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7/18/2014

Veganism is bigger now than ever. With many upset over the controversial practices in factory farms, as well as general shifts in lifestyle choices, people are switching to plant-based diets by the numbers. According to the Vegetarian Resource Group's 2011 Poll, 2.5 percent of the United States is vegan. 

While the benefits of veganism are significant, making the dietary shift is daunting for most people. However, since over eight million Americans are vegan, there are excellent resources available. Some of the handiest resources are vegan-focused food blogs. With relatable personal stories, helpful tips, and arsenals of easy recipes, here are some of the most inspirational and useful vegan blogs on the Internet today.

Vegan Pizza
Photo by Flickr/SweetonVeg

1. Post Punk Kitchen

Post Punk Kitchen began as a self-produced T.V. show. Although only six shows ever aired, PPK creator, Isa Chandra Moskowitz now blogs about her vegan recipes. She has a quirky voice and tons of drool-worthy recipes. The blog is laid out quite well with user-friendly recipe categories, main ingredients, and even links to helpful vegan websites.

Isa's recipes are easy-to-follow and would likely make any meat-eater salivate. Creations like Breakfast nachos made with a cashew cheese sauce and avocado salsa show off her ability to turn a traditionally meat and cheese-laden dish vegan. Another recipe that'd satisfy a new vegan is her Buffalo Chickpea Pitas with Ranch.

Whether you're into Thai, Italian, Mexican, or American cuisine, Isa has tons of delicious recipes that you'll want to make. There's also a forum on her site too, where fellow vegans share stories on making the lifestyle change, creating recipes, and learning about new trends in the vegan world.

2. Happy Herbivore

The Happy Herbivore is especially valuable for new vegans since its creator shares her journey to becoming vegan and provides amazing additional resources like weekly meal plans and an extensive vegan Q&A fact sheet. From locating hard-to-find vegan ingredients to properly saving leftovers, Lindsay answers over 100 questions that any new vegan will have.

Lindsay isn't only concerned with eating vegan, though. She's focused on maintaining a low-fat diet too. All of her recipes are made without oil and added fats and she strives to cook with low salt content too. With low-fat vegan recipes like Cajun Chickpea Cakes, Black Bean Brownies, and Butternut Squash Soup, she provides endless ideas on simple, good-for-you vegan food.

3. The Vegan Woman

The Vegan Woman (TVW) is an all-inclusive website for recipes, gardening practices, vegan-designed gym work-outs, and even vegan-approved hygiene routines. The site truly encompasses every aspect of the lifestyle. As a new vegan, this should be your go-to guide for just about everything vegan.

The site is aesthetically appealing too. You won't have any trouble finding the tips and tools you need since it's divided up with categories like "Vegan Family," Vegan Gal," "Home and Gardening," "Food and Recipes," and "Mind and Body." With articles on everything from picking the right toothpaste to cooking vegan for your newborn, you'll find a wealth of vegan information.

Similar to TVW, Vice is another awesome site with a library of articles for vegans. Like TVW, Vice CEO Shane Smith ensures that every article on the "Munchies" section is relevant to its readers. A great example is this article about vegetarian children.

4. The Vegan Stoner

The Vegan Stoner is a uniquely funny blog for vegans. It's the blog you should turn to when everything else seems just too serious. Recipes are at the forefront and come in a fun, easy-to-read format. Under every recipe you'll spot one beautifully composed close-up of the dish and then, you'll spot what makes the blog unique. There are children's book-style cartoon pictures of every ingredient you'll need for each recipe.

While the blog has lots of character, it's also quite practical for the new vegan. The recipes are simple. You won't have to know much about cooking to prepare dishes like Pineapple Pizza, Bell Pepper Gnocchi, and Coconut Pot Pie. Every recipe has less than 10 ingredients and less than 10 steps. The last step is always, "Munch." Simply put, the blog is easy, friendly, and downright irresistible.

5. Fat Free Vegan Kitchen

Fat Free Vegan Kitchen comes to you with a delightful index of appetizers, condiments, desserts, sandwiches, breads, and so much more. Author Susan Voison has been vegan for over 10 years so needless to say, she really knows her stuff. However, with that said, her blog features a number of simple recipes for the brand-new vegan. 

