Search This Blog

Paleo on a budget...Aldi style!

>> Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Eating healthy isn't exactly cheap. And we are on the Dave Ramsey Plan, which means we have a budget for groceries and we stick to it. Going Paleo this year has been a challenge to our budget for sure and we have had to up it a bit. So I thought I would share some tips on where to find deals on healthy food.

I've pretty much given up on coupons. Yeah, I can find some for things like toilet paper (but is it worth the $.40 you save?!) or tissues, but not very often on healthy foods.  So, my plan of attack includes the following grocery stores: Kroger, Trader Joe's, Costco, Amazon (yes, Amazon!) and Aldi. Oh, and I also like to hit up farmers' markets!

Wherever you decide to get your groceries, I have found this awesome, printable guide to seasonal produce. You can find it on their blog here, but I have this posted on my fridge. Not only does it give me some ideas for new produce to try (that are also in season and therefore typically on sale, score!) but it also tells me which ones are in the "Dirty Dozen" (marked by a "D") and which ones are in the "Clean 15" (marked by a "C") and items that are bold are extra-nutritious. Items that are marked with a "D" typically have higher chemical exposure so you want to make sure you are getting organic. The ones marked "C" are clean and you can get conventional versions and not have to worry about the chemicals as much. In a perfect world, you would get all organic to avoid GMO (genetically modified organisms), but this gets expensive and doesn't fit in our budget.

Print this out. Save it to your mobile device. Use it. All.The.Time.

Anyway, I thought I would focus my post today on Aldi. There is one in our small town, across the street from Kroger and there is one in the town that I take my boys to preschool, so it is my most frequented grocery store. I went last week while my boys were at school, so I took along my favorite shopping companion.

*Disclaimer...again, sorry for the photo quality. They were taken with my iPod...I think I need to get a better mobile camera!

So the first aisle is mostly junk food, but there are a couple of Paleo items to be found. First are my favorite. And might just be a new food addiction. Sweet Potato Chips! And $1.99/bag!  To be honest, they aren't 100% Paleo because they contain vegetable oil. But they only have 3 ingredients (sweet potatoes, oil and sea salt). And they are good. Must eat in moderation!

Also on the same aisle are Whole Almonds. These are good for just eating plain, but you can also roast them, put them in desserts or trail mixes or grind them up for almond meal to use in baking.

This trail mix is a new find for me. It has nuts (peanuts, cashews), sunflower seeds, dried cranberries and dark chocolate. Again, this isn't 100% Paleo because the dark chocolate has "soy lecithin  in it (and soy is not Paleo), but it's a very little amount.  Plus, most trail mixes that you buy have candy-coated chocolate and therefore have the addition of food dyes.  These are just dark chocolate baking chips, so no un-natural colors.

Next is Almond Milk.  I get the Original version (it doesn't have any sugar). At $2.49 it's a better deal than other stores unless you have a coupon and/or a sale.

And produce. This is where that list comes in handy!  Anything not marked on the list with a "D" are fair game! Aldi's has started carrying some organic things, but produce isn't one of them...YET (hint, hint!).  So, here are some of the deals I found.  Cauliflower for $1.79 for the head.

Cabbage for $.69 for the head...this was a special for the week I was there...SCORE!

Sweet Potatoes...$1.69 for a 3 lb. bag! At another one of our grocery stores, the sweet potatoes are usually $.99/lb and organic ones are even more. But sweet potatoes are on the "C" list, so I don't usually buy organic unless it's close to the same price.

And onions...$.79 for 3 lbs!

Radishes...$1.29 for a 16 oz bag. I haven't really ever used radishes before but I had a soup recipe that called for them (instead of potatoes) so I bought some to try. I have roasted them in the oven, steamed them on the stove top and they are yummy!

I tend to not buy as much fruit just because of some reactions I've been having, but I do like to buy bananas at Aldi. They are typically lower priced than any of the other local stores. Look for the green-tipped ones as they are less-sweet and will last longer.

Here's a look at the produce bins...not very elaborate of a display, but functional and easy to find everything :)

I don't typically buy meat at Aldi because they don't have any organic. Most of my meat comes from my freezer (we stock up with a 1/4 side of beef and a whole pig about once every year) or farmers market, but sausage is one type of meat that I'm always looking for since they are easy.  But they are typically full of nitrates. But I found these and they were yummy...and no added nitrates or ingredients I couldn't pronounce!

So, what did I end up with? Here's a shot of everything I got that trip...for less than $25 ($24.16)!  I think that's a pretty good deal...considering that most of the items don't have an ingredients list and the ones that do are small and I can pronounce everything that is in them. SCORE!


