So I'm a week late - but I'm not pregnant, I'm just busy. You can't blame me for not posting due to laziness for I have been working awfully hard least for this chickie. I really just haven't had time to do much of anything but work, oh and there was a performance in there too, but that's another post. Now on to groceries and budgets and important things like that.

$70.98 in groceries.

The title of last week's post would have been called "THE GOOD, BAD AND THE UGLY".

The good being that I was waaaaay under budget. I mean seriously under budget as in I spent $70.98 which is $54.02 under budget! That's pretty freakin' awesome if you ask me. Of course I'm too busy all week to get on here and gloat. It just seems silly to do it now, but hey I'll brag anyways. Yay me!

It wasn`t all fun and games, there was bad too. Bad beans. When one is coming up with menus for the week, one must consider beans. Not in "Oooh, which type shall I have today?", but rather, "Let's limit the bean intake shall we?" Early on in the week I made a big pot of Moroccan Soup - the name doesn't necessarily scream I'm loaded with beans, but trust me it was loaded with beans. I like to make a big pot of soup on the weekend for lunches throughout the week. It's handy, healthy and cheap. But when you combine Moroccan (I'm loaded with beans) Soup with a bean dish for dinner it gets both tiring and shall we say explosive. I'm laughing as I'm typing this, but I think I came close to killing my husband. That's a serious amount of fiber! Clearly I needed to plan better or up my insurance on my husband. Which I did, not the insurance the planning. No more Moroccan Soup for lunch.

The Ugly part would have been that I was gaining weight. OK, not cool. Beans are dense when it comes to calories, and because the simplicity of meals (think chicken breast, sweet potato and broccoli) for dinner was gone my calorie intake rose. I gain weight at the mere mention of food, so this caused more rethinking as far as menus were concerned.

Last week was incredibly busy and stressful. I'm glad that I had planned all the meals before hand. I'm still loving the fact that because of this challenge I have been trying recipes that I would have never tried before. I made coconut pasta last night (as I wasn't able to make it to the grocery store yesterday to shop for the week). It was rather tasty. I was quite surprised by it as a matter of fact. I didn't have all of the ingredients, so I needed to substitute a few things, but I've been cooking long enough that I knew what would work and what wouldn't. I used up some stuff from the veggie drawer in the fridge and staples from the pantry and a delicious dinner was served. Gotta love it!

$134.79 in groceries. Eeek!

So that's last week. This week I'm over budget. But hear me out now before y'all jump all over me. My bill came to $134.79 that included $3.35 in coffee filters which technically is not food. So in reality I'm $6.44 over budget. I'm over budget for the first time in four weeks. For the entire month I have spent under $434 for groceries which averages out to $108.50 per week. Holy crow! My budget was $500 for the month which was a drastic decrease from what I was spending before and I`m under budget by $66! I'm really proud of myself. ***pats self on back*** Even though I'm over budget for this week I think I did really well. There were some items on sale that were not on my list but I got anyways. For instance Cheese was $8.99 and a big honkin' 2 kg jar of natural peanut butter was on for $6.99. I had to purchase coffee, as I am not a nice person without my morning coffee another $11.99, and I purchased more meat than usual - free range chicken, 2lbs organic, grain fed beef and turkey Italian sausages.

Which brings me to my latest discovery. A few posts ago I was bragging about how I could make three meals out of one chicken - well I have upped myself. When I first started this challenge I would buy the free range bird, use the breasts for one meal, the legs and thighs for another meal and then make broth for another meal out of the rest. How incredibly wasteful of me! Two things dawned on me this week. The first thing was the wings. Lets face it wings are wimpy. There's not a lot of meat and two wings aren't going to do anything for anybody unless you were a bird, so I used them for making broth. Until I remembered that frozen chicken lasts about six months in the freezer. Why not have a freezer bag for the chicken wings? With my weekly bird I'll cut off the wings and throw them in the bag. In a couple of months or so I'll have enough frozen wings to make some hot wings or something similar for a movie night. Cool. The next idea came tonight while I was making dinner. I cut the breast off the bird and was looking at them. Rather impressive. She was well endowed indeed - must be from LA. I weighed the breasts. 11.75 oz each. That's a lot of meat! So I butterflied the breast and then cut it in half. I was left with a 6 oz portion and then a 5 oz portion. I did the same with the other breast. 6 oz is enough for one person for dinner. The other portion could be used in another meal - say a stir fry or something like that. My heart was almost a flutter with excitement. The legs and thighs are in the freezer waiting for dinner on Sunday. The chicken breast portion will be used next week for a meal. And the wings will wait for some buddies join them and then will be used as a beer chaser. Five meals out of one chicken. Most meals I make (with some exceptions) usually serve 4-6 and we use the leftovers for lunches etc. So this is feasible for a family of four too with some tweaking I`m sure but the idea of it all is there. Sometimes I surprise even myself.

So there you have it. It is possible to eat healthy good tasting food on a budget. You can buy organic, grain fed and free range and still stay within budget. You can purchase mostly non-packaged food (I still buy bread and pasta) and feed your family food they will enjoy. It is possible. The trick is to plan, shop the sales, use what you have and don't waste anything. Save the peels of your veggies to make your own soup broth. Buy a whole great tasting chicken instead of individual pieces of cheap, tasteless, and inhumanely treated chicken. Weigh your food and use only what you need. Use whatever tools you have available like or Get inventive with your cooking and don't be afraid to try something new. You never know you may discover something wonderful.

This week's menu ...

Fresh breakfast cookies.