Susan offers great "replacement" recipes for those non-vegan foods you'll probably still crave. Cheesy Cauliflower Sauce, Vegan Mushroom Gravy, Bean Breakfast Sausage Patties, and Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake are just some of the delicious creations you can find on her blog.

Fat Free Vegan Kitchen offers readers a "Recipe Box," which allows one to register with the blog and add their favorite recipes to the box so that they're always easy to find. Susan also includes how-to tips for the transitioning vegans like how to store food and how to make homemade tofu.

6. C'est La Vegan

Owned by a professional baker and bakery owner, C'est La Vegan is a delightful sweet ending to any "Best of" blog list. Kim shares incredibly decadent desserts in the form of cake, candy, cookies, and truffles. While she includes many savory creations on her blog, the dessert recipes definitely steal the show. 

Kim is relatable for new vegans because she's honest about her recipe mistakes. She always explains how she'd do the recipe differently. She also borrows recipe ideas from other sources and clearly explains how she's modified them for vegan consumption. Her videos are worth watching too. She is thorough and explains ingredient choices in terms of nutrition, price, and simplicity. 

Maybe you're going vegan for health reasons or perhaps, you've had enough with the meat industry. Regardless of your motivation, you're certainly going to feel better. Yet, going vegan isn't a cakewalk. It takes self-control, patience, and knowledge to transition. Luckily, these blogs and many more will help you along the way.


Miles YoungMiles Young is a freelance writer, designer and outdoorsman. He’s worked as a roof contractor and part-time engine mechanic. He spends his free time fishing and tinkering in his garage. You can follow him on Twitter @MrMilesYoung.



7/1/2014

We all know it's true: the Earth simply can't keep up with us. We waste and continue to produce, stripping the natural resources and filling dumps with manmade garbage. What can we do about it?

Well, there are several app designers looking for better solutions that fit into our everyday lives. Free and ready to help you conserve, these green apps make your phone the perfect environmental sidekick (though, you might have to get more data to check out all the great ideas here).

Green Apps
Photo by Fotolia/micromonkey

PaperKarma: Reduce Paper Waste

Junk mail is the commercial ads, letters, and flyers no one wants, yet it continues to flow through our mailboxes at a rate of three million tons each year. That's a lot of wasted trees that go straight to our dumps or recycling centers, often without ever being opened or given a second glance. PaperKarma is an app designed to stop that unwanted paper spam. Simply snap a photo of the unwanted mail and PaperKarma contacts the company to remove you from its distribution list.

Getaround: Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Living in the city means less of a need for a daily vehicle. Where will you park, and how much do you really want to spend on gas? Getaround is the genius app that connects people who own cars to those who want to rent one. Rather than rent a car from a car company, you can simply rent a car from an owner who isn't currently using theirs. Search for the perfect car, set your schedule, unlock the car with your iPhone, and manage your trip—all with the Getaround app. Of course, this works both ways; register your car and earn money renting it out when it would otherwise be sitting idle.

GetAround

DU Battery Saver: Save Your Battery

You might see this app as a way to keep your phone from dying on you, but the environment will experience this app's ability to conserve energy. DU Battery Saver is designed to cleverly manage your phone and figure out how to save your battery's life. It'll protect you against battery-hogging apps, overlooked energy-wasting settings, and weak charging. This will cut down on your need to charge frequently and, in turn, will help cut down on the energy you use each month.

Locavore: Eat Local

Grocery stores waste money and fuel importing their foods from across the country. However, seasonal fruits and vegetables are often grown right in the community, and this app is designed to connect you to them. Locavore is dedicated to connecting those who want to source their food locally to nearby farmers and farmers markets. This boosts local business and allows you to eat freshly grown produce from your area.

Locavore

GoodGuide: Set Higher Shopping Standards

When you go to the store, what are you actually buying? GoodGuide makes it easy to see how a product measures up. Simply scan the bar code and check out the ratings. You'll have access to health standards, environmental production/material standards, and more from a product database of over 120,000 products. Know what kind of food, personal care, and household products you're buying—GoodGuide checks out everything from lipstick to pet food.

Good Guide

Rippl: Get Motivated

It's easy to download an app only to never look at it again. What about an app that gives you tips and reminders, helping you set goals and accomplish small tasks to help you save the planet? Rippl isn't designed to provide novel ideas; just simple and practical solutions that you can apply in your day to make a difference for the planet. You might have already considered these weekly tips before, but Rippl will remind you to use a drying rack for your clothes instead of your dryer, helping you keep track of how you're doing.

