I’ve never skydived.

I always wanted to, but never been under the weight limit to tandem-jump. I am now well under the weight limit. Now, I need to get over my fear of heights. (Actually, it’s not a fear of heights, it is the fear of falling from a great height, and then the fear of that sudden stop at the end!)

But exceeding the weight limits was a great excuse to avoid that challenge. So, I think I want to go skydiving. I know that before anyone jumps from a plane, they pack their own chute as a safety and confidence measure. Many wear back-up chutes as well, in case the first doesn’t deploy.

According to the non-scholarly but always entertaining Wikipedia, the US experiences about 1 jumping fatality for every 80,000 jumps.  In 1987, there were 29 fatalities.  That is compared to 856 bicycling, over 7,000 drowned, 1154 died of bee stings, and 80 by lightning. Looked at in the big picture, it is a safe sport. Everyone carefully prepares, and when they are completely ready, they step from the plane.

By now you are wondering how I will relate this to weight management. (I’ve been wondering that myself.) When you purposely fall from a plane, you train, wear the right gear, plan the jump, check the weather, pack your parachute, put on your auxiliary chute (the “Uh-oh chute!”) and usually you do this with friends and teammates.  Everyone always falls down to the ground and most people never get hurt.

This is in contrast to people trying to change their weight. Some people grab at whatever new plan that Dr. Phil or Dr. Oz talks about, or something that they heard on a TV commercial. Others choose one of hundreds of restrictive diet plans. Some see their physician, some see a surgeon, some see a therapist.  Some people try pills, hypnosis, fasting, or purges. Not all people reach their goal. Some get close to the goal, and then drift back. Some try one plan, don’t see immediate results, and give up. Some people work their plan in secret, so that no one can comment on it.

The problem is that many people know what they want, but not how to get it.

Using LoseIt helps guide people to their goal, but it is not magic. Every person still needs to pack their own chute. Everyone needs to know how far they can fall before needing to pull the rip cord and slow down. And, while there are few fatalities in weight management, there is the very real risk of emotional injury. Friends and family that make unkind comments. People that try–purposely or unconsciously–to sabotage your progress. And, to be honest, the very real concern that after the weight is lost, the weight will return, with the subsequent feeling of shame, anger and frustration.

Pack your own chute. (Pick a plan that you will follow.) Wear a back-up chute (know how to modify your plan when needed.) And jump with a team (have a support group to help you get through the rough patches.)

And, with confidence, step through the doorway and let go!

Breakfast Bakes

Protein Breakfast Bakes
All versions make 2 servings.  Mix ingredients together, pour into greased loaf pan (approximately 4”x8”).  All version bake at 350F for 14-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.  Do not overbake.  Serve warm (or cold) with whipped cream, Greek yogurt, or maple syrup.  Can be kept in the refrigerator, covered, for up to a week.   (The flaxseed is optional, and is a great way to boost your Omega-3 fatty acid level.  When you use the flaxseed, one portion has 1.3 grams of O-3 fatty acids, which is approximately the same as 4 fish oil capsules!)
Peanut Butter Version       (not pictured)          
2 egg whites
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 T peanut butter
½ c dried rolled oatmeal
1 scoop (4 Tbsp) vanilla protein powder
2 Tbspn milled flaxseeds
½ tsp baking powder
Cal: 232  Fat 11.9g, Sat Fat 2.2g, Chol 13.5mg, Sodium 311.1mg, Carb 22.5g, Fiber 8.4g, Protein 16g 

Nutella Version               
2 egg whites
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 T Nutella
½ c dried rolled oatmeal
1 scoop (4 T) vanilla protein powder
2 Tbspn milled flaxseeds
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp baking powder
Cal: 305, Fat 9.1g, Sat Fat 2.6g, Chol 15mg, Sodium 203.5mg, Carb 33.1g, Fiber 5.6g, Protein 18.5 

Pumpkin Version                            
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup canned, solid-pack pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
½ c dried rolled oatmeal
1 scoop (4 T) vanilla protein powder
2 T milled flaxseeds
1-2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp baking powder
Cal: 214, Fat 5.4g, Sat Fat 1g, Chol 27mg, Sodium 150mg, Carb 23.3g, Fiber 6.8g, Protein 18.6g 

Banana Version             (not pictured)  
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 very ripe banana, mashed
½ c dried rolled oatmeal
1 tsp cinnamon
1 scoop (4 T) vanilla protein powder
2 T milled flaxseeds
½ tsp baking powder
Cal: 259, Fat 3.8g, Sat Fat 0.9, Chol 27mg, Sodium 198mg, Carb 31.8g, Fiber 5.2, Protein 17.6g 

Who Am I? (Part 2)

“My Muse.”
“Cookbook guru.”
“Motivational speaker.”
“My hero.”