Tuesday -         Spicy Coconut Noodles
Wednesday -    Breaded (6oz) Chicken Breast, sweet potato and steamed broccoli
Thursday -       Spinach with Chickpeas and Fried Eggs
Friday -            Chorizo and White Bean Stew
Saturday -        Hot-and-Sour Peanutty Noodles with Bok Choy
Sunday -          Braised Chicken with Artichokes and Olives, Apple crumble
Monday -         Beef Chili with Kidney Beans with Cornbread.


Hot Oat & Quinoa Cereal
Homemade Blueberry oatmeal muffins.
Eggs, toast and fresh fruit


Tuna Salad Sandwich, fruit and baby carrots
Cucumber, avocado, lettuce and tomato sandwich


Oatmeal breakfast cookie
Fresh Fruit
Hummus and baby carrots

$114.51 worth of groceries this week. $10.49 under budget!
I came home tonight rather proud of myself. My husband looks at me like I've gone looney as I put all my groceries on the table to take a photograph. "What the hell are you doing?" he says. "I need to photograph it for my blog silly" I say as if I've been doing the same for years. "Yeah, but when are we eating? I'm hungry!" ... Men.

I told him I was under budget again. $10.49 to be exact, I although I did forget to buy some cooking onions, but still - pretty darn good if you ask me!  I spent a total of $114.51! "That's good honey!, But you have incentive." "I know! Mexico in September!" and it's true - saving my pennies on groceries is going to help pay the way for this girl to have a vacation somewhere hot and with cabana boys and drinks with umbrellas...oh the very thought makes my heart pitter patter. But back to today's achievement. I wanted my husband to jump up and down and say 'Awesome honey! I can't believe you did that!" Well, on second thought if he started jumping up and down like a kid I'd want to take him to the doctor.,A little more enthusiasm though would have been nice. Instead, "Where's dinner?"

I thought this week was going to be way more difficult than it was. I was out of rice, oatmeal, olive oil and maple syrup. Those are pretty big ticket items and I didn't know how I was going to get all of that plus meals for the week. I've learned a few things in the last while and I do think that they are helping.

There are few things that I like to measure. My waist is certainly not one of them. I decided some time during last week that if I was gong to take this using everything that I have wisely mantra for real then I was going to need to start measuring and weighing things. I've been cooking a long time. I can eyeball a cup, a tsp and a Tbsp pretty well. But where I fall short is in weight....both when it comes to my body and to the meat that I eat. If a recipe calls for a pound of meat and I have a little over a pound I'll use it. When it calls for 227g of pasta and I have a 340g box of pasta I use the whole box, and so on and so forth. I wondered last week what type of difference it would make if I began weighing the meat etc. of things I was using for recipes. I decided to give it a try.

Sunday's Dinner Shepherds Pie with measured ingredients and Julia Child's Beet Salad. Yummo! Delicious.
I went to the dollar store and purchased batteries for my trusty weigh scale ($2.50.). My first try was with the Shepherd's Pie I made for Sunday's dinner. It called for 1.5lbs of ground beef. I purchase grain fed beef and its worth the extra price, but I don't want to waste it. So I measured out 1.5lbs exactly. I used exactly one cup of onions etc. etc., the recipe called for 8oz of butternut squash and I gave it just that along with exactly 2lbs of potatoes. Most of this was organic so there is extra cost attached to these items. Waste not want not. As it turned out I had 1/2lb left of ground beef. What was I going to use that for? I thought long and hard, and realized that I could make a spaghetti sauce for my man and me, it may be a little thin on the meat portion, but it will still taste good. Extra meal right there. I figure an extra few oz of chicken breast from a well endowed free range chicken is great for a lunch. Extra pasta over time will add up to another meal eventually. It just made sense. So that's my latest change - and I like it!

Super Cook is turning out to be a Godsend! You have to check it out. I do believe that it is the key ingredient to me being able to stay under budget. Case in point, I had a can of artichokes that I wanted to use this week. Had no idea what to use it for. I went to Super Cook and it found recipes for me based on ingredients I already had in my pantry. I chose one that looks pretty good. Meal done - no groceries purchased, we're eating it on Saturday. Another perk is I'm trying new recipes and some of them are great! Last week's Moroccan Stew was awesome! A definite keeper. So are the Veggie Burgers. And Julia Child? There's a reason why she became so famous. Her coleslaw is completely different than what I normally make and absolutely delicious and her beet salad, although simplistic, is lovely. I finished it yesterday, but I want some more! Beware though, when you visit the bathroom after eating beets you're not actually dieing, its just beet juice.

It's because of Super Cook and weighing my food that I was able to purchase those bigger ticket items without causing an issue. Again this week I stocked up on some sale items. Rogers Oats were on for 2 bags for $6 at Save-on Foods. I bought two. I love Rogers Foods, not Rogers Cable. Rogers Foods don't add things to their foods, unlike Rogers Cable who seems to add all sorts of things to their bill. What you see is what you get with Rogers Foods. It may not be organic, but it's real. I like that. Large canned tomatoes, which if I had my druthers I would buy them in a glass container, were on sale for $1. I just couldn't pass it up and they're single ingredient in tomatoes. We're having a bit of a Mexican themed week because avocados and tomatoes were cheap. I got avocado's 3 for $2.50 and local tomatoes on the vine for .79lb! So I'm trying to cook based on the sales when I can, and on what I have in my pantry already. Measure and weigh and only use what I need. Use the rest in another meal. The savings start to add up. After all ... my cabana boy is calling.

This week's menu for under $115 is as follows -

Dinners -

Lunches - Leftovers, Mexican Quinoa Salad (with avocados, cilantro, black beans, red onion etc), Moroccan Soup (Made on Sunday)

Breakfasts - Oatmeal with blueberries and maple syrup. Eggs, Toast and Orange, Cornmeal Buttermilk Pancakes with blueberries and maple syrup.