Workout Plan

>> Monday, March 11, 2013

Basically, the wheels have fallen off my workout plan in a major way.  Two weeks ago,  I did weight training (at home with dumbells) 3 times and ran on the treadmill 4 times, 45 minutes each.  Last week I did weight training once and ran on the treadmill twice, 30 minutes each.  I had a baby with strep throat and of course a bunch of other things going on that derailed me.  So, my overall plan is to do cardio 3-4 times a week and weights 4 times (upper body and core and then lower body), but that's pretty ambitious right now and I am not going to beat myself up if it doesn't happen. 

For weight training, I get exercises from Fitness and Shape Magazines mostly.  They have a lot on their websites; you can also check the back issues out from your library.  I also have some home workout videos that I like so I will mix those in when I get bored.  For cardio, sometimes I just try to run the whole time but I've also been trying to do more HIIT (high intensity interval training), which I like.  Google HIIT and you'll find all kinds of info and plans. 

My meal plan this week is pretty similar to last week's.  I added a couple of different recipes I got from santa fe turkey stuffed peppers for one.  Sorry no pictures= boring post!

 If you are really looking for an intense program google "Jamie Eason's Live Fit Trainer".  It's a free meal plan and workout plan on  It lasts for 12 weeks.  I would love to do it, but it is gym based and I just can't devote that much time right now.  But in the future, I may try to do a modified version.

I did make some homemade coconut chocolate almond butter that turned out pretty amazing.  I will try to post that recipe soon.


A Food Journey

>> Thursday, March 7, 2013

So, Lesley has encouraged me to chime in to her "Spring Break Shape-Up" series. My eating plan looks a little different than Lesley's eating plan, but there is one huge commonality...NO PROCESSED FOODS! Ok, I'll revise that and say minimal processed foods.  Because I don't think it's realistic for me to say that I won't ever eat anything processed.  I do agree with Lesley that eating and nutrition is a huge part of losing weight and that your focus should be on what you put into your body vs. how many calories you can burn at the gym. If you are feeding your body junk and working out a lot at the gym, I really don't think you are a healthy person.  I have tried focusing on training in the past and didn't really pay attention to what I was eating and I don't think it really had any lasting benefits on my body. So this time around I'm focusing on nutrition, sleep (it's more important than I thought!) and then exercise.

I found this print (you can buy it form the link below) on Pinterest (this will link you to my page!), and I think it really shows the ideal that I am reaching for.

I don't think that there is one diet plan (or healthy eating plan) that is ideal for everyone. You have to know your body and experiment with different foods to see how you feel and if it allows you to reach your ideal body weight.  So, anyway, I've been doing the Paleo diet since January 2. My first step into going Paleo was giving up Gluten (wheat, barley, rye) just after Thanksgiving. I gave myself a month to adjust to a gluten-free lifestyle and then went full Paleo. I really like Whole 9's description of Paleo:

"We eat real food – meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, healthy oils, nuts and seeds. We choose foods that were raised, fed and grown naturally, and foods that are nutrient-dense, with lots of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals.
This is not a “diet” – we eat as much as we need to maintain strength, energy, activity levels and a healthy body weight. We aim for well-balanced nutrition, so we eat animals and a significant amount of plants.
Eating like this has helped us to look, feel, live and perform our best, and reduces our risk for a variety of lifestyle-related diseases and conditions."

So, there's a lot to it, but basically as a healthy way of eating (and long-term sustainability), I eat meat, seafood, LOTS of vegetables, a little fruit and some healthy oils (coconut oil, EVOO, avocado).  I will be honest and say that I have cheated. More than once. But I still feel better than I did before going Paleo.

So what does a day of food look like for me? Well, I typically have 3 meals and try not to snack in between. I don't have any grains, so breakfast looks a little different for me than a typical breakfast (no cereals, oatmeal, pastries, etc). For lunch I usually have leftovers from the previous evening and I typically either make something in the crock pot for dinner or bake something in the oven.  I will admit that my kids are still eating gluten (although much more limited than previously) but they are also eating a lot more vegetables than they used to. They still won't touch a salad, but they tried roasted red beets and radishes last night for the first time...progress!

*Disclaimer - all of these photos were taken with my tablet and are not great quality, but you get the idea.


Breakfast typically consists of eggs with some meat. I typically like to scramble up a dozen eggs and then refrigerate them to eat the next few mornings. This morning I had eggs with onions and green peppers and bacon :)


Lunch is usually leftovers or a salad. This salad is mixed greens, baby spinach, some micro greens (found at a local farmers market!), cilantro, 1/2 avocado, leftover pork chop, blueberries, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Yummy and filling!