Those are a few labels that people have recently applied to me on LoseIt. And while those labels are really nice to read, I’m actually none of those. Or, at least I never planned to be any of those. I thought I was only going to be a nurse. But the path that leads to my current position covered a wide-ranging territory.

At age 14, I was a stock boy at a grocery store, and mowed the baseball diamond at the village park. I’ve been a bartender at three bowling alleys, a supper club, a country dance bar, and a Mexican restaurant. I’ve sold vacuum cleaners, memberships to the US Chamber of Commerce, Amway products, and Pampered Chef kitchen tools. I self-taught enough to pass the state life insurance exam and held the license until it expired (but never sold insurance.) I’ve worked at a dairy bottling plant, a car wash, and an aluminum embossing factory. I’ve worked for a company blowing insulation into homes, as a carpet/upholstery cleaner, a day-care custodian, a security guard, and courier. I’ve run fast food restaurants, and I’ve run a grill at a bar, and run a banquet hall as executive chef.

Then I went to school and became a nurse. Two hospitals and two insurance companies later, I ended up teaching at a local technical college in the nursing department.

So, how does all that lead to the labels that I listed at the beginning if this post?

Well, unless I am about 185 years old, I either held multiple jobs at once or I didn’t stay at place for long.  (Actually, both are true statements.) My entire life has been about trying to find the “right place” or the “right thing”. So I job hop, and with each position, I get closer to “it”.

And anyone that has had a sales job knows about motivational speakers. I’ve listened to hundreds of tapes and CDs. (That’s not an exaggeration.) All the sales jobs have given me an undying optimism that I CAN achieve my goals with the right amount of effort. That I should never assume the door that stands in my way is locked and that I should never avoid trying a new path then one is presented to me.

You need to take that approach to weight management. Never quit. Find a goal, and make it real.  Take ownership of that goal. Write it down and look at it daily. Find an approach that you like and works for you, and stick with it. But–and this is important–if it does not give you the results you expect, try something else!

Don’t settle for where you are at. If the job you have is not the one you want, start looking. (But don’t quit until you find a new position.) If you don’t like your home, find a way to make it better.  If you need to lose weight or gain muscle, take the necessary action. Change is within your control. It may not be easy–heck, it almost certainly will NOT be easy–but it is possible. Anything is possible, with enough effort and time. 

Never stop believing in yourself, your right to be healthy, your right to try for what you want. You deserve it. But no one will give it to you. You have to earn it.

As promised yesterday, I am posting two versions of my breakfast bake.  Enjoy!

Taking advantage of the day!

Today was a special day. Not just because it was the second day of the all-school in-service, but because on January 10th it was 45 degrees with a beautiful blue sky and not a cloud to be seen. Let me repeat that – 45 degrees Fahrenheit! In northeast Wisconsin. 

When the normal high is 24F and single digits are not uncommon (and subzero temps are expected at some time in January), I was able to sit in my car, without a jacket or heater running and with the windows open while enjoying a simple cold lunch. It was a variation of what the British call a ploughman’s lunch (usually some ham, cheese, fruit, pickle, and rustic bread). In my case, I had some grilled chicken breast (simply seasoned with herbs), a cucumber, some baby bell peppers and a Gala apple.

Why pack a lunch when the school provides a lunch for in-services? Because there is no guarantee that what they serve will fit my needs. Today, the school provided choice of two soups, a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, pickles, potato chips and an ice cream sandwich. That would have been a LOT of sodium. Sure, it would have been tasty, but not worth it in the long run. That’s why planning is important, to eliminate controllable temptations and obvious pitfalls.

I try to anticipate potential problems. I like to pack my own lunch. In additional to being generally healthier, it is much less expensive than buying lunch. And it allowed me the easy opportunity to enjoy a rare spring day in early January.

I don’t have any specific recipes for today. It was a simple food day, and those are good days, too. Tomorrow, I will have photos of two versions of my breakfast bake (and the recipes for all four versions).