Snacks - Breakfast Oat Cookies, fresh fruit and baby carrots with hummus.

There you have it! Week Deux of Challenge Deux is off and running!

It's valentines week. I've never made a big deal of Valentines - I recognize it, I will purchase a card (read: Valentines Day card purchase at 5pm), but we don't go crazy. This year my husband brought me some roses and some chocolate. It was a lovely surprise. I knew that he had purchased them on the way home that morning - he was working with the horses at 4am and came home at 11:00 that morning. I thought it lovely that he took the time to stop at Safeway and pick some up. He brings me flowers other times too though. Usually after he's done something dumb, so I get flowers rather often. The chocolates were because he had eaten some of my dark chocolate truffle that I had bought and I was waiting for the perfect moment to enjoy it. He didn't know that. Although he SHOULD have known that. So he brought me some chocolate on Valentines Day to make up for the err' of his ways. Smart fella.

I did something too - which brings me to the reason of this post. Natural beauty tips.

My cowboy's and my Valentines conversation went something like this.

Me: Kiss me you fool.
Him: *peck*
Me: That was lame. Kiss me.
Him: *longer peck*
Me: Notice anything different?
Him: You're kissing me?
Me: *hit* Besides that!
Him: .... uh ,,,
Me: I exfoliated my lips! (big smile)
Him: I was gonna say that. Those lips, those are exfoliated lips!
Me: I know!!! (bigger smile)

Me? Giving a beauty tips. I know it's silly. But I love it when I find something natural that works and I just want to tell you about it. I have an opinion on just about everything, but you already know that.

My husband tells me I'm as pretty as a horse all the time. People ask me ... what is your secret?My standard answer is 'lack of stress and alcohol.'. Then I go do 50 Hail Mary's and repent. Because one thing there is no lack of in my life is stress and alcohol. I've been told I look young for my age. Old fart age of 50. Maybe I do, although I was just told yesterday that I look my age, so who knows. I'll tell you my secret to looking my age then.

My mom gave me great advice when I was around 14. She said to moisturize my face daily and I did and have continued all of these years. I'm sure that has a lot to do with it. I also eat fairly healthy and try to drink a lot of water. And being as lazy as I am I do love my sleep. Getting your zzzzz's is a good thing - so do it. Do I drink that much alcohol? I'll admit it - not really. A glass of wine maybe or a G&T every once in a while. I'm not what you'd consider a 'drinker'. But don't tell everyone 'cause I like my 'bad girl' rep. I'm not a smoker either. I've smoked though - when I play a role where my character has to smoke, I obviously have to smoke too. I remember this one actor Paul, that I happened to be dating at the time and who was an avid smoker, saw me in rehearsal and almost fell over laughing. He said "It's like watching your little sister smoke for the first time. You look so lame." Pffft. I was crushed. I actually had to take lessons from some girlfriends of mine on 'how to look like a smoker'. Who knew? Guys have a certain way of smoking and girls have another way. The length of the puff, the way you hold the cigarette. There's an art to it. But I digress yet again, this post has nothing to do with smoking. It's supposed to be about beauty and smoking isn't beautiful ... unless you have long evening gloves on and a long cigarette holder like Cruella DeVille .

Here's my tips -

  1. Be lazy. Yes. You heard it right, Be lazy. It is me who is writing this you realize. If I can be lazy at something and it works I'm going to go for it. In other words, don't overwork your face. I don't mean stop talking or using your face for emotions, but don't wash it constantly. Don't use 32 different creams and all that. Keep it simple. Wash it once a day and preferably at night so that your face can repair while you sleep. Tone. Moisturize. Go to bed. Splash some water on it in the morning and moisturize again. 
  2. When you moisturize don't forget your neck or your decolletage - this is something that my mom didn't tell me and I wish that she had. I didn't start doing it until the last few years. There's no point in having nice skin on your face and then turkey neck and chest. That's just weird. I even go so far as to use the extra moisturizer on my hands too. Not that my hands look incredibly young, they don't. But can you imagine what they would look like if I didn't?

The last few years I have been in search of a natural way to take care of my skin. I have found a couple of tricks and I wanted to pass them on to you. I have been washing my body in the shower with natural soap for years. You can find them readily in specialty stores and they work really well. But my face? Soap on my face? No way. That is until I was at the farmers market this past summer. There was a stall that was selling natural soap. I decided to get some for me and my daughter and that's when the girl pointed out this facial soap.


"Soap on my face? Really? I've never used a bar of soap on my face." I said as I scrunched it with a look of horror and disgust.

"Really, its made for your face." she said.

"For an old face like mine?"

"For an old face like yours."

Butter me up like that and I'll buy anything! So I purchased a bar of it and I'm here to tell you  "I love it!" The name of the local small company is Watershed Naturals. Their website is The particular soap I purchased was the "Bergamot & Lime Goat's Milk Yogurt Bar". Their other soaps are wonderful too (I use them in the shower) and I love to promote a local company. The thing is this bar of facial soap is going to last me at least two years if not more. Two years! I only use it on my face and neck - although I could certainly use it in the shower if I wanted. I wash with it once a day in the evening. I cut the bar in half and put half of it into a travel soap dish and popped it in my bathroom drawer. The other half is in the cupboard to be used in a year or two. The entire 130g bar of soap cost me $8. Do you have any idea how much I am saving in facial products? Millions I tell you millions...ok, but hundreds at least.

