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budgeting, lunch, snacks

Planning ahead: In life and meals

I often say that a person’s best quality usually has a reverse, which is their worst quality. I feel this way about my own ability to plan ahead.

On the one hand, planning ahead has helped me accomplish a lot. I finished college, grad school, more grad school, got a rewarding job, an apartment in a city I love. For an achievement-junkie like myself, these things were very important to me.

However, my inclination towards planning and manifesting can also get me into trouble. I have a hard time going with flow when I have a clear vision of what I want. My therapist calls this “set shifting” or cognitive flexibility. I spend so much time thinking about the future and how to get there, I undervalue the present.

Finding a balance between serenity and ambition has been the great struggle of my 20’s.  Yet both have served me well.

I’m giving this preface because today’s post is all about indulging your inner planner.

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For those of you who work a 9 to 5 (or a 6-3, or a 10-7), you know that preparing a healthy lunch on the regular is easier said the done. Most days it’s all you can manage to grab that $5 sandwich or that $10 salad. But this kind of daily spending adds up to almost $50 a week…before coffee.  Not to mention how hard it is to make healthy choices in a food court.

For all these reasons I like to spend the last few hours of my Sundays on meal preparation for the week ahead. So for today’s post I thought I’d break down that process into a few easy steps…

STEP 1: Cook up some whole grains

Healthy grains are a staple of my monday-friday diet. They keep you satisfied, full and help me stave off that 3pm crash. My favourite is to cook a big pot of short-grain brown rice, then add a little salt, pepper and a hefty scoop of tahini.

STEP 2: Ready the snacks

Everyone has different preferences when it comes to snacking, but some of my favourites right now include:

  • hummus and veggies
  • berries
  • raw cashews or almonds
  • steamed eggs
  • dates stuffed with nut butter

STEP 3: Prepare your protein

When I’m planning for lunches, I always try to add some kind of protein to my meal. Typical suspects include: tofu or tempeh, chickpeas or lentils, grilled chicken or eggs.

STEP 4: Chop, chop chop

Obviously with my vegetable-heavy tendencies, this is an essential component of meal for me. Whether it’s chopping zucchini for salads, carrots for snacks or broccoli for dinner, getting this legwork out of the way will save you time and cleanup all week long. You’ll thank yourself.

STEP 5: Pack it up

This is my favourite part! When you’re all done, the last step is to pack everything into jars or tupperwares so that it’s ready and waiting for you to grab whenever you choose.

And finally…

STEP 6: Leave it in the fridge if you want to

If your coworkers are going out for sushi or you’re really craving a burger, go do that instead and save your perfectly packed lunch until the next day. Because planning ahead doesn’t mean forgoing life, as it happens. 

 

breakfast, budgeting, dinner, lunch

Healthy Meal Planning on a Shoestring Budget

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When I was 5, my family moved to a hippy commune.

It wasn’t creepy newspaper headlines kind of place. More of an organic farm mixed with a yoga retreat and an extended episode of Thirtysomething. A lot of pastel was worn. Moral of the story is: the people who lived at this place (many of whom I consider family to this day) were exceptionally healthy and they managed to be this way on very little money. Wholesome meals were prepared from scratch in a shared kitchen space using simple ingredients. No chia seeds or goji berries in sight, but loads of whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables and farm-raised meat. My parents laugh a little about the move now, seeing it as their “new agey” phase. Still, living with so many inspiring, creative, thrifty, healthy people had a big influence on my life and my approach to well-being.

Which brings me to the topic of this post…healthy meal planning on a budget.

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When I’m strapped for cash one of the first places I cut back is my food expenses.

  1. I start cooking at home 95% of the time.
  2. cut back on fancy health food items that I like to have, but don’t need to have; and
  3. I menu plan. Menu planning makes it so much easier to reduce food waste at home and saves you from surviving off of crappy takeout.

Since I know meal planning isn’t an easy thing for many folks to do, I’ve tried to break it down for you…using a nifty chart.

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
BREAKFAST Toast with peanut butter, sliced bananas and a drizzle of honey Oatmeal with apples, sunflower seeds and cinnamon Toast with poached eggs
LUNCH Kale salad with lentils, carrots and celery Bean and grain bowl Sardine salad and crackers
DINNER Fish with brown rice and salad Chicken, potatoes and kale Roast squash stuffed with tofu scramble
SNACKS Homemade granola barsHard boiled eggs Celery and Carrots with hummus and rice crackers Apple and peanut butter

Why did I choose these meals?