Today’s Simple and Easy Dinner

Simple and Easy Beef Stroganoff
Makes 6 servings
1 package Hormel beef tips and gravy (17 ounces)
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 cup onion, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
6 ounces Greek yogurt (fat free is what I used)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups uncooked whole wheat wide noodles
Prepare the pasta as directed on the label. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet, saute the onion for 3-4 minutes, then add the garlic and mushrooms. Continue to cook over medium-high until everything is soft.
While preparing the onion-mushrooms, heat the beef tips in the microwave according to label directions (about 4 minutes). Remove from the microwave, and with two forks pull the meat into smaller chunks. When the mushrooms are ready, add the meat and gravy. Stir well. 
Turn the heat off, and stir in the Greek yogurt.
One serving is 1 cup pasta and 3/4 cup stroganoff.
This entire meal took 15 minutes to prepare, from filling the pot for the pasta to serving it. Having one of those Hormel dishes in the fridge is a life-saver on busy days.
Nutritional data:
Calories:            367
Fat:                    9.3 g
Sat. fat:              2.4 g
Cholesterol:       34.4 mg
Sodium:             426 mg
Carbs:                51.3 g
Fiber:                 6.8 g
Protein:              23.8 g
Mint Chocolate Cake
One 18.75 ounce package Devil’s Food Cake mix
One 12 ounce can diet cola
20 Andes candies, chopped
1 Tbsp. milk
One 8-ounce container fat free Whipped Topping
Preheat oven to 350.
Place cake mix and cola in a large bowl and mix with beater at low speed until moist. Increase speed to medium for 2 minutes until smooth. Stir in half of the Andes candies. 
Pour into one 9×13 or two 8×8 pans, sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool cakes. 
Melt the remaining Andes candies with the tablespoon of milk in the microwave. Stir until smooth.  Fold into the whipped topping, and spread evenly over the cakes when cool.
Makes 24 servings. Note: You could also make this into 24 cupcakes.
Nutritional data:
Calories:          128
Fat:                  3.1 g
Sat Fat:            1.5 g
Chol:                0
Sodium:           195 mg
Carb:                23.6 g
Fiber:               0.6 g
Protein:            1.2 g


I was asked to talk about the obstacles I’ve encountered on this journey, the journey that we are all sharing. This blog is a new creation, but I guess it is time for a little soul-baring.

I remember back to middle school and high school physical education class. Those classes were the bane of my existence. I was never fast enough. Or strong enough. Or knew enough about the sport we were playing. I couldn’t shoot a lay-up if my life depended on it. And then, inevitably, during a co-ed sport, some butthead would pants me.

Yeah.  I freakin LOVED high school phy ed. 

And then spring would bring Track and Field! Throwing heavy shots. Running fast on the track. Trying to jump high. And the dreaded hurdles, which combined running fast and jumping high, and usually resulted in tripping and falling.

I thought I got rid of all that as I aged. And now I am making new choices and taking new actions, which are bringing old obstacles back. See, I have already registered for the 2012 Bellin 10K Run. Last year 18,701 runners participated last year. And in June, I will be one more. I have not run a race since my past phy ed class in high school. I know I can do it. (And I am going to keep telling myself that.)

See, obstacles come in two forms. The obvious ones are external, like the hurdles. These are the easiest to deal with. You can jump them. You can run around them. Or, if you want to be like me, you can just knock them down. And all of us experience external obstacles in our quest for a better weight. Friends offer us donuts when we arrive at the office. We park in a distant spot in the grocery store parking lot (good exercise) but then we walk past the deli with freshly broasted chicken. We have the obstacle of cost (gym memberships, new clothes, healthy foods.) And we have the obstacle of time (food preparation and exercise.) But, if you think about it, all those are fairly easy to resolve. You shop when the deli is closed. You get up a half hour earlier. You clip coupon and shop resale stores.

However, the other obstacles are the ones that are my biggest problem. Internal obstacles, the ones that my mind builds in my path. The little voice that says, “Your knees won’t make 10K” or “You have never been able to maintain a loss in the past, why will this be different?” Or “You are a fool for getting rid of all those clothes! What happens when you gain 15 pounds! And you always have in the past!” Or, perhaps the most deadly thought, “You don’t deserve this.”

These obstacles are the deadly ones, because I am creating and using them against myself. I can’t ignore the sight of the donuts or the smell of the chicken. Getting up early doesn’t help. All I can do is to keep on doing what I am doing. This is where my stubborn attitude will get me through. Intellectually, I know that I have earned and deserve every one of the 73.7 pounds I’ve lost since May 25, but emotionally, I am still coming to grips with it, and what it means.