Step 2 - I started  using a natural toner to restore the pH balance in my skin after washing it with the soap. It's a simple recipe that works really well. 1 part natural rose water. 1 part unprocessed natural apple cider vinegar. I bought a little container from the Dollar Store and mixed up some rose water and ACV. I plopped it in the drawer along side of my facial soap. In the evening I put some toner on a cotton pad and swipe it over my face after cleansing with my bar of soap.

Step 3 - moisturize. That's it. Done. Beauty routine over. I am still looking for a natural moisturizer that I like. I have not found one yet. When I do I will l let you know. But in the mean time - I am really happy to be using mostly natural products on my skin. And my skin? Looking better than ever. Really. This combination works very well, and cheap like borscht. My skin tone has evened out and my skin is glowing. I actually noticed it. Glowing. Either that or I was having a hot flash. Rosacea? Gone.

What about the exfoliated lips you say? Well, I'm here to tell you I have found a use for white death. Yes sugar has made it into my life again. I have to use the pound of sugar I have in my pantry somehow right? Oh I do occasionally add it to a recipe, I'll admit, but for the most part I stay away from it. Except when I exfoliate my lips. You apparently can make a batch of this stuff and keep it for a week, but I like to make it one dose at a time. I take a teaspoon from the drawer and put a little white death in it. Then I put a few drops of EVOO (Olive Oil) in the spoon along with a drop of Pure Vanilla Extract. If I put the spoon over a candle I'd look like an odd addict of some sort, but instead I mix it together with my finger and rub it gently on my lips. It exfoliates the dead skin, moisturizes and tastes sweet. After I wipe it off with a face cloth I'll seal it with some Burt's Bees lip balm. Makes my lips lovely, smooth and kissable. Remember the reaction of my husband? You too can experience that sort of romance. Go ahead give it a try!

This is what $116.87in groceries look like
I did it. This is a weeks worth of groceries folks - mind you there's a bunch of stuff in my fridge and pantry. And soon there wont be and then I'll be getting inventive, believe me. I spent a total of $116.87 leaving me $8.13 to splurge with, or perhaps keep for next week's budget.

There were a few surprises, my little Persian store that I loved so much has raised their prices  higher than the big chain stores - I spent way too much on my free range chicken purchasing it there - so buh bye my little Persian store. It was fun while it lasted. It used to be a thriving little store and now its not. Gee! I wonder why?

Because I was able to take advantage of the food already in my fridge and pantry, it left room for me to buy for future meals with items on sale. Organic quinoa was 50% off  at $.99 100g (granular gold if you ask me) so I purchased a kilo. I bought some coconut milk too as it was on sale. I will be using it for sure in the next couple of weeks. Take note, the only processed food in the picture is the pasta and I bought an extra box as it was on sale. I used to make my own pasta, but come on people, there is a limit to my madness. I did cave in and purchase some canned garbanzo beans and some broth. I didn't have any broth prepared at home and no time to make some. I promise to make some on the weekend. The canned garbanzo beans was just because I was lazy - I fully admit it.

Which brings me to the mishap portion of my update. I would have sworn that I had two cans of organic black beans in my pantry. Sworn it. Enter 'mental pause'. Tonight's dinner is Black Bean soup. I was rather looking forward to it. Before going to work this morning, even before bed last night I thought to myself - maybe you should soak some black beans for tomorrow and save the canned beans for an emergency. Pshaw to that! What? Pour some beans in a pot and throw some water over it. That's like 15 seconds of my time! Why would I do that? So I didn't.

Tonight I come home, say hello to Beagle Stew, and then get right into making dinner because ... well, I'm kind of hungry. I want to eat, then I'll have time to blog, or write some other stuff I'm working on, and I have to paint my toenails - very important. So on dinner goes. It's a relatively quick recipe. A chop here and there. Let it simmer for a bit. Make some salad. Voila! Dinner. I go to get the cans of black beans. I find one. One, What? No! There's more than one. I remember. Enter 'mental pause'. Come on! It has to be here! Oh, there's another can of garbanzo beans. No black beans??? Really? What to do? As I'm furiously looking through my pantry a spice jar falls and lands right on my big toe! *%**%$#*# Things are not going well on day two of my little challenge - at least it didn't wreck my already wrecked pedicure. Thank goodness for small favours. A quick look on the internet and I see that there is a quick method (quick being 90 minutes). So the soup is ready to soup once the beans are ready to bean - which should be another 20 minutes or so - So here I am blogging, although I should paint my toenail - I think its going to go black.

Lesson? Don't be so lazy Cayla. Yup, like that's going to happen. Nope, just have to tell myself what I tell my daughter. Make the best of it, switch into a different gear and then go. So, I'm a little hungry, but I'm sure it will be lovely when it finally gets into my gullet, which better be soon or I'm going to get into the parsley. Update! Apparently I'm a very slow typist as well as terrible at counting, which isn't good as I make a living bookkeeping. What a great method of preparing dry beans! No soaking! Simply cover with water. Boil them for about 15 minutes while the oven is heating up to 250F. Put a tight lid on the pot, put in the oven for 75 minutes. That's it. They were tender, not mushy. Awesome! And the soup is yummy by the way.

I've decided to make my challenge even more challenging by inviting my sister and her husband over for dinner. Why not? I told her we're having Shepherd's Pie on Sunday. Come on over! It may be Shepherd's Pie with a sprig of parsley for a side dish, but she's my sister and she has to love me anyways. She said she would pack a snack in her bag just in case - apparently we share the same sense of humour. So the menu for Sunday has changed slightly, I'm going to make Shepherd's pie, with a fresh beet salad and fresh lemon pudding cake for dessert. Sounds yummy to me. Until next time ...

