Nutri Ninja 1000w blender

My old blender went kaput last night, so I was in the market for a new one, quickly.  I’d been researching for awhile, because the old blender was showing early warning signs of a terminal condition (smelling funky, weird grinding noises in the motor), and last night, oil spots were left on my counter top after I used it.

I didn’t want to go into the high-price range of several hundred dollars, because: one, I can’t possibly afford it, and, two, it’s overkill for what I need it to do.  A food processor is in my near future, so I really just needed this new blender to, well…blend all the fibrous stuff I put in it without bleeding on my counter top.

Nutri NinjaSo, I went mid-range on price, at around $140 at Costco, and got this Nutri Ninja 1000 watt blender with a couple of 24 oz cups, a pitcher, and a stainless steel cup that keeps drinks cold for up to 4 hrs.  It has four smart settings, featuring the Ninja “Auto-IQ” technology, mixing in blend/pulse modes for up to 70 seconds.

By pronouncing two of my old blenders dead, I got rid of them and made room for the new one, and it takes up a lot less space than either of the previous ones did.

To try it out, I made my wife a blueberry-peach smoothie for her afternoon snack, and it worked great with the four ices cubes I put in with the fruit.  Now that she’s convinced it’s a great thing to have, I’m just glad they included two cups in the package!

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Tips for eating plantbased on a budget

For anyone trying do a plantbased diet on a small budget, it can be done with planning and forethought on some key issues.  Recently, I posted a blog about planning for nutrition here, and I’ve been reading other good blogs on the subject that are helpful.

This one is from a post-graduate student, living in London, and she gives some excellent and simple advice to anyone looking for a way to eat healthful, nutritious meals that do not compromise one’s eating plan.

Here are a couple of her suggestions, but there are many more great ones as well.


Cucumbers sliced and quarteredFreeze your greens

Leafy greens such as spinach and kale tend to spoil quickly. To avoid wasting and replacing, I freeze them and just add them to smoothies, curries and stir-fries.

Stock up on spices.

It’s so much easier to make a meal out of what looks like nothing when you can add flavors from spices.  Some left over lentils can be made into a tasty dahl with stock, garlic, cumin and turmeric. Spices are inexpensive and they last!

Here is the link to Katie’s blog, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

10 Tips For Eating Plant-Based On A Budget – mindbodygreen.com.

Nutrition planning

Trying to change eating habits without a game plan is like starting out on a cross-country road trip with a quarter of a tank of gas. Enthusiasm is high, but before you’re too many miles down the road, reality hits, and you’re stopping before you’ve even crossed the county line. Does “how much longer, Dad?” ring a bell?

Diet casualties and excuses

I have had many failed attempts at dieting, and one of the most troubling reasons for the failures — there are many others! — is the lack of a good game plan for handling grocery shopping, cooking, and food storage before I started out. If you’ve never thought about the convenience issues, the food prep time and clean-up routines, or how you’re going to feed the rest of the family when they turn their noses up at your healthy meals, you may end up like me, doing one of these three things:

  • eating out, or taking home, foods that compromise your eating plan
  • prepping and eating the same things every day because it’s easiest and you have that one routine down pat, and suddenly it’s all very boring
  • giving up altogether because of the frustration, and perhaps, giving excuses to yourself like, “this takes too much time, I work so hard during the day that I don’t have time for this, or I feel like an outsider in my own family, etc.”

Been there! Many times!

Diet adjustment period

ttplanThe problem is that during the adjustment period, which is obviously the most difficult time to keep the discipline in tow, the routines are not established yet and our brains can fill up with understandable, yet dangerous, excuses. Becoming frustrated is the last thing any of us want. It should be fun and rewarding. Given enough time, it is both! But, in the beginning, it is a path wrought with pitfalls and monsters (why does Gollum suddenly come to mind? Jeez, my brain is wired in the strangest ways!).

The pleasures of diet planning

With every experience I’ve had with nutrition planning, it has become easier. This time, when I committed to Eat To Live again, I knew how to shop, when to cook, what I was going to use for storing foods for the week, and how I was going to make alternative meals for my family if they didn’t like what I was making. No matter how supportive our families are, my experience says their support stops just short of eating the same way, the same foods, we do! People take their food choices very seriously!

