Frugal February Challenge -Wrap Up

Last month I tried to only spend $100/week on groceries by using menu planning and price matching.  Overall I spent about $120/week and learned that I am not always very organized. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Trying a lot of new recipes often means spending more money to buy random ingredients.  It also means more time in the kitchen. There were a few things that I wanted to make that I didn’t get to because I am a busy lady.  Bottom line: It’s good to have “go-to” recipes that are easy.
  2. I do better with a plan. It was much easier to shop and cook when I had the right stuff in my kitchen.  I also feel more control over my life when I have a plan and when I prepare food ahead of time. Bottom line: A weekly menu and batch cooking are my friends!
  3. $100/week is not enough money for us. Bottom line: I value eating healthy food and am willing to spend more on it.
  4. Sometimes I make meals out of mama guilt – I want to make sure that my son eats well. and just because I don’t eat pasta much doesn’t mean he shouldn’t.  Anyway, making spaghetti and then having him not eat it because what he really wants is a pb and j sandwich or yogurt and fruit is not helpful. I spend time cooking something he (and I) don’t really want and then I am the one who ends up eating it because I don’t want to waste it.  Bottom line: Two year olds are hard to predict – just because he eats something at daycare doesn’t mean he will eat it at home.  I can’t cook multiple meals so I will make what I like and he can take it or leave it. Feeding him PB & J and yogurt, etc. doesn’t make me a lazy or bad parent.

Health & Privilege

Here I am trucking along on my first outdoor run since baby and every km or so there are spray-painted messages on the path.  “Dream for the joy of dreaming,” and more striking, “What do we do with our privilege?”   This one really caught my attention.  Who’s “we”?  North Americans?  Londoners?  Certainly they are not referring specifically to the people in my neighborhood.  Or are they?

Despite the fact that people often hesitate when I tell them what part of the city I live in, I feel  very lucky to live here.  My rent is more than reasonable, the rooms are enormous, we have a community garden during the warm seasons, and it is a community full of diverse people from around the world.  Maybe it’s not so pretty on the outside and the hallways are kind of dingy, but seriously, do I live in the hallway?

Back to the idea of privilege, I think that we take for granted many of the good things in our lives.  Friends and family that love and support us, food in our bellies, a roof over our heads…the list goes on.  Even having a car is something that so many of us take for granted.  As someone who takes public transit or walks, I can definitely appreciate the problems this can cause for people, in part due to society’s general expectations that everyone has a car.  While I have the luxury of choosing not to have a car, many people don’t have that choice.  If you live in most of Nova Scotia, for example, there is no public transportation or if there is, the service is terrible.  Unless you are lucky to be able to walk everywhere you need to go, you are out of luck.

I started thinking about other ways in which we take things for granted.  In regards to health and fitness, it is easy to blame individuals for not making healthy “choices” but there are so many other things that affect someone’s ability to be healthy.  Money, education, intelligence, social support…and the list goes on.  Ever seen someone working out at the gym in jeans?   If you’ve been active your whole life, this seems ridiculous, but maybe they just have no idea what to do or how to do it.  Maybe they need a high five for getting started.  It takes courage to start something when you don’t know what you’re doing!

So I ask myself, with my privilege, what can I do to help others and how can I make things better?  Well for starters, I hope that my blog can pass along some knowledge and inspiration…that I can show one way to live a healthy lifestyle by being creative and resourceful.  My way is not perfect by any means, and it is ever-changing and evolving.   I’d like to pass along some findings from scientific studies more often too – something for me to work on this year J   Most of all, what I want to do with my privilege is to become a nursing professor involved in research and teaching – I want to be in a position where I can make an impact on Canada’s healthcare system and the health of nurses and patients.

The question I leave you with today is what are you going to do with your privilege?

~Live Inspired~!




Simple ways to Kick-start your Metabolism This Morning


What we refer to as your metabolism simply = the grand total of all the chemical reactions going on in your body.  Using more energy can contribute to maintaining a healthy weight and losing extra body fat, so start your engines!