Dinner on a budget. Thai flavoured pasta with snow peas, bell pepper, carrots and free range chicken. Fresh garden salad with dressing.
"The mint makes it first, it is up to you to make it last." - Evan Esar
Well folks, I said it on here and therefore I am now committed. I am on a four week grocery budget challenge. $125 per week.

Yesterday I took inventory of my pantry. Hello lentils and dry black beans. Last time I did this challenge I found oodles of Chipotle peppers in my freezer. I still haven't gone through them all, but I haven't bought any new jars either. This time shows the change in my eating habits a bit more. I had a Tupperware type container full of red split lentils, green lentils and brown lentils. Then I found two 1/2 packages of red lentils, another full one of green. Lentil city! I found a huge bag of dry black beans and then another. I have bean soup mix dried beans, yellow split peas and about a cup of dry garbanzo beans. Ugh. I need to go through my pantry more often. With all these beans and legumes my husband is going to love me ... and I him. I think he'll be sleeping in the guest bedroom for a while. I doubt the cat will want to sleep with him either. I'm so glad he doesn't read this blather ... he'd kill me.

What to do with all of these beans???? Use them of course. This time I'm going to be more techno savvy. I have a new phone. The Samsung Galaxy III. Is it possible to fall in love with a phone? I am here to tell you it is. I love my phone. I am just started to get into Apps, and really I'm a newbie to all of this. But I have found some awesome tools to help me with this journey. I wanted to let you in on them - they may be useful to you too.

The first one is the Food Planner App. What a great App! I'm not sure where to even start. First off it has a grocery list section. You plunk in your grocery list, put it into a category - I made categories for produce, dry, bulk, dairy, etc. Add a price if you have one. It adds up your groceries for you and lets you know in advance how much it's going to cost. You can adjust the prices once you're at the store and keep your total running. Great for me on this particular challenge when every penny counts. The App remembers the product and price for next time. You can always edit the item again later if the prices change or go on sale.

But it gets better. There is a meal planner section. In this section you can plan your meals. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks etc. Click on the day and see what your plan is for the day. There is a recipe section in which you can add your own recipes which takes a bit more time, but it is doable. The App can be linked to your home computer, iPad etc. So you can go to your computer and type away if you want to. But it has an even better feature if you ask me. It can link to recipe sites online, loads of recipe sites - All Recipes,, Martha Stewart ... loads and loads. Find a recipe you like and upload it onto the App. Simple. Then, to make things easier, just add that recipe to your meal plan and then import the ingredients list into your grocery list. You can remove the items that you already have quickly and voila - you're shopping list is ready. Then if you want to go into your shopping list and modify things a bit you can, like update the pricing etc., which I did. Come meal time, click on the day, click on the recipe and it shows up on your phone, or ipad or computer. Cook away. So easy. The link is Check it out. It's a FREE app, but I'm thinking of buying the pro version just to throw the developer some cash. I may be cheap, but I like to give credit (or cash) where it's due. It's due.

So still what to do with all the legumes and lentils? Introducing Talk about handy. I entered a few items that I had in my pantry and it shows me recipes I can make with the ingredients I have already. It searches through databases from all over the web so I don't have to. This is OMG kind of handy. I looked at the recipes, read some reviews on them, saw that I had all of the ingredients already and said "yes ma'am I'll take it." I uploaded it to my Food Planner App., imported it into my meal plan for the week and exported any ingredients that I required to my meal plan. I love technology sometimes.

I discovered it half way through my planning. Next week there will be way more online meals. Just think! I can look at what's on sale, add some of the ingredients I have on hand and find a matching recipe. It's endless and free!

Dinners - Week One

  • Tuesday -     Thai Pasta with Chicken Breast (from Looneyspoons)
                           Garden Salad with homemade dressing (EVOO &Vinegar)

  • Wednesday - Bean Me Up Scotty (from Looneyspoons) ~ Black Bean Soup
                            French Bread
                            Garden Salad with homemade dressing (EVOO &Vinegar)

  • Thursday -     Rockin Moroccan Stew (from Looneyspoons) ~ Vegetarian Stew
                            Naan Bread

  • Friday -         Fee Fie Faux Fried Chicken (from Looneyspoons)
                           Fresh Cole Slaw
                           Homemade oven fries

                            Naan Bread

  • Sunday -       Shepherds Pie (from Looneyspoons)
                            Garden Salad with homemade dressing (EVOO &Vinegar)
                            Apple Crumble

                            Homemade oven Fries
                            Cole Slaw

Lunches will consist of -

  1. Left overs
  2. Black Bean, Rice and Veggie Salad
  3. Quinoa Salad
  4. Tuna Salad Sandwich

Breakfast will consist of -

  1. Porridge with blueberries, or mixed berries and Agave Syrup
  2. Eggs, Toast, Cream Cheese, Orange
  3. Breakfast Cookie (Great for a snack too!)
And of course there will be Organic Apples, Oranges, Bananas, and Organic baby carrots to munch on.

So there you have it - the week one meal plan of the challenge. A lot of vegetarian meals in there. And I know, Valentines Day isn't particularly romantic, seeing that it is Rockin' Moroccan Stew - but just so you know, hubby is working that evening and won't even be home. Oh the romance.

The meat I will be purchasing is one free range chicken which I will use for three meals. The breasts for the Thai Pasta and the legs and thighs for the oven fried chicken. (side note, my husband abhors chicken with the bone in it - toughen up buttercup). The remainder will be used to make some more chicken broth. I will also buy 1.5lbs of grain fed organic ground beef. The rest is basically vegetarian, except for adding chicken broth - which the way my weird brain works, I still think it's vegetarian.