A little secret here: it is usually easy to sneak in some healthier foods for your family without them even knowing it! I found that there is a shift toward healthier eating for everyone even if there is not a concerted effort by everyone in the family to eat healthier. The food preparer has a lot of control over how the family eats. Use less salt, or none at all, for everyone. Use less oil, or none at all, by using new cooking methods, like water sauté, steaming, roasting, baking. Use a variety of spices until you find out which ones work best with whom.

Nutrition planning routine

First, before I tell you about my routines, it might help to know a few things about my situation. My wonderful wife is Type 1 diabetic and has been on insulin since 1978. Her condition, after having Type 1 for almost 40 years, is such that just taking care of her insulin schedule, doctor appointments, and mobility issues, is a full-time job. Her endocrinologist requires carb counting as a means for managing her insulin intake, so I keep an app handy on my phone to look up carbs for her foods. She also helps a lot with the chopping, salad making, and other things she can do while seated. It’s a team effort! This has worked well, and is so much easier than I expected. We keep lists of what we know is the right quantities of food to get her carb intake each day. There are only two human creatures in the home now, so really, there are only two human mouths to feed a day.

Here is a rundown on how I manage my own situation.

  • Saturdays and Sundays — big grocery shopping days! I shop at Costco for large quantity items, but I also hit some of the best produce markets in the area, and fortunately, there are many.  Ahead of time, I make some semblance of a list, but when I get to the stores, I just use it as a checklist to make sure the necessary things are brought home. I shop for what looks freshest, in season, and for diversity. Hint: I think back on the previous week and I try not to buy the same produce items week after week. For instance, if I ate broccoli all week, I’ll bring home cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, or something else in the cruciferous vegetables category.
  • Sunday afternoons and evenings — Knowing that “salad is the main course!” I make salad dressings that will keep for a week in the refrigerator. This is a lot of fun to me because it tastes better and because it’s a creative exercise. Also, I make beans and soups as needed for the week. These can be “main course” items, or side dishes.
  • Washing fruits and vegetables is something I do as soon as they are brought home from the store. I use a vegetable and fruit wash in a very large bowl with water, and I dump the tomatoes, apples, peaches, cucumbers, whatever else, in there and lightly run each piece until they are clean. I rinse them off and let them drain in a colander for a few minutes. Then, I store them in large plastic containers or glass jars, in the refrigerator, depending on what each food “prefers” for storage.  Berries and small items like these, I wash them as needed during the week. I have a handy large sieve, rather than a colander, for this purpose, and it takes no time at all to rinse these off. Food storage planning is key, I believe!
  • Since my wife eats meat, and I do not, I repackage meat products for one or two meal servings before freezing them. She’s usually good for one day of leftovers, but two days is pushing her limits a bit, so I don’t try it often.
  • Supplemental shopping days are necessary when eating fresh foods. There is no way around it unless you have two refrigerators. I like to go twice during the week to fill in some gaps, if needed. This also helps me with planning on the pet foods (they do have to eat, too, I’ve been told!). I can stay focused on the big picture on Saturdays and Sundays, and knowing I’ll be going again during the week, lifts the burden of trying to remember everything when I go.
  • Food prep is done nightly, as needed, but having prepared some of the basics on weekends, nightly cooking usually involves side dishes, or that one more veggie that sounds perfectly right tonight!
  • Invest in great, reusable, microwave and dishwasher friendly, plastic ware for storage. As mentioned before, Snapware is what I use, and I love it.

Look here for some of my salad dressings and my Fresh Tomato Sauce recipes:

Salad dressings

Fresh Tomato Sauce

Cabinet reorganization (not a political post!)

Yesterday afternoon, I completed my weekend project of creating more space in my lower cabinets.  My wife and I sorted through what we had, kept what we needed/wanted, and donated the rest to the local thrift shop, that was just about to close the doors for the day when we drove up.  DONE!