And I still wonder if these losses are permanent. That’s my other obstacle. I am afraid that when I stop losing, I will start gaining. In all the previous attempts, with many different weight loss plans, that was ALWAYS the end result. Weight loss, followed by regaining everything (and more, usually.)

My only belief–because since I have no evidence, I must act on belief–is that this WILL BE PERMANENT, because this time it is different. I am not doing this alone, I am changing my body and my life with hundreds of supporters. And I am reinforcing my beliefs by blogging daily. And I am using LoseIt now and will continue well into maintenance. The old saying is “Dance with the one that brought ya” and LoseIt has brought me this far. I don’t think it is the right time to try to dance solo.

I’m going to be logging–and blogging–for a long time to come! And I will try to keep the mood a little lighter in the next posts, to compensate for today’s post.

Good food all day!

It was a nice food day, trying new recipes with a few old standbys. For breakfast, we tried a new recipe (Asparagus, Bacon and Cheese Strata), which I served with Peppermint Mocha coffee.

Asparagus, Bacon and Cheese Strata

4 strips of bacon, diced
¼ cup onion, diced
2 cups fresh asparagus
2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, divided
2 pieces whole wheat bread
2 eggs
2 egg whites
¼ cup milk (2%)
¼ cup cheddar cheese

Fry bacon in an oven-safe and non-stick skillet. As it cooks, add onion and asparagus and a touch of pepper. Turn heat to medium low until the asparagus is hot and softened (3-5 minutes.)

Whisk eggs and milk. Cut the bread into quarters. Turn your broiler on high.

When the bacon and veggie mix is done, remove from the skillet. Place the bread in the skillet and cover with egg mixture.  Wait 1-2 minutes for the bread to absorb the mix. Sprinkle half the Parmesan cheese. Turn the heat to medium-high until the eggs are nearly cooked through. Place the skillet under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, until the eggs are cooked. Layer the asparagus/bacon mix over the eggs, and top with the cheddar and the remaining 1 Tbsp. Parmesan. Return to broiler until the cheese melts (1-2 minutes.)

Remove and cut into four servings.

Nutritional data:     
Calories:          161
Fat:                  9.8 g
Sat fat:             3.7 g
Cholesterol:     123 mg
Sodium:           352 mg
Carbs:              7.5 g
Fiber:               2.1 g
Protein:            12 g

Peppermint Mocha Coffee

Brew a batch of strong dark coffee.

Heat over medium heat:
2 cups milk (I use 2%)
½ tsp. peppermint extract
3 packets stevia sweetener

Stir often. Do not boil.

Finely chop one square Baker’s Unsweetened chocolate (1 ounce). Place in a mixing bowl.

When the milk is hot, pour over the chocolate, and whisk until dissolved. Divide between 4 mugs, top with coffee and optional whipped cream.

Nutritional data:
Calories:          70
Fat:                  4.2 g
Sat fat:             2.7 g
Cholesterol:     9.8 mg
Sodium:           60 mg
Carbs:              6.9 g
Fiber:               0.5 g
Protein:            4.6 g

Lunch was simple scavenging of leftovers. Nothing too special there. 

Dinner was Vegetable Soup and Homemade Artisan Bread.

(It’s out of focus.  I’d re-shoot it, but we ate all the bread.  It was really good!)

Simple and Easy Vegetable Soup

2 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 cups water
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables
1 leek, sliced
2 cups cabbage, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
½ tsp. dried basil (or oregano, thyme or your favorite)
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 30 minutes.
After it is done simmering, add 2 cups (3 ounces) fresh baby spinach leaves, torn. Stir in and serve with a piece of crusty bread.

Makes 10 one-cup servings.

Nutritional data for the soup:
Calories:               70
Fat:                       0.2 g
Sat fat:                  0.0 g
Cholesterol:          0mg
Sodium:               244 mg
Carbs:                  14.2 g
Fiber:                    2.6 g
Protein:                 3.4 g

And speaking of bread, this was my first attempt at artisan bread. It went okay. I am a perfectionist, and the bread did not turn out exactly like the cookbook cover.  I know that is foolish and unreasonable, but that’s me. However, my stomach doesn’t have eyes, and it really liked it. So did my wife and son.