Shopping day is tomorrow - fingers crossed.

Well, it's been a long time. A very long time. Almost a year since I last posted. I'm not going to put you all to sleep with a detailed account of all that has happened in the past year - there are only a couple of you who read this blather, so I may as well keep you awake.

Sufficed to say things are good. I turned 50 with nary a scratch or hangover. I'm busy and happy.

So why start blogging again? It's not like I ran out of things to say - Lord no. I'm always rambling on about something. Life just got hectic and I got out of the habit. Life is still hectic but I've fallen off the wagon so to speak and my blog seems to be a great motivator for me to get back on the wagon and stay strong. There is something about telling the world ... even if my world consists of two people ... that I'm going to do something. It doesn't always work, but for the most telling you all keeps me on the straight and narrow.

So here's my dilemma. Food prices are outrageous! Have you noticed? I remember on the news they said that food prices were to increase about 5% in the new year. 5%? I don't think so. My food budget is out of control! It got me to thinking about the summer of 2010 when I did a four week challenge of spending $150 per week on groceries. It was a tough go, but I enjoyed the challenge. Eating healthy, good meals within a certain financial budget. I had to get creative with my thinking, my shopping and my cooking. I did it and I learned a lot along the way. A lot of the habits that I started on that journey I have kept 'til now. I'm still a savvy shopper. I still keep all my veggie peels to make soup broth with. I still bathe in my compost bin ... (look it up to the right if you don't know what I mean). But I've gotten lazy, and a little less thrifty with my purchases. When I went to the store recently with $200 in an envelope thinking that it would cover us for the week and was through that envelope before half of the groceries had gone through the scanner, I knew I had to do something.

Things have changed since the last challenge. My daughter is in University and is no longer a hungry mouth waiting for mama to cook her a meal. The once in a while hungry boyfriend doesn't come over either - why doesn't he want to visit me? I'm a much better cook. So it's just me, my hubby and little Beagle Stew ... and too many cats. Even though prices have increased significantly in the last year and a half, I'm going to lower the budget to $125 per week. I'm not sure if it is possible to do and stay sane - I will let you know if I go particularly looney. Still I'm going to give it a try.

Once incentive for me is I haven't been away on a vacation in a very long time. A very long time. My daughter was in diapers to be exact and she turns 22 in a couple of months. I really want to get away this year with my girlfriend. I have visions of a beach, a cabana boy bringing drinks with little umbrellas and a very cheesy novel to read. Bliss, I tell you total bliss. Oh the blog I would write. The stories I could tell. So I need to trim the fat - in more ways than one, but that's yet another blog. I need to save me some cash and my food budget could definitely use some trimming.

Why repeat? I'm really not that original. But I figure if there's a Rocky V, Jaws III, Raiders IV, Speed 2 and Karate Kid 2, there is certainly room for Grocery Budget Challenge Part Deux.

So here are the rules. Weekly Budget $125

Criteria - Food only. Does not include Beagle Stew's food. Cleaning products or toiletries.
Meals - Must be preservative free and healthy. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Sunday dinners and dessert once a week.

I'll post my weekly menu, and how much I spent. I go shopping on Tuesday. I guess I'd better start planning.

This week I started the "100 Days of Summer" challenge on Spark People. Part of yesterday's challenge was to walk or run harder (incline or faster) than you normally do. Pfffft I thought. I thought Sunday was to be a day of rest.

So - it was sunny out. This is great, because it has been raining daily for years ... or so it seems. I guess the vitamin D kicked in and I grabbed the dogs and decided to head up the hill.

The plan was to only walk to the entrance of the trail that is by my place because, well, I hate the trail. The walk up to the entrance to the trail is bad enough.

I started up the hill. First thought that came into my head as I started to huff was "God, I hate going up hill." But, I continued. It flattened out after a bit and my heart rate went back to normal and actually didn't elevate that much and in no time I was at the entrance to the trail. Hmmmm .... should I? The dogs were looking at me expectantly, wagging their tails. Big puppy dog eyes. Pleeeeeeeese? Pfffft. Fine! Just for a little bit.

Now I should point out I hate hiking. I always have. I love the outdoors, and I love trails but I don't like going up hill. I love the alpine meadows, but put me in a helicopter and drop me off at the top, with a bottle of wine thank you very much . I don't like hiking! I hate that feeling of your heart pumping out of your chest like its going to explode. The gasps for air. Your butt feeling like its on fire. I'm not a fan.

Let me also point out that the trail is really only an intermediate trail. It's not an expert trail by any means. My skinny husband does it damn near every day. But he's a skinny glutton, and if he didn't bring home a pay cheque I'd ... oh never mind. Anyways, it's not like it's the most difficult trail, but the first 10 minutes or so is tough for me. At the peek of the tough part are these killer 15 stairs. The rest of the trail is up and down and more hilly than straight up and therefore more doable for me. But I loathe the beginning 10-15 minutes. I usually stop and take a few breaths (cursing all the while underneath those gasps for air) while I pretend to look for the beagle or call the lab. When in reality I'm trying not to pass out.

So back to today. I'm walking at a regular pace, up hill. I'm going along, haven't really stopped yet to 'look for the dogs'. I'm just plugging along enjoying the vitamin D. I'm thinking to myself, I must not have hit the hard part yet. I'm breathing deep breaths but not gasping. I'm just trudging along. After a bit I look up and I'm almost startled. There are the stairs. The freakin' stairs. The stairs that are my nemesis. They're right there. It didn't hardly take any time at all! And I'm not falling over. Not gasping. Not cursing. I went up the flight of stairs and stood there. I actually patted myself on the back. What an improvement!