Rippl

Of course, these apps can only go so far in helping you live a successfully green life. Each of us has to commit to being part of the solution and stop being part of the problem. Reduce, reuse, recycle, and buy better—together we can really make a difference.


Miles YoungMiles Young is a freelance writer, designer and outdoorsman. He’s worked as a roof contractor and part-time engine mechanic. He spends his free time fishing and tinkering in his garage. You can follow him on Twitter @MrMilesYoung.



6/18/2014

Work can cause a lot of stress. We all know it, and it's something we all live with. But, we have the option of creating more manageable working conditions for ourselves. From keeping a consistent amount of energy through the day to making time to relax, there's plenty you can do to reduce stress at work. 

Reduce Stress at Work
Photo by Fotolia/nyul

1. Prevent Stress Early

Start your day right. Wake up with natural light if you can. Try to get as much outdoor time in as you can before you start work. Taking a walk can help clear your mind and prepare you for the day. If you're lucky enough to live a reasonable walking distance from work, start walking or cycling to work. The movement will get your blood flow and metabolism going, increasing your energy throughout the day.

2. Caffeine Alternatives

Lots of people love their coffee as a way to wake up in the morning. Coffee activates the brain's adrenal glands, however, this makes you more susceptible to stress. If you really need that energy boost, try one of the many alternatives available. These work great for many high stress situations which require lots of energy. For example, Maryville nursing school students have been known to try alternatives like ginseng tea or apple slices to get a healthier boost of energy while working.

Panax ginseng, gingko biloba, green tea, maca, mate, chai and ashwagandha can all give you an energy and blood flow boost without putting you into overdrive. You may also find drinks with some of these ingredients and a small amount of caffeine, which can offer the perfect solution for people who want a different source of energy but don't want to cut off caffeine completely.

3. Eat Well

Eating well before work and during your lunch break can have a huge impact on how you feel throughout the day, making it another great way to feel better at work. Make sure you eat a nutritious meal without too much sugar or heavy fats weighing you down. Some studies suggest this can bring about better decision-making while at work as well.

In addition to eating well, drink lots of water to stay hydrated throughout the day. It's even a good idea to drink water first before you head for a caffeinated or caffeine-alternative beverage, just to make sure water can't solve your problem first (which it often can).

4. Use Relaxation Techniques

You can use a few different methods to relax at work, but most involve some sort of meditation. Probably the most effective of all is to simply stop and breathe for a minute. Deep breathing meditation can change your whole mood. You can try putting your hands on your chest and stomach to help feel your breath and calm you down.

You can also try mindfulness meditation, where you try to simply just be in the moment. This requires a distraction-free environment, though, which you may not have access to during your work hours. If you do, you should use it any time you feel overwhelmed. Make sure you're in a comfortable position and focus on observing. Even at work, this technique can quite powerfully transform your day.

5. Manage Work Time Effectively

Time management can greatly improve your work time. Do you have flexibility about when you take your lunch? Experiment with different times and see how each makes you feel. Do you have to work in the same spot every day? If you have any choice on that end, try working in different spots on different days or during different times to give yourself a break from the same setting. Also, try to find something you enjoy doing at work. It's alright to take 5 minutes to read or do something you enjoy if you need to give your mind a rest.

Work doesn't have to feel like a complete grind every single day. Sure, you should try your best and put in your energy, but you don't want your occupation to suck the life from you. Take some time out for yourself and feel good while you work.


Miles YoungMiles Young is a freelance writer, designer and outdoorsman. He’s worked as a roof contractor and part-time engine mechanic. He spends his free time fishing and tinkering in his garage. You can follow him on Twitter @MrMilesYoung.



6/2/2014

First select a suitable space for your daily meditation. It can be wherever you can sit easily with minimal disturbance: a corner of your bedroom or any other quiet spot in your home. Place a meditation cushion or chair there for your use. The priority here is to sit comfortably. Arrange what is around so that you are reminded of your meditative purpose, so that it feels like a sacred and peaceful space. You may wish to make a simple altar with a flower or sacred image, or place your favorite spiritual books there for a few moments of inspiring reading. Allow yourself to enjoy creating this space.