Here are a few photo of bread in progress:

This is the point at which the bread was brought out of the fridge and is formed into a beautiful boule (French for ball). I failed miserably at that and resorted to thinking bad thoughts in my head and dropping it on the silicone mat. Later snafus occurred when I tried to move the blob to the baking stone. I didn’t have a nice peel, so I used two flippers, further distorting the shape.  No pictures exist of that debacle.

It’s out of the oven and cooling. Beautiful round ball shape? Nope. Clever little scallop or cross cut into the top? Nope.  Fortunately it smells better than it looks. 

Cut and ready to eat. The moment of truth. Very crusty bread, with chewy crumb. And it was delicious. I served it with a tablespoon of olive oil, a half tablespoon balsamic vinegar and some dried herbs. I could have eaten the whole loaf by myself, but I try to not be too greedy.

I have enough dough for one more loaf of this white bread, but tonight I am going to start a second batch, this one a whole wheat loaf. Details when they develop. I WILL master bread making!

A new day, a new closet

Well, it’s not actually a new closet, but most of the clothes are new. When we embark on this journey, our goal is to find a healthy weight. If you are just trying to lose those pesky 5 holiday pounds, you probably won’t need a new wardrobe. But if you are like many people on LoseIt (and elsewhere) you may have a goal of 25, 50 or 100 pounds. You will need to buy new clothes.

However, as I noted yesterday, we all live in a world of budgets, both calorie and financial. Shopping for new clothes is not one of my hobbies and I am not a fan of spending a lot of money. But that is not much of a problem when you have sources. My wife and I are fans of resale shops. Not consignment shops where prices are only marginally less than the original price tag, but shops that are used to benefit social causes. Saint Vincent de Paul is a national organization, and Green Bay has two resale shops that they run. Another national service is Goodwill.  Both have stores that offer clothing, household good, books, and other items. The only way of finding what they have to to go there on a regular basis because their selections are constantly changing. And there are many smaller stores that are only local. Search them out and you can find treasures.

Some people that I work with refuse to shop at any store which is not name brand. And if that works for them, great! But I would rather spend money at a service organization to help others and still get quality goods at yard sale prices. Yesterday, I managed to find a suit, two tweed blazers, 11 dress shirts, t3 sweaters, 3 casual shirts, and 8 dress pants, for less than $60. Some of the brands were Dockers, Land’s End, and Van Heusen. 

So, step one, get new clothes. Now, step two is even more important. PURGE the old stuff. Get rid of the big things. Don’t “save them, in case I gain my weight back”, because I guarantee if you think like that, you WILL regain the weight. (And then give them back to the stores where you purchased your new outfits, to help them reach their social goals. And it might be a tax deduction for you, too!)

Always look ahead with optimist. Assume you will succeed. Act as though success is already evident. Baseball great Satchel Paige is quoted as saying, “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.” In this case, he’s right. It’s your butt! (Or gut, or wherever you store the excess fat.) Don’t look back. Look forward to a new you. To a new summer in that swim suit that has been hanging in your closet for years. Or that suit that you need to wear for an upcoming event. Or to the walk on the Caribbean beach resort.

We do not act out of fear of failure but out of confidence of success. That does not mean success is guaranteed, and it certainly does not mean success is easy. But it is within our control.

My next post (a little later today) will have three new recipes, and will also include photos of my first attempt at from-scratch bread from my new cookbook.

Salmon Patties with Basil Mayo and Mexican Chop Salad

Speaking of hungry, this was last night’s meal. Two pan-fried salmon patties, with a bit of basil mayo and a Mexican chop salad. With the homemade vinaigrette, the entire meal was 626 calories. I don’t know how much the meal cost, but it is not much. A can of salmon is inexpensive and full of protein and healthy fats. A couple eggs, a bit of onion and some bread crumbs. The salad was made with ingredients that were not needed in recipes from earlier in the week, and just sitting in the fridge. The basil mayo is prepared Hellmann’s and dried herb.  I had the meal made, start to finish, in 15 minutes.  Inexpensive in time, money and calories.

Salmon Patties  (Makes 6 patties, approximately 3 inches in diameter)

1 can (14.75 oz.) salmon, drained.  (Any type of salmon)
1/4 cup minced onion
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 Tbsp. ketchup
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 eggs

Mix together with your hands. It should be wet, but not dripping, and should form into a ball and hold its shape. 