This recipe is a Tuscan Chicken Soup I found on Pinterest. It was really good...I didn't have any baby radishes, so I subbed some parsnips and daikon (in the radish family) for it and it turned out good (though I think it would be good with the radishes as well!).


Dinner is the one meal I usually make every day...unless our fridge is full and we need a leftover night for dinner (which I really don't mind!!).  Here is a meal where I made some french onion soup and bacon-wrapped chicken with vegetables.  I don't have a recipe for the onion soup...I basically sauteed a couple onions in a skillet and then added some beef broth until it looked good and let it simmer for about 20 minutes :)  The chicken dish was based on this pinterest pin except I wrapped the chicken breasts in bacon and then omitted the Italian dressing packet and butter and just sprinkled some salt, pepper and Trader Joe's "21 Seasoning Salute" (basically just mixed herbs). I used broccoli, cauliflower and green beans for the veggies. Yum!

So, for nights when I don't have time to bake for a long time or have forgotten to put something in the crock-pot, I tent to use sausage and roast some veggies. This is an easy dinner to pull together and is what we ate for dinner last night. It's a Chicken Apple Sausage (it's technically not paleo because it has a little brown sugar, but it didn't have any "scary" ingredients and didn't have any added nitrates...basically the shorter the ingredient list, the better and avoid things you can't pronounce or don't know what they are) which was sauteed in a skillet with onions and mushrooms, and then I roasted some baby yellow carrots (organic, from Kroger) red beets and radishes. I also steamed some broccoli, orange carrots and radishes on the stove to compare and see which we liked better (Steve liked the steamed radishes better but I liked the roasted).  This meal was easy because I had my fridge stocked with veggies!


We do typically have a before-bedtime snack with the kids. I've been trying to make it healthy and give them some grapes, strawberries or kiwi (or whatever fruit we have on hand).  I also like to pop some popcorn (not Paleo, but I do buy organic popcorn which should be GMO free) in some organic coconut oil and add some Himalayan pink salt (I found a big grinder at Costco, but have also purchased it at Trader Joe's).  Another snack/dessert that the kids enjoy is "Banana Swirl". They saw it on PBS one afternoon and begged me to make it.  Basically you just freeze a banana (either whole with the skin on or you can peel it and chop it up into bite-sized pieces) and put it in a blender or food processor (our food processor works better than the blender) with a little bit of almond milk.  Blend to soft-serve ice cream consistency and serve immediately. You can also do add-ins for a flavor variety: cinnamon, vanilla, chocolate chips, almond butter, strawberries, etc. So good! This is what I gave the kids for snack last night :)

I also love chocolate, so I keep some Paleo chocolate in my fridge for when I get a chocolate craving. I don't have a recipe for this either, but I just melt some dark chocolate (look for chocolate that is soy-lecithin free like the brand Enjoy Life) and some unsweetened baking bars in a double boiler on the stove. Once melted, I add in unsweetened coconut and other add-ins depending on what I have around...dried fruit and nuts are usually what I grab. Then I take an ice cream scoop that is about 1T in size and scoop the chocolate mixture out onto parchment paper sitting on a cookie tray and refrigerate until set. They resemble a traditional "No-Bake" cookie, but don't have any refined sugar or oats.  They are dark, so they aren't super-sweet, but they are sweet enough to give me the chocolate fix when I need it. I keep them in the fridge and then take one out and let it sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes to let it soften a bit.  This helps with portion control as well :)

So, that's what I eat in a typical day. I'll write future blogs about where I find my recipes (great Paleo sources are EVERYWHERE!), things I'm discovering, books I'm reading, some resources I've found helpful, and if my changed eating habits are having any real affects on my health.  I took some before photos on January 1, and while I'm not comfortable sharing them here, I might share them in a few months with some after photos.


Spring Break Shape-Up Diet Plan

>> Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Again I have to start with a disclaimer -- I'm no expert in this area.  I feel really silly to even write these posts because I'm no fitness or diet expert.  But, maybe if I can give someone an idea or two while motivating myself at the same time, it's worth it!

I'm going to share my meal plan for the next week or so.  I have found meals that are pretty easy to fix and that I really like, so I tend to eat them for weeks at a time until I get totally bored. 

First, I calculated my caloric need based on this equation:
1. 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 X age in years)= base
2.  Take that number and multiply by 1.2
3. Subtract 500 for a 1 pound a week weight loss.
4.  This doesn't include calories you expend in exercise, so I usually try to add half of those calories back in (roughly.  I wish I had a heart rate/calorie monitor so I knew exactly how much I burned).  I also add a rough estimate of calories for nursing.

So, I try to eat roughly 1600 calories a day and I try to make it 90% clean.  I will be honest and say that I don't track green vegetables very closely, because their calories are pretty low.  I try to put some into my tracker, but don't stress too much about being exact like I do for things such as peanut butter, oatmeal, etc.