Then select a regular time for practice that suits your schedule and temperament. If you are a morning person, experiment with sitting before breakfast. If evening fits your temperament or schedule better, try that first. Begin with sitting 10 or 20 minutes at a time. Later you can sit longer or more frequently. Daily meditation can become like bathing or brushing your teeth. It can bring a regular cleansing and calming to your heart and mind.

As you sit, bring your attention to feel the sensations of your breathing. Take a few deep breaths to sense where you can feel the breath most easily, as coolness or tingling in the nostrils or throat, as movement of the chest, or rise and fall of the belly. Then let your breath be soft. Feel the sensations of your natural breathing very carefully, relaxing into each breath as you feel it, noticing how the soft sensations of breathing come and go with the changing breath.

Daily Meditation
Photo by Fotolia/lzf

After a few breaths your mind will probably wander or you may even get sleepy. When you notice this, no matter how long or short a time you have been away, simply come back to the next breath. Before you return, you can mindfully acknowledge where you have gone with a soft word in back of your mind, such as “thinking,” “wandering,” “hearing.” After softly and silently naming to yourself where your mind has been, gently and directly return to feel the next breath. Later on in your meditation you will be able to work with the places your mind wanders to, but for initial training, one word of acknowledgment and a simple return to the breath is best.

As you sit, let the breath change rhythms naturally, allowing it to be short, long, fast, slow, rough, or easy. Calm yourself by relaxing into the breath. When your breath becomes soft, let your attention become gentle and careful, as soft as the breath itself.

Listen to your breath. When we are listening carefully, we can sense new aspects of our breath all the time. At first when we feel the breath, it seems like only one small movement, but as we develop the art of concentration, we can feel a hundred things in the breath: the subtlest sensations, the variations in its length, the temperature, the swirl, the expansion, the contraction, the tingles that come along with it, the echoes of the breath in different parts of our body, and so much more. 

Sticking with a spiritual training requires an ocean of patience because our habit of wanting to be somewhere else is strong. We’ve distracted ourselves from the present for so many moments, for so many years, even lifetimes. Here is an accomplishment in The Guinness Book of World Records that totally lets everyone off the hook when people are feeling frustrated. It indicates that Mrs. Miriam Hargrave of Wakefield, England holds the record for persistence in taking and failing a driving test. Mrs. Hardgrave failed her 39th driving test in April 1970, when she crashed, driving through a set of red lights. In August of the following year she finally passed her 40th test. Unfortunately, she could no longer afford to buy a car because she had spent so much on driving lessons. In the same spirit, Mrs. Fanny Turner of Little Rock, Arkansas, passed her written test for a driver’s license on her 104th attempt in October 1978. If we can bring such persistence to passing a driving test or mastering the art of yoga or skiing or any one of a hundred other endeavors, surely we can also master the art of connecting with ourselves. As human beings we can dedicate ourselves to almost anything, and this heartfelt perseverance and dedication brings spiritual practice alive. 

Always remember that in training a puppy we want to end up with the puppy as our friend. In the same way, we must practice seeing our mind and body as “friend.” Even its wanderings can be included in our meditation with a friendly interest and curiosity. Right away we can notice how it moves. The mind produces waves. Our breath is a wave; the sensations of our body are a wave. We don’t have to fight the waves. Simply acknowledge, “Surf’s up.” “Here’s the wave of memories from three years old.” Then it’s time to reconnect with the wave of the breath. It takes gentleness and a kindhearted understanding to deepen the art of concentration. We can’t be present for a long period without actually softening, dropping into our body, coming to rest. Any other kind of concentration, achieved by force and tension, will only be short-lived. Our task is to train the puppy to become our lifelong friend and at the same time, not taking ourselves so seriously. Meditation is a practice that can teach us to enter each moment with wisdom, lightness, and a sense of humor. It is an art of opening and letting go, rather than accumulation or struggle.


Renee DeTarJ. Renée DeTar earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Wichita State University in communicative disorders and sciences and liberal studies. She is the founder and director of Yoga Teacher Training of the Institute of Interdisciplinary Yoga Studies, a subsidiary of ReneeYoga since 1991. She offers yoga teacher trainings and spiritual events in Kansas City, MO. She has two children, David and Jamie, and lives with her significant other, David Schafer in north central Missouri on a sustainable farm.