1. Start your morning with a mini yoga session. 

Even if you don’t consider yourself very flexible or a dedicated yogi, a few simple poses in the morning help get your blood flowing to your muscles.  Deep breathing, relaxation, and approaching the day with a positive attitude also help you stay grounded through the busiest of days.

2. Green Tea. 

This powerhouse tea is full of antioxidants that help keep your cells young.  Caffeine also boosts your metabolic rate and gives you a little kick to get going.  For optimal benefits, hit your local tea shop and sample a few different types until you find one you really enjoy.  Loose teas are also more potent, better quality, and less wasteful than boxed tea in the grocery store.

3. Spice up your breakfast. 

Although I don’t recommend putting salsa on your oatmeal, it is the perfect condiment for a high protein omelette or some scrambled tofu.  Spicy food increases our metabolic rate, not to mention that cooked tomatoes are filled with antioxidants that help fight aging and heart disease.  What’s not to love?!

4. Walk around the block. 

You don’t have to go far to get the benefits of an early morning walk.  Before breakfast, throw on some clothes and hit the street.  It’s amazing how different the world can seem in the early hours of the day, before the traffic and the heat of the day.  Take this time to breathe deeply and simply enjoy being able to go for a walk.  There are many people who do not have the physical strength or ability to do even that so don’t take it for granted.

5. Calisthenics. 

We’ve come a long way since the days of Jane Fonda home workout LPs but don’t underestimate the power of the pushup!  Simple body weight exercises can be done first thing in the morning to get your muscles working.  Keep it simple with squats, lunges, pushups, and situps, or amp it up with some burpees, pistols, and T-pushups.  Whatever your fitness level, 10 minutes of calisthenics in the morning will get you going!

What are you waiting for!?  Get going!  Embrace this beautiful day!

~Live Inspired~!


Random Acts of Fitness

There’s nothing wrong with following a deliberate and purposeful training plan to achieve a fitness goal but sometimes Random Acts of Fitness (RAFs) are much more fun!   From random bouts of pushups throughout the day to running a marathon in a Hawaiian shirt while visiting Australia,  bring more joy to your life through movement.  

The best:

  1. Be safe.  A back flip off a picnic table may be impressive but it could also end poorly.  RAFs as a rule should not put your life at risk (obviously) and be reasonable for your current level of fitness.
  2.  Involve others.  We are social animals so why not challenge your pal to a friendly match of pickup basketball or go to the park to have a chin up contest? 
  3. Be prepared to break into a run at any time.  Back in the day, wild humans ran here and there all the time.  Some still do, though arguably not so much in North America where most people would rather drive than risk sweating in their dry-clean-only suits or trendy dresses.   Understandably it may not be practical to start running randomly but you can stash a gym bag in your car and change first.  It’s nice to always have the option of working out on your lunch break or meeting a friend for a game of squash after that 4pm meeting.
  4. Create an adventure.  Explore the backyard, go to the park, visit a local trail.  Chances are there is something really cool right in your own neighborhood.  Pack a lunch, hop on your bike, and go where your pedals take you. 
  5.  Sign up on race day.  On a day that you have no plans, see what’s going on the night before and sign up for an event that you like to do.  Make sure it’s something that you have the ability and gear for.  For instance, you don’t want to enter a surf lifesaving competition if you don’t even know what a rescue board is and a marathon won’t be much fun if you can’t even walk around the block without dying. 
  6. Make it up.  Every sport was invented by someone so why not make up your own game?  You don’t need a lot of equipment and you can create the rules as you go, though “No head shots” is probably a good place to start ;).  From “Killball” with dodgeballs and ice cream buckets to “Noodle Hockey” with pool noodles and frisbees, you never know what you’ll come up with!
  7. Embrace your inner child.  Remember the joy and the freedom of playing.  We are meant to run and move, not just sit there!  Feel the sunshine on your face and the wind messing up your hair.  Play more.  Forget about obsessin over breaking records and looking like the photoshopped people on magazine covers – love what you’re doing!   Ironically, the more you love what you are doing, the more likely you are to maximize your athletic potential and get the body of your dreams anyway. 
  8. Learn something new.  Maybe you love playing tennis or are a super fantastic triathlete but you just don’t know it yet ;).   It’s never too late to try a new activity.   It may seem kind of random to take ski lessons when you’re 60 or learn to swim in your 20s, but you just might have a knack for it! 