Of course it’s all personal preference and feel free to pick and choose the foods you love, but the meals I’ve chosen for this plan are all healthy, easy to prepare and most importantly…cheap! Eggs, grains, beans, peanut butter and root veggies are staples of a penny-pincher’s diet. When it comes to meat and fish, it’s always good to choose cheaper cuts of meat (bone-in, skin on chicken legs for instance) and fish that’s local to your region. This is just an easy way to put it all together!

Shopping List:

  • Eggs
  • Whole Grain or Gluten Free Bread
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Oats
  • Natural peanut butter
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Kale
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Sardines in tomato sauce
  • Rice crackers
  • Tofu or Tempeh
  • Chicken legs or thighs
  • Local white fish (hake is a great choice)
  • Broccoli
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Onion
  • Squash
  • Potatoes
  • Brown rice
  • Extras: Tahini, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, honey, cinnamon, salt and pepper

Hope you enjoy! Good luck & keep saving those pennies for the things that really matter….Like data overcharges and a new pair of air force 1s. 😉

budgeting, community, gift guide, inspiration

Healthy Hipster Holiday Gift Guide 2012

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It’s no secret that holiday shopping can be stressful no matter who you’re buying for. But when you’re hunting for hipster-friendly fare this process can become downright panic-attack-inducing…

“They already judge me so harshly,” you will cry. “Will they be able to mask their disdain if I buy them something lame?”

And I hate to be the one to tell you this, but the answer is no.

Upon receiving that edition of Sh&% Girls Say: The Book or that package of magnetic poetry or that Instagram-Filter-Shaped Picture Frame you found at urban outfitters and thought was SO THEM, they will be absolutely incapable of acting like a normal grateful human being. They will say or do something douchey. Guaranteed.

So…in order to avoid such catastrophic Christmas mornings….To give both you and your Ativan a break…Here goes my list of suggestions for the Healthy Hipster in your life.

Unique & Non-Lame Gift Ideas for the Hip and Healthy Urbanite

Things in a stocking

Wool Socks
Loose Leaf Tea & a Bodum Mug

Bottlehook Key Chain

DIY Things

Stamps and Ink
Yarn and Knitting Needles
Cross Stitch Patterns

Tasty Things

High percentage dark chocolate
Whole nuts with a metal cracker
Preserves (check your local farmers market!)

Things they can wear

Moccasins
Black North Face Fleece
Geometric Jewellery

Tshirts or other swag from local businesses in their neighborhood (check out bars/restaurants/coffee shops/libraries)

Things you can make for cheap (and probably put in a mason jar!)

DIY Terrarium Gift Kit



Homemade Granola

Whipped Coconut Body Butter

Hope you enjoy the tips, pals!
Any additions? What’s on your list this year?

budgeting, cities, dinner, restaurants, reviews

TRENDING: Singapore Streetfood at Hawker Bar

If you live in the west end of Toronto and have a pulse you’ve  probably heard some kind of buzz about Hawker Bar, a new addition to the Ossington strip where you can pull up a salvaged wood stool and enjoy Singapore-style street food at reasonable prices while listening to Little Dragon. I know, I know. I had you at salvaged wood.

We chose to order a bunch of things off the menu and share but I was pleasantly suprised that all the portions were a perfectly reasonable size, so you could also opt for a single $12 dish and be totally satisfied.

As we took our sweet time deciding on the perfect order our server offered us some complimentary ginger tea. They’re still working out their liquor licence so it’s all mocktails and tea for the moment, but this didn’t bother me or my date one bit. I mean…cocktails don’t come in teacups this cute.

After a verbal tennis match of possible sharing combinations me and my ladyfriend decided on the vegan laksa, 2 sides of soy broccoli & the sea bream special (who doesn’t love a whole fish on a plate?).

The laksa was pitch perfect in my books, filled with rice noodles, veggies & puffed tofu flavoured with a rich coconut cream (not too much coriander) and enough spice to break an early evening sweat. The sea bream, however, was what really shone for me. It was flaky and tender inside with crispy skin and paired perfectly with the delicious sweet soy sauce that accompanied it. I also asked for a side of sriracha and was pleasantly suprised with a homemade garlic chili sauce that should really come standard with the dish.

I must admit that unlike some of the Toronto foodie hotspots popping up in Roncesvalles lately (which seem to me to be 70% hype 20% inflated prices & 10% hollandaise) this spot actually lived up. Definitely worth checking out during this brief but precious interrum after the peak of Ossington strip fever but before the Queen West Gentrification/Condo Monster has fully taken hold. Get it while you can.

budgeting, fashion

Wednesday à la Mode: Fashion Forward Accessorizing

It is an absolutely glorious day here in Toronto. The sun is shining and it’s so warm that I am not only thinking about spring…but summer. Remember summer? That season with the bikes and the babes and the babes on bikes? I’m definitely getting ahead of myself. But what better day than today to dedicate an entire post to one of my favourite topics to think/dream/obsess/yammer on about…FASHION.