5/23/2014

Developing a deep quality of desire and interest in your spiritual practice is one of the keys to the whole art of concentration. Steadiness is nourished by the degree of desire with which we focus our meditation. Yet, to the beginning student, many meditation subjects appear plain and uninteresting. There is a traditional story about a student who complained to his master that following the breath was boring. The master grabbed this student and held his head under water for quite a long time while the student struggled to come up. When he finally let the student up, the master asked him whether he had found breath boring in those moments under water. 

Concentration combines full interest with attention. This attention should not be confused with being removed or detached. Awareness does not mean separating ourselves from experience; it means allowing it and sensing it fully. Awareness can vary like a zoom lens. The focusing of attention on the breath is perhaps the most universal of the many hundreds of meditation subjects used worldwide and I start all of my students here. Steadying attention on the movement of the life breath is central to yoga, to Buddhist and Hindu practices, to Sufi, Christian, and Jewish traditions. While other meditation subjects are also beneficial, and each has its unique qualities, we will continue to elaborate on the practice of breath meditation as an illustration for developing any of these practices.

Breathing Meditation
Photo by Fotolia/jedi-master

Breathing Meditation

Breathing meditation can quiet the mind, open the body, and develop a great power of concentration. The breath is available to us at any time of day and in any circumstance. When we have learned to use it, the breath becomes a support for awareness throughout our life. 

But awareness of breathing does not come right away. At first we must sit quietly, letting our body be relaxed and alert, and simply practice finding the breath in the body. Where do we actually feel it—as coolness in the nose, a tingling in the back of the throat, as a movement in the chest, as a rise and fall of the belly? The place of strongest feeling is the first place to establish our attention. If the breath is apparent in several places, we can feel its whole movement of the body. If the breath is too soft and difficult to find, we can place our palm on our belly and feel the expansion and contraction in our hand. Or if you are on the floor, flip over onto the belly in crocodile pose (hold your elbows, rest your forehead on your arms, legs back and relaxed) so you can feel the diaphragm move with the breath.  It is the most amazing thing to experience one of the few things you actually have control over…your breath …via your vagus nerve, the only cranial nerve that you can willingly control. The breath can become a great teacher because it is always moving and changing. In this simple breathing, we can learn about contraction and resistance, about opening and letting go.  

When you start your initial meditation practice, you will begin to recognize that certain external conditions are particularly helpful in developing concentration. Finding or creating a quiet and un-distracting place is necessary. Select regular and suitable times that best fit your temperament and schedule. You may wish to begin with a short period of inspiring reading before sitting, or do some stretching or yoga before sitting. I find it the easiest after my yoga and breathing practices, as my mind is the most quiet at that time. Experiment with these external factors until you find what works for you. Then make them a regular part of your life.  By creating this space and this time just for you, you are also creating suitable conditions to living wisely, providing the best soil for your spiritual heart to be nourished and to grow. 

As you develop the art of concentration over the weeks and months, you will discover that your concentration will slowly begin to settle by itself. Initially you may struggle to focus, trying to hold on to the object of your meditation. Then gradually the mind and the heart become eased from distractions. You will feel your breath more often and more clearly, or you may recite your prayers or mantra with greater wholeness. This is like beginning to read a book; we will often be interrupted by any distractions around us. But if it is a good book, by the last chapter we will be so absorbed in the plot that people can walk right by us and we will not notice them. In meditation, at first, thoughts carry us away and we think them for a long time. Then, as concentration grows, we remember our breath in the middle of a thought. Later we can notice thoughts just as they arise or allow them to pass in the background, so focused on the breath that we are undisturbed by their movement.


Renee DeTarJ. Renée DeTar earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Wichita State University in communicative disorders and sciences and liberal studies. She is the founder and director of Yoga Teacher Training of the Institute of Interdisciplinary Yoga Studies, a subsidiary of ReneeYoga since 1991. She offers yoga teacher trainings and spiritual events in Kansas City, MO. She has two children, David and Jamie, and lives with her significant other, David Schafer in north central Missouri on a sustainable farm.



