredients, sweetened condensed milk

Household: wrapping paper, toys, batteries

 

*Produce seasonality varies by location. Click here to find a seasonal produce chart for your state.

 



 

Related Articles

 

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Eating Well on a Budget Wellness Tips

use coupons effectively 101

 

Ahhh clipping coupons – a pastime that might conjure images of a raised-in-the-depression housewife from the fifties, snipping up a newspaper to save pennies on bread or canned soup. Today, though, I often hear complaints that clipping coupons is just not worth it, because there is usually a generic product that I still cheaper. I had the same issue for the longest time – why bother with taking the time to hunt out and clip coupons if it just doesn’t bring the cost down enough? I still desperately wanted to bring my grocery budget down as far as possible, so after some research on couponing for beginners I learned that there are some simple yet crucial steps to using coupons effectively.

1. Find Your Coupons

The more coupons you have, the better coupons will work for you. Find your coupons and choose a way to store/organize them that works for you. If you don’t know where to start, try a coupon binder. You’ll need to keep your coupon stash updated to get the best value out of it!

Here’s where you can go to stock your coupon stash:

  • Good Ol’ Sunday Newspaper – This is my personal favorite. Sunday newspapers have a significant chunk of coupons inside, both from grocery stores themselves and from manufacturers. If you really want to go for budget gold, buy an early edition Sunday paper or get your Sunday paper for $1 from the Dollar Store, but you can also subscribe to the Sunday paper only and have it delivered to your home.
  • Coupon Websites – Did you know there are entire websites devoted to printable coupons? There. Are. Tons. I’ll give you just a few that I’ve had success with in the past:
  • Manufacturer’s Websites – This can be a little more hit and miss, depending on the manufacturer, but if there is a specific brand of product you know you want to buy, it never hurts to just pop over to their website and see if they’ve got a nice little discount for you.
  • Valpak/Mailers – Most likely, you already get these coupon packs in the mail, but if you don’t, you can request an envelope full of coupons here.
  • Store Coupon Clubs – Depending on where you shop, your grocery store of choice may offer coupons and/or discounts of their own. Often these are now in the form of an app (like Safeway’s Just for U or Fred Meyer’s self-named coupon app). You can also check out individual store’s websites for printable coupons.

 



 

2. Stack Them Up!

The key to getting the best value is to not just take a coupon and slap it on a product you want to buy. Much of the time, there is a generic option that still ends up cheaper than the brand name with a coupon.

The trick is stacking. In most stores, you can use two coupons on the same item, so long as one is a store coupon and the other is a manufacturer’s coupon. To maximize the value, you can also stack these on top of a sale price (to know for sure, check your grocery store’s website to find their coupon policy, and read the fine print on the coupon). Here’s an example of one such deal:

 

coupons for beginners

Large can of beans:

Original price $1.25

Sale price: 99¢

Manufacturer’s coupon: 50¢ off

Store coupon: 25¢ off

New price: 24¢

You can find these kind of deals by matching up your store’s weekly ad with coupons in your stash, but there are also coupon websites/blogs like The Krazy Coupon Lady where people go to post the deals they find for specific stores so you don’t have to find them for yourself! Why recreate the wheel?



3. Stock Up

Most coupons allow you to purchase more than one item at the discounted price. Whenever you can fit it into your budget, purchase the maximum amount that the coupon allows (provided that you will use the product). You can know for sure how much you can get by reading the coupon. There is usually some text that will say “Limit ___.” Buy as many as are allowed and fit your budget.

Purchasing several products at cheap, stacked coupon prices means you will have a pantry full of items (purchased at rock bottom prices) to use for weeks to come. That’s how to get the best bang for your grocery buck!

So there it is – couponing 101! You can get started couponing with just this little guide, but if you really want to dive in to the depths of coupon discounts, check out The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Couponing by The Krazy Coupon Lady. Give coupon stacking a try – it can be a lot less work (and save you a lot more money) than you might think!



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prevent food waste to save money

 

Wouldn’t you love to know how to keep produce from going bad?

We’ve all experienced the sad breakup – when you look in your produce drawer and see the wilting broccoli you bought two weeks ago looking sadly up at you.

You were going to eat me for snacks, remember? I was going to be good for you!”

But,” you think, “you’re past your snacking prime! And I already have dinner plans that don’t involve you. Tomorrow’s not good either. I don’t know when I’ll get around to eating you.”

You sigh…and if you’re a conflict avoider, you slide the drawer shut to deal with it another day. If you’re a rip-the-Band-Aid-off person, you toss it in the trash right then and there. All your good intentions, all your dreams for your broccoli relationship dashed, and all that good grocery money wasted.

I know you know what I’m talking about.

It is frustrating to see a piece of produce nearing the end of its usable life, knowing that you will not realistically have a chance to eat it before it sees the other side.

Well, I have a solution: catch-alls!

 



 

I’ll tell you how it works. Let’s go back to poor Mr. Broccoli. He’s laying there, wanting to be nutritious, but you know he doesn’t have a chance in the next few days. Right then, you place him in your veggie catch-all container. This is a large plastic container or gallon zipper bag full of all of your previous veggie good-intentions-gone-bad. Then they all go in the freezer to commiserate together. Don’t worry about peeling, chopping, dicing, stemming, or anything right now (unless you have time). Just toss the whole darn thing in the bag and put it in the freezer. Keep a separate container for your fruit catch-alls.

 

food saving hack to save money
Some of your produce may change color when you freeze it – it’s okay, it’s still good!

 

Then, when your catch-all bag is full, put a catch-all on your meal plan for the next week. Catch-alls are meals that you can make with just about any combo of frozen fruits or vegetables past their prime, but not yet covered in fur. Here are some examples:

Veggie Catch-alls: stir fries, soups, curries, breakfast scrambles/frittatas

Fruit Catch-alls: smoothies, compotes (just simmer diced fruit in a pot with some cinnamon – add a little water if they aren’t juicy fruits – until it thickens, serve alone or over ice cream!)

Catch-alls make it so that you don’t necessarily have to do anything with the produce the minute you notice it is on the way out. Often, you don’t have time right then to do much about it, but you can take a second to toss it in the freezer. Then, when you use the catch-all, you have an entire meal’s worth of produce that you don’t have to buy!

Here are a couple of tips to make catch-alls work their very best:

  • If your catch-all meal requires slicing and dicing, take the catch-all bag out to thaw about 30-40 minutes before you need to prep the produce. You don’t want them totally thawed (they’ll be soft and messy to cut), but you don’t want them frozen solid either.
  • There are certain types of produce that work best in certain types of recipes. For example, frozen mushrooms work best when diced small. Greens are best used for green smoothies or for soups after they’ve been frozen (I keep these in a separate container from my veggie catch-all bag for this reason). You’ll learn some of this by trial and error too.
  • If you have a second to peel a banana before putting it in your fruit catch-all bag, do it. Trust me on this one. They are much easier to peel before they’ve been frozen.

To get you started, here are a few recipes for good catch-all recipes. You can exchange the produce in the recipe for whatever you have!

 

VeggieRed Curry Soup

FruitGreen Pumpkin Pie Protein Shake

VeggieSalmon and Red Potato Hash with Dijon Aioli

 

Give it a try – you won’t regret saving all that money and keeping all that food out of the garbage!

 



 

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