My style is effortless and eclectic and I strive to create outfits that are expressive and a little unexpected. When it comes to shopping I love to stay up on the latest designers, brands, lines and stores but my budget certainly doesn’t allow me to hog wild at Acne or Jonathan and Olivia? Hells to the no. So true to Healthy Hipster form I’m going to offer up some friendly advice for how I stay fashion forward without resorting to my evil credit card thee-who-shall-not-be-named.

Today’s Budget-Friendly Fashion Tip?

Shop the trend…but only in the accessories aisle.

Nobody likes a trendwhore…but a girl’s gotta get her fix now and then. I do it by closely monitoring my trend intake and indulging in moderation. Accessories are much cheaper than a whole new outfit, not to mention smaller (less wasted closet space) and more tasteful. And as an added bonus trends tend to be cyclical…so yesterday’s boho feather earrings or mod studs can be repurposed as today’s aztec revival and colour blocking. Trust.

Here are a few of my suggestions for ways to shop some of the hottest spring trends without buying a single piece of clothing…

Shop the Trend: Accessories

CUTOUTS & MESH: Leggings
$16 – forever21.com

TYE DYE: Tights
$20 – topshop.com

NEON: Ankle Socks
$6 – topshop.com

AZTEC: Clutch
$27 – forever21.com

CHEVRON: Knuckle Ring
$6.80 – forever21.com

GEOMETRIC: Necklace
$7.80 – forever21.com

90s REVIVAL: Turban
$3.80 – forever21.com


Would you rather avoid trends altogether or do you love to freshen up your wardrobe with quirky new items?
Wanna see more fashion posts like this one in the future? Let me know!

budgeting, fitness, get strong on the cheap

Finding Stability: At-Home Yoga/Strength Fusion Workout

This was just one of those weeks for me where everything felt like it was in upheaval. I’ve been apartment hunting, job hunting (I love what I do but am searching for something more permanent and stable), spring cleaning and even re-evaluating friendships. My family members, though loving and endlessly supportive, are each facing their own set of transitions right now, which leaves me without that “home base” feeling that others rely on in times of change. In other words life, as of late, has lacked any semblance of stability.

Oh and then I cut off all my hair…. 

Ignore my pouty expression, I actually love it. 🙂

In times like these, developing my physical strength, flexibility and balance reminds me that these are qualities I inherently possess and I can trust that (with a little patience) my life will manifest them as well.

So today I am sharing a stability-promoting, at-home, equipment-free, totally empowering and energizing Yoga/Strength Circuit Workout. It takes around 20 minutes and is structured in a pyramid, “superset” format.

  • Pyramid because you work your muscles hardest in the middle but begin and end with lower impact yoga postures
  • Supersets because you complete two excersizes in the same muscle group back to back with no rest between.
  • Fusion because each superset is made up of one yoga-inspired move and 1 strength-inspired move

If you require instruction on any of the exercises I mention here are some useful links:

Basic Sun Salutation
PlankBicycle Crunches
Side Plank
Warrior 2
Lunges
Donkey Kicks
Bridge 

Do you find comfort in physical activity when life leaves you reeling?
What are some of the most “empowering” yoga poses or strength training exercises you do? 

budgeting, dinner, EAT MORE, recipes

Wholesome Pancake Wednesday: Savoury Blinis

I apologize for being a little late for Pancake Tuesday but since I’m not much for Lent maybe you can forgive me? In return I’m giving you a totally guilt-free (not to mention allergy-free) recipe for savoury pancakes that you can enjoy on Pancake Tuesday and then every day after that since they are free of animal products, fat, sugar and pretty much anything else you might want to give up! As for me, I’ll be enjoying these with a big slather of earth balance, a side of caramelized onions & some freshly smoked salmon…plus a few squares bar of dark chocolate for dessert. To each their own. 🙂

If you’ve never had a traditional blini the concept of a savoury buckwheat pancake might sound a little strange. But when you think of it as chewy, warm, fresh cooked pan bread…things start to sound a whole lot more delicious. I even managed to sneak some extra veggies into this recipe too…cause I just couldn’t help myself.