5/16/2014

Meditation can be thought of as the art of awakening. Through the mastering of this art we can learn new ways to approach our difficulties and bring wisdom and joy alive in our life. By meditation’s tools and practices, we can awaken the best of our spiritual human capacities. The key to this art is the steadiness of our attention. When the fullness of our attention is cultivated together with a grateful and tender heart, our spiritual life will naturally grow.

Learn to Meditate

Some healing of mind and body must take place for many of us, before we can sit quietly and concentrate. A basic level of attention is needed to begin our healing, to begin understanding ourselves. To deepen our practice further, we must choose a way to develop our attention systematically and give ourselves to it quite fully. To learn to concentrate we must choose a prayer or meditation and choose to practice with commitment and steadiness. This practice instills a willingness to work with our quiet time day after day, no matter what arises. This is not easy. Many people would like their spiritual life to show immediate and cosmic results, much like flipping the remote to a television or changing an app on our phones. But what great art is ever learned quickly? Any deep training and knowingness develops in direct proportion to how much we put into it…. meaning we reap what we sow.

Woman Meditating
Photo by Fotolia/SolisImages

Think about this for a moment. Have you every tried to learn a musical instrument? I have recently picked up my flute again that I used to play in my junior high school days.  How long will it take to play well again?  In my early years, it took months of lessons once a week, practicing every day. I remember struggling to learn which fingers go for which notes and how to read basic lines of music. After some weeks or months, I could play simple tunes, and perhaps after a year or two I could play a chosen type of music. But to master the art, to be a part of the orchestra, I had to give myself to this discipline over and over, time and again. So if we want to learn something fully, to be the master of it, we would have to give ourselves to it wholeheartedly over a long period of time—training, an apprenticeship, a cultivation.

Nothing less is required in the spiritual arts including yoga and meditation. Perhaps even more is asked. Yet through this mastery we master our lives and ourselves. We learn the most human art, how to connect with our truest self. Geshe Michael Roach, author of The Diamond Cutter, calls spiritual practice manual labor. It is a labor of love in which we bring a wholehearted attention to our own situation over and over again. In all sorts of weather, we steady and deepen our prayer, meditation, and discipline, learning how to see with honesty and compassion, how to let go, how to love more deeply. 

Whether a practice calls for visualization, question, prayer, sacred words, or simple meditation on feelings or breath, it always involves the steadying and conscious return, again and again, to some focus. As we learn to do this with a deeper and fuller attention, it is like learning to steady a boat in waters that have waves. Repeating our meditation, we relax and sink into the moment, deeply connecting with what is present. We let ourselves settle into a spiritual ground; we train ourselves to come back to this moment.  This is a patient process. St. Francis de Sales said, “What we need is a cup of understanding, a barrel of love, and an ocean of patience.” 

For some, this task of coming back a thousand or ten thousand times in meditation may seem boring or even of questionable importance. But how many times have we gone away from the reality of our life? —Perhaps a million times! If we wish to awaken, we have to find our way back here with our full being, our full attention.

St. Francis de Sales also said: “Bring yourself back to the point quite gently. And even if you do nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your heart back a thousand times, though it went away every time you brought it back, your hour would be very well employed.” 

In this way, meditation is very much like training a new puppy. It takes awhile, with several attempts, to use the hand signal of down and say, “Stay” for the puppy to understand what to do. Does the puppy listen all the time? It gets up and runs away. You sit the puppy back down again. “Stay.” And the puppy runs away over and over again. Sometimes the puppy jumps up, runs over, and pees in the corner or makes some other mess. Our minds are much the same as the puppy, only they create even bigger messes. In training the mind, or the puppy, we have to start over and over again. When you undertake a spiritual discipline, frustration comes with the territory. Nothing in our culture or our schooling has taught us to steady and calm our attention. One psychologist has called us a society of attention spastics. Finding it difficult to concentrate, many people respond by forcing their attention on their breath or mantra or prayer with tense irritation and self-judgment. Is this the way you would train a puppy? Does it really help to beat it? Concentration is never a matter of force or coercion. You simply pick up the puppy again and return to reconnect with the here and now.

Check back next week for more on the art of meditation.