I was rather proud of myself. My daily walks over the last six weeks have made an improvement in my cardio endurance! Who knew? Certainly not me. I continued on for the rest of the 1 hour walk/hike and rather enjoyed it. I know! That's what I thought!

Now don't get me wrong. I still hate hiking. The West Coast Trail (Sorry Aaron) is not on my bucket list and I doubt I'll become a weekend warrior. But I did it and I'm proud of myself. I may even put it into my routine once a week before all the bears show up.

Thank you 100 days of Summer for your silly little challenge. If I hadn't of had to switch things up yesterday I wouldn't have made my little discovery about myself.


PS - I am loving Best decision I've made in a while.
I'm sitting here this morning, about to take the dogs for their morning walk, looking outside at my office window at the grass that desperately needs to be mowed and a garden that needs someone with some imagination and brawn (clearly not me). I have a whack of work that I need to finish today and yet I feel so content, so at peace.

I was trying to figure out why. Is it because I've been taking my Black Cohash again? Any woman over 40 should know what I mean by that. That is a possibility. But I think it's not all. Although, trust me that stuff is like gold to me.

Life is far from perfect. My husband still annoys me to no end half of the time, there are still way too many animals in my house, so much work to do, not enough money in the bank and yet ...

Over the past few years I have changed. A lot. It really started almost twenty years ago. Coming clean with my past - letting the chips fall where they may. Ending a bad relationship and the decades long pain and suffering those particular choices brought along with them. Those choices aided in losing my paternal family, my married family, my church family, most so called friends, everything I owned, and my marriage. I was as alone as alone could be. But, I had stood up for myself for the first time in my life. The freedom that brought was huge. But the pain and loneliness soon took hold and dragged me to the bottom. I had despair that I thought would never leave. I lost my spark. I lost my ability to laugh. I lost my soul. I felt abandoned by everyone, by God and by those that I thought loved me, but in reality didn't. Would I change it? No. As awful as it was, I wouldn't. Because through that I have found myself. My real me.

Turning 50 is really an amazing journey. You get to a point that you don't give a rip what anyone says anymore. You're going to do what you do. You're going to take care of you and the people that you love, but you're going to take care of you.

I've come such a long way and I am so thankful for that. Losing the people from my past has been the best thing for me. People that are in your past are not in your present for a reason. I am truly free. There is no toxicity in my life. My friends are real friends. I have acquaintances and I enjoy their friendship. But I have those that I care about deeply and we are there for each other in a heartbeat. They are my true friends. My family is small. Very small. And that's the way I want it.

I am acting again. I am singing again. I'm writing again. I may be old. I may be well past my prime, but I still have a lot to offer.

I am taking care of my body. News flash - I've lost 10lbs! I joined SparkPeople and it is the best for me! I'm logging my food and liking it! Yes, you need to re read that. I am logging my food and actually liking it. SparkPeople has an amazing way of taking the focus off of calories and on to your health if you let it. So I worry more about a balanced day rather than how many calories I am eating. I eat the way I always eat - just not like a lumber jack (which I always said was the problem). That's it. No dieting - God no. Just eating healthy and within a healthy calorie range. I've even figured out how to make it work during birthdays and Easter. Have I actually "figured it out" for real????? God I hope so.

I can feel at peace knowing that God knows my heart and why I did what I did two decades ago. God knows the truth and that's enough for me. I've stopped fighting. I know there are those out there who have gotten away with their 'deeds' so to speak and the abundance of lies or at least it felt like that to me. I had this feeling of being unheard. So many lies said about me that I thought no one knew the real truth. It was like no one cared. People who would brush it aside or say, So? Just forgive Cayla and forget. That irritated me to no end and still does. People are so naive when they say that. Then one day recently a thought came to me - I know that God is the biggest and best prosecutor there ever could be and that it's OK for me to just let it go. I don't need to hang on to my old life any more. For the first time in my life I am truly free.

Why my life has taken the twists and turns that it has I will never know. My plans are not God's plans that's for sure. But I have learned so much and I am who I am because of it. And when I was alone, God was always there with me. It may have been a still small voice, but he was there.

So here I sit surrounded by life and I am happy and content. Why? Because life is so good. I am surrounded by those I truly love. I'm doing what I was created to do, wherever that may lead. I've found some balance. I take time for myself and to spend it with my friends. I'm continuing to grow as a person. And I'm turning 50!!!

Yes life is good.

I've got another one for you folks. It's up there on the cheap factor. It rivals bathing in your compost bin, but less messy. It's free. Well, it will cost you $.50 at first, but that's about it.

I saw this latest thing on Pinterest. Actually, it is one of the few things that I have looked at on Pinterest. Not because I don't like Pinterest. I do. I could probably sift through it for hours which is the precise reason I have not delved into it to any excess. I can easily see it sucking up even more of my time and then I'll turn into a teenager except instead of texting I'll have a keyboard attached to me at all times. Nope don't wanna go there...yet

At any rate, I saw this next tip on Pinterest and loved it as soon as I saw it. It doth make my cheap little heart go pitter patter. Even my daughter thinks it's cool. It's green onions or as fancy people call them Scallions.

Actually when I think about it Scallions is a much better name. It sounds sinister, or secretive or at minimum male horses wearing scarves, but I digress. Let's talk about growing Scallions shall we?

I don't have a green thumb. Not at all. Both of my parent did, but the gene did not make it over to me. I am attempting again this year with some seeds, we'll see how that turns out. But Scallions I can do! And if I can, trust me so can you.