So go ahead…try something new for dinner this week! Who knows? You might just want to eat them for 40 days straight…

Savoury Blini Pancakes
(Vegan & Gluten-Free)

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp buckwheat flour, ground fresh from buckwheat groats for a lighter flavour
  • 1 tbsp coconut flour
  • 1 tbsp ground flax
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup mashed cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp seasoned sea salt like herbamare
  • 1/2 cup + 2tbsp hot water

Directions

  1. Stir dry ingredients together in a medium sized mixing bowl.
  2. Add water stir until well combined.
  3. Scoop batter using a 1/4 cup measuring cup and fry on a lightly oiled/sprayed griddle or pan for 2-3 minutes/side.

Optional Substitutions:

– if you don’t have coconut flour use extra buckwheat or gluten-free flour
– swap out whatever leftover veggies you have on hand for the cauliflower: mashed potatoes, squash, pumpkin or carrots would probably work well

Check out this post for more information on the nutritional benefits of inexpensive, high protein, whole grain buckwheat…it’s definitely one of my all time favourite grains when prepared correctly. Even more reasons to eat pancakes for dinner! 🙂

budgeting, dinner, recipes

Weekend Meal Prep: Crockpot Chicken Chili Verde

The crockpot doesn’t always get a lot of play on the weekends as it has a reputation of being used exclusively for Monday-Friday (aka. boring) dinners. But I think it’s actually a great idea to prep yourself a simple crockpot meal on a Friday so that you can something wholesome and delicious in the fridge before the busy weekened hits. For me, having food like this prepared at home helps me avoid mindless spending on lunches and dinners so I can save your pennies for the fun stuff like cocktails, movies, galleries, concerts and general weekend fun and/or debauchery.

As an added cost-saving bonus, this was a great way to turn my two organic, free-range, locally sourced and ridiculously expensive chicken breasts into 4 meals rather than two by adding vegetables and protein-rich white beans.

Chicken and White Bean Chili Verde

Ingredients

  • 2 whole skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • 2-3 tbsp flour (unbleached white, spelt or GF rice flour)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 can of tomatillos, mashed very well or quickly run through a food processor
  • 1.5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp chili seasonings (1.5 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp cumin, .5 tsp paprika)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1/2 zucchini, diced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1.5 cups cooked white beans

Directions

  1. Dredge chicken breasts in flour mixed with a little salt and pepper. Add to a slow cooker.
  2. Cover chicken breasts with veggies, beans, seasonings, vegetable broth & crushed tomatillos.
  3. Cook 4-5 hours on high or 7-8 hours on low.
  4. Remove chicken about 30 min- 1 hr from the end of cooking and shred in a bowl using two forks. Return to crockpot.

Yield: 3-4 servings.

Serve with nachos, on brown rice or on a bed of lightly steamed kale. Top with salsa, greek yogurt, hot sauce, fresh cilantro or cheese.

budgeting, recipes

Dickensian Stem & Split Pea Soup

If you’re anything like me by the time Saturday hits your fridge looks pretty bleak. All the showy vegetables like asparagus and bok choy were the first to go,with boring but reliable cruciferous veggies making an appearance mid-week and by Friday you barely made due with a few sprigs of kale some wrinkly mushrooms. Saturday is, in other words, shopping day…Or at least it should be. But I often like to push things just a little bit further by bringing together my two great loves: saving money and making soup.

This soup is downright Dickensian but it is comprised not of vegetable remnants (ie. the last few sprigs of this or that) but the seemingly unusable scraps or…in this case…stems of hearty cruciferous vegetables. These stems, along with the split peas, make for a nice thick soup without the use of a roux or additional potatoes. A perfect meal or snack that will last you all the way through the weekend and maybe even to your Monday lunch hour.

Refrigerator Remnants:
Stem & Split Pea Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped 
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
  • 3 broccoli stems, sliced into discs. Make sure to use only the top 3/4 of the stem and discard the very bottoms as they are too “woody” and won’t blend well. 
  • 1 cauliflower stem, roughly chopped. Avoid leaves and the “base” of the stem but use everything else. 
  • 1 cup dry split peas, rinsed. 
  • 9 cups water (divided)
  • 2 tsp all  natural, low sodium vegetable boullion
  • pinch of turmeric
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional, adds a little depth to the flavour)
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup light coconut milk (optional, replace with more almond milk if you don’t have it on hand)
  • 1/2 tbsp maple syrup/honey/agave
Directions:
  1. Sautee onions and garlic in coconut oil over medium heat until fragrant
  2. Add chopped stems and continue to cook 2-3 minutes until just softened
  3. Add dry, rinsed split peas and coat well with the oil in the pot
  4. Add 6 cups of water and boullion. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer.
  5. Simmer uncovered for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Since much of the liquid will have absorbed, add an additional 3 cups of water and return to a boil. Then continue to simmer on low for an additional 20-30 minutes.
  7. Add almond milk, coconut milk, turmeric, nutritional yeast and sweetener.
  8. Blend.