As I mentioned in my previous post, at 6′-2″ tall with a pot gut, that is, until recently when it started disappearing again, it was hard to get into those lower cabinets, and they had gone to hell, as you can see here:

cabinet2cabinet1

So with no fear in our hearts, we tackled the project very simply and sanely.  Nothing was thrown, and no curse words escaped from our mouths.  We acted like reasonable adults!  Even the sentimental pieces, like the yellow serving bowl that used to belong to my wife’s mother, and the orange tupperware we got as a wedding gift, were easily worked into the new arrangement.

We threw away several things, donated our coffee maker, a George Foreman grill, and some of our large plastic ware that we no longer use.  When I make coffee for guests, I use a French press, so we haven’t used the drip coffeemaker in a very long time.  We also moved our large crock pot from a shelf in the top of my closet, because, hey, now there’s plenty of space!

Now, everything has a place!  And, if something new comes in, something old will have to go out!  Here are the improved organization photos:

cab1cab2

It has been a long time since we had done this kind of survey, and we have several more spaces to go before we’re finished.  The pantry may be the next thing to be repurposed.  We may actually start keeping food in there instead of old sacks of stuff we haven’t opened in years, and old appliances that no longer work or have been upgraded.  Why do we keep all this crap?  Good intentions, I suppose.

Challenge of creating kitchen cabinet space

cabinet1The kitchen has become my domain over the years, and you can tell it by the disorganization that abounds in the lower cabinets.  I’m about 6′-2″ tall, and when I bend over to stuff things in those cabinets, I don’t pay a lot of attention to what I’m doing.  And, frankly, I didn’t give a damn much of the time because it was mostly reserved for things I only rarely used.

This is changing however!

This weekend, my goal is to reorganize these two cabinets and get rid of all the stuff I haven’t used in years.  I will probably be reminded of some of the good cookware and gadgets I need to put to use that I don’t even remember I have.  Chances are that I’ll create a lot more space by getting rid of some things and organizing the rest.

cabinet2My upper cabinets still need to be decluttered , but the problem one was resolved as shown in this post about Snapware.  One project at a time!

Creating more space on very tight budgets, both money and time, is a priority as I’m 100% committed to lifestyle change and better health.

Snapware

Food prep can be a regular pain in the derriere when the kitchen is in shambles.  Things like misplaced pots and pans, serving bowls, and mismatched storage containers can be the demise of good intentions.  I am an expert at the demise part!  When I get focused on cooking nightly instead of eating fast unhealthy food, or going out to sodium and fat palaces (some call them restaurants!), the quickest way to curb my enthusiasm is to be disorganized.  Good cooks know this, and I believe that at least half the battle of a good, healthy diet is won when organizing is a priority.

Like many families, our cabinet space is limited.  And, like many of these same families, the limited space is made worse by being poorly managed.  I wonder if these are the same folks we see night after night at the restaurants where we dine!  Just a thought…hmmm?

I have so many trouble spots in my organization, but being back in the groove with Eat to Live, organization and advanced food prep is a necessity, not because the diet is difficult, but because the enjoyment of the healthful and disciplined eating plan is enhanced when I have the right foods and all the tools I need to cook and store food properly.

snapwareSo, last weekend I took note of the wide variety of storage container brands in my cabinet.  It looked like a multi-family yard sale in there.  When I opened the cabinet, something blue with the word Ziploc on it  would fall, and in my haste to catch it before it hit the floor, I would create other catastrophes with the remaining misfits.  It is so unnerving, and it sucked the wind out of my enthusiasm and motivation.

I got on Amazon to find what kind of deals I could get on Snapware, my favorite of the plastic containers, and I found an 18-piece set for under $25.  This would be a perfect supplement to my collection because it included only the sizes and shapes I use the most.  My package arrived today.

So, tonight, after eating dinner and washing the dishes, I pulled out most of the odds and misfits, and placed my Snapware neatly on the shelves.  I kept some of the pieces of other items that are still useful, and some of my glass jars I use for dry storage items like beans and grains, but this is a vast improvement over what it looked like a few hours ago.

Like I said, I’m no expert on kitchen organization — you ought to see my other cabinets and my pantry and my refrigerator — but, one thing at a time, right? — but, at least the battle over the plastic storage ware is being won, and for someone who prepares a lot of food at once and takes his lunch to work every day, this is a big timesaver.