I purchase green onions, as I"m sure we all do, for a recipe or possibly a salad. They sit in the bottom of the crisper and eventually, when not used, and usually within a week begin to shrivel and then turn into that slimy mess at the bottom of the drawer. Rather gross actually. You pick it up and part of it drips back down to the drawer daring you to pick it up, which of course you can't. It's slimy, slippery and stinks. I don't like spending 50 cents on half a dozen of those damn things when I only need one or two. What to do?

My happy, recently harvested green onions. They started out as ends only.
This is brilliant I tell you! Next time you have some scallions don't throw out white ends. No! Get a glass and put the ends in the glass. I use an 8 oz glass and it works perfect. There's enough room for two groups of scallions in my glass and gives me a variety of growth options. Put some water in the glass and then put the glass on a window sill. That's it. No green thumb needed. In a couple of days you'll see them starting to grow. Really. It's amazing. In a week or two you'll be looking for something to make with the green onions - I'd suggest something Asian. You'll never have to buy green onions again. And best of all, they don't go slimy. No waste!

It really is amazing. I'm looking at my green onions, most of which were chopped down for last nights dinner (thank you daughter for making the delicious dinner by the way). But not to worry, soon they'll be green and tall once again.

Just think of the money I'll save. At $.50 per week that's an annual savings of $26. OK, so it's nothing to get too excited about, but it's a night out at the movies, or a nice bottle of wine. Or just the fact that I'll never have to clean them out of my crisper again has value.

So save a Scallion! Put it in water! You'll be glad you did!

Yesterday was St. Patrick's Day. Top 'o the marrnin' to ya and all that. Now be it known, I'm not Irish. Not a drop of Irish blood runs through these veins. Scottish yes. Irish no. But St. Patrick's day involves Irish Whiskey, and beer and general frivolity, whilst Robbie Burns day involves Haggis. Game over.

So in our house, in our own way we celebrate St. Patrick's Day. I make something traditional for dinner. Buy some Guinness and my husband and I watch a movie in the evening with something to do with Ireland. The favourite being Waking Ned Divine. I do love that movie.

Yesterday was no different. I love to cook and I love to keep things simple. I'm not a fancy cook, but I'm a good cook and I like that. I'm that way with a lot of things. My house isn't fancy, but it's nice and homey. I don't walk around in designer this and that, but I try to look put together, unless of course I'm walking the dogs, then I look like a bag lady. I figure, the neighbours deserve to know their real neighbour - that way when I arrive at their party all dolled up it's a surprise.
I didn't even bother to iron the napkins. Mother would be mortified.
Yesterday I made Shepherd's Pie in my cast iron pan (my god I do love that pan). A fresh garden salad for some greenery and Bananas Flambe for dessert.  I made the Bananas Flambe with Irish Whiskey (it was St. Patrick's Day after all) and served it over slices of pound cake with a scoop of real vanilla ice cream. Dinner was very tasty indeed, but the dessert was heavenly. It was quick - I whipped it up after dinner - ready and served in about 10-15 minutes. And absolutely oh my God, worth every calorie kind of good. I should have taken a picture, but I was too busy playing with fire and really just wanted to get into it.

Now for the real reason for this post. After eating all of that, I was sick. Walking sluggishly in search of the couch after Christmas dinner kind of sick. I was so full it was disgusting. Why I do that to myself I do not know. There is no answer except to say that I like my own cooking, and I love food. it is in times like this that I put food first ahead of my health and my goals.

I haven't blogged about weight in a while. To be honest I have been trying to figure out where I stand on the subject. But Spring is starting to spring and with that my energy and feeling of well being and new beginnings emerge and the thought of weight and the excess of it rears its ugly head, again. I've said it before and I'll say it again I hate diets. I don't want to be on one. I really just want to figure things out for me. What works for me - this body at this age. The magic words - a lifestyle change. Lord help me.

Those of you who have read my past posts know that for a while there I was making a change every week. For the first little while things were going well and then all of a sudden it became overwhelming. My pea brain can only handle a few changes at a time. So I've decided to bring things back to reality and take things slow. I'm going to do three things.

1.    Drink my water.
2.    Walk every day.
3.    Log my food intake.

That's it. I eat fairly healthy - last night's dinner was an anomaly in our house. Really it was. Tonight is grilled chicken with feta, olives and sun dried tomatoes, Kasha, and broccoli. I might have a glass of wine too. That's more the norm for us. Actually I lie, tonight is my first time making Kasha - it may be the last, but if not Kasha it would be brown rice.

I am going to yell from the roof tops "Logging my food is a pain in the butt!". Wash the floor, log my food - same diff. Iron, log my food - same diff.  However, I want to get a grip on whats going on with my body and that is more important to me that feeling inconvenienced. I figure logging my food could be rather eye opening. If I'm honest with myself I may find out I'm eating 3000 calories a day. What? That's too much? No!  I have joined Spark People to help me along the way and to hopefully keep me motivated. It's a great site full of information, but the best part of it all is that it's totally free. And we all know I'm cheap. My goal is to log everything I put into my body consistently for one week. But right now I'm starting with one meal at a time. They say the truth shall set you free - we shall see about that.

Making sure I drink all of my water takes concentration. Apparently the more water I drink the more concentration I'll have. So, it should be easy - and I can track it within Spark People too. Easy peasy.

Walking every day is not a chore. I love that. Making the time to do it within my schedule can be a pain, but with the days getting longer things are on the upswing. I'm going to make walking a priority in my life. Plain and simple.

So there you have it from what seemed to be a gazillion changes down to three. Let's see how this works.

In the same vein, a friend of mine has started a blog - she's witty and is just starting out on her journey into weight loss. You might enjoy her blog too called My Big Fat Canadian Ass.