I eat about 5-6 meals a day, every 2-3 hours. I am naturally more of a grazer type person and I'm home alot with a baby right now, so it's feasible.  But most moms that work have access to a microwave too.  Ultimately, just figure out what is best for you to do.

I do meal prep 1-2 times a week- on Sunday nights and again a smaller type prep on Wed or Thurs.  I cook my chicken, salmon, etc., roast my vegetables, and make my oatmeal.  I also make the pancakes, quinoa bowls, eggs.  Pretty much every thing.  I freeze some things so I only have to make them once, like the oatmeal, pancakes, and quinoa bowls.  The chicken I just cook twice a week in my crock pot.  Veggies, I pretty much roast on Sunday and then use frozen broccoli or green beans in a bag when I run out of what I roasted.  That way my second prep of the week is usually just the chicken, salmon, eggs.  I also try to keep some extra frozen meals in case I just can't prep again or I had planned to put something together fresh (like a salad) and I'm unable to.  I think this step is KEY to staying on track with my diet.  I'll try to take a picture of this and share next week.  Generally, I think most of the food lasts fine in the refrigerator for 3 days, and I've never really minded leftovers anyway.

Meal One:  Egg white oatmeal with half of a sliced banana and 1 Tablespoon of natural peanut butter and some ground flax seed on top  (Basically I cook steel cut oats with extra water and then when they are done I add 2 egg whites per serving.  Just pour them in slowly and stir like crazy so you don't get big pieces.  I also add maple extract, cinnamon, a little stevia and sometimes another extract like black walnut or banana or vanilla or butter -- can you tell I like extracts?). This photo is without the flax, banana and pb.

Meal Two:  Lemon blueberry muffin protein pancakes with blueberry topping:
I got this recipe from instagram.  Protein pancakes are usually gross in my opinion.  Spongy, weird texture.  I tried these and really liked them.  They are still not quite regular pancakes, but with the addition of the lemon and fruit I like them.  Mix 1 mashed banana, 1 whole egg, 2 Tablespoons plain nonfat greek yogurt& 1 Tablespoon unsweetened almond milk.  Stir well.  Add 1 scoop protein powder, 1/2 cup oat flour (I use Bob's but you can grind your own oats in a food processor), 1/2 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Mix well and add more almond milk as needed.  I also add some lemon extract and if I have a lemon, zest and juice from that.  Then at the end, stir in 1/4 cup frozen or fresh blueberries.  Cook these as you would normal pancakes in a well-oiled skillet (coconut oil is great but don't forget to add the calories to your tracker or use nonstick spray if you want).  For the topping, I use the basic recipe I have on the blog for yogurt parfaits and I don't add any sugar or I use stevia.  I sometimes do it in the microwave -- just microwave the berries for a minute or two and then add a little slurry of water and cornstarch and lemon juice.  Microwave again another minute or so.  I'm not sure about exact measurements, I just eyeball it.  You could also add some sugar free syrup to the top. (This is 2 servings)

This is the protein powder I like in this recipe and in smoothies. I get it at Kroger in the health foods section.  It is unflavored (but not tasteless).  I am not a big fan of protein powder taste!!

Meal Three:  1 fried whole egg plus one white and 1/4 of an avocado, mashed, on a piece of whole wheat/low carb toast.  Salt and pepper on top.

Meal Four:  Salsa chicken, sweet potato (about 1/3-1/2 of one), and a green veggie - roasted zucchini here.  For the chicken, I put frozen breasts in my crockpot with some salsa and then when it is done I shred it and add more salsa.  There is siracha on top of it in this photo.

Meal Five:  Grilled Salmon, Asparagus, and brown rice. 

Meal Six: Apple plus chocolate hazelnut butter or pb2.  This is my dessert.  I love this and I'm addicted to this hazelnut butter!  I eat this post exercise as an incentive.  If I exercise hard, I eat the hazelnut butter.  If it's a rest day or I can't fit the exercise in (life does happen), I eat the pb2.  I also get this in Kroger's health foods section.  Measuring is critical here; natural nut butters are really great for you because of the healthy fats but they are super high calorie.  You can easily get carried away here.

And if I didn't mention, I pretty much eat this same way every day for the whole week.  I may change a meal or two, but I try to keep the same formula- protein, whole grain carbs, healthy fats.  I measure and make my portion size fit my caloric allotment.  It looks like a lot of food, and I guess it is.  If you eat healthy you can eat more -- which is always my goal! :)

I have my exercise plan coming up, as well as some tips to bust cravings and how I handle family meals while staying on my meal plan.