~Live Inspired~!


Top 8 Cinco de Mayo Survival Tips

If you love Mexican food, Cinco de Mayo may be one of your favorite holidays!   Although some may use it as an excuse to down margaritas by the pitcher and gorge on Taco Bell, you can still enjoy delicious Mexican fare without going overboard.  Here are some tips that might help you enjoy your festivities and still fit into your pants tomorrow:

  1. Hit the gym or do some sprints before dinner – your body will put some of your meal into your muscles rather than on your hips.
  2. Substitute low fat sour cream or Greek yogurt for full fat sour cream.  It tastes the same and is way better for you as it is full of muscle-building protein.
  3. Skip the margarita and have a shot of tequila instead. Yep. I said it.  The sugar in the margarita is just bad news, unless you can have just one and you worked out before dinner.  A better choice than alcohol of course would be some refreshing water with a wedge of lime but that’s up to you.
  4. Make your own food using fresh ingredients.  You can easily make everything you need to create your own tacos, enchiladas, burritos, and nachos at home.  Some suggestions: whole grain wraps (or you can make them yourself if you are ambitious) lean ground beef, chicken breast, homemade salsas, guacamole, black beans, and fresh veggies.  Don’t forget to pick up some hot sauce!
  5. Take your time when you eat.  Mexican food is messy and delicious so people tend to scarf it down.  Take your time and remember to chew.  Since it takes about 20 minutes before you start feeling full, slowing down means you will probably eat less.  Eating contests clearly not recommended 😉
  6. If you love Mexican food, eat it more often.  Not every day, obviously, but every week or two.  If it’s not off limits, you’re less likely to go crazy when you give yourself “permission” to have it.
  7. Have a dance party later.  Crank up the Latin music, bust out that old sombrero hiding in your closet, and shake a tail feather.  Alternatively, YouTube yourself a salsa dancing lesson and learn a few moves (or go to a salsa club if you live in a place with such things).  You will have a wonderful time!
  8. Don’t get so drunk that you do a back flip off a picnic table and hit your leg on a barbeque.  Bad idea.

Have a wonderful day and happy Cinco de Mayo!!

~Live Inspired~!


Top 11 Ways to Feel like a Million Bucks without Spending a Cent

Need a boost?  Try one of these quick and easy ways to relax & replenish yourself.  You don’t have to fork over a ton of cash to get star treatment.  Do it at home for free and reap the rewards.

1. Run a luxurious bath. Mix ¼ cup olive oil and ¼ cup dish soap in a little dish and add to your bath as it’s running.  Easy, practically free, readily available, and will leave your skin oh so soft 😀  Optional: add ½ cup Epsom salt and/or a few drops of essential oils like lavender or peppermint.

2. Homemade body exfoliate. Cut a grapefruit, lemon, or orange in half.  Sprinkle with white sugar.  In the bathtub, rub the fruit sugar-side down over your skin, using a circular motion.  The sugar acts to slough off dead skin cells, while the citrus fruit provides a delicious fragrance (unfortunately, you won’t absorb much goodness from the fruit through your skin – that’s what eating is for!)

3. Do-it-yourself mani-pedi. Soak those tired feet in a warm bucket of water with a little soap and some Epsom salts for about 10 min.  Then use a towel to dry them off and gently push back your cuticles (this will also help remove some dead skin cells).  File, clip, and finish off with a layer of nail polish.  Looking for an eco-friendly alternative?  Try Peacekeeper Cause-metics– a more natural nail lacquer that comes in many different colours 😀   http://www.iamapeacekeeper.com/department.aspx?DeptId=2&

4. Drink ice water with lemon slices. This refreshing and oh-so-easy beverage will quench your thirst and help detoxify your body from all the chemicals, additives, processed foods, caffeine, etc. that you may be ingesting.