Serve soup with extra coconut milk on top, chopped chives, smoked nuts or paprika. 

Yields: 4-6 servings. 

Do you save your refrigerator remnants? Or do you have a favourite pauper food? 

breakfast, budgeting, EAT MORE, inspiration, recipes, snacks

Monday Meals.

Hey folks,

Not sure if you were aware of this but today was blue monday which, if you’re not familiar, is otherwise known as the most depressing day of the year! A buncha researchers somewhere apparently decided that today has just the right combination of failed new years resolutions, holiday debt and wintery weather to make today the official worst day ever. Obviously this can only mean one thing…

You made it!

Bring it on 2012, its all uphill from here…. 😉

On that note I’m continuing on with my EAT MORE series by posting my basic meal plan for today, which I’ve pretty much followed to a T except for my standard grazing on cereal, dark chocolate, frozen berries, nuts, etc. But I have definitely stayed true t the ingredients from my Sunday Shopping List. I’m really excited about how much healthy fat I’ve managed to incorporate and with how balanced all my meals and snacks have been.

Monday
Breakfast Chia Oat Bran + Green Smoothie
Lunch Salad with Ezekiel Croutons, Carrot Ginger Tofu Salad & Avocado
Dinner Corn Grits with Chicken & Collard Greens
Snacks Brown Rice Cakes with Peanut Butter and Sliced BananaCarrots & Raw Fennel

Egg Wrap

Chia Pudding (Before Bed)

I can’t tell you how great it felt to make all my meals at home for a change. I swear that between holiday meals, having visitors stay with me and travelling I’ve spent way more time (and money) in restaurants over the last month than I’d like to admit.  It also felt really good to start off the day with a plan and then actually have all the ingredients I needed to follow through with it. So let’s get on to two recipes from this list, shall we?

First up….BREAKFAST

Thick and Chewy Overnight Chia Oat Bran 

Sure it ain’t the prettiest thing I’ve ever eaten, but since you prep this recipe the night before it is fast, delicious and crazy filling. Clearly these factors trump aesthetics when it comes to Monday morning breakfast.

Directions

Stovetop 
1) Mix together about 1/2 cup oat bran with 1 cup almond milk & 1 cup water and cook on medium heat for around 3 minutes. Add 1 heaping tbsp chia seeds. Cook an additional 2 mins.
Microwave
1) Mix together 1/2 cup oat bran, 1 cup almond milk, 1 cup water and 1 heaping tablespoon chia seeds. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Microwave in a LARGE bowl for 3 minutes. Stir vigorously. Microwave for an additional 2-3 minutes. Stir again.
2) Add mix-ins of  your choosing – I like cinnamon, vanilla extract and sweetener (maple syrup/brown sugar/stevia/whatever you like) – pop it in the fridge overnight.
3) Remove from the fridge in the morning and eat it either cold or reheated, covered in more toppings. Strawberries and Peanut Butter for me, please! 

If you’re like me and you want an extra protein boost in the am, you could serve this with a small green protein smoothie for a complete energy packed breakkins.

AND THEN COMES LUNCH…

I love to prep lunch salads like this one a Monday so I can snack on them all week long. They are perfect in salads, sandwiches, wraps or even eaten on-the-go with a pile of crackers. I make endless variations (like my curried lunch salad)  but today I opted for tofu salad.

Carrot & Ginger Tofu Salad
(to be exact)

Ingredients:

½ cup roughly chopped carrots
2 inch piece of fresh ginger (or sub for 1 tsp ginger powder)
1 clove garlic

1 package extra firm tofu
¼ cup nutritional yeast (optional, but tasty!)
2 tsp oil (I used sesame and flax)
1 clove garlic
1 tsp vegetable boullion (this  natural, reduced-sodium variety is what I use)
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sriracha
juice of 1 lime
almond milk (as needed, around 1/4 cup)

Directions:

  1. Process carrots, fresh ginger (if using) and garlic in a food processor. You don’t want them turning into mush, just a few pulses should do. Add tofu, oil, lime juice and seasonings to the processor and pulse to combine.
  2. Add almond milk as needed until the mixture becomes smooth but remains thick.
  3. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.Makes about 4 servings.
And no I am not showing what my final lunch salad actually looked like today. It was actually far too ugly to photograph. But tasty as heck. No complaints here.
Whoof….that was a big post. Time to kick back and catch up on Project Runway All Stars while painting my nails with my favourite new Chanel nail polish (this ridiculous colour). Have a great night! And congrats again for making it through the worst day ever. How do we feel about making tomorrow to FUCHSIA TUESDAY?