Approximately 1/3 cup per patty.  Scoop, form into a ball and press flat. Heat a non-stick skilled with a little olive oil. Place patties in skillet on medium for 3-4 minutes per side. Patty should be nicely browned, but still moist inside. Serve with your favorite tartar sauce or this basil mayo.

Nutritional data per patty:
Calories: 146 
Fat: 7.6 g 
Sat Fat: 1.7 g 
Chol: 117 mg 
Sodium: 401 mg
Carbs:  3.7 g
Fiber: 0.2 g
Protein: 16.6 g

Basil Mayo (1 serving)
2 Tbsp. Hellmann’s low fat mayo
1 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tsp. minced garlic
Mexican Chop Salad (1 serving)
2 cups mixed greens (or whatever you have)
2 Tbsp. black beans (leftover from a prior meal)
2 Tbsp. whole kernel corn
1/2 avocado
1 small red bell pepper
1/2 jalapeno chili
Dressing of your choice

Planning, Organization and a touch of OCD?

I’ve talked about how to start cooking, why you should cook and how to develop a plan. But Kristoe pointed out on my LoseIt page that most of us have to not only worry about a calorie budget, but also a financial budget. How do you feed a family when money is tight? (And I understand that question.  With two teenage boys, it’s like trying to keep ahead of the locust swarms at every meal.)
Fortunately, in addition to be determined (aka stubborn) I am also organized. Not about everything in life, but when the organization bug bites, it bites hard. My wife and I set the menu for the week together, but I do the grocery shopping for the family. In fact, last night, as I was making the evening meal detailed below, we were also looking at recipes and cookbooks to plan next week. Today, I will get the grocery shopping done and start some of the prep cooking. 
I shop for groceries at two stores. I don’t know what is available where you live, but I’ll tell you about mine. I have a great store ALDI that serves about 80% of my food needs. ALDI is a company based out of Europe (Germany, I think) and it carries almost everything we need at great prices. Most of the food is “store brand” but is made by name brand companies for that label. The quality of the food rivals any other brand in comparison. Additionally, our stores get a supply truck daily, which means the produce and meats are always fresh. The downside is that produce and meats are not heavily stocked every day, so if you shop in the evening, your selections will be fewer. But the prices are 40 to 50% of what I find in other stores. ALDI does not have a deli, a bakery, or anything like that. It is a simple grocery store.
My other store is a local chain that offers a very wide range of services, from a bakery, deli, huge meat department, and sushi bar, to a liquor store, bank and postal services. They even have a “Tot Spot” where you can drop off your children and they will be supervised while you shop – and since the Tot Spot has video monitoring, the video feed is broadcast to monitors all over the store so you can see what the children are doing. Of course, these services result in higher costs, so I only shop there for items that ALDI doesn’t carry. 
I will sometimes vary my shopping and pick up things at Walmart, but that is only if I am already at Walmart for other items. I try to maximize my efficiency by making as few trips as possible. In general, the ALDI/Festival combination works best because they are in close proximity to each other and my house.
But the real key to successful budgetary control is the shopping list. Ah, this is where the OCD enters the picture!
I think I am probably the only shopper that walks the store with a clipboard in hand and preprinted shopping list clipped to it. But this is what gets me through the store quickly, efficiently and without spending too much money – because even though I am a tightwad, I can spend money when the mood hits me. Here is a close-up of one section:

I use black and red to indicate ALDI (black) and Festival (red). I circle what I need, and then when I put it in the cart, I cross it off. If I were really anal about this, I would create a spreadsheet listing a par level (the amount needed on hand at all time) and a current inventory count, which would populate a shopping list automatically. I learned inventory control and ordering at several of my earlier jobs. But I think a clipboard is OCD enough, don’t you?

If you want to make one for yourself, they are easy. I broke mine into basic categories of food, and then got specific within each category. Everyone’s list will be different, and mine has been refined over the past several years.

So. Sit down and plan a menu. Be specific. Indicate exactly what you are making, as well as the sides that will accompany each meal. If the recipes are in a cookbook, indicate the page and book on your list so you can easily find it when you are ready to cook. And use a shopping list, buying ONLY what you need that week. Use coupons if possible (ALDI doesn’t accept them) but only clip the coupons AFTER you have created your list. Buying something just because it is on sale is not a good way of being financially responsible. And then shop, but only after you have eaten. Never shop when you are hungry.

And speaking of hungry, see the next post for last night’s meal.