5. Pretend you’re at a spa/yoga retreat for the day. Start your morning off with 30 min of yoga poses – try some sun salutations and other basic poses, taking your time to breathe and enjoy the movement.  For breakfast have some fresh fruit, Greek yogurt, and a cup of green tea.  Write in a journal.  Listen to relaxing music.  Meditate.  Go for a long walk or run in the sunshine.  For lunch, try a fresh spinach salad with a grilled chicken breast, veggies, olive oil & balsamic vinegrette.  Do more yoga.  Have a nap.  Read.  Explore nature.  For supper, have a serving of quinoa with walnut crusted salmon and grilled veggies.  Relax.  Go to bed early.

6. Blow dry your hair or style it differently. Take that extra 5-10 minutes to give your hair that extra oomph – chances are you will feel a surge of confidence and an extra zip in your step all day long.

7. Do something selfless. It is easy to get self-involved and focus exclusively on what we have or don’t have.  Instead, try doing something that benefits someone else, not because you have to or for recognition or for something to put on your resume, but simply because you want to.  Buy a coworker a coffee, donate stuff you don’t use to Goodwill, or volunteer for a cause you believe in.  Be more, want less.

8. Crank it up and have a dance party. Whether you are by yourself or in the middle of a crowd, music has the power to change you, inspire you, unlift you.  I’ll never forget taking my little cousins out for lunch one day – the three of us had a dance party in the lobby of Jack Astor’s while waiting to be seated – amazing 😀

9. Express yourself. Not everyone is artistic but everyone has something to say.  Get those creative juices flowing and write, draw, paint, sing, or even build something.  It doesn’t have to be great and you don’t even have to show anyone.  Get some playdoe and make a sculpture – then destroy it if you want.  It’s about the process, not just the end-product.

10. Turn off all your electronics and spend quality time with yourself and people you love. Remember the days of good conversations, hilarious stories that had you rolling on the floor in tears of laughter, not being interrupted by random ringtones, and having eye contact?   I have nothing against technology, but there is something to be said about being present and truly connecting with each other.

11. Stop reading magazines. Women’s magazines (and increasingly men’s too) are full of fictional messages that tell us we are not good enough, not thin enough, not pretty enough, and that if we buy a bunch of stuff we will transform ourselves into beautiful perfect people.  I’d also like to point out that when you buy magazines you are paying to be advertised to and read information that is usually made up.  When it comes to fitness magazines,  don’t follow an exercise and nutrition plan created by some journalist who doesn’t know a fast-twitch fibre from a slow one.  Get yourself a university library card and check out some actual knowledge or find a real expert who knows what they are talking about and stays up to date.

You are and have everything that you will ever need 😀  Never forget the tremendous power you have to create the life you want.

~Live Inspired~!


Couldn’t be quicker Chicken Dinner

If you don’t like to cook, are in a hurry, or are simply feeling a little lazy, you can still make an amazing chicken dinner that will impress your tastebuds.

Here are lots of different ways that you can easily make your chicken more exciting.  Eating healthy can be so much more exciting than eating plain chicken with a side of boring salad.  It’s also a huge myth that it takes a lot of effort and time to make a delicious meal.   You can do it in minutes, save yourself some cash by eating at home instead of grabbing fast food on the way home, and reap the health benefits of eating better 😀

Part 1: Chicken

  1. Get some fresh chicken breasts. Place in a baking pan.
  2. Turn your oven on to 375
  3. Season your chicken (see options below)
  4. Stick it in the oven and bake for 30-45 min depending on how many you have and if you are baking potatoes too (takes longer, the more stuff you put in the oven)

Option 1: Salsa!  From hot tomato salsa to mango or pineapple salsas, these sauces will add some serious flavour to your meat.  Choose one that’s made with fresh ingredients that you can spell and is low in sugar (salsa tends to be surprisingly high).

Option 2: Chicken broth.  Add enough to make those chicken breasts swim a little (about an inch deep works well). This will ensure that your chicken comes out tender and juicy 😀

Option 3: Marinate.  This one requires some forethought the morning or night before.  Coat your chicken in your marinade (store bought or homemade) while it’s in the pan.  Cover and place in the fridge to let the flavour soak into the chicken.  Take a few hours later when it’s ready to bake and you’re off to the races!  Just make sure you let the cold baking dish warm up before sticking it in the hot oven – often sticking a really cold glass dish in a really hot oven = ka-bang!