Renee DeTarJ. Renée DeTar earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Wichita State University in communicative disorders and sciences and liberal studies. She is the founder and director of Yoga Teacher Training of the Institute of Interdisciplinary Yoga Studies, a subsidiary of ReneeYoga since 1991. She offers yoga teacher trainings and spiritual events in Kansas City, MO. She has two children, David and Jamie, and lives with her significant other, David Schafer in north central Missouri on a sustainable farm.



4/30/2014

This past weekend a friend and I were chatting about living on a budget. Both of us are trying it in earnest for the first time. We were commiserating about the difficulties of reducing our food costs, especially when shopping for healthy, fresh and unprocessed foods. Not to mention, we both have families of four with two small boys. A fact that makes reducing our food costs a necessity. The question then was, is it possible to eat healthy, organic, real food on a budget?

Grocery Shopping
Photo by Fotolia/Goran Bogicevic

Food Budgeting

It is commonly recommended that your food bill equal no more than 5 to 15 percent of your total budget. Before I started paying attention and making an effort to reduce my family’s food costs, we were spending more on food than on our mortgage. I obviously had a lot of room for improvement.

According to the USDA the average family of four is spending between $544 and $1235 per month for food eaten at home. They break it down into 4 plans: thrifty, low-cost, moderate, and liberal. We were in spending beyond the liberal plan and looking to move to a low-cost or moderate food budget. That gives us a budget of about $800 per month.

After some trial and error (and actually looking at my receipts after shopping), I discovered that our most expensive items were meat, condiments, juices and deserts—organic or not. Eliminating some or all of these items has cut our grocery bill in half.

To reduce your food costs, here are some helpful tips that are working for my family. Using these, we have found that healthy, organic foods can still be affordable and keep us on budget.

Tips to Eat Healthy on a Budget

1. Keep a list. On your refrigerator write down items you use most often as they run out so you aren't guessing when you get to the store.

2. Create a simple weekly menu. I have had success searching the internet for recipes with minimal ingredients. 5-10 ingredients seem to be the magic number for cost savings while also saving you time in the kitchen.

3. Grocery shop only once a week. I have found that reducing my trips to the grocery store to one time per week reduces impulse buying that can add frivolous items your food costs. If I run out of something I ask myself – do I really need this now, or, can it wait until next week?

4. Create a shopping list. When shopping at the grocery store, purchase only the items on the list.

5. Eat vegetarian a couple times a week. Meat, poultry, and fish are big ticket items. Eating vegetarian meals even 2-3 times a week will make a big impact on your food bills—in the right direction.

6. Shop for the season. Purchase foods when they are in season, especially produce. Prices skyrocket for off-season foods.

7. Buy fresh herbs and freeze or dry the excess. Chop up soft herbs such as cilantro or basil. Place them in a glass jar and freeze. Or dry your herbs on a cooling rack with parchment paper underneath. I almost never use an entire box of fresh herbs for one recipe so this method is a money saver.

8. Avoid boxed cereals. Compare the per-weight price of any packaged, processed cereal to that of quick rolled oats, and you'll see how much the boxes mark things up. There are lots of delicious ways to eat plain oatmeal, and it takes only 3-4 minutes to prepare.

9. Avoid buying prepackaged meals. These shortcuts do not really save you time, and, pound for pound, they cost far more. If you are in a rush, pick up a roasted chicken instead.

10. Skip the beverage aisle. Buy milk or 100% fruit juice if you need it (we typically stick with orange and apple), but remember water quenches thirst just as well. You can squeeze in a slice of lemon if flavor is what you crave. We keep refillable glass bottles of tap water in the fridge for a cool refresher.

11. Skip dessert. Sweets are essentially an indulgent grocery item and add to your grocery bill (and your waistline) quickly. But who doesn't like to indulge once in a while? So go ahead, but try keeping desserts to one night a week. (Your kids' pediatrician will thank you). Make your own desserts to save on costs.

If you are willing to trade more of your time to reduce food costs and improve quality, you can also look into bulk group buys, or, improving your cooking skills to be able make most of your food from scratch.


Christina SelbyChristina Selby is a writer, blogger, environmental educator, and mom. She lives on two acres of tumbleweed-ridden land in Santa Fe, NM into which she is constantly trying to breathe life. On her blog, Tumbleweeds and Seeds she shares tips and ideas to help readers live simply and sustainably—freeing up time and resources to follow your dreams and make a difference in the world. Visit her blog at Tumbleweeds And Seeds.





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