Option 3: Curry.  If you love spicy food, this option is for you.  Curries are a blend of spices that traditionally go together in certain styles of cooking.  Interestingly, every cook will have a slightly different version but for those of us who are not up to speed on all the spices needed to make a rockin’ masala or korma chicken on our own, there are easier option.

  • A) Curry powder – use as a rub on your chicken or add to meat with some coconut milk or olive oil
  • B) Curry pastes – same as above 😀
  • C) Curry sauces – these vary in their quality and taste.  President’s Choice makes a few that are relatively healthy and taste pretty good, but I recommend looking at the list of ingredients to see what is actually in there, as well as the nutrition info and serving size.

Option 4: Honey or Dijon Mustard.  Dump it on, spread it, and done 😀

Option 5: Lemon juice + Lemon pepper seasoning.  Splash and sprinkle.

Option 6: Herbs & Spices.  Getting a little more involved here but it really doesn’t take that much time to sprinkle some dried herbs and/or spices onto your meat.  Little efforts for big payoffs cause really, who likes plain Jane chicken?  Most people just don’t know what goes together.  Try these simple combos:

  • Rosemary & thyme
  • Basil & oregano
  • Ginger & garlic (I know it’s not a herb but it’s awesome)
  • Cilantro & red chili peppers & lime juice
  • Chili powder, cumin, & cayenne pepper (spicy!)

*Money-saving tip: pick up new dried spices and herbs in small quantities at the bulk store or bulk section of your grocery store so that if you’re not a huge fan you don’t end up with a ton of wasted spice and cash you’ll never see again.  Those fancy jars at the supermarket are ridiculously priced – get some little jars at the dollar store, or better yet, you may find an entire spice rack that someone didn’t want as a wedding or housewarming gift on Kijiji or Goodwill.

**Being awesome tip: grow your own herbs!  This can easily be done on a sunlit windowsill, balcony, deck, or in your own garden.  All you need are some basic gardening supplies, some sweet tunes, and away you go!  Basil, oregano, mint, cilantro, rosemary, and thyme are all readily available and easy to find.  They also grow well and require little effort on your part.  Save money and improve the quality of your cooking in one fell swoop!

Part 2: Healthy Starches

Option 1: Potatoes or yams.

  • Wash. Stab multiple times with fork.  Stick in oven on rack alongside chicken.  Done.
  • Wash, peel, cut, boil in pot with water.  Mash or don’t.  Add a little garlic, salt, and pepper, and a touch of butter if you really feel the need.
  • “Fries”. Wash, cut into rounds or strips and bake on a cookie sheet (lightly oiled with olive oil).  Sprinkle with salt, cinnamon, or curry powder.
  • Mini potatoes.  Shelack with olive oil, garlic, rosemary, & thyme.  Bake on a cookie sheet.  So yummy!
  • Blue potatoes.  If you haven’t had these, you are missing out!  They have a fresh, sweet flavour that is a true delight.

Option 2: Brown Rice or Quinoa

  • Brown rice takes a while, so start cooking it before your chicken goes in the oven.  Use a pot or a rice cooker (rice cookers are AMAZING – no more burnt rice on the bottom of the pot!).  My absolute favourite variety is whole grain Jasmine rice from SunRice (they have it at Superstore in London).  It tastes like white Jasmine rice but it’s got all the goodness and fiber of being a whole grain.  Thank you Australia 😀
  • Quinoa is really easy to cook and takes way less time to cook than brown rice (they are cooked the same way).  It can be kind of bland, so try cooking it with garlic or chicken stock.

Option 3: Garlic Mashed Cauliflower.  A lower carb option that tastes almost as good as mashed potatoes.  You really need to boiled the heck out of the cauliflower to make it mash well.  Add some garlic cloves while your boiling the cflower and they will mash too (saves from having to chop and adds lots of flavour).

Part 3: Veggies!

This will be very individual, depending on what you like.  Try a simple salad, some boiled green beans, broccoli, asparagus, or even something random like celery sticks.  There’s no right answer!

Enjoy your chicken!

~Live Inspired~!